Sunday, April 16, 2006

DAILY WAR NEWS FOR SUNDAY, APRIL 16, 2006 Photo: People carry white flags to avoid being shot by U.S. soldiers in the resitance hotbed of Ramadi on April 9. Fierce clashes were reported in the city that day. (Notice how damaged the buildings look. More photos from Iraq here. Also, some reporting on what was happening in Ramadi at that time here.) Bring ‘em on: British soldier killed by bomb in southern Iraq. Four British troops injured in a separate attack. Report: US Marine died in vehicle accident in Anbar province. Bring ‘em on: Four US Marines killed in combat in Anbar province in two separate incidents. Five US troops wounded in fighting in Youssifiyah. Security Incident: UPDATE to yesterday: In Kirkuk, a roadside bomb killed one civilian. The target was a passing police patrol. Security Incident: Baghdad car bomb kills 7 and injures 24. Three more bodies found, believed to have been victims of sectarian death squads. The bodies were found in separate areas south of Baghdad. Director of traffic police killed in Basra as he drove to work. Security Incidents: Roadside bomb kills three Iraqi soldiers and wounded eight others in al Doura suburb in Baghdad. Two electricity workers killed and another injured when mortar shells landed on the electricity station on Saturday in al Mussayeb. This forced the suspension of generating electricity that feeds central and southern Baghdad areas. Security Incidents: BAQUBA - Gunmen opened fire on a bus carrying civilians in Baquba, 65 km (40 miles) north of Baghdad, killing five and wounding four, police said. MAHMUDIYA - A suicide bomber in a car blew himself up near a market in the town of Mahmudiya, south of Baghdad, killing at least 11 people and wounding 23, a police official said. RAMADI - Police said three bodies in army clothes were found near Ramadi, 110 km (68 miles) west of Baghdad. The corpses had bullet holes and showed signs of torture. RIYADH - Two people were killed and two wounded when gunmen shot them in Riyadh, a town 60 km (40 miles) southwest of Baghdad, police said. BAGHDAD - Four people were killed and seven wounded when a car bomb exploded near a mosque in eastern Baghdad, police said. YUSIFIYA - Five insurgents were killed and five others arrested when U.S. forces raided a house in Yusifiya, south of Baghdad, the U.S. military said. Security Incidents: Six suspected insurgents detained in Youssifiyah. One is reported to be an al-Qaida militant. US soldiers killed two men wearing suicide vests and a third detonated his explosives himself. Two other suspected insurgents were killed. A woman died in the crossfire and three women and a child were wounded. A bomb hidden in a shopping bag on a minibus exploded near a mosque in the neighborhood of Kahaliyah in Baghdad, killing three civilians and wounding six more. Police discovered the body of an Iraqi soldier in Hillah. Gunmen attacked a group of Iraqis diving south of Kirkuk, killing two civilians and wounding two others. Security Incident: Seven workers killed by gunmen in Mosul. Security Incident: Seven people killed in car bomb blast south of Baghdad on Sunday. Security Incident: Gunmen kidnap 12 workers in Baghdad. The gunmen were wearing police uniforms. Security Incident: Gunmen killed a Shi’ite legislator’s bodyguard in Mosul. Security Incidents: One policeman was killed and three others wounded, including two policemen, when gunmen opened fire on two police stations in Baghdad's Shiite dominated Sadr City. Another policeman was killed in similar shoot-out in Al-Sulekh neighborhood in northern Baghdad. Police said gunmen killed one civilian near Hilla, 100 kilometers (60 miles) south of Baghdad and an Iraqi soldier who was in his car with his two sons was gunned down in the northern restive city of Mosul. Security Incident: An injured Iraqi girl is taken into a hospital in Baghdad after a car bomb explosion in Mahmoudiya. A car bomb in Mahmoudiya killed at least eight people and wounded more than 20 others, Iraqi police said. Mahmoudiya, about 12 miles (20 kilometers) south of the capital, is at the top of the so-called "Triangle of Death." (Other reports say 11 died. Click HERE for photo of an injured girl, if they have not taken it down yet. – Susan) REPORTS From an email I received: "...They say they are disgusted with their politicians for failing to form a new government." "Nearly four months after the national election, political blocs are still negotiating Iraq's first permanent post-Ba'athist government. The main stumbling block is Ibrahim al-Ja'afari's controversial re-nomination as premier." I am certainly no fan of Ja`fari or of the process and the personnel involved in this pretense of democracy. However, it is important to note that the main obstacle for the formation of a "government" in this case is clearly the machinations of the U.S. administration with the cooperation of their Iraqi collaborators, which include Kurdish "leader" Jalal Talibani. and certain other opportunistic individuals. Bush has made it explicitly clear that he does "doesn't want, doesn't support, doesn't accept" Ja`fari (so much for his claims that Iraq has sovereignty and democracy), and