Friday, December 01, 2006


“Some worry that a change of leadership in Iraq could create instability and make the situation worse. The situation could hardly get worse, for world security and for the people of Iraq. The lives of Iraqi citizens would improve dramatically if Saddam Hussein were no longer in power.” - George W. Bush, October 2002

Today’s Improvements


Men armed with guns and rocket-propelled grenades drove into a mostly Sunni-Arab section of west Baghdad at 2 a.m. Friday and opened fire on a small mosque, a police officer said. The grenades set fire to holy books inside the al-Quds Sunni mosque, which was empty at the time. Neighbors opened fire on the attackers, forcing them to flee, the officer said on condition of anonymity out of concern for his own security. No casualties were reported.

A roadside bomb also exploded in a commercial square in the center of Baghdad at 9:40 a.m., killing three civilians and wounding 17, said police Lt. Ali Muhsin said.

Bombs also killed five people in Baghdad on Friday, including one at the city's pet market. Three people were killed and 22 wounded, police said, when a car bomb blasted the Ghazil market an hour before a regular traffic curfew came into force to protect worshippers at weekly prayers. The pet market, a popular weekend spectacle, sells a raucous, colorful range of creatures, from guard dogs and monkeys to parrots, pigeons and tropical fish.

Baghdad, meanwhile, echoed with the sounds of machinegun fire as Iraqi soldiers clashed with insurgents in the Fadhel neighbourhood, wounding nine people, including three soldiers.

Machinegun fire rained from U.S. helicopters in central Baghdad on Friday as U.S. and Iraqi troops clashed with gunmen during a raid on suspected militant hideouts, Iraqi security officials and witnesses said. The fighting erupted when the troops moved into the Fadhil area, a stronghold of Sunni insurgents, and were fired upon by militants, an Interior Ministry source told Reuters. Witnesses said two low-flying U.S. Apache helicopters were circling above the Fadhil area, firing into the streets below and letting off flares to deflect missile attack. A local resident, Abu Omar al-Qaisi, said Iraqi troops and armed men in civilian clothes had entered the area at dawn, sparking clashes in which several people were killed. He said he had helped carry eight bodies into a local mosque. At midday, four U.S. armored Humvee vehicles had entered his street and directed machinegun fire at a local secondary school, he told Reuters by telephone. Shooting could be heard in the background. The Interior Ministry said one soldier had been killed and nine people wounded, including five soldiers in the operation. A Defense Ministry official said 28 suspects had been captured.

Clashes erupted between gunmen and the Iraqi army in central Baghdad in which one soldier was killed and nine wounded, including five soldiers, the Interior Ministry said. The Defence Ministry said 28 people had been captured and a quantity of weapons seized.


In Youssifiyah, 12 miles south of Baghdad, ground forces searching for "a foreign fighter safe house" shot and killed an armed insurgent and found and destroyed a weapons cache, the military said.


The attack came shortly after a car bomb exploded in a market on the outskirts of the capital in the small town of Husseiniya killing another three people and wounding 15.


In the southern city of Samawa, clashes between security forces and armed elements continued into a second day, with two policemen being killed on today.

At least two policemen and one civilian were killed and 31 wounded, including three policemen, in clashes between Mehdi Army fighters and police in Samawa, 270 km (168 miles) south of Baghdad, on Thursday evening. Police said the clashes continued on Friday.


A roadside bomb exploded near a minibus, killing one person and wounding four in Latifiya, 40 km (25 miles) south of Baghdad, on Thursday evening, police said.


A man was also killed in Iskandiriyah, just south of Baghdad, when a roadside bomb exploded next to a mini-bus.


In Sadiyah, a primarily Sunni area of southwestern Baghdad, a Shiite man was killed and six of his relatives were wounded when a bomb explosion drew them outside their house at 6:30 a.m., and a second bomb then exploded right near them, a police officer said on condition of anonymity to protect his own security.

