Friday, November 17, 2006
DAILY WAR NEWS FOR FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 17, 2006
PHOTO: Al-Alwan: "Al-Anbar is nearly 100 per cent under the control of the resistance" (Photo from Al Jazeera English website.)
Security Incidents for November 17, 2006
Unidentified gunmen stormed as mall coffee shop in central Baghdad late Thursday, kidnapping 15 to 20 customers, an Interior Ministry source told Xinhua. The abduction occurred at about 9:10 p.m. (1810 GMT) when gunmen in several cars attacked the coffee shop in Wattawin, a mixed neighborhood in central Baghdad, the anonymous source said.
The police said in a statement police forces found 20 bodies of unidentified people in different areas in the capital, Baghdad. Six bodies were found in Dora, five in Kadhemiya and the rest in areas of Ubaidi, Al-Sadr city and Bob Al-Sham.
Four American security contractors and their Austrian co-worker were abducted in a convoy hijacking. Nine other civilians were in the convoy when it was attacked Thursday near Basra. The men were Asian and have been released, said the contractors' employer, Crescent Security Group. Some of the hijackers were dressed as Iraqi police and those men took away 20 vehicles.
At dawn Friday, British ground forces and helicopters searched an area of Safwan for gunmen who had attacked coalition forces in the past few days when about 10 of them opened fire from farm buildings, Dunlop said. The British and U.S. forces returned fire, killing two of the gunmen, Dunlop said. An Iraqi police officer confirmed the fighting and gave higher casualty figures, saying five of the gunmen and one British soldier also had been wounded.
Iraqi police said they killed an American in civilian clothes and wounded another on Friday after the men shot dead two police officers just outside the southern town of Zubayr. A police officer in Zubayr, an enclave of the Sunni Arab minority in predominantly Shi'ite south Iraq, told Reuters customs police stopped a U.S.-made four-wheel drive vehicle in the late morning on suspicion it had entered Iraq illegally. The occupants turned out to be Americans and opened fire, killing two policemen, he said. The body and the wounded man were now under British military custody in Zubayr hospital.
The Iraqi Army said police shot and killed a British soldier riding in an unmarked car and wounded a second on Friday near the Kuwait border. The British military denied the report. Iraqi Maj. Gen. Ali al-Moussawi said police opened fire after the vehicle did not stop at a roadblock. The shooting occurred shortly after 10 a.m. near the border city of Safwan, he said. But Capt. Tane Dunlop, a British military spokesman, said the incident involved Iraqi police and a men working for a private security company. He said a Briton working for a security company was wounded and that British forces were investigating.
BASRA - A civilian convoy hijacked in Iraq on Thursday was halted close to the Kuwaiti border, an Iraqi security source said on Friday, and four Americans and an Austrian were among 14 people kidnapped.
NOTE: A BIG THANKS TO WHISKER FOR PUTTING TOGETHER THE SECURITY INCIDENTS IN IRAQ AND FORWARDING THEM TO ME.
REPORTS – LIFE IN IRAQ TODAY
It was Friday, and like my companions, I was going to the Friday prayers. I had been following this practice since I arrived in Iraq in April 2003, when it became clear that clerics were filling the power vacuum created by the war. After the fall of Saddam and his Baath Party, looting and anarchy gave way to forces of more organized violence: men with guns, some wearing the turbans of clerics, some the scarves of the resistance, and many belonging to criminal gangs. Despite American intentions to create a secular, democratic Iraq, clerics were quickly replacing Baathists, and in the absence of anything else the mosque would become Iraq’s most influential institution. This should not have come as a surprise. Many complex factors influence life in the Muslim world, most of them secular and mundane, but the mosque plays a central role in the community, in religious, social, and political life. The call to prayer five times a day echoes through neighborhoods, regulating time and the cycles of life. At the mosque men meet to pray, learn, talk, and organize. The Friday sermon, or khutba, is often a call to action, in which the imam lectures his flock about issues affecting the community. In authoritarian states, the pulpit is a rare source of alternative authority. The mosque unites communities. It has also at times been a provider of welfare and a weapons depot, a source of news and a rallying point.
