Wednesday, April 26, 2006

DAILY WAR NEWS FOR WEDNESDAY, April 26, 2006 Photo: A U.S. Marine from the 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, Kilo Company runs across a street opposite the Government Center April 17, 2006 in Ramadi. Standing still is rarely an option. [See below “Ramadi, the worst sniper threat on the planet"] (AP Photo/Todd Pitman) Bring ‘en on: A Marine from Modesto thought to be in a secure area was killed Monday after two rockets struck his forward combat base in Iraq, according to the military. Lance Cpl. Aaron William Simons, 20, had returned from patrol when the rockets hit his protected base in al Qaim, Iraq, said Marine Capt. Donn Puca. US military says kills 12 rebels in Iraq: Twelve suspected Iraqi militants and a woman were killed in a U.S. raid and air strike on a house in a town just south of Baghdad, the military said in a statement on Wednesday. As U.S. troops closed in on a house believed to be used by two foreign fighters on Tuesday, they came under fire, a U.S. military statement said. "The troops initially killed five terrorists outside of the safe house and then called for an air strike," it said. "After the precision air strike, the ground troops conducted a tactical search of the destroyed safe house and located the bodies of seven more terrorists and a woman." The statement said U.S. forces were trying to determine the identity of those killed. It did not say how it was known all the men were rebels, although it said each of the dead men were wearing a magazine vest and carrying two grenades. OTHER SECURITY INCIDENTS Baghdad: A bomb inside a minibus explodes killing a woman and wounding three other civilians in eastern Baghdad. Two civilians killed and four wounded when roadside bomb hits police patrol in the Amiriya district of the capital. Bodies of four people bearing signs of torture and with gun shot wounds to their heads found in the Kadhmiya and Yarmouk districts.. Cvilian killed and two wounded when roadside bomb goes off near police commando patrol in Mansour district. Baquba: Roadside bomb in a village north of Baquba kills at least three civilians and wounds ten. Samarra: U.S. soldiers shoot dead an “insurgent” as he prepared a mortar attack in Samarra. Falluja: Roadside bomb targeting U.S. convoy kills one civilian and wounds three in Falluja. Mahmudiya: Three policemen wounded by roadside bomb in Mahmudiya, in an area dubbed 'The Triangle of Death' south of Baghdad. Kerbala: Bodies of six people, with signs of torture and gunshot wounds found on outskirts of Kerbala. Al-Nibai: Gunmen kill truck driver who was delivering material to U.S. forces, in Nibai, a small town near al-Dujail, 90 km north of Baghdad. Kirkuk: Gunmen kidnap wealthy trader near his house in Kirkuk. Body left in plastic bag found in the small town of Daquq, 35 km (20 miles) south of Kirkuk. NEWS Turkey denies its troops crossed into northern Iraq in pursuit of Kurdish rebels. A ministry statement says the alleged incursion, first reported in Turkey's Bugun newspaper, never took place. REPORTS More than 600 US military and civilian personnel implicated in abuse of "war on terror" detainees in Iraq, Afghanistan and at Guantanamo, US rights groups said. The rights groups' report came as a US Army colonel was reportedly going to be charged in connection with the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal, becoming the most senior officer facing legal action in the case. The three groups who researched what they called "widespread" torture and detainee abuse by US personnel said many abuses were never investigated, or inquiries were often concluded or stalled without further action. "Two years ago, US officials said the abuses at Abu Ghraib were aberrations and that people who abused detainees would be brought to justice," said Meg Satterthwaite of New York University's Centre for Human Rights and Global Justice, one of the groups behind the study. "Yet our research shows that detainee abuses were widespread, and few people have truly been brought to justice," Ms Satterthwaite said. The research project, also backed by Human Rights Watch and Human Rights First, examined allegations of mistreatment involving more than 460 detainees at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison, sites in Afghanistan and the Guantanamo camp in Cuba. They found that "many abuses were never investigated, and investigations that did occur often closed prematurely, or stalled without resolution," said a summary of the report. More than 90 Iraqi women become widows each day due to continuing violence countrywide, according to government officials and non-governmental organisations devoted to women's issues. "Hundreds of households are losing their heads due to ongoing violence, causing a drop in living standards," said Mayada Zuhair, a spokesperson for the Women's Rights Association (WRA). "More women now have to search for work to support their children." "In addition to being widowed, these women don't get any government support," Mayada added, "nor are their rights respected." Although few reliable statistics are available on the total number of widows in Iraq, the Ministry of Women's Affairs says that there are at least 300,000 in Baghdad alone, with another eight million throughout the country. Worse than under Saddam Hussein: Stop The War Coalition Newsletter No 2006/9: April 22 This week, Daniel Pipes, adviser to George Bush and a leading proponent of the Iraq invasion complained about "the ingratitude of the Iraqis for the extraordinary favour we gave them: to release them from the bondage of Saddam Hussein's tyranny." The reasons for that "ingratitude" are given below in the shocking statistics which show that, three years after the US/UK invasion, Iraqis are far worse off now than they were under Saddam Hussein's brutal regime. There can be no clearer indictment of those who took us into this illegal war - not least our prime minister Tony Blair and the Labour MPs who supported him - nor can there be any clearer vindication of the anti-war movement, which predicted the horrors that