has enlisted the assistance of Talibani and others in blocking Ja`fari's appointment as Prime Minister in favour of the U.S. current chosen puppet, `Adel `Abd Al Mahdi. `Abd Al Mehdi is a long-time member of Ahmad Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress, and is very much on board with the Bush administration's economic plan for Iraq, which is designed to put Iraq's economy and infrastructure, including its oil, into the hands and therefore under the control of American interests. Qasem Daoud and Jalaleddine al-Saghir, also favoured by the Bush administration for "leadership" roles in Iraq, have by "coincidence" also come out in opposition of Ja`fari as prime minister (lower case intentional). So, while Iraqis are correct in their negative view of their "leaders", this article ignores the main obstacle in the formation of a "government". "Abbas al-Bayati, a United Iraqi Alliance member, expressed the view of many that a stable government was critical “to put an end to the violence that exists in most parts of Iraq”. Maybe, but the best way to begin to put an end to the violence is to demand that the U.S. withdraw completely, stop interfering with Iraqi sovereignty, and abandon its plans to establish those permanent military bases and that mega-embassy (read command and control center) it is building. Iraqis Scathing of Leaders Baghdad residents are expressing anger that the country has been left in a political vacuum at a time of mounting sectarian violence. They say they are disgusted with their politicians for failing to form a new government, accusing them of being out of touch with security and social problems that are worsening daily. Baghdadis are fearful of leaving their homes because of the car bombings and abductions, while the power and water supply to their neighbourhoods remains poor. Some told IWPR politicians had little regard for the lives of ordinary Iraqis who, they felt, were the main victims of the political vacuum. Mohammed Kahz'al, a 37-year-old university professor, said the country’s leaders are unaware of the problems Iraqis are facing because they don't have to wait hours at gas stations to get fuel or worry if their children will return home safely from school. Nearly four months after the national election, political blocs are still negotiating Iraq's first permanent post-Ba'athist government. The main stumbling block is Ibrahim al-Ja'afari's controversial re-nomination as premier. Abbas al-Bayati, a United Iraqi Alliance member, expressed the view of many that a stable government was critical “to put an end to the violence that exists in most parts of Iraq”. But some Shia believe that while a political vacuum is bad for Iraq, their leaders shouldn’t be rushed into making compromises that undercut the gains they’ve achieved. "We don't want our leaders in the United Iraqi Alliance to compromise any benefit they have achieved for us over the past two years," said Qasim Shnaishl, a 44-year-old taxi driver from Baghdad. "We [Shias] suffered for many years because we were neglected by former governments." US Plots ‘New Liberation of Baghdad’ THE American military is planning a “second liberation of Baghdad” to be carried out with the Iraqi army when a new government is installed. Pacifying the lawless capital is regarded as essential to establishing the authority of the incoming government and preparing for a significant withdrawal of American troops. Strategic and tactical plans are being laid by US commanders in Iraq and at the US army base in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, under Lieutenant- General David Petraeus. He is regarded as an innovative officer and was formerly responsible for training Iraqi troops. The battle for Baghdad is expected to entail a “carrot-and-stick” approach, offering the beleaguered population protection from sectarian violence in exchange for rooting out insurgent groups and Al-Qaeda. Sources close to the Pentagon said Iraqi forces would take the lead, supported by American air power, special operations, intelligence, embedded officers and back-up troops. Helicopters suitable for urban warfare, such as the manoeuvrable AH-6 “Little Birds” used by the marines and special forces and armed with rocket launchers and machineguns, are likely to complement the ground attack. The sources said American and Iraqi troops would move from neighbourhood to neighbourhood, leaving behind Sweat teams — an acronym for “sewage, water, electricity and trash” — to improve living conditions by upgrading clinics, schools, rubbish collection, water and electricity supplies. Sunni insurgent strongholds are almost certain to be the first targets, although the Shi’ite militias such as the Mahdi army of Moqtada al-Sadr, the radical cleric, and the Iranian-backed Badr Brigade would need to be contained. The operation is likely to take place towards the end of the summer, giving the newly appointed government time to establish itself. If all goes to plan, US troop withdrawals could take place before the end of the year. In the absence of progress by then, the war may come to be seen by the American public as a lost cause. Reuel Marc Gerecht, an expert on Iraq