Camp Cropper:

A security detainee died Nov. 30 at Camp Cropper, Iraq, from what appears to be natural causes. An investigation is pending to determine the cause of death, a standard procedure for detainees who die while in custody of the Multi-National Force. The detainee had been admitted to the hospital Nov. 2 for treatment of pre-existing medical conditions. He was still under medical care at the time of his death. An attending physician pronounced him dead at 9:11 a.m. Nov. 30.


In the Taji area, coalition forces fought with insurgents, killing one and "wounding a female local national who was being used as human shield by the terrorist," the U.S. command said in a statement. The female, whose name and age were not given, was hospitalized nearby in stable condition, the U.S. military said.


Meanwhile, a suicide car bomber attempted to ram a joint US-Iraqi patrol in the northern oil city of Kirkuk. The blast missed the patrol but killed three bystanders and wounded four, including a child.


The number of Iraqi civilians killed in violence appears to have leapt by 44 percent in November from an already record level the previous month, data from Iraqi Interior Ministry officials showed on Friday. The increase, to 1,850 deaths, was closely matched by a 45 percent leap in the number of civilian deaths tallied by Reuters from individual incident reports provided by Iraqi officials. The ministry figure is more than three times the equivalent in January, before this year's surge in sectarian killing.

(Thanks to Whisker for providing the links above.)

Humanitarian Improvements

UNHCR Update On the Iraq Situation

Iraq is haemorrhaging. The humanitarian crisis which the international community had feared in 2003 is now unfolding. The massive displacement has emerged quietly and without fanfare but the numbers affected are in excess of what many agencies had predicted in 2003. Since the February 2006 Samarra bombings UNHCR, as Cluster Coordinator for displaced groups inside Iraq, estimates some 425,000 Iraqis to have been recently displaced. In addition, some two to three thousand Iraqis are leaving per day via neighbouring countries as the extent of the tragedy becomes obvious. UNHCR estimates that there are at least 1.6 million Iraqis internally displaced with at least another 1.6 – 1.8 million in neighbouring states. The figures in the immediate neighbouring countries are still imprecise but UNHCR estimates that there are some 700,000 Iraqis in Jordan, 500,000 – 600,000 in Syria, 100,000 in Egypt, 20,000 to 40,000 in Lebanon, 54,000 in Iran and tens of thousands more within the region and further a field. Beyond the mass exodus, which has already occurred, population movements show no sign of abating. The needs of IDPs, returnees, refugees and their host communities are dramatic and to a large extent unmet. The new waves of sectarian violence and the deteriorating humanitarian situation have equally affected the refugee communities – some 50,000 - inside Iraq. Some of them, such as the Palestinians, Syrians and Iranian refugees, have been targeted in deliberate discrimination and attacks by local communities. It is necessary, as part of a comprehensive protection framework, to ensure their immediate survival and emergency needs, while pursuing more vigorously durable solutions inside and outside of Iraq. The situation is more critical as was demonstrated on 19 October with the murder of five Palestinians and the eviction of thousands more over the last few months. UNHCR and other humanitarian agencies are reporting a rapid deterioration in the well-being of those displaced both internally and in neighbouring states. Initial coping mechanisms of those displaced and the host communities have been depleted as displacement has taken on a more permanent character. Added to the daily violence is an increasing mortality rate, which is a consequence of the rapidly deteriorating health and social infrastructures. Hundreds of thousands of other Iraqis who are "teetering" on the edge of displacement and who have waited to see an improvement in the situation inside Iraq may also soon be pushed into displacement.

