Monday, June 26, 2006

DAILY WAR NEWS FOR MONDAY, June 26, 2006 Bring ‘em on: U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Eduardo Vazquez, left, of Rome, New York, and Cpl. Tyler Warndorf, of Hebron, Kentucky, rest in an Iraqi family's house during a patrol, in Ramadi, the capitol of Iraq's volatile, western Anbar province, Monday, June 26, 2006. While the number of U.S. troops stationed elsewhere in Iraq is expected to decline by the end of 2007, U.S. commanders are reportedly not expected to significantly reduce the number of American troops stationed in Anbar province. (AP Photo/Jacob Silberberg) Bring 'em on: A Marine assigned to Regimental Combat Team 5 died from wounds sustained due to enemy action while operating in Al Anbar Province today. (CENTCOM) OTHER SECURITY INCIDENTS Baghdad: One civilian was killed and five wounded when a roadside bomb targeting a police patrol exploded on a road in eastern Baghdad. Gunmen attacked a convoy assigned to Iraq's most senior Sunni Arab politician Monday, killing one bodyguard. Adnan al-Dulaimi, head of the Iraq Accordance Front, was not in any of the vehicles. The attack took place in western Baghdad. Baqubah: Gunmen killed a civilian in Baaquba market which also witnessed the killing of another civilian in a separate incident today. A bomb outside a shop killed a policeman and wounded five people. Police had gone to recover the body of a Shi'ite man killed by gunmen in Baquba. Diyala: An Iraqi soldier was shot dead by gunmen in Muqdadiya north of Baaquba in Diyala. Hillah: A bomb blast in the main market of the town of Hillah south of Baghdad killed 15 people and wounded 30. Suwayra: Police killed five insurgents on Sunday in the small town of Suwayra, 40 km (25 miles) south of Baghdad. Kut: Gunmen killed a policeman on Sunday in Kut, 170 km (105 miles) southeast of Baghdad. Iskandariya: Gunmen shot dead two undercover policemen and their driver in their car in Iskandariya 40 km (25 miles) south of Baghdad. Fallujah: An insurgent sniper shot dead an Iraqi soldier at an army checkpoint. The attack prompted the Iraqi soldiers to return fire, wounding two pedestrians. Mosul: Gunmen killed a police officer on Sunday in Mosul. A policeman was killed and six people wounded -- four police and two insurgents -- in clashes in Mosul. A policeman and a civilian were wounded when a roadside bomb exploded near a police patrol in Mosul. Iraqi soldiers killed three gunmen in Mosul. Gunmen killed a Kurdish man in the city. >> NEWS Russia’s Foreign Ministry on Monday confirmed the death of Russian hostages who worked at its embassy in Iraq, a day after an al-Qaida linked group said it had killed the four captives. The group, the Mujahedeen Shura Council, had posted a video on a Web site that showed the killing of three of four Russian workers who were kidnapped June 3. A statement from the group said the fourth was also slain. Saddam Hussein believes the United States will have to seek his help to quell the insurgency in Iraq and open the way for U.S. forces to withdraw, his chief lawyer said Sunday. Khalil al-Dulaimi argued in an interview with The Associated Press that the former leader is the key to returning stability to Iraq. "He's their last resort. They're going to knock at his door eventually," the lawyer said. Saddam is "the only person who can stop the resistance against the U.S. troops." >> REPORTS Iraq's violence of the past four months has pushed the number of displaced people to above 130,000, parliament heard on Monday as members urged ministers to give more aid and security to contain the crisis. The number of registered displaced has climbed by as much as 30,000 in the last month, according to ministry statistics. The actual figure must be higher as many thousands go uncounted, quietly seeking refuge with relatives or heading abroad. everyday. The smuggling of petroleum products from the port city of Basra to neighbouring countries has led to the delay of a number of Iraqi development projects, said one high-level petroleum official. According to Mohamed al-Ebadi, the prime minister's personal adviser on oil affairs, nearly 1.5 million litres of crude oil, fuel and other petroleum products are smuggled from Basra >> COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS IN IRAQ: A PLACE TO BE HUMAN, FIRST As Iraq teeters on the brink of civil war, with Sunni-Shiite violence terrorizing the center and south, the northern city of Kirkuk is waiting to explode. In this city, Kurds and Turkmen had been forced from their homes under Saddam. They are now returning to find Arab families in their houses. The Kurdish militias that control much of Iraq's north hope to annex oil rich Kirkuk as the capital of their autonomous zone. A tense three-way rivalry between Kurds, Arabs, and Turkmen has developed. Yet it is in Kirkuk that Iraq's civil resistance movement is building a new model for a secular society that puts equal citizenship ahead of ethnic or sectarian identity. The Iraqi Freedom Congress (IFC), founded in March 2005, brings together labor unions, student groups, women's rights organizations, and neighborhood assemblies to defend civil society against the occupation troops and profusion of armed factions. The IFC is working to establish a parallel governance structure to that of the U.S.