continue to be inflicted on the Iraqi people. We always opposed Saddam Hussein's tyranny, and wished for his overthrow as much as anyone, but it was obvious that getting rid of a tyranny was the last motive in the minds of George Bush and Tony Blair, as is shown from US/British support for tyrants around the world, not least in earlier years for Saddam Hussein himself. LEVEL OF VIOLENT DEATHS: The level of violent deaths is far higher than in the last years of Saddam Hussein's rule. At least 100, 000 Iraqi civilians have died, most of them at the hands of U. S. forces but increasingly from terrorist groups and Iraqi government death squads. Thousands of Iraqi soldiers and police have also been killed. CRIME AT RECORD LEVELS: Violent crime, including kidnapping, rape, and armed robbery, is at record levels. There is a proliferation of small arms, and private militias are growing rapidly. A Lebanon-type multifaceted civil war, only on a much wider and deadlier scale, grows more likely with time. MORE IRAQIS IMPRISONED: Over 50, 000 Iraqis have been imprisoned by U. S. forces since the invasion, but only 1. 5% of them have been convicted of any crime. Currently, U. S. forces hold 15, 000 to 18, 000 Iraqi prisoners, more than were imprisoned under Saddam Hussein. WIDESPREAD USE OF TORTURE AND OTHER ABUSES: Amnesty International and other human rights groups have cited U. S. forces with widespread violations of international humanitarian law, including torture and other abuses of prisoners. Fear of arrest and torture that have worsened since the U. S. conquest of Iraq. INCREASED DEATHS FROM MALNUTRITION AND PREVENTABLE DISEASES: Deaths from malnutrition and preventable diseases, particularly among children, are again on the increase. The supply of drinking water, reliability of electricity, and effectiveness of sewage disposal are all worse than before the invasion. FIFTY PERCENT UNEMPLOYMENT AND INCOMES CUT BY HALF: As much as half of the labour force is unemployed, and the cost of living has skyrocketed. The median income of Iraqis has declined by more than half. The UN's World Food Program (WFP) reports that the Iraqi people suffer from "significant countrywide shortages of rice, sugar, milk, and infant formula," and the WFP documents approximately 400, 000 Iraqi children suffering from "dangerous deficiencies of protein." OIL PRODUCTION HALVED, RECONSTRUCTION HALTED: Oil production, the country's chief source of revenue, is less than half of what it was before the invasion. And despite Bush administration promises to infuse billions of dollars worth of foreign aid to rebuild the country's civilian infrastructure, only a small fraction of these ventures have been completed, and most projects have been cancelled. ONE MILLION IRAQIS HAVE LEFT THE COUNTRY: Close to one million Iraqis, most of them from the vital, educated middle class, have left the country to avoid the violence and hardship brought on as a result of the U. S. invasion. Iraqi journalist speaks of life under occupation: Saleh Al-Shibani, Editor of the weekly newspaper Al-Qalaa "We are all liable to being killed by mistake or by a suicide bombing. We are all targeted, from university professors to garbage collectors, including hairdressers, journalists, doctors -- all Iraqis. I heard from a soldier friend that you cannot hear the sound of the bullet that kills you. As a result, every time I hear the sound of a bullet I praise God for my life. I would not make the heroic claim that I'm not afraid. It's fear that taught me to be cautious. I routinely change the times at which I leave the house to the office and vice versa, as well as the route I take. I fell silent in the wake of the occupation but, finding that futile, I went back to writing a few months ago. I speak for my conscience and for Iraq. And to my mind targeting journalists is first and foremost part of a campaign to terrorise Iraqis -- because journalists, being objective, tell the bitter truth; there are always parties who want to put an end to that. The claim is made that, among the virtues of the "new" Iraq is the plurality of voices as evident in the large number of newspapers on offer. The truth is that the newspaper scene is in chaos; and however many there are of them, very few newspapers can be called professional at all. Every party, every party leader, basically everyone who can afford it has launched a newspaper. And each newspaper speaks for the entity it represents, makes a claim to the truth, assuming the right not only to criticise but to insult its adversaries; this is particularly easy in the light of the legal void. Democracy means constructive criticism and the ability to listen to another; in Iraq any other voice will set off an endless string of problems. The assassination a few days ago of our colleague Muhsin Khadir, editor-in-chief of the magazine Alif-Baa, raised only a few journalistic voices; this is the case given that, since the beginning of the occupation, 49 journalists have been killed. In the absence of security to protect Iraqis, working conditions are difficult. We live only by the grace of God. Before the occupation I used to work for Al-Jumhouriya newspaper, and despite the despicable dictatorial regime, I feel that publishing what I wanted to say was then easier than it is now. Every politician and leader wants you to write about him; everyone blames you because you have ignored their achievements. My question is, 'how does the destruction of the country, its values and sense of unity amount to an achievement?' My wife too was also a journalist before the occupation; now, for many reasons, she has become a housewife: she does not like to leave the side of our two sons, nor does she feel safe with the house unattended for a second ". U.S. military issues new orders to U.S. contractors in Iraq to crack down on violations of human trafficking laws involving laborers brought in from around the world to work on American bases and other sites: An inspection completed in late March uncovered evidence that it was widespread practice among firms providing services to the military