The recent fighting in Baquba and Balad has led to more Iraqi families being forced to move a second time after they had already fled from Baghdad. In addition to the ethnic and sectarian re-engineering, recent inter-sectarian fighting in the south of Iraq illustrates that even if Shi'ia and Sunnis moved to homogeneous areas, they still risk secondary displacement. If Iraqis cannot find protection and assistance from the daily cycle of violence and revenge killings within Iraq, or in neighbouring states, they will increasingly look further a field. While neighbouring states have been relatively welcoming to the vast majority of Iraqis tolerance is growing thin and it is likely that regional governments will become increasingly restrictive with regard to entry, stay and access to social services. In the last month Jordan has made it more difficult for Iraqi children to access public schools due to their limited capacities (which has lead to a burden on private schools). UNHCR has also been informed that Syria might be contemplating reducing the entry permit from six to three months. Where facilities are available the targeting of professionals such as doctors, teachers, computer technicians and even bakers has meant that the skills required to provide basic services are becoming more and more scarce. It is estimated that at least 40 percent of Iraq's professional class has left since 2003. It is hardly surprising therefore that Sweden, for example, has recorded over the last twelve months a four-fold increase in Iraqi asylum applications. The impact of the escalating displacement unless addressed immediately will unfortunately have a long-term impact on the ability of Iraq to recover when stability returns to the country. Ingredients for more difficulties and challenges for countries in the region to shelter and protect Iraqis are evident. This may lead to possible social unrest and even more significant secondary movements to Europe and other parts of the world. It is therefore critical for the international community to respond urgently to alleviate some of the social costs of the hundreds of thousands of increasingly vulnerable Iraqis in Iraq and the region.

Improvements for Foreign Contractors

US/UK Contractors in Iraq

The news comes after US government documents revealed that hundreds of private contractors have died in Iraq since the start of the occupation, with 10 British employees killed in the past two months. US labour department officials have acknowledged that, since March 2003, 662 claims for compensation have been received from the relatives of contractors who have died working in Iraq. While the documents, obtained during an investigation by Channel 4 News, provide an incomplete figure it does shed light on the largely unpublicised hazards facing those working in the industry. Some 48,000 private contractors work in Iraq, US officials say, double the number in 2005. Some are involved in reconstruction and logistical support, while others are engaged in security and escort work. The death toll among Britons working in this industry has been particularly high in the past two months, surpassing that of British soldiers who have died during this period. Since 29 September, 10 British security contractors have died. A single attack caused a third of these losses. A roadside bomb hit a convoy operated by the security firm Erinys 20 miles east of Baghdad on 18 October. The British contractors Carl Ledden, 41; Noah Stephenson, 29, and Fraser Burnett were killed in the blast. In an e-mail to a relativeweeks before his death, Mr Ledden, who worked protecting the US military, said he was unhappy about repeatedly travelling along the same route. "We are setting patterns here good-style and I wouldn't be surprised if we get hit," he wrote." Erinys, which has contracts in Iraq protecting the American military, said: "Unfortunately, we are not in a position to comment whilst the incident is subject to a formal investigation, which is routine policy for all incidents involving our personnel."

Iraqi Society Improvements

Ten Fallacies About the Violence in Iraq

The escalating violence in Iraq's civil war is now earning considerable attention as we pass yet another milestone -- U.S. occupation there, in two weeks, will exceed the length of the Second World War for America. While the news media have finally started to grapple with the colossal amount of killing, a number of misunderstandings persist. Some are willful deceptions. Let's look at a few of them: The U.S. is a buffer against more violence. This is perhaps the most resilient conjecture that has no basis in fact. Iraqis themselves do not believe it. In a State Department poll published in September, huge majorities say the U.S. is directly responsible for the violence. The upsurge of bloodshed in Baghdad seems to confirm the Iraqis' view, at least by inference. The much-publicized U.S. effort to bring troops to Baghdad to quell sectarian killing has accompanied a period of increased mortality in the city. The "Lancet" numbers are bogus. Since the only scientific survey of deaths in Iraq was published in The Lancet in early October, the discourse on Iraqi casualties has changed. But many in media and policy circles are still in denial about the scale of mayhem. Anthony Cordesman, Fred Kaplan, and Michael O'Hanlon, among many others, fail to understand the method of the survey -- widely used and praised by leading epidemiologists -- which concluded that between 400,000 and 700,000 Iraqis have died in the conflict. One knowledegable commentator describes the Lancet survey as "flypaper for innumerates," and the deniers indeed look foolishly innumerate when they state that there was "no way" there could be more than 65,000 or 100,000 deaths. As soon as that bit of ignorance rolled off their lips, the Iraq Health Ministry admitted to 150,000 civilians killed by Sunni insurgents alone, which would be in the Lancet ballpark. Much other evidence suggests the Lancet numbers are about right.