When Baghdad fell, on April 9, 2003, and widespread violence erupted, the primary victims were Iraq’s Sunnis. For Shias, this was justice. “It is the beginning of the separation,” one Shia cleric told me with a smile in the spring of 2003. Saddam had used Sunni Islam to legitimize his power, building one large Sunni mosque in each Shia city in the south; these mosques were seized by Shias immediately after the regime collapsed. During the 1990s Saddam also used the donations that Shia pilgrims make to the shrines they visit—totaling millions of dollars a month—to finance his Faith Campaign, which spread Sunni practices in Iraq and even declared official tolerance of Wahhabis for the first time, perhaps because of their deep hatred of Shias. Wahhabism is an austere form of Sunni Islam, dominant in Saudi Arabia, that rejects all other interpretations and views Shias as apostates. Wahhabis had traveled up from Arabia in centuries past and sacked Shia shrines. Now Shias were terrified of a Wahhabi threat. They feared that Wahhabis would poison the food distributed to pilgrims. According to a cleric in Najaf, Sheikh Heidar al Mimar, “There were no Sunnis in Najaf before the 1991 intifada, but Saddam brought Wahhabis to the Shia provinces in order to control the Shia. These Wahhabis were very bad with us, and all Shia were afraid of them.” Again and again I heard Iraq’s Shias refer to all Sunnis as Wahhabis. [Very long, and well worth reading. – dancewater]
SPIEGEL: Iraq's health minister discusses the effects of the US elections on his country. Spiegel: The Republicans have lost the majority in Congress and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has resigned. Was this good news for Iraq?: Shameri: The Americans are the reason for the disaster in our country. Rumsfeld made many mistakes, and we are pleased to see him go. The Americans understand nothing about Iraq. They are not protecting us, but just themselves. The Democrats' victory will make things easier for us.
SPIEGEL: How bad is the situation in your country?: Shameri: About 100 people die every day as a result of violence, and three times as many are wounded. Doctors are being threatened and are fleeing the country. Of a total of 18,000 doctors, the best -- close to a thousand -- have already left the country. I don't have enough hospitals and far too few beds. We are running out of strength, both financially and otherwise, and we will not be able to survive much longer.
Thousands of Iraqis are dying from shortages of medicine, vital equipment and qualified doctors, despite an infusion of nearly half a billion dollars from U.S. coffers into the country's health-care system, said Iraqi officials and American observers. Raging sectarian violence -- as well as theft, corruption and mismanagement -- have drained health resources and made deliveries of supplies difficult. Exacerbating the crisis, hundreds of doctors have been killed and thousands have fled the country. The child mortality rate -- a key indicator of a nation's health -- has worsened since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, according to Iraqi government figures. In the most sinister development, provincial Sunni Muslim doctors charge that Shiites who control the Health Ministry deliberately withhold medicines and other vital supplies. Once, Iraqi health care was first-rate. Medicine and hospital care were free; doctors well-educated and respected. But neglect by Saddam Hussein and years of United Nations sanctions laid waste to the system. Across Iraq, many hospitals have neither computers nor meaningful patient files. Working X-ray machines and MRI scanners are few and far between. At one of the busiest hospitals in Baghdad, five people die on average every day because medics and nurses don't have the equipment to treat heart attacks and other commonplace ills and accidents, said Husam Abud, a doctor at
Despite the Iraqi prime minister's optimism for the agricultural sector, the farmers who are struggling to survive tell another story. In an address to Iraqi politicians this week, Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki praised his government's performance in agriculture. Maliki highlighted the new state-supported crop prices, through which farmers would receive subsidies and encouragement to continue growing their crops -- but he did not mention how much the price supports would be. "The prime minister seems not to be aware of the real problems we are facing here," Haji Jassim, a farmer from the rural Al-Jazeera area near Ramadi, told IPS. Speaking from a relative's home in Baghdad, he added, "What he is talking about would have been good if prices were the only problem, but someone should explain to him the other obstacles we are facing." Jassim said that one of the main problems is lack of manpower, "since most of our young men who were not killed by U.S. and Iraqi troops are in jail or missing." The frustrated farmer added that obstacles like lack of electricity, fuel and security in the field and "dozens of others, should be known to the man who claims to be our supporter.":
U.S. military tank fire killed scores of civilians in Ramadi, capital of Al-Anbar province, late Monday night, according to witnesses and doctors. Anger and frustration were evident at the hospitals and during the funerals in the following days. Iraqi doctors and witnesses at the scene of the attack said U.S. tanks killed 35 civilians when they shelled several homes in the Al-Dhubat area of the city. Ramadi, located 110 km west of Baghdad, has been beset with sporadic but intense violence between occupation forces and insurgents for several months. On Tuesday, hundreds of people carried the 35 coffins of the dead to a graveyard in a funeral procession which closely resembled an angry demonstration. "We heard the bombing and we thought it was the usual fighting between resistance fighters and the Americans, but we soon realised it was bombing by large cannons," 60-year-old Haji Jassim explained to IPS at the burial. "We weren't allowed by the Americans to reach the destroyed houses to try to rescue those who were buried, so certainly many of them bled to death." Jassim claimed that everyone killed was innocent, that they were not fighters. He said that when he and others attempted to reach the rubble of the destroyed homes, located near mosques whose minaret's loudspeakers had broadcast pleas for help, "There was a big American force that stopped us and told us the usual ugly phrases we hear from them every day." ……… The scene at the hospital was tragic as doctors confirmed the reason of death for many as severe bleeding that had gone on for several hours. Most of the doctors were unwilling to discuss too many details for fear of U.S. military reprisals.