-backed regime and armed militias linked to ethnic and religious groups. Its working model for this program is a Kirkuk neighborhood that it has established as an autonomous zone, dubbed Al-Tzaman-Solidarity. "Anybody can live in this area," IFC president SamirAdil said of Al-Tzaman, speaking at a Tokyo conference held by Japan's Movement for Democratic Socialism in January to support Iraq's civil resistance. "This is a humanity area-nobody has the right to ask you your religion or ethnic identity." The neighborhood of some 5,000 has a mixed population of Sunni Arabs, Christians, Turkmen, and Kurds, and has been an IFC autonomous zone fora year. In a starkly divided city, it has become a haven for peaceful co-existence. The IFC renamed the neighborhood Solidarity from its Saddam-era militarist appellation of Asraiwal Mafkodein-"Prisoners of War and Missing," a tribute to conscripts lost in the war with Iran. "There is no government in Iraq-the governmentis only within the Green Zone," Adil says, explaining the proliferation of militias. "If you give security they support you." Adil admits the IFC has establisheda rmed checkpoints in Al-Tzaman to prevent infiltration by militia and insurgent groups at night. He claims a local presence by the al-Zarqawi network has been cleared out by the IFC's efforts. Adil says the IFC is now seeking to establish a second autonomous zone in the Baghdad neighborhood of Husseinia-and is in a contest with the Shiite Badr militia, which has a presence there. "Every household in Iraq is armed now," Adil says."Iraqi society is a jungle society-you have to have a gun to defend your family." Despite this reality, he emphasizes that the IFC is seeking to build a civil resistance to the occupation-not an armed insurgency. (…) Adil says the IFC advocates non-collaboration with the Iraqi government as long as the country is occupied by foreign troops and as long as the new state is basedon "dividing power and oil proceeds between the ethnic factions." Instead he calls for "public accountability and visibility [regarding the] administration of resource money for the benefit of the Iraqi people as a whole." While Arab nationalists call for officially defining Iraq as "part of the Arab homeland" and Kurdish nationalist parties ultimately seek secession, Adil says the IFC sees Iraq as first and foremost "part of the world." He says the IFC opposes federalism as a recipe for civil war and the permanent fracturing of the Iraqi state. He calls foran Iraqi state in which the citizen is not a member of an ethnic or religious group but "human first, humanlast, and human always." Asked for a message for readers in the United States, Adil says, "The U.S. lost in Vietnam not because the U.S. lost soldiers in Vietnam, but because they lost the support of the American people. But we don't want the American people to just protest to bring the troops home, but to support the secular progressive forces in Iraq, to think about the Iraqi people. We do not want another Taliban regime or Islamic Republic in Iraq." read in full... HOW TO END THE IRAQ WAR The invasion, occupation, and continuing war in Iraq has cost the lives of more than 1700 U.S. soldiers. (now over 2000 lives --editors note November 2005) Thousands more have been physically and emotionally scarred. Iraqis have suffered in even larger numbers. The BBC reports that nearly 25,000 Iraqi civilians have lost their lives and their country has been shattered by violence and continues to languish. Cities such as Fallujah, population 300,000, have been virtually destroyed. Ending the U.S. occupation of Iraq is the only way to move closer to peace and reconstruction. U.S. and coalition troops are both the cause of and the magnet for the violence in Iraq, not its solution. A goal that would help both the troops currently in Iraq and the Iraqi people would be to bring the troops home by January 2006. Setting a date will transform the dynamics in Iraq. Iraqis will start to realize that they are in control, not the U.S., and this will give them hope that they will be an independent nation with the responsibility to create their nation on their own terms. (…) What will happen when U.S. troops are withdrawn? No one can say with any certainty. But it is certain that if Washington continues to "stay the course," U.S. troops will continue to die, and they will continue to kill. And Iraq's reconstruction will remain stalled. It is likely that the withdrawal of U.S. troops would lead to the collapse of at least some parts of the current government, but some of its institutions-including the police, the military, and other security agencies-could survive under new leadership untainted by association with the U.S. occupation. Without an outside enemy occupying the country, it is also possible that the kind of secular nationalism long dominant in Iraq would again prevail as the most influential political force in the emerging Iraqi polity, replacing the fundamentalist tendencies currently on the rise among Iraqis facing the desperation of occupation, repression, and growing impoverishment. (…) All scenarios in today's war-ravaged Iraq are risky. Maintaining the U.S. occupation in Iraq, with U.S. troops killing and dying in Iraq, violates U.S. and international law, the U.N. Charter, and the Geneva Conventions. Clearly this is not the way forward. A January 2005 Zogby poll found that 82 percent of Sunnis and 69 percent of Shiites favor U.S. withdrawal either immediately or after an elected government is in place. How withdrawal is accomplished will be our legacy. What we propose is that that legacy be based on