at the neo-conservative American Enterprise Institute, said that while it was essential to bring Baghdad under control, he feared the Americans would leave the bulk of the fighting to the Iraqis and that a showdown could misfire. “You would have to come down like a hammer on the Sunni areas of Baghdad and go house to house and nobody wants to do that,” Gerecht said. “It’s inevitably going to come and it’s going to be convulsive. The Americans will be there, but not in the numbers needed because American casualty rates will go up.” Back to Baghdad The first time I saw my country's capital was in April 2003, ten days after the war. I went to Baghdad as a reporter and fixer, and for the first time I met Arabs from every province of the country. As a Kurd from Halabja, I was as much a novelty to them as they were to me. Everybody was trying to find a job with the US army, foreign companies or news agencies. English-language courses started to open in Baghdad. The economy was booming, and I remember people saying, "Iraq is becoming the 51st American state." I shared the dream of many that democracy would come to Iraq, that we were starting a better life. After the war I traveled to the mass graves in Hilla province. Families were digging and finding the bones of their loved ones. I was sad to see that – yet happy at the same time, telling myself these would be the last mass graves in Iraq, and everyone would now live in peace. I was a strong supporter of the war, and did not like it when anti-war protesters in other countries took to the streets. But then I saw with my own eyes American humvees driving over peoples' cars in Baghdad. I saw with my own eyes American soldiers firing at a building where only civilians lived. The hopes I shared with so many other Iraqis slowly dimmed as I traveled throughout the country and witnessed growing violence. (I guess those anti-war protestors knew something this writer did not. Now he understands. – Susan) Soldiers Families Go On Attack (what they mean to say is: some families are going to protest – they don’t actually plan to attack anyone) The parents of British troops on active service in Iraq are to stage an unprecedented protest about the conflict, signaling growing discontent over the conflict in military circles. They are to lobby Downing Street next week, making Tony Blair the first serving Prime Minister of modern times to be lobbied by military families for the withdrawal of British troops from action overseas. The protests on 26 April are expected to involve more than 40 close relatives of soldiers posted to Iraq and Afghanistan and relatives of the 103 British personnel killed in Iraq, as well as four Iraq veterans. Among them will be 11 parents and children of men serving or about to be deployed in the Gulf, in Guards regiments, the infantry regiments, special operations forces and airborne units. The families are due to hand in to Mr Blair at No 10 an anti-war petition that also calls for the Prime Minister to meet the families of dead soldiers, following a lobby of MPs at the House of Commons. The petition has already been signed by more than 80 people with military ties. No Answers Yet on Disputed Iraq Raid When U.S. and Iraqi officials received a tip late March that a hostage was going to be killed that night at a criminal hide-out in northern Baghdad they had under surveillance, they decided they had to act. When the raid was over, the United States thought it had scored an unqualified triumph, backing a special unit of Iraqi soldiers who freed the hostage and killed 16 gunmen. But minutes after the March 26 incident, Iraq's state-controlled television broadcast a vastly different account: U.S. and Iraqi forces had raided a Shiite Muslim house of worship and brutally killed and wounded innocent people gathered for prayer. The incident became a public relations disaster for the U.S. and further soured the increasingly strained relations between Americans and Iraq's majority sect. The parties involved — the gunmen, victims, U.S. and Iraqi soldiers — have proved hard to trace, and efforts to uncover what really happened at the Mustafa hussainiya often raise more questions than answers. For instance, after monitoring the site for weeks, how could U.S. and Iraqi officials have not known that at least part of the building served as a hussainiya, a Shiite house of worship considered slightly less formal than a mosque? Who, exactly, were the Iraqi Special Forces who carried out the raid? And were the kidnappers using worshipers as cover for their criminal activities? Iraqi and U.S. forces say their intelligence led them to understand that the single-story building was being used by Shiite Muslim militias or one of the leading Shiite parties. "According to what we know, they were doing kidnappings to innocent people for ransom," said the Iraqi army unit commander who led the raid, according to a full transcript of a CBS News and Time magazine interview. "If money [was] brought, the person would be free. If no money, the person would be killed." (At least one of the victims of the raid was innocent – he was an unarmed reporter. See yesterday’s post. – Susan) The hostage