A leading Iraqi lawyer has accused the US army of throwing 211 families, including his, out of their homes. Rabah al-Alwan, 36, head of the Union of Lawyers in al-Anbar governorate in western Iraq, said that the US army has occupied his family's house and those of with dozens of other families in al-Ramadi, the capital of al-Anbar governorate. Al-Alwan has accused the US army of seizing the whole neighbourhood of al-Soufiya in the centre of al-Ramadi and using the houses for military purposes. Al-Alwan said: "Ten months ago, the US army seized my house and dozens of houses in the neighbourhood where I live. Residents were not allowed take any of their savings, jewellery, furniture or clothes." Al-Alwan said the US seizure of al-Soufiya district has made the neighbourhood a target for attacks by those groups. "Constant attacks have left the seized houses with major damage resulting from exchanges of gunfire and grenades. We hold the US army responsible for all the damage that happened to the seized houses," he said. The occupation has pushed some members of the 211 affected families to join the anti-US armed groups, al-Alwan said.
REPORTS – OTHER ASPECTS OF LIFE IN IRAQ
In an interview with the BBC, Mr Dhiab said he was "very much concerned" for the remaining captives' well-being. He said there were "rumours and reports that some of them have been killed, even a number of those who have been freed were treated very badly, some of them had their legs and hands broken". Mr Dhiab said between 70 to 80 people taken from the higher education ministry research facility were still missing, and that about 70 have so far been released. "I hope all the hostages will be released as soon as possible. These are human beings and they should be released," he said, adding that the latest crisis was "a messy situation". The Iraqi prime minister's office, however, has said that out of a group of 40 hostages, no more than five are still being held. There has been tight security around universities and other institutions since Tuesday's raid, the latest in a series of attacks against Iraq's academic community. Mr Dhiab has said he will suspend co-operation with the government until the remaining hostages are released. "I am stepping down until something is done actively [to improve security], not just talk," he said.
The emotions unleashed by one of the biggest mass kidnappings since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion reverberated across Iraq on Wednesday, splitting the cabinet along sectarian lines and spawning a heated dispute over how many men were abducted. But the most profound effect of what many Iraqis view as a national calamity was felt in university halls and campuses across Iraq. Here, the abductions highlighted the plight of academics and an educational system besieged by sectarian tensions, lawlessness and government ineffectiveness. "What happened in Baghdad yesterday was a catastrophe that could destroy the entire educational process," said Fikret Mahmoud Omar, an instructor at a technical college in the northern city of Kirkuk. "It shows that the process in Iraq is on the verge of collapse and confirms that terrorists and militias are the ones who are in control of events."
What sets apart the award-winning documentary "Iraq in Fragments", opening in US theatres this month, is that it does not confront the issue of the war directly. US soldiers are on the periphery of the film, as are Iraqi politicians, Ba'athist insurgents and al Qaeda terrorists. Instead, viewers are treated to a view inside Iraqi culture and daily life under occupation. "The militias exist in Iraq because of a power vacuum because there is no effective central government," Longley told IPS. "There is no effective central government because the United States presence in the country is splitting the country politically and there is no way to form a national government while the United States is there." In his film, Longley focuses in on the Sadr movement in the southern Iraqi city of Nasseriya, and in particular the local leader Sheik Aws al-Kafajji. "They would suck away our wealth and control our minds and after that they accuse us of being terrorists. Where is the money they are squandering? And where are the food supplies?" the sheik preaches to a massive outdoor congregation. "They blame the security situation! But by God you see all these trucks coming from everywhere all carrying supplies for the Americans carrying weapons for the security forces.......What a shame that some still believe the occupying power has Iraqi interests at heart."