The violence is about Sunni-Shia mutual loathing; a pox on both their houses. This is the emerging "moral clarity" of the right wing, that we gave it our best, we handed the tools of freedom to Iraqis, and they'd rather kill each other. That there was longstanding antagonism, stemming from decades of Sunni Arab domination and repression, is well known. But the truly horrifying scale of violence we see now took many months to brew, and is built on the violence begun by the U.S. military and the lack of economic stability, political participation, etc., that the occupation wrought. Equally as important, sectarian killing found its political justification in the constitution fashioned by U.S. advisers that essentially split the country into three factions, giving them a very solid set of incentives to go to war with each other. The distortions about the violence in Iraq persist even as the mayhem increases. Yesterday there was a report about 100 widows a day being created in Iraq. A Times of London report from last summer notes that gravediggers in one Baghdad cemetery are handling 200 bodies daily, compared with 60 before the war. The situation of the displaced is becoming a humanitarian crisis that will soon rival the worst African cases; the middle and upper classes have fled, leaving the poor to cope. So the poor from the U.S. go to beat up the poor in Iraq, or stand by helplessly as the Iraqi poor ravage each other. That is the harsh reality of violence in Iraq. A half million dead. More than two million displaced. No end in sight. Beware the delusions.

May Actually Be An Improvement, Since Bush Is Not The ‘Improver’

Some Sunnis In Iraq Have A Plan For Peace

Clerics want to form a council that would reach out to Shiites. With sectarian violence reaching new extremes, some Sunni Muslim clerics are breaking with the most militant factions in their sect and reaching out to Shiite clergy in an effort to pull Iraq back from the abyss. Some members of the Muslim Scholars Assn., which has acted as a broker between Western officials and members of the country's Sunni-driven insurgency, worry that their group has done little more than clasp hands before television cameras with their Shiite counterparts and issue joint appeals for calm. "The Muslim Scholars Assn. so far has not participated in any real, effective negotiations," said Sheik Mahmoud Sumaidaie, a senior member who preaches at the organization's Baghdad headquarters, the Umm Qura Mosque. Sumaidaie said more than 70 clerics across Iraq want to form a new religious council that can unite all Sunni factions and open a channel of communication with Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, the country's most revered Shiite cleric. Without it, he said, "we will never be able to stop the bloodshed in Iraq." Some top Sunni leaders are resisting the idea because they fear being marginalized, Sumaidaie said, accusing them of running the association like a dictatorship. But he predicted that the council would be officially founded within weeks. Iraq's religious leaders represent some of the last vestiges of authority at a time of growing disaffection with politicians, who are widely seen as corrupt and ineffective. If Sunni clerics can unite in a council that is willing to compromise with Shiites, it could offer some hope of a solution to the carnage.

Iraq’s Most Senior Shi’ite Politician Reaches Out to Sunnis In Jordan

One of Iraq's most powerful Shiite politicians sought to reassure Jordanians on the future of their fellow Sunnis in Iraq, telling hundreds of worshippers here Friday that he opposes sectarian killings and the creation of a Shiite state in his country. Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, or SCIRI, caused an uproar this week in Iraq when Al-Arabiya and Al-Jazeera, the Arab world's dominant satellite news channels, quoted him as saying that Iraq's Sunni-Arab minority would be the biggest losers if civil war broke out in Iraq. Al-Hakim, whose party is a senior member of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's coalition, quickly denied that he had made such a comment. Every Iraqi, he said, would lose if a civil war broke out. "We denounce and reject sectarian killings," al-Hakim told worshippers after the Friday prayers at King Hussein mosque in the Jordanian capital, Amman. Al-Hakim, a mid-ranking cleric, did not lead the prayers, joining the ritual from behind a Sunni imam.