giving the Iraqis true control over their political, economic, and military conditions. read in full… JUST GO HOME To treat even these few incidents [killing of Iraqi civilians by U.S. forces] as isolated chapters is to miss the broader, enduring narrative. For these are not the unfathomable offshoots of this war but the entirely foreseeable corollaries of it. This is what occupation is; this is what occupation does. There is nothing specifically American about it. Any nation that occupies another by force will meet resistance. For that resistance to be effective, it must have deep roots in local communities where opposition to the occupation is widespread. Unable to distinguish between insurgent and civilian, occupiers will regard all civilians as potential insurgents and all territory as enemy territory. "Saying who's a civilian or a 'muj' [mujahideen] in Iraq, you really can't," one marine under investigation told the New York Times recently. "This town did not want us there at all." Under these circumstances, dead women, children and disabled people are the price you pay for being invaded. (...) In response to news of Haditha, George Bush said: "If, in fact, laws were broken, there will be punishment ... The challenge for us is to make sure the actions of a few do not tarnish the good work of the many." International law was broken but there will be no punishment. The few who are responsible remain in the White House while the many who are embroiled in the conflict are brutalised or murdered, or both. "You've got to do whatever it takes to get home," said one marine. "If it takes clearing by fire where there's civilians, that's it." There is, of course, another option. Just go home. If the wanton murder of civilians is what it takes to complete your mission, there is clearly something wrong with the mission. You can only talk about a few bad apples for so long before you need to take a serious look at the barrel. read in full… IRAQ: SHIA RESISTANCE? SAYS WHO? Says the Shia. In recent months, dozens of videos produced by Shia resistance fighters have emerged, dispelling the notion that this is a Sunni fight alone. Here is one. [Video] Excerpted lyrics: "I am Shia, I am Iraqi, I am Arab." From the Imam Kathem resistance group. Who is Imam Kathem? Imam Moussa Ibn Ja3far Al-Kathem is the seventh Imam revered by Shia Islam first imprisoned and later thought to have been poisoned. He served as the longest-running Imam in Shia Islam, which is a noteworthy historical fact. The Iraqi district of Kadhmiya is named in his honor. He is also thought to have been of exceptional moral standing and a mediator in many disputes. He advocated peaceful resolution of conflict unless the adversary is vile and mean. The Iraqi military foiled a planned attack against the holy Shrine of Imam Moussa al-Kathem and Mohammad al-Jawad in the Kathamiyeh, north of Baghdad in early March. According to a senior officer, quoted by the al-Iraqia state television, residents told the army that eight rockets were hidden in the drainpipes and ready to be launched at the shrine. The army then pulled the rockets out. Why did I post this video? For purposes of instruction only, to show those who rely to heavily on western media for their news that there stories and events they are simply not told about leading to their distorted view of affairs in Iraq. And to further show that the resistance in Iraq is not Sunni alone. read in full... FALLUJAH: A CITY STILL UNDER SIEGE One and a half years after the US assault on Fallujah, residents tell of ongoing suffering, lack of jobs, little reconstruction and continuing violence. The US Marines Corps launched Operation Phantom Fury against the city of Fallujah in November 2004, destroying an estimated 70% of the buildings, homes and shops, and killing between 4,000 and 6,000 people, according to the Fallujah-based non-governmental organization (NGO) the Study Center for Human Rights and Democracy (SCHRD). Inter Press Service (IPS) found that the city remains under draconian, biometric security, with retina scans, fingerprinting and X-raying required for anyone entering the city. Fallujah remains an island: not even the residents of the surrounding towns and villages such as Karma, Habbaniya, Khalidiya, which fall under Fallujah's administrative jurisdiction, are allowed in. Security badges are required for anyone wishing to enter the city. To obtain a badge, one has to be a Fallujah native from a certain class. That is, if one is from Fallujah and a government official, a high-class badge of grade G will be issued. Journalists get an X-grade badge. Then there are B for businessmen and C for those who have contracts with the US military in the city. Last are the R-grade badges, for those not to be admitted through the main checkpoint at the west side of the city and must seek entrance through "second class" checkpoints elsewhere. read in full... 24 POINTS, AND A THOUSAND TIMES NO Maliki issues his 24-point plan, marked down from 28. Hurrah! It calls for a timetable for American withdrawal, without actually suggesting one. An amnesty, except for people who committed "criminal and terrorist acts and war crimes." But jay-walkers need no longer live in fear of a midnight knock on the door. For those others, "we present a fist with the power of law to protect our country and people"; "No and a thousand times no. There can be no deal with them until they have been justly punished." My impression that