Sunday, August 13, 2006

DAILY WAR NEWS FOR SUNDAY, AUGUST 13, 2006 Iraqis rest on the roof of their vehicle as they wait in a queue outside a gas station, in Baghdad, Iraq, Saturday Aug. 12, 2006. Frustration has sparked violent demonstrations in northern Iraq as police fired in the air to disperse hundreds of stone-throwing protesters on Sunday protesting against fuel and power shortages.Iraq is the world's third largest oil reserves country. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed) (Note: Juan Cole links to a report in Arabic to the effect that the Sunni insurgency has successfully cut off the fuel supply to Baghdad, and that this may bring down the government. You don't hear anything about that in the Western press, however. -- C) SECURITY INCIDENTS Iraqi government says security forces have captured a gang plotting attacks on Nuri al-Maliki's family. Government statement says the men have confessed to previous attacks on police and car bombings. Deputy head of provincial council of Diyala escapes assassination attempt, as does Governor of Nineveh Province, but bodyguard is injured in the latter attack. Police find 12 bodies trapped in a grate in the Tigris. All had been bound, blindfolded, and shot. AP also reports "Police also found 15 other bullet-riddled bodies of men who had been handcuffed and blindfolded in six neighborhoods throughout the Baghdad area, police Lt. Mohammed Khayoun said. Another 21 people were killed yesterday, mostly in Baghdad but also in Hillah, Mosul and Basra." U.S. troops announce arrest of 60 members of a "car bomb" cell at a funeral in Arab Jabur in Southern Baghdad. They say the group is linked to al Qaeda in Iraq. It sounds as though they rounded up all the MAMs at this funeral -- we'll see (or not) whether they sort them out. -- C U.S. also says it has arrested an al Qaeda in Iraq leader in Baiji. This AFP story also has: U.S. troops raid Iraq Health Ministry, detain five. Health minister Ali al-Shemari protests angrily. Note: Reuters doesn't bother to tell you that al-Shemari is an ally of Muqtada al-Sadr. -- C Gunmen abducted Ayatollah Hussein al-Husseini, a member of the Shi'ite religious clergy, from his office in the New Baghdad district of the capital, police said. Reuters also reports these additional incidents: OTHER NEWS AND IN-DEPTH REPORTING Badr leader and MP Hadi al-Amiri calls for "neighborhood committees" to provide security This Reuters story doesn't quite connect the dots. The Badr brigade is the militia of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq -- a major component of the ruling Shiite coalition -- C
By Michael Georgy BAGHDAD (Reuters) - A Shi'ite leader has called for neighborhood committees to provide security in their own districts, casting further doubt on the ability of Iraqi and U.S. forces to reduce violence levels in Baghdad. Hadi al-Amiri, a member of parliament and head of a Shi'ite militia, said the controversial committees were essential for security because Iraqi forces still lacked training and were not ready to tackle militants and insurgents. "Our forces are not complete to take on this wide terrorism," he said in a recorded debate broadcast on state television on Sunday. His remarks came as U.S. and Iraqi began an operation they describe as a make-or-break mission to claim back Baghdad's most dangerous rebel strongholds and disband militias in a bid to shore up confidence in the new Shi'ite-led government. Some 50,000 U.S. and Iraqi forces are taking part in Operation Together Forward. Similar campaigns have failed in the past but Washington hopes to cut violence significantly by the end of September. U.S. officers now talk openly about the risk of a full-scale civil war unless they can calm conditions in Baghdad. Haidar al-Mulla, a representative of the Sunni Iraqi National Dialogue Party, said in the television debate that popular committees just amounted to militias. "We think that the case of popular committees is a maneuver around a law on dissolving militias," he said. Shi'ite Islamist Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, who took office more than two months ago, has vowed to crack down on militias as part of his national reconciliation program aimed at uniting a country ravaged by rebel and sectarian bloodshed. But disbanding the armed groups is an explosive task because they are closely tied to political parties, including some in his ruling Shi'ite Alliance. Amiri, whose Badr Organization militia has been accused by Sunni Arab leaders of running death squads, said the popular committees offer a way of improving security. The group denies the Sunni charges and says it has become a political movement after fighting Saddam Hussein's government from exile.