freed during the March 26 raid, a Health Ministry dental technician in his 30s, finished his work at a clinic in Baghdad's Sadr City neighborhood that morning and was heading home when he was abducted by several people claiming to belong to the Interior Ministry's intelligence branch, according to a transcript of an interview he gave Western media. The men covered his head and handcuffed him before putting him into a car. Once at the Mustafa compound, they began beating him, he said. They menaced him with a saw and a drill, pressing the tools to his flesh. He said they asked him, "Do you know what this is?" They demanded $20,000, and finding a picture of his daughter in his wallet, they vowed that he'd never see her again unless he came up with the money. Sunni political groups have said that many kidnappings by Shiite militiamen with ties to security forces have been traced to the area around Mustafa, but no one has been able to pinpoint their headquarters. But despite the intelligence, the U.S. and Iraqi forces failed to learn what every resident in the area knows. The building, once a grammar school before it was turned into a Baath Party office, had become a Shiite house of worship after the 2003 invasion. Soon, questions arose about the Iraqi Special Forces unit that conducted the raid. Many high-level government officials wondered under whose authority the unit operated. "We will open an investigation into these forces who trained them and who gave them the authority to do all these raids and killings," said Jawad Maliki, a member of the Islamic Dawa Party and among the most powerful figures in the Shiite-led government. "We cannot allow the existence of special forces which are not under the control of the government, supported by the American troops." Even some U.S. officials were baffled. Gen. George W. Casey, the senior U.S. commander in Iraq, and Army Lt. Gen. Peter Chiarelli discussed the matter with the Iraqi ministers of Defense and Interior. Maj. Gen. James D. Thurman, commander of the 4th Infantry Division, which oversees Baghdad, was reportedly furious. "Nobody knows who these guys are," said a high-ranking military official who described the meeting, referring to the Iraqi Special Forces unit. Billion-Dollar Start Falls Short in Iraq On the southern outskirts of Baghdad, a sewage treatment plant that was repaired with $13.5 million in U.S. funds sits idle while all of the raw waste from the western half of Baghdad is dumped into the Tigris River, where many of the capital's 7 million residents get their drinking water. Adjacent to the Karkh sewage plant is Iraq's most advanced sanitary landfill, a new, 20-acre, $32 million dump -- also paid for by the United States -- with a liner to prevent groundwater contamination. It has not had a load of garbage dropped off since the manager of the sewer plant was killed four months ago. Iraqis consider the access roads too dangerous, and Iraqi police rarely venture into the area, a haven for insurgents who regularly lob mortar shells across the city into the Green Zone less than six miles away. The mothballed projects highlight a growing concern among U.S. officials here: whether Iraqis have the capacity to maintain, operate and protect the more than 8,000 reconstruction projects, costing $18.4 billion, that the United States has completed or plans to finish in the next few years, which include digging roadside drainage ditches, refurbishing hospitals and schools, and constructing electric power plants. "The United States must ensure that the billions of dollars it has already invested in Iraq's infrastructure are not wasted," said an October report by the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, citing what it said were "limitations in the Iraqis' capacity to maintain and operate reconstructed facilities." (I guess they don’t realize yet that every last cent of the money was wasted – or worse. – Susan) US Firms Suspected of Bilking Iraq Funds. Millions Missing From Program For Rebuilding. American contractors swindled hundreds of millions of dollars in Iraqi funds, but so far there is no way for Iraq's government to recoup the money, according to US investigators and civil attorneys tracking fraud claims against contractors. Courts in the United States are beginning to force contractors to repay reconstruction funds stolen from the American government. But legal roadblocks have prevented Iraq from recovering funds that were seized from the Iraqi government by the US-led coalition and then paid to contractors who failed to do the work. A US law that allows citizens to recover money from dishonest contractors protects only the US government, not foreign governments. In addition, an Iraqi law created by the Coalition Provisional Authority days before it ceded sovereignty to Iraq in June 2004 gives American contractors immunity from prosecution in Iraq. ''In effect, it makes Iraq into a 'free-fraud zone,' " said Alan Grayson, a Virginia attorney who is suing the private security firm Custer Battles in a whistle-blower lawsuit filed by former employees. A federal jury last month found the Rhode Island-based company liable for $3 million in fraudulent