to take away their workers' passports to keep them in place, military spokesman Lt. Col. Barry Johnson said. Hundreds of thousands of foreign laborers — many from South Asia — are employed by contractors working in U.S. bases and elsewhere in Iraq as cooks, food servers, janitors, construction workers and other menial jobs. Human rights groups have reported complaints by some workers that they were tricked into coming into Iraq, paying recruiters in their home countries fees for jobs said to be in the Gulf, then forced to go to Iraq after their passports were taken. The groups have also reported complaints of withheld pay and overtime and unsuitable working and housing conditions provided by contractors and subcontractors for their workers. The U.S. military inspection found that employers violated U.S. law by withholding passports from their workers to prevent them from jumping to other employers, Johnson said in a statement to The Associated Press. The military has ordered contractors and subcontrators at all levels to return worker passports no later than May 5 and write into contracts restrictions on how long employers can hold travel documents, he said. Ramadi, the worst sniper threat on the planet: "Every time we go out, we run," said 2nd Lt. Brian Wilson, a 24-year-old platoon commander from Columbia, S.C. "If you stand still, you will get shot at." And most of the time, Marines shoot back. Marines patrolling this city on foot do not like to stay exposed too long, preferring instead to blow front gate locks off private homes with special shotgun shells to take temporary cover in walled courtyards before moving on. They do not knock first: there is no time. On one recent sweep, U.S. and Iraqi infantrymen climbed over walls between houses instead of risking the streets outside. "We try to stay mobile so snipers can't aim in on us," said 1st Lt. Carlos Goetz, a 29-year-old Miami native. The urban environment of walled villa rooftops and windowed buildings keeps Marines edgy. "You try to take cover wherever you can, but it just feels like someone's always watching you. It really messes with your head," said Cpl. Jason Hunt of Wellsville, N.Y. "You look for dark windows, tiny holes anywhere," the 24-year-old said. "They could be sitting back on a bench with a scope and a barrel: they see you, but you can't see them." (…) "It takes about eight minutes from us stepping outside of the wire and getting across the street to the time that we start receiving contact from the enemy," Goetz said at Goverment Center. The safety-in-motion logic also applies to U.S. vehicles. Drivers roll back and forth in danger zones, rather than park, to make their vehicles harder targets, particularly for rocket-propelled grenades, or RPGs. One young Marine manning a machine gun in a Humvee turret outside Government Center was hit by an RPG and killed instantly just before the vehicle rolled inside. In recent weeks, another Marine was killed by a sniper's bullet that tore through his shoulder toward his heart. (…) Cpl. Scott R. Gibson, 22, of Carlisle, Pa., said his platoon had started off walking during their first patrol in the city last month, worrying about pressure-plate bombs that explode when stepped on. They soon came under a hail of gunfire. "After that, we started running," Gibson said. "We can't stand still here too long." Breaking the monotony in Iraq: Blaring from the Humvee's loudspeakers was "Ride of the Valkyries," German composer Richard Wagner's classic song that was now reverberating along the dusty streets of Baghdad at sunset. It was a different and friendlier message that typically plays from speakers that usually warn cars to stay away from passing U.S. vehicles. "I play it to motivate everyone. Everybody gets a kick out of it," said 1st Lt. Matt Blackwell of Athens, Georgia, who said he occasionally plays the song on the safe streets that he travels with his platoon. "It breaks the monotony, if you have a good sense of humor," added Blackwell. Nevermind that the song in the American pop culture mind-set was forever associated with a carnage scene in the Vietnam classic film "Apocalypse Now". TWO POLLS
MSNBC Poll: Do you believe President Bush's actions justify impeachment? 259621 responses Yes, between the secret spying, the deceptions leading to war and more, there is plenty to justify putting him on trial. --- 86% No, like any president, he has made a few missteps, but nothing approaching "high crimes and misdemeanors." --- 4.4% No, the man has done absolutely nothing wrong. Impeachment would just be a political lynching. --- 7.4% I don't know. --- 1.8% Bush's approval falls to 32 percent, a new low for his presidency, a CNN poll showed on Monday. The survey also showed that 60 percent of Americans disapprove of the way Bush is handling his job. Bush's approval rating as measured by CNN's poll dropped from 36 percent in March. His lowest job performance measure has been 32 percent, in a Fox News poll this month. The American people are by now deeply skeptical of Bush's reliability in matters of war and peace. In a recent Los Angeles Times poll, 54 percent of respondents said they did not trust President Bush to "make the right decision about whether we should go to war with Iran," compared with 42 percent who did.
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS From the Department of Overly Frequent Houseguests: Just what those squabbling newlyweds in Baghdad's would-be government need -- the Associated Press reports this morning that the in-laws have returned for another visit:
President Bush dispatched America's top two foreign policy officials to Iraq on Wednesday in separate, surprise missions calculated to demonstrate a strong show of support for the country's emerging new government. . . . "We just want to make sure there are no seams between what we're doing politically and what we're doing militarily," Rice told reporters on her plane en route to Iraq. "Secretary Rumsfeld and I are going to be there together because a lot of the work that has to be done is at that juncture between political and military."
