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Friday, August 11, 2006

DAILY WAR NEWS FOR FRIDAY, August 11, 2006 Photo: Baghdad, June 05 2004. An Mehdi militiaman loyal to the radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sacr fires a mortar round at a US army position in Sadr City. Photo by Iraqi photojournalist Ghaith Abdul-Ahad from "Unembeded - Four Independent Journalists on the War in Iraq"; (See below "Losing Hope in Iraq", an interview with Ghaith Abdul-Ahad.) Shiite assailants ransacked and burned a provincial office of the Iraqi president's Kurdish party, accusing its official newspaper of unfairly criticizing a Shiite cleric, police said. About 50 armed followers of Shiite cleric Ayatollah Mohammed al-Yacoubi stormed the office of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, headed by President Jalal Talabani, beat up the guards and destroyed furniture before setting the building on fire, said police Lt. Othman al-Lami. The attackers fled after seizing three AK-47 rifles from the guards, one of whom was injured, al-Lami said. There were no officials in the office during the early morning raid in Kut, 100 miles southeast of Baghdad. The offending article in the PUK newspaper included a July 29 statement by al-Yacoubi in which he accused Kurds in the Kurdish-dominated Tamim province, which includes the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, of attacking Arabs and Turkomen. It said al-Yacoubi was spreading "hatred against the Kurds" and trying to "ignite a war between the Arab Shiites and Kurds." In a statement Friday, Talabani acknowledged that some of the phrases used in his party newspaper's article were "inappropriate ... despite the bitterness that he and every Kurdish felt" over al-Yacoubi's purported statement. He said he was not aware of the article's contents until it was published. Al-Yacoubi, the spiritual leader of the Fadhila, or Virtue, party, which is part of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's Shiite alliance, was not immediately available for comment. However, the Fadhila is demanding an official apology from the PUK, said party spokesman Sabah al-Saiedi. Al-Yacoubi is urging his followers not to resort to violence, al-Saiedi said, after a party delegation met Friday with Talabani. OTHER SECURITY INCIDENTS Baghdad: As night fell a mortar shell crashed out of the sky onto a cafe in a district north of the capital, killing six people playing dominos. Six bound and blindfolded bodies bearing signs of torture were found in different parts of Baghdad. Each had been executed with a single shot to the head. Baiji: Gunmen in two cars shot dead one civilian while he was heading to work in central Baiji, 180 km (112 miles) north of Baghdad. Mosul: A policeman was gunned down in western Mosul, 390 km (240 miles) north of Baghdad. Muqdadiyah: Gunmen shot and killed one person in Muqdadiyah northeast of the capital. Hawija: A roadside bomb went off near a police patrol in an Iraqi northern town killing two policemen and wounding four others, a police source said. The attack took place when the patrol was passing by in the outskirts of Hawija town, some 60 km southwest of the Iraqi oil city of Kirkuk, the source said on condition of anonymity. >> NEWS (confirmed) The bodies of two Soldiers missing as a result of a helicopter mishap in Al Anbar Province Aug. 8 have been recovered. Both service members died as a result of the accident. The U.S. Army UH - 60 Blackhawk helicopter from the 82nd Aviation Ambulance Company, in direct support of 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, went down August 8 with six Coalition forces members on board during an area familiarization flight. The remaining four service members, two U.S. Army and two U.S. Navy, are in stable condition. (MNF-Iraq) The soldier who triggered the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal by sending incriminating photos to military investigators says he feared deadly retaliation by other GIs and was shocked when Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld (newsbio) mentioned his name at a Senate hearing. Within days, Joe Darby was spirited out of Iraq at his own request. But his family was besieged by news media, and close relatives called him a traitor. Ultimately he was forced to move away from his hometown in western Maryland. "I had the choice between what I knew was morally right and my loyalty to other soldiers. I couldn't have it both ways," the 27-year-old military policeman said in the just-released September issue of Gentleman's Quarterly. In an interview with The Associated Press on Wednesday, Darby said that if presented with the same circumstances at Abu Ghraib today, he would do the same thing. "It was a hard decision to make when I made it, but it had to be done," he said. (…) Darby said he discovered the abuse