billings in Iraq. Even the United Nations panel set up to monitor the use of Iraq's seized assets has no power to prosecute wrongdoers. ''The Iraqi people are out of luck, the way it stands right now," said Patrick Burns, spokesman for Taxpayers Against Fraud, a watchdog group that helps US citizens file cases such as the Custer Battles action. US Hopes Local Elections Will Calm Anbar U.S. officials are pressing for early local election in troubled Anbar province, hoping it will produce a government that can undercut support for the insurgency in the region where it is strongest. The effort has gained new urgency amid U.S. fears that Sunni Arab extremists are trying to fill a political vacuum created when tribal sheiks fled to Jordan in recent months. The sheiks got out after a suicide attack and assassinations of local figures who had worked with the Americans. Past attempts to form a government in Anbar - including provincial councils and officials appointed by the Americans or the U.S.-backed government in Baghdad - have had little success in winning public confidence in this Sunni Arab-dominated province, a bastion of the insurgency since it erupted following the U.S.-led invasion three years ago. (This will not “calm” Anbar province. Getting US troops out of there will, ONE DAY, calm Anbar province. – Susan) Video: The Hard Realities of Easter in Fallujah “I should have worked at McDonalds” COMMENTARY OPINION: From The Tomb It brought us to a helicopter armed with a fixed, heavy-calibre machine gun, and the helicopter brought us to the Green Zone — the sprawling, blast-wall lock-down that houses the offices of the fledgling Iraqi government and the occupying forces of Britain and the United States. Yes, we went from one tomb to another. I am learning many things from my captivity, and have a universe of things to be grateful for. Among them is a new and deep appreciation for the women and men who wear the uniform of military service. I likely would not be writing this today if it were not for them. Thus, I am confronted with a great paradox. I, the Christian pacifist peacemaker, am alive, am free because of the very institutions I believe are contrary to Christian teaching. Christ teaches us to love our enemies, do good to those who harm us, pray for those who persecute us. He calls us to accept suffering before we inflict injury. He calls us to pick up the cross and to lay down the sword. We will most certainly fail in this call. I did. And I'll fail again. This does not change Christ's teaching that violence itself is the tomb, violence is the dead-end. Peace won through the barrel of a gun might be a victory but it is not peace. Our captors had guns and they ruled over us. Our rescuers had bigger guns and ruled over the captors. We were freed, but the rule of the gun stayed. The stone across the tomb of violence has not been rolled away. I'm learning that there are many kinds of prisons and many kinds of tombs. Prisons of the mind, the heart, the body. Tombs of despair, fear, confusion. Tombs within tombs and prisons within prisons. There are no easy answers. We must all find our way through a broken world, struggling with the paradox of call and failure. My captivity and rescue have helped me to catch a glimpse of how powerful the force of resurrection is. Christ, that tomb-busting suffering servant Son of God, seeks us wherever we are, reaches for us in whatever darkness we inhabit. May we reach for each other with that same persistence. The tomb is not the final word. OPINION: Ayoon Wa Azan (“We’re Fighting Them Over There So That We Don’t Have to Fight Them Here At Home”) Everyone knows that the war on terror has failed. Since the occupation of Iraq in March 2003, terror has increased, not decreased. The Bush administration knows this but won't admit it, so President Bush has recently begun to talk about confronting "Islamic radicalism." In today's column, I won't express a single opinion that is my own. Instead, I'll rely on the book "Next Attack: The Failure of the War on Terror and a Strategy for Getting It Right," by David Benjamin and Stephen Simon; it is documented, accurate and contains information from primary sources. I haven't heard anyone in the administration deny anything that appears in the book. The book's authors remind readers that the State Department announced a fall in the number of terrorist operations around in the world in 2003, compared to the year before. However, the then-Secretary Colin Powell acknowledged that an error had been made, and that terror was on the rise. In its 2005 report, the State Department omitted terrorist attacks that they said were hard to define, even though it quickly became apparent that terrorist operations had increased three-fold in 2004 over the year before. It seems like the increase continued last year. President Bush repeats his favorite expression, which is that "We're Fighting Them Over There So That We Don't Have to Fight Them Here at Home." However, the authors say that this strategy led to seeing 150,000 US soldiers stationed outside the country, and provided fertile ground for the production of terrorists. I'll add that tens of thousands of