Italy Pulls Last Troops Out of Iraq

Italy pulled its last remaining troops out of Iraq on Friday, lowering the tricolour flag at its base in the south of a country where 32 of its soldiers have died since the contingent arrived in June 2003. Defence Minister Arturo Parisi read out the names of each of the Italian fallen, including secret serviceman Nicola Calipari who was shot dead by U.S. soldiers in March 2005 as he escorted a freed hostage to Baghdad airport. Under former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, a close ally of U.S. President George W. Bush, Italy deployed the fourth largest contingent in the "coalition of the willing" in Iraq, around 3,000 soldiers, based in the south of the country. But the mission was widely unpopular in Italy and opposition leader Romano Prodi said if elected he would pull the troops out by the end of the year. Prodi won a close-run election in April.


Maliki Hailed As “The Right Guy For Iraq” As Civil War Is Ignored

President George Bush yesterday insisted that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was the "right guy" for Iraq and pledged to accelerate the handover of security responsibility to Iraqi forces. Dismissing calls for what he derided as a "graceful exit" by the US, Mr Bush declared: "We'll be in Iraq until the job is complete." Mr Bush went out of his way in public to express his confidence in Mr Maliki, about whose abilities doubts were raised in a leaked report this week by one of Mr Bush's closest lieutenants, the National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley. ……While repeatedly saying that he wanted to speed up the handover of control of security to Iraqi forces "as soon as possible", he refused to set a timetable. "All the timetables mean is a timetable for withdrawal," he said. "All that does is set people up for unrealistic expectations. I know there's a lot of speculation that these reports in Washington mean there's going to be some kind of graceful exit out of Iraq. We're going to stay in Iraq to get the job done so long as the government wants us there." [This means they plan to stay forever. – dancewater]


OPINION: Our Honor

I will offer this: the notion that the US held "honorable intentions" as it tore the lid off of Iraq is not only self-serving piety, it's a widespread sociopathic delusion. Yet, US politicos from Chuck Hagel to Russ Feingold utter this line whenever possible, keeping a straight face while another thousand or so Iraqis are blown to bits, and a few dozen more US soldiers and Marines have their heads, arms or legs blown off by IEDs, or are felled by snipers. "Honorable"? Are you fucking kidding me? Criminal would be the first word out of my mouth, but then, I'm not trying to appease the fantasies of the political elite nor those among the greater mass who seriously buy into this insane logic. Recall that Richard Nixon called for "Peace With Honor" in Vietnam, then invaded Cambodia and Laos while continuing to rip apart Vietnamese society. If I was someone who lived in the crosshairs of US foreign policy and heard American politicians talk about "honorable intentions," I'd either start building a bomb shelter or pack what I could grab and hit the road. It's one thing for domestic Phalangists to engage in such rhetoric. Many of them believe that the Creator of the cosmos wears a red, white and blue robe, speaks English as a first language, and cares about the outcomes of football games. Of course they think that whatever we do is "honorable." Many of them are out of their minds. But for liberal Dems like Feingold to speak this way is another matter entirely, that is, if one takes Feingold seriously as a Beltway mover and shaker, which he is. Either he really believes that unilateral military assaults that result in hundreds of thousands of corpses are "honorable" gestures, however mistaken, or else he's just yanking the rube chain in a cynical effort to appear decent and reasonable. If it's the former, then he too is lost in a delusional fog. If it's the latter, then he's only making matters worse by not speaking clearly and realistically about the system that makes disasters like Iraq possible, if not inevitable. Either way, libs love Russ, and oftentimes speak the same way (a la Stephanie Miller, Ed Schultz and Randi Rhodes -- three prominent examples of liberal decay). And since Feingold represents the furthest reaches of permissible progressivism, that means you and I, Sonsters, are screwed and roasted on a stick.