photos inadvertently in January 2004 while flipping through other pictures on a CD that [Spc. Charles Graner, pictured in the photos with Pfc. Lynndie England] had given him. "To this day I'm not sure why he gave me that CD," he said. "He probably just forgot which pictures were on it, or he might have assumed I wouldn't care." At first amused by some of the photos, Darby finally decided "it just didn't sit right with me," and sent the CD to the Army's Criminal Investigation Division. Although he did so anonymously, CID agents quickly pinpointed him as the source. Darby said he was still being interviewed when Graner and two others were brought in, and the agents had to smuggle him out wrapped in rugs and blankets to conceal his identity. Stunned when Graner and the others returned for a month's duty at the prison, he slept with a loaded pistol. "They'd be walking around with their weapons all day long, knowing somebody had turned them in and trying to find out who. That was one of the most nervous periods of my life," Darby said. His worst moment, he said, came on May 7, 2004, during lunch with 10 fellow MPs in a mess hall filled with 400 troops. "It was like something out of a movie," he recalled. Rumsfeld appeared on television, dropped Darby's name, "and the guys at the table just stopped eating and looked at me. I got up and got the hell out of there." (…) Darby is scheduled to leave the Army and the Reserves, after eight years of duty, on Aug. 31. He no longer lives in his hometown of Cumberland, Md., where "a lot of people up there view me as a traitor. Even some of my family members think I'm a traitor." He said he has returned home only twice, for a wedding and his mother's funeral. "I'm not welcome there. People there don't look at the fact that I knew right from wrong," he said. "They look at the fact that I put an Iraqi before an American." NEW BOOKS PAINT A BLEAK PICTURE OF IRAQ WAR With titles like "Fiasco" and "The End of Iraq," the latest books on the Iraq war make depressing reading for Americans. Even an author who supports the Bush administration likens the war to "a shotgun wedding." "Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq" by Thomas E. Ricks debuted at the top of The New York Times nonfiction bestseller list last week. It argues there was no post-invasion plan and documents serious errors in U.S. military strategy. "It's not a book of my opinions," said Ricks, senior Pentagon correspondent for the Washington Post, noting his book is based on numerous on-the-record interviews with military officers and U.S. officials and thousands of documents. Ricks argues that bad civil-military coordination, insufficient troops and a failure to adopt a counter-insurgency strategy immediately after the invasion caused many of the troubles in Iraq, including abuse by U.S. troops. (...) Equally disturbing is "The End of Iraq: How American Incompetence Created a War Without End," by Peter W. Galbraith, a former ambassador to Croatia and an adviser to Washington's Kurdish allies in Iraq. He argues the U.S. invasion destroyed hopes for a unified country of Sunnis, Shi'ites and Kurds and calls for a partitioned Iraq. Calling America's grand ambitions for the Middle East a failure, he argues Iraq is "in a catastrophic civil war." Another major new book on the war is by Fouad Ajami, an American professor of Middle East studies who has frequently advised Bush and his closest aides. He said the aim of his book, "The Foreigner's Gift," was to shed light on Iraq and its people from an Arab point of view. Ajami, who maintains the Iraq war was legitimate, writes about meeting leading Iraqi figures such as Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, a reclusive cleric who wields huge influence among Iraq's majority Shi'ites. Ajami argues that Iraq's present woes stem from Sunni Arabs' refusal to yield power to Shi'ites. An academic who worked for Rumsfeld's former deputy Paul Wolfowitz at Johns Hopkins University and a Shi'ite born in Lebanon, Ajami says he is "one of the very few people who's friendly" to the Bush Administration in academia. Yet he too paints a bleak picture of Iraq and the war. "It was a shotgun wedding. We went into a country we did not know, in a region that we really didn't fully understand," Ajami told Reuters. read in full... >> REPORTS Contractor casualties in Iraq have, so far, been about 6,700. The contractor forces includes both Iraqi and foreign civilians working for the American armed forces. >> COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS SOMETHING EVEN WORSE THAN TERRORISM There can be no doubt whatsoever that this latest bombing [in Najaf] is not so much terrorism as something even worse. This bombing like the Samara bombing, previous attacks on Najaf, the Kufa bombing, can only be described as being inspired by nihilism. It's a deliberate