Iraqis have been killed, for no reason at all, since it remains to be proven that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction or links to al-Qaida. The book accuses the Bush administration of using an old strategy, set down to fight states, against an enemy with no state, or headquarters. Most terror is taking place via local groups that have no connection to the leadership of al-Qaida. Thus, claiming that the best defense against terror is attack doesn't hold in this case, because there is no clear target to attack. Terror is on the rise, Osama bin Laden is still free, even though the White House wanted him "dead or alive," Iraq is hatching new terrorists every day, and hostility to America and its policies are taking root around the world; however, the Bush administration has emerged victorious, or at least that's what it says. OPINION: A Bad Leak President Bush says he declassified portions of the prewar intelligence assessment on Iraq because he "wanted people to see the truth" about Iraq's weapons programs and to understand why he kept accusing Saddam Hussein of stockpiling weapons that turned out not to exist. This would be a noble sentiment if it actually bore any relationship to Mr. Bush's actions in this case, or his overall record. Mr. Bush did not declassify the National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq — in any accepted sense of that word — when he authorized I. Lewis Libby Jr., through Vice President Dick Cheney, to talk about it with reporters. He permitted a leak of cherry-picked portions of the report. The declassification came later. And this president has never shown the slightest interest in disclosure, except when it suits his political purposes. He has run one of the most secretive administrations in American history, consistently withholding information and vital documents not just from the public, but also from Congress. Just the other day, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales told the House Judiciary Committee that the names of the lawyers who reviewed Mr. Bush's warrantless wiretapping program were a state secret. But the version of the facts that Mr. Libby was authorized to divulge was so distorted that it seems more like disinformation than any sincere attempt to inform the public. This fits the pattern of Mr. Bush's original sales pitch on the Iraq war — hyping the intelligence that bolstered his case and suppressing the intelligence that undercut it. In this case, Mr. Libby was authorized to talk about claims that Iraq had tried to buy uranium for nuclear weapons in Africa and not more reliable evidence to the contrary. About a month before, Mr. Bush rushed to announce that American forces had found evidence of a biological weapons program in Iraq — trailers that could have been used to make doomsday devices. We now know, from a report in The Washington Post, that a Pentagon team actually on the ground in Iraq inspecting the trailers had concluded two days earlier that they were nothing of the kind. The White House says Mr. Bush was not aware of that report, and was relying on an assessment by the Central Intelligence Agency and the Defense Intelligence Agency. This is hardly the first time we've been told that intelligence reports contradicting administration doctrine somehow did not make it to Mr. Bush's desk. But it does not explain why he and Mr. Cheney went on talking about the trailers for weeks, during which the State Department's intelligence division — about the only agency that got it right about Iraq — debunked the mobile-labs theory. Of course, the inaccurate report saying that the trailers were bioweapons labs was made public, immediately, while the accurate one was kept secret until a reporter found out about it. (Not true, it was in the European press. – Susan) Book Review: OVERTHROW: The Meddlesome Uncle Sam Do you think George W. Bush and the neoconservatives inducted "regime change" into American foreign policy's hall of fame? Think again. Long before Iraq, U.S. presidents, spies, corporate types and their acolytes abroad had honed the art of deposing foreign governments. As Stephen Kinzer tells the story in Overthrow , America's century of regime changing began not in Iraq but Hawaii. Hawaii ? Indeed. Kinzer explains that Hawaii's white haole minority -- in cahoots with the U.S. Navy, the White House and Washington's local representative -- conspired to remove Queen Liliuokalani from her throne in 1893 as a step toward annexing the islands. The haole plantation owners believed that by removing the queen (who planned to expand the rights of Hawaii's native majority) and making Hawaii part of the United States, they could get in on a lucrative but protected mainland sugar market. Ever wonder why free trade has such a bad name? Over the decades, a version of this story repeats, and repeats. Kinzer, a New York Times reporter, writes that the United States has thwarted independence movements in Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Philippines and Nicaragua; staged covert actions and coups d'etat in Iran, Guatemala, South Vietnam and Chile; and invaded Grenada, Panama and obviously Afghanistan and Iraq. Over 