Friday, December 22, 2006


PHOTO: An Iraqi inspects the damage to a workshop after British troops backed up by tanks carried out a dawn raid to seize an Iraqi police chief accused of leading a death squad that slaughtered 17 police trainers in the port city of Basra.(AFP/Essam al-Sudani)

Security Incidents for December 22, 2006


In a separate incident, a roadside bomb went off near a police patrol close to the Iraqi National Theater in Baghdad's Karradah district, damaging a police vehicle and wounding two policemen aboard, a Baghdad police source told Xinhua. The attack damaged several nearby civilian cars, wounding four people, he added.

One civilian was killed and seven wounded when a roadside bomb exploded near the national theatre in central Baghdad, police said.

Gunmen stormed a Sunni mosque in northeastern Baghdad on Friday before the Muslim weekly prayer and kidnapped three worshippers, an Interior Ministry source said. "Unknown gunmen raided the Abdullah Bin Umer mosque in Bunoug neighborhood and kidnapped the Imam of the mosque with two worshippers," the source told Xinhua on condition of anonymity.

An attack against a Multi-National Division - Baghdad patrol killed a Soldier west of the Iraqi capital Dec. 22. The Soldiers came under sporadic small arms and indirect fire during a patrol. One Soldier was killed and another wounded.


In motorcycle bomb blast in Sawera in south of Baghdad a man was killed and three others were wounded. A man killed in shooting by unidentified assailants.

A bomb planted in a vegetable market in the town of Suwayra, 60 km (40 miles) south of Baghdad, wounded five people, police said.


Police found the body of a hospital employee after gunmen abducted him on Thursday in Aziziya, 75 km (50 miles) south of Baghdad


More than 1,000 British troops backed up by tanks have carried out a dawn raid to seize an Iraqi police chief accused of leading a death squad that slaughtered 17 police trainers. Under cover of thick fog, the soldiers were able to approach several addresses in the port city of Basra undetected and seize seven suspects without a shot being fired, military spokesman Major Charlie Burbridge told AFP.


A car bomb went off on Friday morning in the Iraqi city of Samarra, some 120 km north of Baghdad, killing a man and his wife, local police said. The blast also wounded several others, he said. The police think the victim, a shop owner, was targeted because one of his brother is the head of Samarra city council and another brother is a member of the Iraqi parliament from the Iraqi Consensus Front, a leading Sunni political bloc.

Two policemen were killed when a roadside bomb targeted their patrol in central Samarra, 100 km (60 miles) north of Baghdad, police said.

Al Anbar Prv:

Three Marines and one Sailor assigned to Regimental Combat Team 7 died Thursday from wounds sustained due to enemy action while operating in Al Anbar Province

Thanks to Whisker for the links above.


VIDEO: Christmas At War – from Peace Takes Courage

It ends with “We Must End This War”.

Roundup Of Violence in Iraq For December 22, 2006

Deaths In Iraq

"Sectarian violence is getting worse," Ambassador Mukhtar Lamani, the Arab League representative in Baghdad, said. "According to our information, there were 250 political murders last week, including five tribal sheikhs who came to last week's reconciliation conference ... there are 200 armed groups, each with their own agenda," he added.

Refugees Targets Of Death Squads

The bodies were mangled from six mortars that pounded the Palestinian compound in central Baghdad. There was Khaled Mahmoud Al-Fahmawi, 40, who was selling beans when shards tore through his legs and chest; 13-year-old Aisha Ahmed Ishaq, who looked from her balcony for her father; and 19-year-old Muhammad Yusuf Abu Kad, whose intestines spilt from his stomach as he screamed: “I’m dying, I’m dying.” The assault on the Baladiyat housing compound on December 13 lasted for 45 minutes. The bombardment marked the latest shot in a deliberate campaign to drive out the last of the thousands of Palestinians branded by their association with Saddam Hussein. Shia militias, most prominently al- Mahdi Army, are targeting Palestinian refugees in Iraq and the Iraqi Government has failed to stop them, a UN official told The Times on condition of anonymity. The others who died on December 13 were 14-year-old Nour Muhammad Manaa, who had been lounging in her garden when the shrapnel lodged in her throat; Zuhair Massoud Shaaban, 50, who had been playing a game of pool; and 19-year-old Yusef Ahmed Saied, who was sitting by his generator. The mood is so bleak that the UN High Commissioner for Refugees declared last week after meeting Iraqi officials that there was “little room for optimism”.