Actually, given the hallucinatory, Hail-Mary-pass nature of most recent U.S. "strategy" in Iraq, I'd say that a lot of the work is at the juncture between religion and amateur chemistry, but perhaps I'm just cynical. What I'd really like to know is, what does the U.S. really expect to gain from sending these two famous incompetents to a photo op in Baghdad? There's nothing they can say that can't be communicated more effectively (or at least coherently) by [frustrated puppeteer - crossed out in the original] ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad. The only difference in sending Rice and Rummy is to make the intended U.S. [pressure- crossed out in the original] "show of support" highly visible -- which has the counterproductive effect of tempting the Iraqis to look strong by rebuffing them, rather than like obedient lapdogs by doing what they say. Rice's previous trip to Baghdad, at the beginning of the month, backfired for that reason, and Rumsfeld's attempt to pressure Team Shiite a year ago (over the same subject being fought over now, control of Iraq's military and police) was unceremoniously ignored. But I guess it creates the illusion that they're trying to do something, which may be all the Bush Potemkin administration is about at this point. How will the US solve the Al-Maliki “problem”? As we learned from the reports: the US is building a massive new embassy in Iraq and we learned also they are building the second biggest airport after Heathrow in Balad, all this for sure are preparation for a long stay in Iraq. Al-Malki said:
Asked when the U.S. troops would begin departing the country, al-Maliki said he “heard from the leadership of the multinational forces that they are expecting that to be in 18 months.” (Iraqi PM-designate: U.S. could start pullout in 18 months)
So, I don’t know how the US will solve Al-Maliki “problem” without using the old trick which works all the time, you know assassinate him, the old way… Zarqawi… terrorism, roadside bombs… etc. It is astonishing how many Americans believe that Iraq is in a civil war: Haven’t we already proved to everyone’s satisfaction that the storyline leading up to the war was entirely false; that all of the charges and claims of WMD and connections to 9-11 were completely baseless? And wasn’t "alleged" terrorist mastermind, Abu Musab al Zarqawi exposed last week in a Washington Post article as a fraud; a shabby invention of the fertile imaginations of Pentagon planners and their surrogates in the media? Colonel Derek Harvey candidly admitted that the military intentionally "enlarged Zarqawi’s caricature" to create the impression that the struggle against occupation was really a fight against terrorism. What more proof do we need? Didn’t the Bush administration adopt a strategy produced by the right-wing think tank, Rand Corp. for exploiting the ideological and religious differences of the Iraqi people, even though Iraq has no history of sectarian violence? So why are the American people so eager to accept the Pentagon-media analysis of the present conflict in Iraq? Every part of the narrative so far has been exposed as a lie. Are we to believe that the media has suddenly "seen the light" and decided to record the facts as objectively as possible? Are we to believe that the Pentagon has decided to "be straight" with the public about the current state of affairs in Iraq? Let us at least agree on the one basic axiom that underscores all corporate journalism; the media never tells the truth. Sure, stories break that shed light on some area of government waste, fraud or abuse, but the really big stories (independent investigations of 9-11, the destruction of Falluja, the 2004 Ohio election fraud, the Downing Street memo, "Able Danger") simply disappear behind a wall of disinformation. The truth only leaches out through its corporate spigot as a way of lending credibility to the "prevailing lie" which animates every area of the corporate information–system. This is THEIR system, not yours or mine; and it is their narrative that appears on the front page of the New York Times or the headline story on CNN. That storyline is always skewed in favor of those who have a vested interest in persuading the public that their perspective is correct, which takes us back to our original axiom; the media never tells the truth. The civil war storyline is intended to divert attention from the bloody subjugation of the Iraqi people by a foreign military. This is the real story of the Iraqi conflict. The current malaise in Iraq is reducible to three bullet-points; occupation, occupation, and occupation. Any departure from this essential narrative is simply false. (…) Since the [Golden-domed Samarra mosque] bombing, the media has universally adopted the approach that the destruction of the mosque was the "catalyzing event" which put Iraq on the pat to civil war. It is utter nonsense. The story is just as bogus as the earlier fabrications about WMD or al Zarqawi. In fact, if it was the truth, we can be reasonably certain that it would not appear in the headlines, as per our original axiom that "the media never tells the truth". The rationale leading up to the war was a lie. The justification for the ongoing occupation as a fight against terrorism (al Zarqawi) was a lie. The fairy tale about an Iraqi civil war is a lie. And, presumably, all the future stories diverting attention from America’s bloody occupation will be lies. Iraq is subsumed by a wave of violence which radiates directly from the White House. Don’t blame the Iraqis. The world’s most ancient civilization is being systematically obliterated to feed the insatiable greed of Washington warlords and their constituents in the corporate boardrooms across America. Iraq is America’s slaughterhouse; the Iraqi people have no part in this crime. Don’t call it civil war. ZARQAWI GOES PRIMETIME
Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s unexpected appearance is rather suspiciously timed. Earlier this month, the CIA’s favorite newspaper, the Washington Times, ran an article claiming the Pentagon “is conducting a propaganda campaign to magnify the role of the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, according to internal military documents and officers familiar with the program…. documents state that the U.S. campaign aims to turn Iraqis against Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian, by playing on their perceived dislike of foreigners. U.S. authorities claim some success with that effort, noting that some tribal Iraqi insurgents have attacked Zarqawi loyalists.” Such an effort is required because most Iraqis believe al-Zarqawi is a Pentagon contrivance, although the Post does not allude to this fact. “For the past two years, U.S. military leaders have been using Iraqi media and other outlets in Baghdad to publicize Zarqawi’s role in the insurgency. The documents explicitly list the ‘U.S. Home Audience’ as one of the targets of a broader propaganda campaign.” Now we are expected to believe