OPINION: Iraq’s Insurgency Does it on the Cheap

On Sunday, in a front-page New York Times piece ("U.S. Finds Iraq Insurgency Has Funds to Sustain Itself"), John Burns and Kirk Semple reported that a federal "interagency working group," looking into the finances of the various branches of the Sunni insurgency in Iraq, had come to the conclusion that it was now financially self-sustaining. No need for old Ba'athist funds, no need to look outside the country. Some combination of oil thievery, ransom funds from kidnappings, counterfeiting, and money from "corrupt Islamic charities" has, according the secret government document slipped to the Times reporters, left it with, if anything, a surplus of funds. The working group estimated – though other experts claim that it's pure speculation in the darkness of remarkable ignorance about the insurgency and its financial resources – that the various rebellious factions were raising between $70 million and $200 million a year. Let's forget for a moment the speculative, not to say unreliable nature of these figures, and instead consider the larger context. The Times reporters, in fact, took a striking stab at this – though deep inside the paper – in the following paragraph: "The group's estimate of the financing for the insurgency, even taking the higher figure of $200 million, underscores the David and Goliath nature of the war. … If the $200 million a year estimate is close to the mark, it amounts to less than what it costs the Pentagon, with an $8 billion monthly budget for Iraq, to sustain the American war effort here for a single day." Philip Morrison, the nuclear scientist, once wrote a whole text on size and context: Powers of Ten: A Book about the Relative Size of Things in the Universe and the Effect of Adding Another Zero. Let's see if, in his spirit, we can add a few zeroes to the Times figures. A while back, Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz and Harvard's Linda Bilmes tried to tote up the long-term costs of the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq, based on an American troop withdrawal somewhere between 2010 and 2015. Their most conservative estimate of total costs to the United States: $1 trillion. Their "moderate" estimate: $2.2 trillion. So let's be conservative. At those levels of funding, assuming that Iraq's Sunni fighters continue to motor their movement at the financial upper levels of the secret interagency estimate – $200 million – their insurgency could run for another 5,000 years. Or perhaps we should subtract some zeroes and enter the micro-world of the U.S. military. If you gave the U.S. Army that $200 million dollars raised by the insurgents by hook or crook and told them to spend it as they wished… actually, they've recently done just that. This October, the Army signed onto a $200 million (yep, that's $200,000,000) a year contract with the McCann Worldgroup ad agency to launch an "Army Strong" ad campaign aimed at bringing into the fold those ever more resistant recruits needed to fight the Iraqi insurgency. Imagine how strong "Insurgent Strong" must be then, since Iraq's ragtag, minority insurgency continues to fight the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines (all of whom have their own ad contracts) to a standstill for a mere $200 million. Talk about "standing up" some Iraqi fighters.

OPINION: The Abominables of The New Republic

Beinart and his fellow warlovers are filled with regret now, only because the devastation and horror are so immense they cannot be denied. But most Americans have an attention span measured in months and, in the very best case, perhaps a year. Moreover, the horrors of Iraq still have no reality for most Americans, least of all with regard to how those horrors affect Iraqis. To the extent they are aware of them at all, that awareness will fade quickly enough. And then the stage will be set for the next war, and Beinart and his crowd will propagandize for it once more. For pity's sake, don't let them get away with it again. Remember, and I mean this literally: they will be getting away with murder. Just as they did this time, and as they do every time.