Iraqi Hopes Dim Through Worst Year of Occupation

A year back Iraqis were promised that 2006 would be the fresh beginning of a, prosperous, democratic and unified Iraq. Through an elected parliament and a unity government, they would find peace, and start rebuilding a country torn apart by the U.S.-backed UN sanctions and then the U.S.-led invasion and occupation. But everyone agrees that the situation now is worse than ever. Leaders in Iraq disagree only to the extent they blame one another for the collapse in security that has led to worsened services and living conditions. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, along with many other Shia leaders in the Iraqi government, blames al-Qaeda and "Saddamists" for the degrading situation. Echoing statements by U.S. President George W. Bush, al-Maliki told reporters recently: "Those terrorists hate democracy because that makes them lose power, and all they are doing is killing Iraqi people in order to recapture what they lost after the liberation of Iraq." Whatever leaders say, people are simply looking back on a hellish year, and fearful of another to come. "I wish I could flee to any third world country and work in garbage collection rather than stay here and live like a frightened rat," Adel Mohammed Aziz, a teacher from Baghdad told IPS. "We are all living in fear for our lives; death chases us all around." The displacement of Iraqis from Iraq is currently the world's fastest-growing refugee crisis, according to the Washington-based group Refugees International which works towards providing humanitarian assistance and protection for displaced people.

….According to a survey conducted by U.S. and Iraqi doctors for the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, published in the British Lancet Medical Journal Oct. 11 this year, 654,965 Iraqis, or 2.5 percent of the entire population of the country, have died as a result of the U.S.-led invasion and occupation. The survey found that "of post-invasion deaths, 601,027àwere due to violence, the most common cause being gunfire." The two months following publication of the survey have been Iraq's bloodiest to date.

The Scoop from Key Arabic-Language Web Sites

The Iraqi Rabita website reports on the appearance of banners in the Utaifiya district and elsewhere declaring, "We will defend Maliki's government to the death, and we will strongly strike those who act against it." The banners are signed by "Defenders of Maliki Brigades."

Sheikh Majid Abdul Razzaq Al-Ali, tribal chief of the powerful Dulaim confederation in Iraq, made a strong verbal attack on Iran and its supporters in Iraq, according to the Iraqi Badeel website, and accused Shi'ite militias of ethnically cleansing the Sunni community, but he added that the Arab Shia in Iraq are innocent of the actions of the militias. Sheikh Al-Ali stated from the Jordanian capital that Iranian-backed militias failed to infiltrate the Anbar governorate, so they sent Al-Qaeda elements to instigate chaos and destruction. "What is taking place in Iraq is a vast conspiracy, led by Iran, Israel and American occupation forces, as Iran is still dreaming of forming its Safavid state," he said. "I warn Teheran that these dreams won't come true because Iraqi tribes will confront them until the last drop of blood."

The Rabita also published information it received on the fate of Iraqi Red Crescent Society employees kidnapped several days ago. A total of 41 employees were abducted, 31 of whom were released later, including six Sunni employees who carried fake IDs with Shi'ite names. Ten employees remain unaccounted for, and they are Uday Hatem, an administrative board member; accountants Mohammed Naji and Haider Fadhil; Ayad Talib, a security guard; two drivers; two laborers; and an employee of the Dutch Embassy. Some sources had stated that four of the above were found killed but society director Jassim Al-Karbouli denied to the Rabita that the corpses of any of their employees had been found.

Police Jobs Sought Despite Bombings

The three unemployed friends forged a pact. At the crack of dawn, they would go together to the recruiting station in Baghdad and sign up to be police officers. The young men huddled nearby yesterday and waited for the center to open at 6:30 a.m. None of them noticed the man who approached wearing a belt packed with explosives. Only one, 25-year-old Mustafa Numan, survived. "We were all getting ready to get into line when the explosion occurred," he said from his bed at Kindi Hospital, where he was recovering from stomach and leg wounds. The blast killed 14 Iraqis and wounded 25. "I lost consciousness and came to at the hospital," he said. Despite the attack, Numan and others said they probably would return to the recruiting station. Yousef Haroun, a 24-year-old injured in the blast, said he will sign up for the police academy when he recovers. "This is the only potential source of steady income for me, and my options are limited," he said.