British and U.S. forces mounted raids in southern Iraq on Friday, a day after four Americans and an Austrian were abducted when the civilian convoy they were guarding was hijacked, Iraqi security sources said. Arabiya television quoted a security source as saying the Austrian was killed in a gunbattle between U.S. forces and the kidnappers in which four others also died. But an official of the Crescent Security Group in Kuwait, which employs the men, said the Arabiya report appeared to refer to an incident involving another company in Iraq on Friday. The Austrian Foreign Ministry said a 25-year-old Austrian former soldier who had been working in Kuwait was missing. A U.S. embassy official said that in the Thursday hijacking 43 trucks guarded by six security vehicles were halted at what looked like a police checkpoint. Gunmen took away 19 trucks and a security vehicle, along with 14 foreigners. The Crescent Security Group official said nine Asian hostages, including Indians, Pakistanis and Nepalis, had been released after being seized between Safwan and Zubayr.
In an apparently unrelated incident, police said they shot dead one American in civilian clothes and wounded another on Friday after the men killed two police officers who had stopped their unmarked vehicle near the town of Zubayr. They appeared to be referring to an incident which a British military spokesman called a "clash" between a civilian convoy and Iraqi security forces, in which a British private security guard was wounded. British troops evacuated the unidentified man in a military ambulance from Zubayr hospital to a British base. Captain Tane Dunlop said he had no information about the other foreign casualties reported by the police. He said British troops killed two gunmen in a raid near the border town of Safwan, close to where the 43-truck convoy was attacked on Thursday after crossing from Kuwait. But he said the raid was unrelated to the hunt for the five hostages. Dunlop declined comment on what Iraqi security officials said was a search by British troops for hostages in the Garma area of Basra, capital of the oil-rich, mostly Shi'ite region. Foreigners abducted in the Shi'ite south have generally been released, unlike those seized further north where Sunni Muslim insurgents linked to al Qaeda have killed dozens of hostages. But anger at the U.S.-led occupation has grown among powerful Shi'ite groups, and attacks on British forces and private convoys bringing in supplies from Kuwait have increased.
REPORTS – IRAQI MILITIAS, POLITICIANS, POWER BROKERS
A long list of crimes against Iraqi civilians has been blamed on sectarian militias, which have become known as "death squads" and which some people say have strong ties to the police and government. The prime minister has been unwilling to disband them, as he needs their leaders' votes to secure the majority within his parliamentary coalition. Some Iraqis link the continued existence of those militias to the fight for the premiership this year by Nouri al-Maliki, who won against Adil Abdul al-Mahdi, the nominee of the Iran-backed Sciri (Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq). Shia parties joined together and formed an alliance, called the Unified Iraqi List, which was the biggest winner in the parliamentary elections in January. This meant that these parties formed the biggest bloc in parliament, occupying 140 of the 275 seats. The alliance had to nominate a candidate for the premiership. Al-Maliki's al-Dawa party did not have enough votes within the alliance to back its nominee, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, the former Iraqi prime minister, while Sciri ended up in the majority. Members of parliament from the movement of Muqtada al-Sadr, a Shia leader, provided the support al-Dawa party needed.
Attacks in Iraq reached a high of approximately 180 a day last month, reflecting an increasingly complicated conflict that includes sectarian clashes of Sunni and Shiite militias on top of continuing strikes by insurgents, criminal gangs and al-Qaeda terrorists, according to the directors of the CIA and the Defense Intelligence Agency. "No single narrative is sufficient to explain all the violence we see in Iraq today," Gen. Michael V. Hayden, the CIA director, told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Wednesday. Attempting to describe the enemy, Lt. Gen. Michael D. Maples, the DIA director, listed "Iraqi nationalists, ex-Baathists, former military, angry Sunni, Jihadists, foreign fighters and al-Qaeda," who create an "overlapping, complex and multi-polar Sunni insurgent and terrorist environment." He added that "Shia militias and Shia militants, some Kurdish pesh merga, and extensive criminal activity further contribute to violence, instability and insecurity." In unusually harsh terms, the two intelligence directors spelled out how quickly the violence in Iraq has escalated this year, from about 70 attacks a day in January to about 100 a day in May and then to last month's figure. "Violence in Iraq continues to increase in scope, complexity, and lethality" despite operations by the Iraqi government and the U.S.-led coalition, Maples said. He described "an atmosphere of fear and hardening sectarianism which is empowering militias and vigilante groups, hastening middle-class exodus, and shaking confidence in government and security forces."