al-Zarqawi has obliged the Pentagon by appearing in a video—even though, over the last few years, the mercurial terrorist has assiduously avoided being photographed (except as the hooded executioner of the supposedly hapless Nick Berg—if we are to believe the fairy tale of al-Zarqawi’s supposed exploits). According to NBC, al-Zarqawi decided to be videotaped in order “to display unity among the jihadis in Iraq,” as the fantasy generated by the Pentagon and the White House stipulates that al-Zarqawi runs the resistance (only foreign “jihadis” and Saddam “dead-enders” are involved in the effort to force the United States out of Iraq—everybody else is ready with rose petals, ever thankful for bombed hospitals, destroyed electrical infrastructure, polluted water, and relatives shot up at checkpoints manned by trigger-happy yahoos who thought they joined the military to get an education, different than the education they are now getting). BBC's al-Zarqawi show: April 25, 2006 Dear Steve Herrmann, Editor, News Online I hope all is well at the BBC. I would like to ask for your opinion about this BBC NEWS website’s article. 'Zarqawi' shows face in new video (BBC NEWS website, Tuesday, 25 April 2006) reads: "A website has posted a video message which shows unmasked a man who appears to be the Iraqi insurgency's most wanted leader, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. In the tape, the man says holy warriors are fighting on despite a three-year "crusade". US experts told the BBC they believed the recording was genuine." Just a few days ago, The Washington Post wrote: "The U.S. military is conducting a propaganda campaign to magnify the role of the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, according to internal military documents and officers familiar with the program. The effort has raised his profile in a way that some military intelligence officials believe may have overstated his importance and helped the Bush administration tie the war to the organization responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks." (Military Plays Up Role of Zarqawi. Jordanian Painted As Foreign Threat To Iraq's Stability, By Thomas E. Ricks, Washington Post, April 10, 2006) A few weeks ago, interviewed by ABC – Australia, Robert Fisk said: "Well, I don't know if al-Zarqawi is alive. You know, al-Zarqawi did exist before the American Anglo-American invasion. He was up in the Kurdish area, which was not actually properly controlled by Saddam. But after that he seems to have disappeared. We know there's an identity card that pops up. We know the Americans say we think we've recognised him on a videotape. Who recognises him on a videotape? How many Americans have ever met al-Zarqawi? Al-Zarqawi's mother died more than 12 months ago and he didn't even send commiserations or say "I'm sorry to hear that". His wife of whom he was very possessive is so poor she has to go out and work in the family town of Zarqa. Hence the name Zarqawi. I don't know if al-Zarqawi is alive or exists at the moment. I don't know if he isn't a sort of creature invented in order to fill in the narrative gaps, so to speak." (Roberst Fisk shares his Middle East knowledge, Broadcast: 03/02/2006 ABC - Australia - Lateline) I have just three simple questions and I would be really grateful if you could give me just three short but honest answers. QUESTION 1 You write: "a man who appears to be the Iraqi insurgency's most wanted leader, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi." Who says that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is "Iraqi insurgency's most wanted leader"? A better phrasing could have been: "a man whom The US government claims to be the Iraqi insurgency's most wanted leader, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi." QUESTION 2 You write: "US experts told the BBC they believed the recording was genuine." Who are these "US experts [who] told the BBC they believed the recording was genuine"? I think this is a very important information for the BBC to give to its readers so that everyone can make up her/his own mind. QUESTION 3 Considering what I have reported above from the Washington Post and Robert Fisk, why doesn’t the BBC NEWS’ article even mention any skeptical point of view? Thank you for your time and I look forward to reading your comments. Best regards, Gabriele Zamparini
Riverbend: The last few weeks have been volatile, even by Iraqi standards. The area of A’adhamiya in Baghdad has seen some heavy fighting, especially during the last week. There’s almost always some action in A’adhamiya but a week ago it got to the point where there was open fighting in the streets between Ministry of Interior militias and guerrillas. As a result of this, we have an elderly relative staying with us. Her son, my mother’s second cousin, dropped her off at our house with the words, “Her heart can’t take all the excitement. Some bullets shattered the windows on the second floor and we thought she was going to have a heart-attack.” Apparently, prior to this latest outbreak of violence in A’adhamiya, there was a ‘silent agreement’ between the guerrillas and the Iraqi police that no attacks would be launched against Iraqi security forces in the area as long as Iraqi special commandos (Interior Ministry militias) would not attack homes in the area as they have been doing for the last year. So we’ve been spending the days with Bibi Z. (‘Bibi’ being a Baghdadi word meaning “granny” or “nana”) We don’t know her exact age, but we estimate she’s well into her eighties. She has a deceptively frail look about her- soft, almost transparent skin, a small face framed with long wisps of white hair. Her dark eyes are still very alive and have a look of permanent fascination because her brows are so white, they barely show up against her skin. (…) At around 10 am this morning, the electricity went out and it was too early for the generator. I commented that we wouldn’t be able to see what had happened overnight unless we listened to the radio. Bibi Z. told us about the first television she saw- in 1957. One of their wealthier neighbors had acquired a television and as soon as her husband headed off to work, the ladies in the area would gather at her house to watch an hour of television. “We would put on our abbayas when the male tv presenter was speaking,” she laughed. “It took Umm Adil two weeks to convince us that the presenter couldn’t see us just as we saw him.” “And were the politicians just as bad?” I asked later as we watched Jaffari make some comments. “History repeats itself… Politicians are opportunists… But they don’t worry me- they were bad, but Iraqis were better.” She continued to explain that through all of the drama and change that combine to form the colorful mosaic of the Iraqi political scene during the previous century, one thing remained constant- Iraqi loyalty and solicitude towards one another. She talked of the student revolts during the years of the monarchy. “When Iraq signed the Portsmouth Treaty, the