From Juan Cole’s Blog:

Al-Zaman reports in Arabic that half of Baghdad was without electricity on Tuesday. The report says that some districts, such as Bayya`, have been in the dark for days. The Ministry of Electricity has not given any explanation for the lack of service, and it isn't clear what the cause is (though sabotage by guerrillas is high on the list.) The low in Baghdad today was 42 degrees Fahrenheit (5 C.), and Sunday the low will be 35 (1 C.). Not having electricity in such temperatures is not comfortable, and for some (the young, sick or elderly) could actually be dangerous

Former Iraqi PM Says “Mafia Groups” Behind Violence

Former Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari attributed the upsurge in violence in the country to activities by what he said were ‘mafia groups’ bent to destabilize the government. Jaafari denied the country was in a state of civil war or on the brink of a whole-scale sectarian strife. “Simply there are mafia groups which are behind most of the violence,” he said. He said the current political rhetoric was void of references to sectarian differences because the authorities “are using patriotism as a basis for distinction.” However, the Iraqi government itself is built on sectarian grounds with sects, religious denominations and ethnic minorities currently using their positions to steer ministries and armed forces to their advantage. Jaafari’s bloc, the Dawaa Party, is part of the ruling coalition led by Shiite factions in partnership with Kurdish groups. Iraq cannot coexist with sectarianism which permits the shedding of innocent Iraqi blood,” he said. He said he was hopeful Iraqis will eventually resolve their differences through the reconciliation meetings the government is holding currently.

Mandatory University Attendance Angers Many

With the threat of violence emptying university campuses, Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki took the rare step earlier this month of ordering students and professors back to class. Anyone who doesn't obey could face dismissal or expulsion. Maliki's aides defend the order, saying that education is the lifeblood of Iraq and its collapse would threaten the government and the nation. But those forced to obey the order complain that they're risking their lives as unwilling pawns of a government that can't guarantee their security. "I heard about the prime minister's order, and it is ignorant about what is happening in Iraq. The government doesn't know what life is like, not only for professors and students, but for all people," said Khamis al Badri, a political science professor at al Mustansiriya University in Baghdad. Iraq's universities have been a target for insurgents and militias alike almost since the war began in 2003. Professors tell of armed gangs taking over buildings and classrooms and even issuing threats about grades. Thousands of students have requested transfers to campuses where their sects - Sunni Muslim or Shiite Muslim - are in the majority. Thousands of professors and students, seeking to avoid violence and threats, have fled the nation to pursue their studies in neighboring countries. Around Baghdad, many campuses are desolate. Many families refuse to let their children, particularly women, finish their education for fear of what will happen either en route to class or once they get there. According to the Iraq Students and Youth League, a university advocacy group, at least 10 violent incidents racked Baghdad's two main universities in the first week of this month, when Maliki issued his order. Among them were attempted kidnappings in front of Iraqi police officers, who didn't try to stop the attacks.

Iraq Town Has Little Faith In US Trial of Marines

raqis in Haditha, where 24 unarmed civilians were killed last year, said on Friday four U.S. Marines charged with their murder should be executed, a penalty they will not face in the United States. "They should hand them over to us so that we can kill them. They do not deserve a trial," said one young man who refused to give his name. Khaled Salman, whose sister Asmaa was among 24 people killed in Haditha, gathered with friends in the early hours of Friday to watch television coverage of the charges being announced. "Those soldiers killed 24 people. They killed women and children, isn't that enough for them be executed? Just so that the family can have peace," said Salman, 41. "It's a political trial and it will not bring our rights back," said Salman, visibly angry.