Iraq's Shiite-led government issued an arrest warrant Thursday for the country's leading Sunni Arab cleric, accusing him of colluding with insurgents, a potentially explosive charge that could exacerbate tensions between the country's warring sectarian groups and further divide a fragile national government. The move against Harith Dhari, head of the Muslim Scholars Assn., came two days after an audacious daytime kidnapping in Baghdad ruptured the government of Prime Minister Nouri Maliki, setting Sunni politicians against Shiites. In an appearance on state-run TV late Thursday evening, Interior Minister Jawad Bolani, a Shiite, announced that Dhari was wanted on a charge of inciting violence. "The government's policy is that anyone who tries to spread division and strife among the Iraq people will be chased by our security agencies," Bolani said. Dhari has been a vocal, sometimes sarcastic, critic of the government, questioning the legitimacy of the criminal trials of former President Saddam Hussein and ridiculing the government's reconciliation efforts. "The political process that the security of Iraq is depending on is a failing process, so that is why the security is failing and deteriorating," Dhari said on Al Arabiya television last weekend. The warrant against him is virtually certain to rekindle threats of a boycott of the government by Sunni politicians. Sunnis have warned that such a walkout would have dire consequences, further entrenching an already brutal civil war and pushing more ordinary Sunnis toward the insurgency. It would also be a lethal blow to a coalition government that U.S. policymakers had hoped would pacify the hostility among Iraq's sects and ethnic groups.
……..A similar mass kidnapping this week of academics from a Sunni-led Higher Education Ministry office intensified a mounting political crisis. Witnesses said gunmen dressed in government-issued uniforms carted away as many as 150 people. Sunni politicians charge that as many as 80 are still missing, a claim denied by Maliki and the Interior Ministry, which said everyone had been released unharmed. Maliki has promised to disarm and disband the Shiite militias wreaking havoc on the street. But Sunnis say the government has not done enough, particularly in pursuing leads provided by those who were released after this week's kidnapping of academics. "The government hasn't moved a finger to investigate," said Salim Abdullah Jabouri, a spokesman for Iraq's main Sunni political bloc, which is part of the ruling government coalition. "The government is either weak or in collusion with the kidnappers or has lost control of the militias." …….. If Sunni political parties abandoned the government, it could unravel months of effort by U.S. diplomats and push ordinary Sunnis closer to the camp of the insurgent groups, members of parliament warn. "When the people we represent see us leaving the political process, they will join the resistance," said Sheik Harith Obeidi, a Sunni lawmaker. "And this will be a disaster for Iraq."
Harith al-Dhari, who heads the Association of Muslim Scholars, said the government was acting illegally. He is a fierce critic of the government, and has accused it of provoking a crisis with him to cover up their own failures on security. The Iraqi interior minister, Jawad Bolani, said Mr Dhari was accused of encouraging sectarian violence. But another government spokesman said later that the Sunni cleric would not be arrested immediately, but was facing investigation. Mr Dhari, who is in Jordan, has said he will return to Iraq at an appropriate time.
……BBC Baghdad correspondent David Loyn says Mr Dhari is an Iraqi nationalist who is opposed to any co-operation with America and is also against government proposals to give an amnesty to anyone who gives up the insurgency.
The influential Association of Muslim Scholars on Friday called on Sunni politicians to quit Iraq's government and parliament, a day after the Shiite interior minister issued an arrest warrant for the association's leader. Association spokesman Abdul-Salam al-Kubaisi said the arrest warrant was political cover for "the acts of the government's security agencies that kill dozens of Iraqis every day." Al-Kubaisi called for "political groups to withdraw from parliament and the government, which has proven that it is not a national government."