Read in Full Iranian and Iraqi oil ministers discuss barter deal to exchange Iraqi crude for refined products. Also possible cooperation in oil field development. This is one more indication of the utter failure to rebuild Iraqi infrastructure, and of course how Iran has benefited from the U.S. invasion. -- C Maliki reportedly assures Turkey that Iraq will not be a sanctuary for the PKK Right. As if he can do anything about it. The Prime Minister of Iraq has as much control over Kurdistan as the Nutley, New Jersey prom queen. --- C
raq's Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki reportedly assured Turkish leaders that his country will not be a sanctuary for Kurdish separatist rebels from Turkey. "We will not allow Iraq to serve as a base for the PKK (Kurdistan Workers' Party)," Maliki told Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in a telephone conversation, according to an Erdogan advisor cited by the Anatolia news agency. Maliki also indicated that Iraq would continue to work with the United States and neighboring Turkey in its fight against the outlawed PKK, considered a terrorist organization by Ankara, Washington and the European Union. Turkey last month threatened to intervene militarily at the Iraqi border against PKK camps there if Baghdad and Washington failed to take action. Turkey has long complained about the PKK using camps in northern Iraq as rear bases for its attacks in southeast Turkey, where it is fighting for Kurdish self-rule.
Read in Full Sickened Iraq Vets Blame Depleted Uranium Excerpt:
(AP) NEW YORK It takes at least 10 minutes and a large glass of orange juice to wash down all the pills — morphine, methadone, a muscle relaxant, an antidepressant, a stool softener. Viagra for sexual dysfunction. Valium for his nerves. Four hours later, Herbert Reed will swallow another 15 mg of morphine to cut the pain clenching every part of his body. He will do it twice more before the day is done. Since he left a bombed-out train depot in Iraq, his gums bleed. There is more blood in his urine, and still more in his stool. Bright light hurts his eyes. A tumor has been removed from his thyroid. Rashes erupt everywhere, itching so badly they seem to live inside his skin. Migraines cleave his skull. His joints ache, grating like door hinges in need of oil. There is something massively wrong with Herbert Reed, though no one is sure what it is. He believes he knows the cause, but he cannot convince anyone caring for him that the military's new favorite weapon has made him terrifyingly sick. In the sprawling bureaucracy of the Department of Veterans Affairs, he has many caretakers. An internist, a neurologist, a pain-management specialist, a psychologist, an orthopedic surgeon and a dermatologist. He cannot function without his stupefying arsenal of medications, but they exact a high price. "I'm just a zombie walking around," he says. Reed believes depleted uranium has contaminated him and his life. He now walks point in a vitriolic war over the Pentagon's arsenal of it — thousands of shells and hundreds of tanks coated with the metal that is radioactive, chemically toxic, and nearly twice as dense as lead. A shell coated with depleted uranium pierces a tank like a hot knife through butter, exploding on impact into a charring inferno. As tank armor, it repels artillery assaults. It also leaves behind a fine radioactive dust with a half-life of 4.5 billion years. Depleted uranium is the garbage left from producing enriched uranium for nuclear weapons and energy plants. It is 60 percent as radioactive as natural uranium. The U.S. has an estimated 1.5 billion pounds of it, sitting in hazardous waste storage sites across the country. Meaning it is plentiful and cheap as well as highly effective. Reed says he unknowingly breathed DU dust while living with his unit in Samawah, Iraq. He was med-evaced out in July 2003, nearly unable to walk because of lightning-strike pains from herniated discs in his spine. Then began a strange series of symptoms he'd never experienced in his previously healthy life. At Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C, he ran into a buddy from his unit. And another, and another, and in the tedium of hospital life between doctor visits and the dispensing of meds, they began to talk. "We all had migraines. We all felt sick," Reed says. "The doctors said, 'It's all in your head.' " Then the medic from their unit showed up. He too, was suffering. That made eight sick soldiers from the 442nd Military Police, an Army National Guard unit made up of mostly cops and correctional officers from the New York area. But the medic knew something the others didn't. Dutch marines had taken over the abandoned train depot dubbed Camp Smitty, which was surrounded by tank skeletons, unexploded ordnance and shell casings. They'd brought radiation-detection devices. The readings were so hot, the Dutch set up camp in the middle of the desert rather than live in the station ruins. "We got on the Internet," Reed said, "and we started researching depleted uranium." Then they contacted The New York Daily News, which paid for sophisticated urine tests available only overseas. Then they hired a lawyer.
Read in Full Handover of Maysan province from UK troops "soon." Hmm. That's what they said in June. This BBC story also discusses a leaked memo from the Ministry of Defense to the effect that budget cutting has harmed army capabilities. Excerpt:
British forces in Iraq are moving closer to handing over control in the Maysan province to local security forces by closing a camp in the area. The Abu Naji camp in the province, where around 1,000 soldiers of the Queen's Royal Hussars are based, will close in September. The Ministry of Defence said troops would be "working closely" with Iraqi police, army and border enforcement. Some 22 soldiers have died in the province and 115 in Iraq overall. Memorials to the dead will be moved to Basra, in southern Iraq, as the camp is wound down. The Queen's Royal Hussars will also be moving to a base near Basra. They will operate from that region as they continue to train Iraqi border patrols in Maysan in methods to prevent smuggling - particularly of explosives. And, in the next stage of the move towards a handover to Iraqi forces, troops will support local personnel in providing security for the province's main town of Al Amara. An MoD spokesman, who described the move as "re-posturing", said: "We are focusing on working closely with the department of border enforcement, the Iraqi police and Iraqi army."