…..Anger at U.S. forces has grown since tight security measures were imposed three weeks ago following a helicopter crash. The U.S. military said the tightened security and a dirt wall recently built around the city were not meant to affect "innocent people's way of life" but to control movement and supply lines of insurgents. Shopkeeper Mohammed Ali said there had been food shortages for three weeks until two days ago, when U.S. troops allowed some goods to enter the town. "The Americans drive around in their cars and tell us on loudspeakers that we should hand over the gunmen or the siege will continue, but where are we going to get the gunmen from? We don't know them," Ali said.

Baghdad Homeowners In An Unreal State

For 24 years, Ahmed and his Shiite Muslim family lived there comfortably among the Sunni majority. Then, four months ago, they were told to get out or be killed. They were given three days to pack and leave. Like many Iraqis in a city rapidly segregating itself, Ahmed did something Americans might find unthinkable: He simply swapped homes with a Sunni family across the city. "There was no time to sign a contract," Ahmed said. "We both agreed to exchange houses immediately." Along with his mother, brother, sister and niece, Ahmed moved into what he considers a comparable home in the Shiite neighborhood of Jamaeel Square in east Baghdad. Ahmed said a family friend matched him with a Sunni family growing concerned by the heavy presence of the Mahdi Army, radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's militia. "Right now, we're scared of our own shadows," said Ahmed, a 40-year-old civil servant. "It may be a long time before we can return." The relentless threat of violence is one reason the map of Baghdad's population is shifting -- Sunnis to the west of the Tigris River, Shiites to the east -- and its real estate industry is growing more chaotic by the day. In addition to the sects segregating the city, an estimated 100,000 Iraqis are fleeing to Syria and Jordan each month, according to a U.N. report released in November. And many of Iraq's 700,000 Christians have taken flight to the north of the country.


Saddam Trial: Turkey Implicated Before Sound Is Cut

Meanwhile the judge in the genocide trial of Saddam Hussein and six co-defendants silenced testimony suggesting that Turkey, a U.S. ally, cooperated with the Baghdad regime during a late-1980s operation in which chemical weapons were used to crush rebellious Kurds. "There has to be very delicate cooperation with the Turkish side to ensure that these ... " said an Aug 21, 1988, document being read in the courtroom before the judge cut off the sound. nother audio snippet referred to a "secret Iraqi-Turkish protocol" that allowed Turkish troops to enter Iraq in pursuit of Kurdish guerrillas fighting the Ankara government. [When are they going to cover US involvement? - dancewater]

Iraq Tribes “Taking on al-Qaeda”

A group of Sunni tribal chiefs in Iraq say they have caught more than 100 al-Qaeda members in recent months. The tribal chiefs in the Iraqi province of Anbar joined forces in September in an attempt to defeat al-Qaeda. They set up the Salvation Council for Anbar and claim to have reduced the numbers of weapons and foreign fighters coming into the area. The restive Sunni dominated area has been a centre of activity for foreign jihadis linked to al-Qaeda. The head of the council, Sheikh Faisal al-Goud, told the BBC, however, that there were still thousands of al-Qaeda fighters operating in al Anbar province alone. "We are fighting the terrorists because they have caused the violent chaos in the country, the instability. They are killing innocent Iraqis and killing anyone who wants freedom and peace in Iraq," he explained.

……Driving a wedge between local Sunnis and the extreme jihadists of al-Qaeda has long been an aim shared by the Americans and the Iraqi government. But in a sign of how disunited the Sunnis are, a prominent Sunni figure considered close to the insurgency - Sheikh Harith al-Dari of the Muslim Scholars' Association - has criticised the tribesmen as bandits fighting what he called the resistance.

Iraqi Group Offers US One-Month Truce

The purported leader of an al-Qaida-linked militant group offered U.S. troops a one-month truce for withdrawing from Iraq without being attacked, according to a speech posted on an Islamic Web site Friday. The leader of Islamic State of Iraq, Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, also called on former officers in Saddam Hussein’s disbanded army to join his militia, promising to provide them with a salary and house so long as they could recite three "suras," or groups of verses, of the Quran. The 20-minute audio tape appeared on an Islamic Web site known for displaying militant groups' statements. In Washington, a senior U.S. intelligence official said the CIA was reviewing the tape to determine its authenticity. The "Islamic State of Iraq" declared itself in October. It is believed to be an umbrella group for militant organizations, including al-Qaida in Iraq.