OPINION: The Balkanization of Iraq

The Balkanization of Iraq goes well beyond homegrown ethnic cleansing and civil war. It springs from the willingness of countries such as America and the United Kingdom to police the Middle East. It is proof that Western intervention can destabilize entire regions now that the world is no longer trapped in the Cold War Manichean straitjacket. Iraq's future may well replicate the end of the Vietnam War, when America declared victory and airlifted its people out, leaving the country in the hands of a "neighboring power," i.e., the Chinese-backed North Vietnamese Army. Only this time, Iraq will be ravaged by voracious ethnic militias – backed by foreign countries militarily and politically too weak to impose their own rule – not because America withdrew, but because the U.S. invaded the country in the first place, unleashing these forces. Today, almost four decades after the end of the war, Vietnam is a leading exporter and an emerging economy because North Vietnam was able to impose peace, which eventually led to prosperity, safely locked within China's sphere of influence. Today, Iran and Syria's involvement in the Iraqi civil war will continue to drag the country further into sectarian warfare and may even give al-Qaeda the longed-for opportunity to carve out their own state. This is the terrifying legacy of this unjust and illegal war, a legacy that should not be hidden by political propaganda. Nevertheless, the sooner the West pulls out of Iraq, the better the chances Iraqis will find their own way out of the present morass. The danger, of course, is that peace in Iraq will come only when nothing is left standing but the ruins of ancient Mesopotamia.

OPINION: Like Hitler and Brezhnev, Bush Is In Denial

More than half a million deaths, an army trapped in the largest military debacle since Vietnam, a Middle East policy already buried in the sands of Mesopotamia - and still George W Bush is in denial. How does he do it? How does he persuade himself - as he apparently did in Amman yesterday - that the United States will stay in Iraq "until the job is complete"? The "job" - Washington's project to reshape the Middle East in its own and Israel's image - is long dead, its very neoconservative originators disavowing their hopeless political aims and blaming Bush, along with the Iraqis of course, for their disaster. History's "deniers" are many - and all subject to the same folly: faced with overwhelming evidence of catastrophe, they take refuge in fantasy, dismissing evidence of collapse as a symptom of some short-term setback, clinging to the idea that as long as their generals promise victory - or because they have themselves so often promised victory - that fate will be kind. George W Bush - or Lord Blair of Kut al-Amara for that matter - need not feel alone. The Middle East has produced these fantasists by the bucketful over past decades. In 1967, Egyptian president Gamel Abdul Nasser insisted his country was winning the Six Day War hours after the Israelis had destroyed the entire Egyptian air force on the ground. President Carter was extolling the Shah's Iran as "an island of stability in the region" only days before Ayatollah Khomeini's Islamic revolution brought down his regime. President Leonid Brezhnev declared a Soviet victory in Afghanistan when Russian troops were being driven from their fire bases in Nangahar and Kandahar provinces by Osama bin Laden and his fighters. And was it not Saddam Hussein who promised the "mother of all battles" for Kuwait before the great Iraqi retreat in 1991? And was it not Saddam again who predicted a US defeat in the sands of Iraq in 2003? Saddam's loyal acolyte, Mohamed el-Sahaf, would fantasise about the number of American soldiers who would die in the desert; George W Bush let it be known that he sometimes slipped out of White House staff meetings to watch Sahaf's preposterous performance and laugh at the fantasies of Iraq's minister of information.

So who is laughing at Bush now? [Ironically, not enough people are laughing and there is also nothing at all to laugh about. – dancewater]

COUNTER- Improvement Efforts

Oppose "Supplemental Appropriation" for Continued U.S. Occupation of Iraq. Write your Member of Congress.

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.

QUOTE OF THE DAY ON BUSH’S DRAMATIC IMPROVEMENT PLAN: Each of the Iraqi children killed by the United States was our child. Each of the prisoners tortured in Abu Ghraib was our comrade. Each of their screams was ours. When they were humiliated, we were humiliated. The U.S. soldiers fighting in Iraq - mostly volunteers in a poverty draft from small towns and poor urban neighborhoods - are victims just as much as the Iraqis of the same horrendous process, which asks them to die for a victory that will never be theirs. ~ Arundhati Roy


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