Numerous current and former Iraq officials charged with corruption, but:
BAGHDAD, Aug. 12, 2006 (UPI) -- Several current and former Iraqi officials have been charged with corruption in an investigation that began two years ago, The New York Times reported. The officials, including the former electricity minister, were charged with corruption or ordered to appear before judges, the newspaper said. The Commission for Public Integrity accused the officials of offenses ranging from stealing money and taking kickbacks to diverting millions of dollars to phantom rebuilding contracts, commission officials told the Times. Continue reading this article below The former electricity minister, Muhsin Slash, ran the Electricity Ministry for one year. The department received billions of dollars in reconstruction money over the past three years but, failed to raise electricity production above prewar levels. Slash left Iraq when the new government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki replaced him. The Commission for Public Integrity was established by the American occupation and is now run by the Iraqi government. Since 2004, 36 former or current senior Iraqi officials have been charged or ordered to appear before Iraqi judges, but there are concerns that the commission has become politicized -- and often presses cases with insufficient evidence, the Times said.
Britain's Ministry of Defense says the number of soldiers who went absent without leave has more than doubled since the start of the Iraq war in 2003. James Glanz of NYT reports that failure to deliver on reconstruction promises has destroyed trust of local leaders in the U.S.. Excerpt:
THEY were just two tribal sheiks from a town so small it does not appear on most maps, and they were meeting two weeks ago in the local police station with an American officer to talk about reconstruction projects. Still, they could have been old-time Chicago ward heelers looking out for the neighborhood when a little pork barrel was at stake. And the sheiks, Abu Jawad and Abu Ghazwan, had not gotten their piece of the action. An American military man they remembered only as Captain Burns had come to their town, a dusty place around 30 miles south of Baghdad, and left without coming through on his promises of electricity projects, water projects, schools, said the sheiks and the local police commander, Lt. Col. Hussein Daher Layg. The sheiks’ disappointment had nothing to do with America’s wider strategic aims in Iraq. Rather, explained the sheiks, suited up in traditional checked headdresses and formal robes, dishdashas, they simply could not look their people in the eye after passing on the promises they had received. The episode said everything about where the failures of the American reconstruction program in Iraq have had their greatest impact — community by community, block by block, house by house as the lights do not go on and water does not squirt from the taps. In Iraq, politics is not merely local: it can seem microscopic, with winners and losers on every crumbling street corner as projects succeed and fail. “We meet here a lot and you promise us a lot, and nothing happens,” said Abu Jawad. “When I go to my people and say, ‘Next week, next week,’ they start to say I’m lying.”
Read in Full COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS Billmon on People Unclear on the Concept. This is a tough one to excerpt, please read it all. Excerpt:
Marine officer Brian Humphreys [in the Washington Post] looks at his experience trying to win hearts and minds in Iraq and wonders what Hizbullah has got that the few and the proud don't got . . . . I dunno. Maybe it's got something to do with the fact that Hizbullah in Lebanon is an authentic grassroots political movement composed of local Shiites, while the U.S. Marine Corps in Iraq is an occuping army of foreign infidels. Could that be it? I probably shouldn't be so harsh on officer Humphreys. He at least understands what has gone so disastrously wrong in Iraq. But the fact that even he can't figure out why Hizbullah has been able to achieve what the military might and financial majesty of the United States government could not is a pretty sad commentary on the fog of delusion that constitutes how Americans tend to see themselves and their place in the world. It seems we can only look at the Middle East and its inhabitants (the Israelis excepted) through one of two lenses: Either we completely ignore the cultural, economic and political differences (including the hugely unequal power relationship between the global hegemon and a collection of fragmented, post-colonial nation states) or we retreat into Orientalist cliches about the inscrutible Arab and/or Islamic soul.