Sadr In Talks To Return To Iraqi Government

Moqtada al-Sadr's movement is in talks to rejoin Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's ruling coalition, in an apparent defeat for US attempts to sideline him. As Washington seeks a new way forward in SEARCH Iraq, American officials have made it clear that they favour a realignment in Iraq's unity government, which would exclude Sadr and his Shiite militia. Last month Sadr appeared to have helped them do this by pulling his 32 lawmakers and six ministers out of the coalition in protest at Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's decision to meet US President Bush. But this week Iraqi politicians made a political pilgrimage to the Shiite holy city of Najaf to talk to Sadr's allies and persuade him to renew his ties with Maliki's ruling coalition. Afterwards, the leader of Sadr's parliamentary bloc, Nasser al-Rubaie, told AFP on Friday: "The Shiite coalition has put in place a committee to discuss the Sadr current's return to parliament and to government."

Iraqi Factions Try to Undercut a Plan to Isolate Extremists

Several Iraqi political groups on Thursday maneuvered to undercut an American-backed initiative that would create a multisectarian bloc intended to isolate extremists like the Shiite cleric and militia leader Moktada al-Sadr. The bloc would consist of Sunni Arab, Shiite Arab and Kurdish parties in an alliance that would be novel in Iraq's highly sectarian political environment. This week, Iraqi and Western officials said that Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, a highly influential Shiite cleric, had given a tentative go-ahead to the coalition. But on Thursday, Saleem Abdullah, a Sunni Arab lawmaker who is a senior member of the Iraqi Islamic Party, said his party had set tough new conditions for its participation in the bloc. And Sadr was considering a plan to announce that his militia, the Mahdi Army, would scale back its military activities in response to accusations that it was involved in sectarian violence, an official knowledgeable about the plan said. The framers of the bloc seemed highly unlikely to be able to meet some of the Islamic party's demands, like an insistence that more Sunni Arabs be installed in senior positions at Iraqi ministries and security forces now controlled by Shiites. "Now the negotiations are stopped, and we are waiting for their response," Abdullah said. "Honestly, I think an agreement will be very difficult."

Iraqi Prime Minister Tells Gates He'll Let U.S. Decide on Troop 'Surge'

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki told visiting Defense Secretary Robert Gates that he would let U.S. generals decide whether there is a need for a "surge" in U.S. troops deployed in Iraq, according to Iraqi officials with knowledge of the meeting. [Of course he will – he has no choice in the matter. – dancewater]


Rules of Engagement

By the time the Marines arrived in early 2004, nearly two years before the killings in Haditha, the war was out of hand. This was true not just in Anbar but all through central Iraq, where it was obvious that the crude tactics of the Army were failing, and playing into the insurgents' plans. Individual soldiers were brave, but the Army as an institution was averse to risk, and it was making a show of its fear by living on overprotected bases, running patrols only in armored vehicles, and overdoing its responses to the pinprick attacks by the insurgents—arresting far too many men, and answering rifle fire with tanks, rockets, artillery, and air strikes. It became so common to call down precision bombs against even individual suspected insurgents (for instance, someone spotted by drone, walking with a shovel along a road at night) that a new term was coined, based on the physical effects that could sometimes be observed on video. "Pink misting," some soldiers called it, and in their growing frustration they said it with glee.

Excessive force was employed not merely because the weapons were available but also because high technology had led Americans to expect low-casualty wars. Especially in the context of a conflict that had never been adequately explained, the U.S. military for political reasons could not afford any implication that it was squandering its soldiers' lives in Iraq. It is difficult to argue publicly that the military's caution was not a good thing. Strictly in gaming terms, however, there was a problem: by squandering innocent Iraqi lives instead, in order to save American soldiers, the Army in particular was spawning untold numbers of new enemies who would mount more frequent attacks against those same soldiers in the future. This was happening, and fast. The Army was locked into a self-defeating cycle by the very need to keep its casualties down. Meanwhile, the insurgent campaign was expanding in proportion to the number of noncombatants dishonored, brutalized, or killed. It was expanding in proportion to outrage. [And anyone, anyone at all, who expected something different from this type of conflict, occupation, and empire is a total fool. – dancewater]