The U.S. may be forced to choose sides in Iraq's civil strife. As sectarian violence rises in Iraq and the White House comes under increasing pressure to revamp its strategy there, a debate is emerging inside the Bush administration: Should the U.S. abandon its efforts to act as a neutral referee in the ongoing civil war and, instead, throw its lot in with the Shiites? [That’s a joke, right? - dancewater] A U.S. tilt toward the Shiites is a risky strategy, one that could further alienate Iraq's Sunni neighbors and that could backfire by driving its Sunni population into common cause with foreign jihadists and Al Qaeda cells. [Sorry, already happened. – dancewater] But elements of the administration, including some members of the intelligence community, believe that such a tilt could lead to stability more quickly than the current policy of trying to police the ongoing sectarian conflict evenhandedly, with little success and at great cost. [I think they are following the same plan as the one they had during the Iraq-Iran war. That is, help them to kill one another off. – dancewater] :
[In regards to the ‘new’ proposed strategy….. – dancewater] To do so would be a reversal of Washington's strategy over the last two years of trying to coax the Sunnis into the political process, an effort led by U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad. It also would discount some U.S. military commanders' concerns that the Al Mahdi army, a Shiite militia loyal to the radical cleric Muqtada Sadr, poses as great a threat to American interests as that presented by the Sunni insurgency centered in western Iraq's Al Anbar province. [No mention of the Badr Brigade? No worries about how that may empower Iran? Hmmmm…. – dancewater] So what's the logic behind the idea of "unleashing the Shiites"? It's the path of least resistance, according to its supporters, and it could help accelerate one side actually winning Iraq's sectarian conflict, thereby shortening the conflict, while reducing some of the critical security concerns driving Shiites to mobilize their own militias in the first place. "As an alternative Plan B, it has the virtue of possibly being more militarily effective," said Thomas Donnelly, a military expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. [And I guess by “military effective” he means the most number of Iraqis killed by the lowest possible number of US troops killed. This has nothing to do with peace and stability. – dancewater] "When you are trying to police [a civil war], all you can do is contain it," said Monica Toft, a professor specializing in ethnic conflict at
REPORTS – US/UK/OTHERS IN IRAQ
Although officially opposed to the American presence, the Islamic Republic fears the repercussions of a dangerously unstable neighbor. Iran has consistently opposed the presence of U.S. forces in Iraq, but new prospects of a stepped-up American withdrawal are prompting growing unease in the Islamic Republic, where many fear the repercussions of a dangerously unstable neighbor. Officially, Iran's policy remains flatly opposed to American troops in Iraq and characterizes them as a key contributor to the escalating violence. Iran's government says it wants the U.S. to withdraw at the earliest possible opportunity. But the U.S. elections this month that swept in a Democratic majority to Congress and subsequent talk of a phased pullout have touched off a discussion in Tehran about the outright anarchy that could result. [They just started talking about it THIS WEEK? And who has the crystal ball that makes these predictions on what will happen if US/UK forces pullout? Inquiring minds want to know. – dancewater] On Tuesday night, Tehran's English-language news channel featured commentary from political scientist Pirouz Mojtahedzadeh, [He was probably paid off by the neo-cons. Who is he anyway? – dancewater] who called for the U.S. to remain in Iraq until it has established a strong, stable central government capable of providing adequate security.:
The Bush administration is preparing its largest spending request yet for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, a proposal that could make the conflict the most expensive since World War II. The Pentagon is considering $127 billion to $160 billion in requests from the armed services for the 2007 fiscal year, which began last month, several lawmakers and congressional staff members said. That's on top of $70 billion already approved for 2007. Since 2001, Congress has approved $502 billion for the war on terror, roughly two-thirds for Iraq. The latest request, due to reach the incoming Democratic-controlled Congress next spring, would make the war on terror more expensive than the Vietnam War. Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., who will chair the Senate Budget Committee next year, said the amount under consideration is "$127 billion and rising." He said the cost "is going to increasingly become an issue" because it could prevent Congress from addressing domestic priorities, such as expanding Medicare prescription drug coverage. Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., who put the expected request at $160 billion, said such a sizable increase still "won't solve the problem" in Iraq.
The debate about how to proceed in Iraq, which in the past few months has focused on withdrawing U.S. troops, now includes serious discussion about adding more forces to the fight. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) repeatedly suggested this week that the US needs thousands more troops in Iraq, and members of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group have discussed similar ideas as they prepare a much-anticipated policy recommendation. Members of Congress raised the concept on Wednesday in hearings with the region's top U.S. military commander. [Let’s hope this idea goes nowhere. – dancewater]
Iraq's coalition of the willing is becoming an increasingly exclusive club. As U.S. generals and lawmakers debated this week whether to cut, raise or hold steady the 141,000-strong U.S. troop contingent in Iraq, the coalition of foreign countries willing to deploy their forces in Iraq has shrunk steadily -- and soon could shrink even more. Twenty-three countries remain in the U.S.-led coalition and the UN' mission serving in and around Iraq, down from a high of 42 that joined the US in the invasion or the postwar occupation of Iraq. More than half of those contributors have fewer than 150 troops, engineers or military trainers in the Iraq theater.