and calculated attempt to drag not only Iraq but the surrounding countries into all out sectarian war. Initial reporting is fairly restrained but there can be no doubt that the bombing will cause massive outrage particularly as scenes such as those seen to the left showing injured children and babies being treated for wounds, and distraught parents mourning their dead and mutilated children are being widely broadcast on TV throughout the entire region. It remains to be seen whether the Grand Ayatollahs already deeply concerned that their ability to restrain their followers is slipping will succeed in holding them back one more time. Should they fail the bloodbath created by the American occupation's policies in Iraq will pale into insignificance. read in full... LOSING HOPE IN IRAQ Ghaith Abdul-Ahad: (...) The Shi'a no longer regard the Americans as their protectors. Very soon we're going to come to the point where the Americans will look at the Shi'a militia as their protectors. At this moment, the Shi'a militias are so powerful that if they say they want a semi-autonomous region of the south, it's already theirs. The next step is internal Shi'a fighting. They are so strong and they don't have a single leadership. We're talking about tens of thousands of militia men roaming the streets. openDemocracy: Are they trained? Ghaith Abdul-Ahad: Everyone in the middle east can fire an AK47, what else do you need? In May after a British helicopter was shot down in Basra, Michael Jackson - who's the head of the British Army in Iraq - said, "If the Iraqi government does not go and disarm the Shi'a militias, we'll have to do it ourselves". This is just total bollocks. If the Shi'a militia decides they want to disarm the British army, they can do it within forty-eight hours. The reason they don't is because they are escalating their task and want to maintain the pressure. They're harmless at the moment. 8, 000 British soldiers in the south of Iraq have no impact at all. They can just about rescue two of their SAS soldiers from a prison but that's almost the extent. Seriously, I'm not being anti-British or anything, this is a fact. These poor British soldiers, they have tanks, helicopters and planes but they are surrounded by tens of thousands of angry, armed men and Iran is just across there. openDemocracy: If you look at it from the more privileged perspective of London, it seems that the Americans have been defeated. Not yet in every case tactically, but they have experienced an enormous moral, political and strategic defeat leading to all sorts of questions about the misleading lies, weapons of mass destruction, and documents and dossiers. It was certainly not the belief of either the White House or Downing Street, that this would be the situation three years later. So in the process, the American media, the American constitutional court, the whole American political process and its position in terms of its world alliances, its huge expenditures, the rise of China - it's a strategic catastrophe. read in full... IRAQ'S SECTARIAN BLOODSHED 'MADE IN THE USA' As each day is greeted with news of Iraq's daily death toll, the media debates whether Iraq is embroiled in an all-out civil war. While conventional wisdom holds that the country is being cleaved apart by religious differences, this conflict actually stemmed from the U.S. government's political miscalculations. Foreign politicians have a history of misguided analysis about the potential for civil war in Iraq. In 1920, British Prime Minister David Lloyd George warned of civil war if the British army withdrew from Iraq. The exact same thing is heard today in the United States. Ironically, the same Iraqis George wanted to protect from each other instead united in a revolution against the British occupation forces. With rising opposition within the Shi'ite ranks against the occupation, the United States could see a similar revolt in the coming months. Iraqi Shia and Sunnis have lived in harmony for centuries. Historically, the two sects lived in the same areas, intermarried, worked together and didn't fight over religious beliefs. During the decade of U.S.