students revolted and organized demonstrations against the king- they were chased throughout Baghdad. My father was a police officer and yet when they chased the students into our area, we slipped them into the house and helped them get away by jumping from rooftop to rooftop. Iraqis were Iraqis and we had our differences, but we took care of each other… And women and children were sacred- no one dared touch the women and children of the house.” The one unforgivable sin back then was to have loyalties to the foreign occupier. “Today, the only ones who can guarantee their survival are the ones with the loyalties to an occupier- and even they aren’t safe.” She sighed heavily as she said this, her prayer beads clicking gently in her thin hands. The U.S. is no superpower: By launching a war of aggression on the basis of lies and fabricated "intelligence," the Bush regime violated the Nuremberg standard established by the US and international law. Extensive civilian casualties and infrastructure destruction in Iraq, along with the torture of detainees in concentration camps and an ever-changing excuse for the war have destroyed the soft power and moral leadership that provided the diplomatic foundation for America's superpower status. A country that is no longer respected or trusted and which promises yet more war isolates itself from cooperation from the rest of the world. An isolated country is not a superpower. A country that fears small, distant countries to such an extent that it utilizes military in place of diplomatic means is not a superpower. The entire world knows that the US is not a superpower when its entire available military force is tied down by a small lightly armed insurgency drawn from a Sunni population of a mere 5 million people. Neoconservatives think the US is a superpower because of its military weapons and nuclear missiles. However, as the Iraqi resistance has demonstrated, America's superior military firepower is not enough to prevail in fourth generation warfare. The Bush regime has reached this conclusion itself, which is why it increasing speaks of attacking Iran with nuclear weapons. The US is the only country to have used nuclear weapons against an opponent. If six decades after nuking Japan the US again resorts to the use of nuclear weapons, it will establish itself as a pariah, war criminal state under the control of insane people. Any sympathy that might still exist for the US would immediately disappear, and the world would unite against America. A country against which the world is united is not a superpower. --- Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration BEYOND IRAQ EU report condemns secret CIA flights: The CIA has carried out more than 1,000 undeclared flights over European territory since 2001, European parliament investigators said today. Politicians scrutinising illegal CIA activities in Europe also said incidents in which terror suspects were handed over to US agents did not appear to be isolated, and suspects were often transported in the same planes and by the same groups of people. The preliminary report was compiled using data provided by the EU's air safety agency, Eurocontrol. It also used information gathered during three months of hearings and more than 50 hours of testimony by human rights groups and people who said they had been kidnapped and tortured by US agents. Data showed CIA planes made numerous undeclared stopovers on European territory, violating an international air treaty requiring airlines to declare the routes and stopovers for planes on police missions, the Italian politician Giovanni Claudio Fava, who drafted the report, said. "The routes for some of these flights seem to be quite suspect ... they are rather strange routes for flights to take. It is hard to imagine ... those stopovers were simply for providing fuel," he added. The US has not made any public comments on allegations of secret renditions, and the official line by EU governments and senior EU officials is that there has been no irrefutable proof of such renditions. The parliament inquiry began in January following media reports that US intelligence officers had interrogated al-Qaida suspects at secret prisons in eastern Europe following the September 11 2001 attacks on New York and Washington and transported some on secret flights that passed through Europe. Clandestine detention centres, secret flights to or from Europe to countries in which suspects could face torture, or extraordinary renditions would all breach the continent's human rights treaties. Earlier this month, the human rights group Amnesty International released a report detailing almost 1,000 flights directly linked to the CIA through "front" companies, most of which it said had used European air space. A further 600 CIA flights were made by planes hired from US aviation companies. The report carried details of more than 200 alleged CIA flights passing through British airports, and called for an independent public inquiry into all aspects of UK involvement in extraordinary rendition flights. It claimed the US made efforts to ensure conditions and locations in which detainees were held were kept secret. Two satements: The White House issued a statement about the bombing in Tel Aviv, in which 9 people died. They’re against it. Indeed, “no excuse or justification is possible.” And the Pentagon issued a statement about the killing of 7 Afghan civilians by American troops. In that case, evidently some excuse or justification was possible. But not apologies, and I stress this because some news reports said that the military apologized for killing innocent bystanders. In fact, it said that it “regretted” the deaths, but blamed them on “terrorists” for “expos[ing] innocent civilians” to the “grave risk” that Americans would shoot them. IRAN Iranian President says Western governments are anti-Semitic: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Monday accused Western governments of being anti-Semitic and said such an anti-semitic policy by Western governments forced the Jews to leave the West and come to Palestine. According to IRNA, he told reporters that the Jews are just like other people of the world. They are entitled to have a free life with security. President Ahmadinejad addressed himself to Western governments and said, "Let the Jews come back to their own homelands in the West." "Please let peace and security prevail in the international community on the basis of justice," Ahmadinejad said. He said that the Western governments deported the Jews to Palestine in line with their anti-Semitic policy. "You have created problems for the Jews by deporting the Jews to Palestine. Therefore, you should solve the problem yourselves." Is it realistic to think that Iran would attack the West with nuclear weapons? What could they possibly gain except their own destruction? This is a question the media never ask for if it did, the entire propaganda exercise would fall apart. The very idea that Iran would launch a nuclear attack