Two former employees of an American private military contracting firm have claimed in a Virginia court that they saw their supervisor deliberately shoot at Iraqi vehicles and civilians this summer, and that the firm fired them for reporting the incidents. The allegations, made in a lawsuit filed in Fairfax County Circuit Court, accuse Triple Canopy, one of the largest private military contractors to work with the US in Iraq, of retaliating against the men for reporting that the supervisor had committed violent felonies, and perhaps murder, on the job. It also claims that Triple Canopy's management blacklisted the men in the private military contracting industry, rendering them unemployable in the lucrative trade of providing private security in Iraq. The suit was filed in late July. A motion by Triple Canopy to dismiss the suit in full was rejected by the judge last month, and on Thursday the court set a trial date for the case for next summer.
A U.S. soldier who pleaded guilty to charges stemming from the rape and murder of a 14-year-old Iraqi girl and the killing of her family was sentenced on Thursday to up to 90 years in prison. Barker, who was 23 when the rape and murder were committed, knew by his plea agreement that he faced what was in effect a life sentence, with the main question being whether it would be without the possibility of parole. He provided graphic testimony to military investigators about the incident, saying those who committed the crime had been drinking whiskey mixed with an energy drink and discussed in advance killing an Iraqi family.
The Pentagon announced Friday that 57,000 U.S. troops, including five combat brigades, have been told to deploy to Iraq early next year - a move that will maintain current force levels there. Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld signed the deployment orders for about 20,000 soldiers from active duty army brigades based in
The mid-term elections sounded the requiem for the group of neoconservatives who helped design the disastrous U.S. invasion of Iraq. It's over for them and their big dreams of pre-emptive wars and conquest of the Middle East. If anything, this group has left America weakened by the tragic military misadventure in Iraq. They convinced President Bush it would be a "cakewalk" to invade and occupy Iraq but it has turned out otherwise. Those power-driven ideologues have learned that the price for their dream was high -- too high. So much for their calamitous "Project for A New American Century," which laid out the agenda to transform several Arab nations to their liking. It also meant sending Americans to kill and die for reasons yet to be explained by the president. [Let’s hope the neocons are gone forever. They are wicked evil. – dancewater]
The news from Iraq is sobering. We can't know for certain what will stop the killing, but we do know that right now the United States is part of the problem, not part of the solution. We at FCNL believe the United States needs a comprehensive plan to help end the war and stop the killing. Such a plan should include: setting a date for withdrawal of all U.S. military forces; bringing the armed Iraqi resistance to the negotiating table; including all of Iraq's neighbors in a regional process for peace; and providing financial support for the reconstruction of Iraq. [My own opinion would add that the US should take over all of Iraq’s foreign debts and pay them off immediately. – dancewater]:OPINION: Gandhi's Peace Plan
Here are some concrete and much-needed steps that will make an IMMEDIATE difference to the situation on the ground:: 1. Bush must announce immediately that the USA will be withdrawing 100% of its forces from Iraq as soon as possible. He must also pledge to remove US government advisorsfrom Baghdad.: 2. Bush must announce immediately that the USA will not be maintaining permanent military bases in Iraq. He must also hand the Green Zone and other US-held assets over to the Iraqi Government.: 3. The USA must immediately stop pressuring the Iraqi government to sign the proposed Oil Law, which will give US-based Big Oil control of Iraq's oil resources for generations to come. The Iraqi government must announce immediately that any changes to laws governing revenue from Iraq's oil resources will need to be approved by the Iraqi people in a referendum.: 4. The current Iraqi government must immediately announce new elections, to be held after the last US forces have withdrawn.: 5. The USA must immediately pledge to finance these elections, and the UN must be prepared to monitor them and deploy peace-keeping forces at short notice. The USA must also finance these UN missions.: 5. Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and other regional powers must immediately pledge to respect Iraq's borders and support the elected government.: These simple steps will have the immediate effect of removing support for fanatical anti-US propaganda and terrorist groups. They will convince people that there is a peace dividend to be reaped if only they can wait for US forces to withdraw and elections to be held. The Iraqi people have already shown that they are more than capable of holding their country together (mostly through religious and tribal cohesion) during such a period of instability. These are immediate steps which can easily be done right now. In particular, let me say this: If Bush is not prepared to renounce permanent US military bases and control of Iraqi oil, nobody should take all this talk of US withdrawal seriously. As for withdrawing "with honour", the most honorable thing the USA can do now is to honestly confess to past mistakes, including the political manipulation of WMD intelligence, pledge to make amends to the Iraqi people, and hold those responsible for this disaster accountable.