-imposed sanctions, Iraq's generally secular society became far more religious. This transformation even affected the secular Baathist regime, which gave Islam a bigger role in schools and other aspects of everyday life. Still, there were no social conflicts based on religious differences in the country. When the United States ousted Saddam Hussein in April 2003, crime spiked and full-scale looting erupted. But there were still no signs of sectarian clashes. That quickly changed, however, as the U.S. administration assumed control over Iraq, led by Paul Bremer. Bremer, attempting to put an Iraqi face on the occupation, appointed members to the Iraqi Governing Council. Instead of reflecting how Iraqis saw themselves, the council's makeup mirrored and reinforced the U.S. sectarian view of the population -- 13 Shia, five Sunnis, five Kurds, one Christian and one Turkoman. Instead of bringing political unity, this reflection of Iraq's diversity, when thrust into the political playing field, became the basis of sectarian division in Iraq. The U.S. plan to allocate seats at the political table by ethnic and religious identity turned this political conflict into a more complicated sectarian one. It would have been better to divide power along the spectrum of political beliefs. As a result, new fractures in Iraqi society appeared as Iraqis began to grapple with the foreign troops occupying their country. read in full... >> BEYOND IRAQ Afghanistan: A suicide car bomber struck a NATO-led convoy in southern Afghanistan killing one soldier, the alliance said. The bomber, who also died in the blast, plowed his explosives-laden pickup truck into the convoy in the Spin Boldak district of southern Kandahar province, said Maj. Vincent Tassel, a spokesman for the NATO-led force. The alliance did not disclose the nationality of the soldier. "IT'S DANGEROUS, BUT HEZBOLLAH IS STRONG" There are no more bridges along the 90 miles of the Litani River, dividing besieged southern Lebanon and Hezbollah's fighters from the rest of the country. One by one, Israeli forces bombed them all. So a little ways from the Mediterranean Sea, where the river's meandering waters eddy, then empty, about 20 men heaved, pushed, pulled and coaxed -- with appeals to God in between -- two water-logged trucks carrying supplies Wednesday to regions bearing the brunt of Israel's invasion. Over a few hours, Hezbollah's shadowy organization emerged on the banks of the Litani. "Don't take pictures!" one of the men shouted. The dozens of black bags, filled with tuna, sardines, rice, processed cheese, sugar and tea, were marked with stickers in red and green. "A Gift, the Red Crescent Society, the Islamic Republic of Iran," they read. Scrawled on one car was a prayer: "Under the protection of the merciful." Around them hurried men with walkie-talkies and cellphones, furtively glancing at sounds of war above. They worked with precision -- everyone had a job, hardly a movement was wasted. And they worked with speed -- no one knew when one of the distant sounds might signal an Israeli attack. "It's dangerous," one young man said, nerves quickening his pace, as he lugged loads of bread, "but Hezbollah is strong." In a methodical campaign to isolate southern Lebanon, where 10,000 Israeli soldiers are fighting a dogged foe, Israel has blockaded the city of Tyre, dozens of villages and the rock-strewn valleys between them. The bridges are wrecked. So are the roads. And menacing Israeli leaflets sprinkled over Tyre have warned that any car in the street, whatever the type, at whatever hour, may be annihilated. But a guerrilla war dictates resilience, and along patches of the Litani, shrouded by wilting banana plantations and parched citrus groves, the provisions and casualties of battle passed Wednesday where there was no passing. With the supplies came the wounded fighters, ferried by the Red Cross across a fallen tree further up the river, and with the wounded came more bread, hand-carried over rushing waters where a bridge once stood. read in full... IT IS LEBANON, NOT ISRAEL, THAT FACES A THREAT TO ITS EXISTENCE As Lebanon is brought to its knees, and Israeli leaders promise yet more of the same, there is something truly extraordinary about the manner in which the war on Lebanon is being portrayed as a war for Israel's survival, as if it were the existence of the Jewish state that were at risk. Whatever else it may be, this is a war between palpable unequals: a giant nuclear-armed power with the most advanced western military hardware and a potential ground force of up to 650,000 trained men, against a tiny third-world guerrilla force of around 5,000 fighters, armed largely with second-hand former eastern bloc hardware (the first Katyusha rockets were developed in the early 1940s) and castoffs from Iran and Syria. The idea that the latter can pose an existential threat to the former, under any foreseeable circumstances, is risible at best and disingenuous at worst. While it can hardly be comfortable for northern Israel's civilian population to be forced into shelters for four weeks, the physical safety of the overwhelming majority - unlike that of their counterparts in much of Lebanon - has never been seriously at stake. And while Hizbullah's supposed targeting of Israeli civilians has yielded relatively few victims, Israel's repeated "mistakes" in Lebanon have maintained a civilian death rate of about 100 Lebanese to every three Israelis. The opposite side of this coin is that while Israel's hi-tech "surgical strikes" have killed hundreds more civilians than