Eight Marines Charged in Iraq Killings

With eight Marines charged in connection with the deaths of 24 Iraqi civilians, the Marine Corps sent a clear message to its officers: They will be held accountable for the actions of their subordinates. In the biggest U.S. criminal case involving civilian deaths to come out of the SEARCH Iraq war, four of the Marines — all enlisted men — were charged Thursday with unpremeditated murder. But the remaining four Marines in the case are officers, the highest ranking among them a lieutenant colonel. They were charged with dereliction of duty for failing to report or properly investigate the killings in the Iraqi town of Haditha last year. The case marks the largest number of U.S. officers to be charged in an alleged crime since the start of the Iraq war, said John Hutson, a former Navy judge advocate general. "The honorable thing is not to 'protect' your subordinates," said Hutson, who is now president of New Hampshire's Franklin Pierce Law Center. "The honorable thing is to look above that and realize they have a greater responsibility to the Marine Corps and military justice system."

No U.S. Government Help in Minister’s Escape

Ayham al-Samaraie fled a police station in the heavily fortified Green Zone in Baghdad with the help of a group of private security experts on Sunday, Iraqi officials said. Iraq's Public Integrity Commission, an anti-corruption panel, said the agents were "foreigners." "The U.S. government was not involved in the disappearance of former electricity minister Ayham al-Samaraie in any way," said Lou Fintor, a spokesman for the U.S. Embassy. "Iraqi officials are continuing to investigate Mr. al-Samaraie's disappearance, and we are vigorously supporting their efforts." In telephone interviews earlier this week with the Chicago Tribune and The New York Times, al-Samaraie said a "multinational" group helped him escape. He also sent an e-mail to the Chicago Sun-Times, saying, "Hi, I am OK and out of their reach."

The Builder Who Failed in Iraq

Until this year, Parsons Corp. was about as quiet as a $3 billion engineering and construction firm with 12,000 employees could be. That's the way the firm's chief executive for the past decade -- a soft-spoken, white-haired Army veteran named James F. McNulty -- liked it. But Iraq has changed everything. Parsons has been reproved in recent federal audits for completing just a small fraction of the 150 primary health clinics originally planned to be built in Iraq and for building a police academy so flawed that human waste rained from the ceilings. ……Parsons says it finished 20 clinics before being terminated from the contract, though the corps insists just seven are operational.


The Debate You Don't Hear A Word About in America

Al-Jazeera hosted a televised discussion recently following the windup of the Istanbul Conference (Dec 13 and 14), including Adnan al-Dulaimi (head of one of the biggest Sunni political parties), Harith al-Dhari (head of the Muslim Scholars Association) and others. It has posted a brief summary on its Aljazeeratalk.net site (flagged by Abu Aardvark on his website), and the summary goes like this: First of all, judging from the banners in the background, the recommended English version for the name of the group that organized this is "Global Anti-Agression Campaign", and the AlJazeera summary notes this was really the first-ever meeting bringing together representatives of the Sunni people of Iraqi with representatives of the Sunni populations of surrounding countries. And there was unanimous agreement on the concluding recommendations (see this prior post), but the there was also one major point of disagreement: Is the Iraqi conflict sectarian or is it political? Dulaimi is quoted as a proponent of the former view, as follows: He said (according to this summary): "[There is a] Shiite Safavid Persian Majousi threat originating in Iran and aiming to consume all of Iraq, and after that neighboring countries including Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, by way of reviving the dream of a new Persian empire." …..It is worth considering the nature of this debate, alongside the comparable "debate" in America, on whether the Iraqi situation is "civil war, yes or no". The trick here is that if you can pin the "civil war" label on Iraq (meaning essentially "sectarian conflict"), then in Dhari's terms, this would be seen as no longer a political struggle at all, but a religious war. America would supposedly become a non-combattant, supposedly turning into a humanitarian assistant and peacekeeper. And America's continued involvement would thus be justified. So while there are huge stakes for the Iraqis in correctly understanding what is going on, there are also stakes for Americans. Which is why I repeat: I am spooked by the fact that there is not a word about this conference, or the issues it raises, in any of the American media, or in any of the big, supposedly enlightening blogs either.