110 years, Kinzer argues, the United States has deployed its power to gain access to natural resources, stifle dissent and control the nationalism of newly independent states or political movements. Kinzer's narrative abounds with unusual anecdotes, vivid description and fine detail, demonstrating why he ranks among the best in popular foreign policy storytelling, especially for those on the left. His 1982 book Bitter Fruit (which he co-authored with Stephen Schlesinger) described the 1954 CIA covert action campaign that overthrew Guatemalan President Jacobo Arbenz Guzmán. The book became a classic on college campuses in the 1980s, when the Reagan administration used attempts to "roll back" Soviet-backed communism as the rationale for funding the Nicaraguan contras and a massive counterinsurgency campaign against leftist rebels in El Salvador. For many Americans who cut their political teeth not on Vietnam but on the Central American wars (as well as for the Latin Americans who witnessed these displays of imperial hubris more directly), such interventions raised profound doubts that American meddling -- whether packaged as rollback, preemption or democracy promotion -- could possibly be worth the human or political cost. (And what they were “packaged” as had absolutely nothing to do with the truth. And when you see chaos and violence in places where the US government sees our military, rest assured that they intended to create that violence and chaos – just like today in Iraq – and it is never an “accident” or a “mistake”. – Susan) Although Kinzer's objective is to highlight the downside of covert and overt overthrows, he provides a better sense of what made the Americans tick than of what motivated those they tried to push around. Surely these foreign leaders, whom Kinzer depicts as U.S. victims and pawns, had their own strategies for dealing with American power, understanding (just as America's great-power rivals or Cold War allies did) that the United States could be -- had to be -- manipulated to their own ends. (Oh, you bet they did. And you can rest assured their motives were not any purer than the US Governments or US businesses. Probably not even any different. – Susan) With some notable exceptions, Overthrow does not tell us enough about the domestic environments that shaped the perspectives of those leaders whom the United States was busy overthrowing, isolating or provoking. Too tall an order? Perhaps. But it goes to what fans of gunboat diplomacy will see as a fundamental weakness of Kinzer's book: the assumption that regime change is necessarily harmful for the United States and the target country. After all, they will argue, Panama now controls its own canal and has a democratically elected, center-left government. Chile's democracy and economic probity are a model for Latin America. (All of central and south America are doing better these last 5 years, since the US government is focusing their attentions elsewhere, not due to American intervention. Actually, it was IN SPITE OF American intervention. – Susan) Afghanistan (and even Iraq) could defy the odds and emerge as stable and somewhat democratic. (Or not. – Susan) To be sure, eliminating the Taliban was hardly an objectionable use of U.S. power. But even in Afghanistan, the United States laid the groundwork for the Taliban's return by so quickly shifting troops and resources to Iraq, demonstrating the difficulty that the United States has in coping with the consequences of even a successful and morally correct intervention. (Which would argue, to a rational mind, that the “intervention” was neither successful nor moral. But, who needs logic when fantasy beliefs are so much easier? – Susan) REPORT: 42% of Your Taxes Pay for War That is the percentage of your federal income taxes that went to pay for past wars and the military in fiscal year 2005 (FY05), the year for which we are now filing our income tax returns. FCNL estimates the U.S. spent $783 billion in FY05 for past and present military activities. This includes funding for the Defense Department, Energy Department nuclear weapons programs, military-related activities of other agencies, foreign military financing and training, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, mandatory spending for military retirement and health care, veterans programs ($69 billion), and the estimated portion of interest paid on the national debt which can be attributed to past wars and military spending ($170 billion). The time period leading up to April 15, when federal tax forms and payments are due, is an excellent time to raise questions about federal government spending priorities with other people in your community and your members of Congress. Please start by forwarding this to five of your friends who pay taxes. Take Action: Urge your members of Congress to cut military spending. You can find talking points and contact your elected officials directly from our web site. QUOTE OF THE DAY: To initiate a war of aggression, therefore, is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole. - Nuremburg War Tribunal regarding wars of aggression


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