Hizbullah fighters, the Lebanese resistance's low-tech weapons have killed about three times as many Israeli soldiers as civilians. read in full... SECOND STAGE OF AN OCTOBER SURPRISE? The announcement yesterday of a British terrorist plot to destroy ten US aircraft using liquid bombs can be considered the second stage of an October surprise. It aims at keeping the US voters in tense conditions, making them feel that the world is not safe around them. This, purportedly, may push them back towards the War Party, which has the reputation of being "strong on security." The timing of the announcement of such a terrorist plot should be received with skepticism and scrutiny, particularly because the pro-war corporate media have adopted the story and fully propagated it to death. The following are some points to be taken into consideration in scrutinizing the story. First, the announcement came just one day after the earthquake of defeating the symbol of war in the Democratic Party, Joe Lieberman, representing a determination among American voters to fire proponents of war in Congress, Republicans and Democrats alike. The announcement of the terrorist plot would serve as the Bush administration counterattack against the peace camp. Second, it came after a month of a disaster Israeli war to subjugate Lebanon. The Israelis succeeded in destroying the country's infrastructure, forcing a million Lebanese out of their homes, but they couldn't defeat Hizbullah fighters. News about such a terrorist plot may aim at distracting the American people away from the Israeli atrocities in Lebanon, leaving it to pounded even more in the coming days by the crazy Israeli leaders. Third, the US war in Iraq is worse than any time before. There is no end in sight for the US quagmire there. Just the day before the announcement about this terror plot, US military commanders and their boss testified in Congress about the coming Iraqi civil war. This is an acknowledgement of the Iraqi disaster by the Bush administration and it is not going to serve the War Party at the ballot box. The announcement about the terrorist plot may help to divert the attention of Americans and Britons away from the Iraq disaster. Fourth, the war in Afghanistan has not ended and Taliban fighters have been fighting against the US-led NATO forces on daily basis. They have not gone away. The announcement about the British terrorist plot may help make Americans and Britons forget about Afghanistan a little bit. Fifth, news reported mentioned that there was an under cover British government agent inside the terrorist group, for several months. This should spark a public debate about the role of government agents who penetrate suspected groups. What if the agent was playing a leading role? What if the whole thing was prompted, suggested, and orchestrated by the government agent and his superiors? Is this really a terrorist plot or a government-staged operation created for political reasons? We still remember the case of the six African American youngmen in Florida who were influenced by the under cover government agent, who posed to them as an Alqaeda operative. Did they want really to blow up the Sears Tower in Chicago or it was the government agent's idea? We don't know. There should be more public scrutiny about this issue. Finally, there has been a relentless attempt to link it to Alqaeda. Pundits, experts, and even officials did their best to convey this idea to the public. Among what they said was the travel of two members of the group to Pakistan then receiving money from Pakistan after they had returned to buy tickets to America. This should remind us with a similar story in the US about a Pakistani father and his son who were implicated first for traveling to Pakistan then they were released after that. With regard to the money received to buy tickets to the US, it is hard to believe that plotters with all this sophistication would not be able to buy tickets from London to New York, couple hundred dollars. There's a lot to be skeptical about in the story. I hope that the American people stay the anti-war course and change the course of our country in November. By voting the pro-war candidates out of office and bringing anti-war candidates into office, we will be able to address the true cause of wars and reactions to them, resistance and terrorism. My biggest fear is that we may still see other stages of the October surprise, God forbid! read in full... QUOTE OF THE DAY: "One of the questions that haunts this war is if they knew then what they know now... If they'd known what the casualties would be in blood and treasure, would they have pulled the trigger? I don't know the answer." -- Fouad Ajami, author of the book "The Foreigner's Gift" (See above "New Books Paint A Bleak Picture Of Iraq War")

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