on the West is sheer fantasy and based only on the notion, invented by the West, that Iran is a country ruled by Islamic fanatics who have apparently completely abandoned the idea of self-preservation. But in the context of a propaganda campaign which has turned Islam into some kind of 'jihad' driven by a messianic fatalism, it makes perfect sense. Thus the role of racism becomes clear, 'they' are all uncivilised, bent on some suicidal mission that defies any reasoning with, after all, how is one to reason with irrational fanatics who would, if given the chance, destroy the world knowing that they will go to an afterlife full of beautiful babes living in paradise. Of course, such a vision is ludicrous if it weren't for the fact that beneath all the so-called objective reportage in the Western media, this is exactly what is being said. (…) The use of institutes and think-tanks, all of which are funded with millions of corporate dollars, creates the appearance of some kind of objective analysis being brought to bear on the issue when the reality is that these 'institutes' are in fact part of a carefully constructed propaganda campaign built over several decades. The 'experts' give the analysis the stamp of authenticity in a revolving door process with governments employing these 'experts' to validate policy. Even the setting for a TV interview is integral to the campaign, with the 'expert' invariably sitting in an office surrounded by thousands of 'learned tomes' thus reinforcing the aura of authenticity. Is it any wonder therefore, when presented with such an overwhelming barrage of 'expert' opinion that it is impossible for the public to discern truth from fiction especially when set in the context of an atmosphere of overt racism and xenophobia that paints countries like Iran as being run by a bunch of rabid fanatics willing to risk nuclear conflagration in the 'cause' of the 'one true God' or whatever. Language becomes a weapon of domination just as surely as guns and bombs. The Confusion of Tongues: Yesterday [April 24] morning I was watching a streaming English-language news broadcast from Russia. (And I expect that's enough cause right there for the telecommunication giants to seek the end of the Internet as we know it.) The lead story was the press conference of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and the main points hit by the Russia Today correspondent were Ahmadinejad's renouncing nuclear weapons as contrary to Islam and his reiteration of Iran's 30-year commitment to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, though Iran reserved the right to revisit its commitment if adherence to the treaty imperiled its sovereignty. It was an unexpectedly optimistic piece. Ahmadinejad was allowed to speak at length and appeared relaxed and informed while fielding questions. If the excerpts were representative and the translation accurate, he appeared to be credibly attempting to defuse the crisis. Naturally we need to compensate for spin whatever the source, and Russian news tailored for a foreign audience has a spin no less than Wolf Blitzer's Panic Room. Knowing that, I was still taken aback by the absolute unfamiliarity of the same press conference when soon after I started reading accounts of it in the Western media. The accent was almost entirely upon provocation, not concilation: the UN "lacks guts" to impose sanctions; "Defiant Iran in threat to quit nuclear treaty"; and "Iranian President insists 'Israel can not continue to live.'" There's a Central Casting-like quality to Ahmadinejad's villainy. If he didn't exist the Pentagon would have had to create him to justify moving the goalpost to Tehren. And perhaps they did. (The election fraud, rule by crisis and religious fascism are certainly familiar enough. A reformist Iranian government was the war party's nightmare.) But did he really say that? Did he insist that Israel must die? The headline is drawn from this quote, provided without context: "We say that this fake regime cannot logically continue to live." To arrive at the headline, the government has to be conflated with the nation. Likewise we could say about the Bush administration, and with considerable accuracy, that "this fake regime cannot logically continue to survive." (Without knowing Farsi I'll presume that the original could be translated as either "to live" or "to survive.") And is that the same as saying America must die? Ahmadinejad says the darnedest things, but perhaps, when translated, his rhetoric is subject to overinflation by parties interested in conflict. But perhaps it doesn't matter. Does it matter that we've barely learned how to pronounce his name before he's become This Year's Hitler? CHINA Not bad for a day's work: Considering how much time and effort was spent on the ceremonial details of Chinese President Hu Jintao's official visit to Washington last week, it is hard to understand how things could have gotten fouled up so badly. It should be remembered that the visit started off as a deliberate putdown. The Chinese argued strenuously for a full state visit complete with a black-tie state dinner. They got an official state lunch and a welcome on the White House grounds. Things went downhill from there. First the announcer described the national anthem being played in Hu's honor as that of the Republic of China, not the People's Republic of China (PRC). In the middle of the ceremony a heckler from the Falungong, a quasi-Buddhist sect banned in China, was allowed to scream abuse at the Chinese president for at least a full minute, some say more than two minutes, before being evicted. Toward the end of the ceremony, President George W Bush was photographed grabbing Hu's jacket sleeve to guide him in the right direction. Hu looked down on Bush with obvious distaste as if to say, "Keep your mangy hands off me." At a news conference in the Oval Office, a bored-looking Vice President Dick Cheney was photographed slumped in a chair reading a book while the two presidents answered questions. The official Chinese media may not have reported the heckler or some of the other boorish incidents. But pictures, videos and descriptions are all over the Internet, stoking anger even among those blogs outside the PRC that normally spend their time bashing the Chinese Communist Party. "It is no exaggeration to say that the long-term consequences of Thursday's events for the US and people everywhere yearning for a lowering of international tensions would turn out to be both negative and significant," said the China Confidential blog. This was Bush's Belgrade moment. There may be a few Chinese who do not believe that the United States deliberately bombed the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade in May 1999. There might be a few Chinese who don't believe that the US deliberately sought to humiliate Hu. What many can't understand is not only how the heckler was permitted so close to the two presidents but why she was allowed to scream abuse for such a long time. Watching