~ From a comment on Juan Cole’s blog
With all their inchoate feelings about wasted American lives, "our responsibility to Iraqis," or being seen as "cutting and running," many of those who voted for the Democrats may have some difficulty accepting the reality that immediate withdrawal is the least worst of all the options. But that is the function of leaders: to articulate the bitter truth when the times demand it. It is not likely that most Democratic politicians will embrace immediate withdrawal of their own accord. Without more sustained pressure, the likely course they will take is to come with a plan that will compromise with Bush, which means another unworkable patchwork of a plan.OPINION: Bush’s “New” Iraq Strategy Revealed
Knowing all this, the Bushists, backed by the Establishment, will still keep dragging out the war, month after month, year after year, in one form or another. Thousands upon thousands of innocent Iraqis will die, hundreds if not thousands more American soldiers will die, Iraq will sink further into chaos, the United States will sink further into bankruptcy. (The latter, of course, is a good thing for the Bushists; have they not openly stated their desire to "shrink government down until we can drown it in the bathtub?" Only bankruptcy can justify the their domestic agenda of crippling even the slightest mitigation of the worst excesses of unregulated, unrestrained crony corporatism and elitist predation. Already filthy rich, the Bushists will never suffer the economic ravages and social decay produced by their policies.) So that is the plan. This is Bush's answer to the American people's obvious, overwhelming desire for ending the war in Iraq. He is going to spit in America's face. He is going to tell the American people to go to hell, or perhaps borrowing the language that Dick Cheney used in the United States Senate, to go fuck themselves. He is going to say: let your sons and daughters die, you worthless peons: I will never admit I was wrong.Ideology Widening Muslim-West Divide
The key reasons for the growing divide between Muslim and Western societies are not religious but political, concludes a report present to th UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan in Istanbul, Turkey. "We need to get away from stereotypes, generalisations and preconceptions, and take care not to let crimes committed by individuals or small groups dictate our image of an entire people, an entire region, or an entire religion," Annan said upon receiving the report. Violence is fueled by fear and misunderstandings, economic inequality, wars by Western powers in Muslim countries and the Arab-Israeli conflict, according to Annan, not cultural and religious identity. Although religion is often cynically exploited to stir passions, fuel suspicions and support alarmist claims that the world is facing a new "war of religion", the root of the matter is political, according to the report.
The American death toll in Iraq will soon reach 2,900, and then 3,000, most likely, the total exceeding the 2,972 confirmed and reported dead in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. The comparison is significant. With all their warnings about mushroom clouds and weapons of mass destruction, President Bush and his surrogates fueled the impression that the toppling of Saddam Hussein and the rebuilding of Iraq would save American lives. They did not suggest anything close to a mission requiring a sacrifice equivalent to the toll of that ghastly day. The comparison provides one measure of how badly things have proceeded in Iraq, those in charge committing mammoth errors in judgment, displaying arrogance, pushing dreams and denying reality. Of late, the goal has been a more stable Baghdad. The thinking has been: Secure the capital, and the country will follow. That sounds reasonable. Additional American troops moved into the city. It followed that the death toll would climb with more troops exposed to combat, and October proved one of the deadliest months of the war. What did the sacrifice yield? [A lot of dead bodies and wasted money. And a lot of misery for people who didn’t deserve that – and some of whom will extract revenge. – dancewater]:
STOP FUNDING THE WAR: Progressive Democrats of America is committed to cutting off all funding for deployment of US troops in Iraq and for the removal of all funding for the occupation of Iraq. The PDA will be collecting 100,000 signatures over the upcoming weeks so Rep. McGovern may deliver them personally to House and Senate leaders shortly after the November 2006 election.
PEACE ACTION: Take the voters’ peace pledge. "I will not vote for or support any candidate for Congress or President who does not make a speedy end to the war in Iraq, and preventing any future war of aggression, a public position in his or her campaign.”
Quote of the Day: "Because if the ship sinks, we all sink." - Ridha Jawad Taqi