Read in Full Judith Coburn makes the Vietnam analogy stick. Excerpt:
Through a scrim of red, dry-season dust, the sign appeared like an apparition hanging low over the no-man's land of the South Vietnamese-Lao border: "Warning! No US Personnel Beyond This Point." Its big, white expanse was already festooned with grunt graffiti, both American and Vietnamese. It was February 1971, the afternoon before the invasion of Laos, and the sign but the latest bizarre development in the Pentagon's campaign to "Vietnamize" the war in Vietnam. The journalists who had hoofed it all the way to the border found the sign so grimly funny that we lined up for a group photo in front of it. President Richard Nixon announced the first withdrawal of American soldiers from South Vietnam in late 1969 and their replacement by South Vietnamese troops. The new policy was dubbed Vietnamization by Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird and hailed as the beginning of the end of America's war in that land. But the North Vietnamese leadership in Hanoi wasn't fooled for a minute. The communists believed Vietnamization was intended only to de-Americanize the war, not to end it. Hanoi was right, more right than anybody at the time could have imagined. In the five-plus years of war after Nixon's first inauguration in January 1969, more than 20,000 American soldiers would die; Nixon would actually widen the war by invading both Cambodia and Laos; and brutal American bombing campaigns would kill more than a million more Indochinese. In fact, more Indochinese and Americans would be killed or wounded during the Vietnamization years than in the war before 1970. Comparisons to Vietnam and terms from that era like "quagmire," "hearts and minds" and "body counts" swamped the media the moment the invasion of Iraq began in March 2003, but Vietnamization didn't make it into the mix until November. Then, the White House, which initially shied off anything linked to Vietnam, started a media campaign to roll out what it was calling "Iraqification," perhaps as an answer to critics who doubted the "mission" had actually been "accomplished" and feared there was no "light at the end of the (Iraqi) tunnel." But the term was quickly dropped. Perhaps it resurrected too many Baby Boomer memories of Vietnamese clinging to the skids of choppers fleeing the fruits of Vietnamization. It seems, however, that there is no way of keeping failed Washington policies in their graves once the dead of night strikes. I was amazed when, in 2005, in Foreign Affairs magazine, Melvin Laird resurrected a claim that his Vietnamization policy had actually worked and plugged for Iraqification of the war there. When Gen. George William Casey Jr. -- whose father, a major general, died in Vietnam in July 1970 -- announced in June that the Pentagon might soon begin the first American troop withdrawals from Iraq, I couldn't help wondering where the Iraqi version of that sign might eventually go up. In the desert? On the Iranian or the Syrian border? (The withdrawals were rescinded before even being put into effect in the face of an all-out civil war in Baghdad.) However it feels to anyone else, it's distinctly been flashback city for me ever since. One of the great, failed, unspeakably cynical, blood-drenched policies of the Vietnam era, whose carnage I witnessed as a reporter in Cambodia and Vietnam, was being dusted off for our latest disaster of an imperial war. Some kind of brutal regression was upon us. It was the return of the repressed or reverse evolution. It was enough to drive a war-worn journalist to new depths of despair. . . . With the announcement that more American troops were being rushed to Baghdad to put a brake on the fast-developing civil war in the capital, we may be seeing a new twist on the old theme of Vietnamization -- Americans may increase the use of air power in Anbar province and elsewhere in the heartland of the Sunni insurgency as a substitute for troops reassigned to Baghdad. As I saw in Indochina, however, air operations rarely succeed anywhere as a substitute for crack ground troops. They can kill enormous numbers of people without significantly tipping the military balance. Key to whatever new strategy does exist is the Bush administration's stumbling, fumbling, already bloody Iraqification policy intended to stand up a national army. Our media dutifully passes on the administration's impressive stats on new troops and police trained. Critics insist those troops are ill-equipped and badly trained. I remember identical glowing reports on American-trained troops in South Vietnam in the early 1970s. Unfortunately, deeper questions about the effectiveness of proxy armies are almost never explored. How do you really get them to do your bidding? How do you even make them believe that what they are doing is for them and not for you?
Read in Full ELSEWHERE Three U.S. soldiers killed in battle with guerrillas in Afghanistan, close to the Pakistan border. Lebanese cabinet meeting postponed due to divisions over disarmament of Hezbollah. Israel says it can continue to attack Hezbollah after "truce." Meanwhile, Hizbollah said it will carry on confronting any Israeli soldiers on Lebanese soil. Some truce that'll be. Israeli air raid destroys house in village of Tiri where civilians were sheltering. 15 casualties feared. QUOTE OF THE DAY It'll take a better writer than me to really address this issue well, but I have to admit I'm still somewhat puzzled by those who long enabled Bush's disaster in Iraq. I don't mean lickspittles like Bill Kristol, but nominal Democrats whose personal insecurities and deep self-loathing required - and still require - them to imagine an allegiance and affiliation with some bizarre tribe of "hawks" who were wrong for the right reasons as opposed to those who were, in their judgment, right for the wrong reasons. In their world they were the courageous ones - as if supporting an administration's policies is courageous - and those who risked getting Dixie Chicked were cowardly and weak. It's disheartening that even now many of them are more concerned with marginalizing the opinions of those who rightly saw this as folly from the beginning than they are at taking a long hard look at themselves. -- Atrios (Duncan Black)


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