it on Fox News, it seemed to go on forever, and one wondered why somebody didn't remove her. (…) Some US commentators shrugged off the incident or tried to put a good face on it: isn't it nice that the Chinese president gets to hear dissenting voices that he doesn't hear in his own country? It's not as if traveling Chinese presidents haven't encountered protesters before. Any time a senior Chinese official visits Europe or North America, he is dogged by proponents of Tibetan independence, Taiwan independence and other causes. They just usually aren't invited to the party. One wonders how many of these commentators would have applauded American anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan if she had stood up in the gallery of the US House of Representatives and shouted "Your days are numbered" at Bush during his State of the Union speech for two solid minutes. In fact, she was hustled out of the chamber before she said a word, if indeed she was planning to say something. The War on Terror Is Over, and China Won: Imagine 40 years from now how a global affairs columnist for the Fox-Xinhua (or New Shanghai Times) content-providing service will analyze the world's geo-strategic and geo-economic balance of power. This might be the way he or she recalls the visit that China's former president Hu Jintao made in April 2006 to Washington, the capital of what was then known as the "United States." Now in 2046, the city is a major tourist attraction for Chinese and Indian tourists, many of whom stay at the seven-star hotel previously known as the "White House" (the Lincoln Suite is the most expensive). He or she (cloned in 2011) might write the following: "As I downloaded news reports that were published in the American media on that week, what really astonished me was the extent to which President Hu's first visit to the then U.S. capital since becoming China's paramount leader had received so little attention in the American press. The headlines in the New York Times and the Washington Post (both of which have since been bought by our parent company) were devoted to U.S. efforts to prevent Iran from gaining access to nuclear military capability - Iran conducted its first nuclear test two years later and is now a leading nuclear military power - and to the violence in what was known then as 'Iraq' (now divided between Turkey, Iran, and the Syrian Federation) and was still occupied by the U.S. (which withdrew from there two years later). "And believe it or not, much of the media coverage on the eve of the visit was focused on the refusal of the Americans to call Mr. Hu's trip to Washington a 'state visit' (as the Chinese had requested). "Indeed, in retrospect it does seem quite incredible that the nation that was the global superpower of that period seemed to have ignored China's dramatic rise in economic, political, military, and cultural power while devoting almost its entire resources to trying to achieve regime changes and implant democracy in the Middle East. "During the first term of the presidency of George W. Bush (whose nephew George P. Bush is now the president of the Florida-Cuba Federation), he and his aides saw China as a 'strategic competitor' (the Pentagon) and as an important trade partner (corporate America), and committed themselves to place the relationship with Beijing at the top of Washington's global agenda. "But the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington on Sept. 11, 2001, resulted in the bumping of China to the diplomatic back-burner. "On the one hand, obsessed with the 'war on terrorism,' the Americans shifted most of their attention to the Middle East while pressing the Chinese to work with them to combat the 'terrorist threat' (which they did). "On the other hand, when it came to the Chinese, U.S. officials and lawmakers focused most of their energy on forcing them to allow their currency to rise in value, so as to reduce what they considered to be an unfair advantage Chinese exporters enjoyed against U.S. manufacturers, and help shrink the U.S. trade deficit with China, which soared to U.S.$201 billion in 2005. "At the same time, the members of a group of intellectuals who were known then as 'neoconservatives' and who were a major influence on the Bush administration's policies argued that the U.S. needed to gain hegemony in the Middle East and use its control of the oil resources there as a leverage in its negotiations with China, which they regarded as America's long-term global rival. "What was missing from U.S. foreign policy at that time was any coherent strategy aimed at integrating China as a rising global power into the international system. Then-Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick came close to proposing such a strategy when he called Washington to embrace the 'peaceful rise of China' and asked that Beijing become a responsible stakeholder in global affairs. (…) "It was not surprising, therefore, that when President Hu visited Washington in April 2006, a politically weak President Bush found himself under pressure from Capitol Hill to 'do something' about the mounting trade deficit with China. "But there was not much that the White House could do to compel major changes in China's trade practices, especially when the Chinese were using the U.S. dollars they earned from their exports to invest hundreds of billions of dollars in U.S. Treasury securities, thereby helping not only to finance the American military project in the Middle East, but also to keep interest rates low for American borrowers. "Mr. Bush and his aides recognized that a trade war with the Chinese would have devastating effects on U.S. economic and diplomatic interests. But during the 2006 mid-term congressional elections, with trade policies - together with Iraq and immigration - dominating the campaign, lawmakers demanded that Washington 'punish' China for its 'unfair trade policies.' "Tensions between the two powers continued to rise. A more assertive China used its diplomatic and military power to gradually erode the U.S. presence in East Asia. In fact, with its military overstretched in the Middle East, Washington had no choice but to reduce its commitments in East Asia, where a unified (and nuclear) Korea, Japan, ASEAN, and India took steps to accommodate Chinese power. "Interestingly enough, after retiring in 2030 from his position as president of the East Asian Union (EAU), former President Hu, looking back on his trip to Washington, told me: 'We were quite content to see the Americans being drawn into the mess in the Middle East in the name of fighting terrorism. We assumed that the war on terrorism would end one day, and that we - and not the Americans, exhausted economically and militarily after years of fighting in the Middle East - would emerge as the winners. We were right." QUOTE OF THE DAY: "The current malaise in Iraq is reducible to three bullet-points; occupation, occupation, and occupation". --- Mike Whitney


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