Maliki is a bit of a blowhard is not diminishing over time. It's unclear whether or not the amnesty applies to people who just killed Americans, since the "terrorist acts" thing might or might not include that (depending on whether you ask an American or an Iraqi, really). Also, he didn't say how they'd determine who had committed those acts which are ineligible for the amnesty. In other words, on this key provision, as on the timetable, he decided to fudge. He says that foreign troops should respect human rights. Rummy says, "Yeah, we'll get right on that." What else? Ensuring the army is run on "professional and patriotic lines," presumably by professional patriots. Compensation, from who knows what source, for victims of terrorism, ethno-sectarian cleansing, de-Baathification and military operations. Adoption of a rational discourse. National dialogue. A united stand against terrorists. Pretending that Iraq's elected bodies are solely responsible for decisions regarding Iraq's sovereignty and the presence of foreign troops. Yet more national dialogue. And then, for dessert, some national dialog. link GODOT RESCHEDULES UNTIL 2007 Here's an interesting news story from the New York Times this evening:
In a classified briefing to senior Pentagon officials last month, the top American commander in the Middle East outlined a plan that would gradually reduce American forces in Iraq by perhaps 20,000 to 30,000 troops by next spring if conditions on the ground permitted, three senior military officers and Defense Department officials said this week.
Oh, ooops ... sorry, I don't know how that happened. That story isn't from tonight's Times -- it's from August 2005. Here's the story for this Sunday's NYT:
The top American commander in Iraq has drafted a plan that projects sharp reductions in the United States military presence there by the end of 2007, with the first cuts coming this September, American officials say. According to a classified briefing at the Pentagon this week by the commander, Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the number of American combat brigades in Iraq is projected to decrease to 5 or 6 from the current level of 14 by December 2007. . . . A reduction of eight combat brigades would equal about 28,000 troops.
. . . In the general's briefing, the future American role in Iraq is divided into three phases. The next 12 months was described as a period of stabilization. The period from the summer of 2007 through the summer of 2008 was described as a time when the emphasis would be on the restoration of the Iraqi government's authority.
We'll see if the plan works any better this time ... or if we'll have a repeat of the Beckettian dialogue I imagined last month:
ESTRAGON: Let's go. VLADIMIR: We can't. ESTRAGON: Why not? VLADIMIR: We're waiting for the political and security environment to stabilize. ESTRAGON (despairingly): Ah!
Update (6/25): The Washington Post notes that even after the insurgency had clearly started in the fall of 2003, top generals had wanted to cut the number of U.S. troops to 100,000 by the summer of 2004. So this Godot routine has been going on ever since the invasion. link >> BEYOND IRAQ Afghanistan: Bring ‘em on: One soldier from the U.S.-led force died of wounds suffered during combat in the eastern province of Kunar on Sunday, the U.S. military said in a statement. It did not give his nationality. Bring ‘em on: A U.S.-led coalition soldier has been killed fighting insurgents in eastern Afghanistan. The soldier was fatally wounded Sunday during combat operations in the Pech district of Kunar province, the U.S.-led coalition said in a statement. His nationality was not released pending notification of his family. "EVERYTHING IS LURCHING DOWNWARD" IN AMNESIA-STAN Some harsh words from longtime Afghanistan correspondent Pamela Constable in the Washington Post on the other war we're losing:
Many Afghans and some foreign supporters say they are losing faith in President Hamid Karzai's government, which is besieged by an escalating insurgency and endemic corruption and is unable to protect or administer large areas of the country. . . . public confidence in his leadership has soured with reports of highway police robbing travelers, government jobs sold to the highest bidder, drug traffic booming and aid money vanishing. There are no public opinion polls here, but several dozen Afghan and foreign observers expressed similar views. . . . " There is an awful feeling that everything is lurching downward," said a Western diplomat, speaking on the condition of anonymity. "Nearly five years on, there is no rule of law, no accountability. The Afghans know it is all a charade, and they see us as not only complicit but actively involved . You cannot fight a terror war and build a weak state at the same time, and it was a terrible mistake to think we could." (...)
It's getting hard to tell the difference between this situation and the one in Iraq. Everything seems to have turned to the same corruption and chaos. read in full... QUOTE OF THE DAY: "I did not have a chance to carry a weapon, but I was using words to reject occupation" –- Iraqi citizen Saad al-Hayali, 47, one of 500 detainees at US and Iraqi-run facilities in Iraq released at a ceremony on Friday, who was arrested with his two sons and brother 26 months ago on charges of being "terrorists" and inciting violence in the town Tarmia, north of Baghdad.


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