OPINION: Iraq’s About Politics, Not Sectarianism

A few weeks ago, the Washington Post reported that the administration was considering what some call an "80% solution" to solve the problems in SEARCH Iraq. In essence, the solution would be designed to work with the Shia Iraqis who make up 60% of the population and the Kurds who make up 20%. It would exclude the Iraqi Sunni Arabs that make up the remaining 20% of the population. However, this won't work. There are new, mixed Iraqi coalitions emerging, which makes the Iraqi political map more complicated and mixed than this solution provides for. The approach of the United States in dealing with Iraqis is, and has been, based on such sectarian and ethnic divisions. The Governing Council, created by Paul Bremer in July 2003, whose 25 members were chosen by the U.S. led coalition to represent their sects. This was the first time in Iraq's contemporary history where leaders of the country were selected based on them having been identified as members of a particular sectarian group. The Governing Council was a failure - at least in part because of the sectarian makeup and, as one member said of it, the Council's propensity to "sit in the council while the country is burning and argue over procedure.'' Furthermore, the U.S administration -- followed by the mainstream media -- did their best to portray the growing Iraqi-Iraqi conflict as a sectarian or religious one with roots that pre-dated the occupation even though many Iraqi analysts and politicians disagreed with that perception and believe the current conflict is based on political, not religious, motives. As new coalitions emerge inside the Iraqi government, it seems that the background of "sectarian conflict" put forth by the U.S. is collapsing completely. A number of Shia groups such as the Al-Sadr movement and the Al-Fadila party are working with Sunni, Kurdish and secular parties both within and outside the Iraqi government and are attempting to establish a national front that is against the occupation and is for unity in Iraq. While these pro-unity groups coalesce, the Bush administration is lending its support to another pro-occupation coalition that may include Al-Hakim of the Supreme Council of Islamic Revolution In Iraq (SCIRI), the two main Kurdish parties, and the Islamic party which is a Sunni party led by the Iraqi vice president, Tariq Al-Hashimi.

OPINION: Iraq And the Problem of Evil

It's not yet the last days in Iraq, but it might as well be. A recent poll shows that 71% of Americans oppose the way Pres. Bush is handling the war, and only 9% believe we will win. No such consensus was ever reached over Vietnam. Nixon was elected twice against opponents who would have ended the war sooner. A back-room agreement that could have been achieved with the North Vietnamese in 1969 was postponed for six bloody years while the Nixon administration finagled a way to save face. They were permitted this delay because the public had been long persuaded that we were fighting the evil of Communism. The Iraq war has been painfully protracted already, since Pres. Bush has petulantly refused to admit that any course is right except his own, for the same reason. Terrorists represent absolute evil. This indisputable point, it seems, covers any wrong committed by the U.S. in terms of casualties and human rights violations. If absolute evil looks so clear to us, why does the rest of the world disagree? Are we to assume that only America knows the truth? The reason we find ourselves so isolated and hated can be directly traced back to blinded moral certainty. The right wing promulgated the myth that Reagan brought down Communism by resisting "the evil empire" (no matter that the Soviet Union collapsed from its own internal corruption and decay), so now we get "the axis of evil," warring against enemy countries that can't be considered part of the civilized world. The rest of the world isn't buying into this right-wing rationale, and it's time that the American public woke up from the trance induced by fear.

….It's pretty obvious which choices the Bush administration has made and thus far has coaxed the American public to go along with it. The dirty little secret behind the Iraq war is that Bush, the religious right, and neoconservative policy wonks despise the Iraqis. We are saving a barbaric, benighted, godless people so far as they are concerned. This is no surprise given that the administration hardly lifted a finger to prevent anarchy after the 2003 invasion. There was no follow-up plan because nobody cared enough in human terms. The Iraqi people were pieces on a chess board. Iraq itself was simply a means to an end, which was to wipe out Islamic evil. And since Iraqis are Islamic, they are tarred with the same brush. This was a tainted rationale for "helping" a country we merely intended to use. As the mist clears from our eyes, more and more Americans will see how shamefully we have treated that country. [And I would say that it was obvious all along that the Cheney administration did not care what happened to the Iraqi people – from the comments ‘stuff happens’ to ‘we don’t do body counts’ and the near-total ignoring of the effects of the invasion on the Iraqi people themselves by our media and our government. And in light of the clear evidence that they don’t care one whit what happened to the Iraqi people, to believe that they want to bring them “freedom and democracy” takes a STUDIED stupidity and DEDICATION to blindness to reality. – dancewater]

OPINION: "I Don't Think We Westerners Care About Muslims"

Do we in fact really understand the extent of injustice in the Middle East? When I finished writing my new book, I realized how amazed I was that after the past 90 years of injustice, betrayal, slaughter, terror, torture, secret policemen and dictators, how restrained Muslims had been, I realized, towards the West, because I don't think we Westerners care about Muslims. I don’t think we care about Muslim Arabs. You only have to look at the reporting of Iraq. Every time an American or British soldier is killed, we know his name, his age, whether he was married, the names of his children. But 500,000-600,000 Iraqis, how many of their names have found their way onto our television programs, our radio shows, our newspapers? They are just numbers, and we don't even know the statistic. Do you remember the time when George Bush was pushed and pushed: what were the figures of the Iraqi dead? At that stage, it was less, and he said, “Oh, 30,000. More or less.” Can you imagine if he had been asked how many Americans had died, and he said "3,000, more or less"? Those words, “more or less,” somehow said it all. I said earlier on today -- and I’m going to give you the example this time -- that actually, I don't think the Iraq report is going to have any effect, but I think what is meant to have an effect in the United States is the gradual drip-drip idea that the Iraqis are unworthy of us Westerners. This is why and this is how we’re going to get out. Let me give you an example of what I mean. Here is Ralph Peters, former American Army officer, writing in USA Today. I’m not advising you to read USA Today, but I sometimes get trapped into airplanes for hours and hours and hours coming to talk to people like you. So, here is Ralph Peters writing -- remember this is quoting a mainstream newspaper. He was originally for the invasion. Obviously he needs a get-out clause now. "Our extensive investment in Iraqi law enforcement only produced death squads. Government ministers loot the country to strengthen their own factions. In reality, only a military coup could hold this artificial country together." You see? We’re already planning. I remember back even in 2003, Daniel Pipes had a long article in which he said that what Iraq needed -- and please do not laugh at this -- what Iraq needed was a democratically minded strongman. Think about that for a moment. But let me carry on with Ralph Peters. “For all our errors, we did give the Iraqis a unique chance to build a rule-of-law democracy. They preferred to indulge in old hatreds, confessional violence, ethnic bigotry and a culture of corruption.” You see what we’re doing. We’re denigrating and bestializing the people we came allegedly to save. It's their tragedy, not ours, he writes. Iraq -- listen to this, “Iraq was the Arab world’s last chance to board the train to modernity, to give the region a future, not just a bitter past. But now, the violence staining Baghdad’s streets with gore isn’t only a symptom of the Iraqi government’s incompetence,” he says. “It is symbolic of the comprehensive inability of the Arab world to progress in any sphere of organized human endeavor.” Yes, that's what I thought when I read it. No letters to the editor about this. “If they continue to revel” -- revel, get that word -- “to revel in fratricidal slaughter, we must leave.” You see, the ground is being prepared.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “The brains of at least one of the little girls were shoved through fractures in her skull by the impact of a bullet. This is a standard effect of high-velocity rounds fired into the closed cavity of a head. Later that day, when a replacement Marine came in to carry out the bodies, the girl's brains would fall onto his boot.” - William Langewiesche

PEACE ACTION: Progressive Democrats of America has been working and organizing support for HR 4232 since Rep. McGovern introduced this important bill in November of 2005. Rep. McGovern spoke at the PDA "Get out of Iraq" Town Hall meeting the day after he introduced HR 4232. We continue to work for its passage as a top legislative priority. We urge you to continue organizing support for HR 4232 and to ask your Congressional member to co-sponsor the bill. PDA 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. Please sign the online petition at www.pdamerica.org and send it to your friends.


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