Tuesday, February 28, 2006
Why do these reporters want to see a civil war so badly in Iraq? It looks to me that they hate Bush so much that they will stop at nothing to prove that he’s wrong about Iraq and they are right. The reporters have sunk so low as to take this cheap angle of insisting that an all out civil war has been underway for three years. When will they wake up and realize that this is not a White House scandal. This is about Iraq and its people.24 Steps To Liberty is amazed by a picture he posts from his TV:
Iraqi clergymen, Shiites and Sunnis, have met in a mosque in Baghdad and decided to contribute to ending the crisis… What was amazing about it is the unity they showed on TV. In the picture, Kubaisi [spokesman of the Sunni Association of Muslim Scholars] is shown leading the prayers and all the clergies behind him are Shiites from Sadr trend. This is the first time I see this. I’ve never seen a Sunni clergyman leading Shiite prayers…. This is a huge encouragement to Iraqis and a huge defeat also for those who predicted a wide civil war in Iraq.- Salam Adil is an Iraqi blogger who lives in the United Kingdom COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS "They're going to Baghdad next": The biggest difference in Baghdad from two or three years ago is the nearly total absence of U.S. troops on its streets. In a major gamble, the city largely has been turned over to Iraqi police and army troops. If those Iraqi forces falter, leaving a vacuum, U.S. pressure elsewhere could push the insurgency into the capital. "I think they're going to go to Baghdad next," worried [Maj. Daniel] Morgan [a battalion operations officer]. But other U.S. officers argued that such a move is unlikely because it is more difficult to intimidate a city of 5 million than a rural village. The Middle East as a chessboard: For the most radical-right neoconservative Jacobins amongst the Bush-Cheney team, the possibility that Iraq might fall apart wasn't even alarming: they just didn't care, and in their obsessive zeal to overthrow Saddam Hussein they were more than willing to take the risk. David Wurmser, who migrated from the Israeli-connected Washington Institute on Near East Policy to the American Enterprise Institute to the Pentagon's Office of Special Plans to John Bolton's arms control shop at the State Department to Dick Cheney's shadow National Security Council in the Office of the Vice President from 2001 to 2006, wrote during the 1990s that Iraq after Saddam was likely to descend into violent tribal, ethnic and sectarian war. In a paper for an Israeli think tank, the same think tank for which Wurmser, Richard Perle and Douglas Feith prepared the famous "Clean Break" paper in 1996, Wurmser wrote in 1997 : "The residual unity of the nation is an illusion projected by the extreme repression of the state." After Saddam, Iraq would "be ripped apart by the politics of warlords, tribes, clans, sects, and key families," he wrote. "Underneath facades of unity enforced by state repression, [Iraq's] politics is defined primarily by tribalism, sectarianism, and gang/clan-like competition." Yet Wurmser explicitly urged the United States and Israel to "expedite" such a collapse. "The issue here is whether the West and Israel can construct a strategy for limiting and expediting the chaotic collapse that will ensue in order to move on to the task of creating a better circumstance." Such black neoconservative fantasies-which view the Middle East as a chessboard on which they can move the pieces at will-have now come home to roost. For the many hundreds of thousands who might die in an Iraqi civil war, the consequences are all too real. Like the Sarajevo assassination that precipitated World War I, the attack on the mosque may trigger a war, but it won't be the cause. The cause is far more deep-rooted, embedded in the chaos and bitterness that followed the U.S. invasion of Iraq and America's deliberate efforts to stress sectarian differences in creating the Iraqi Governing Council and subsequent government institutions. If the current crisis doesn't spark a civil war, be patient. The next one will. It's all about the oil: Iraq cannot be physically lost - territorially conceded - to the Iraqis without monumentally dire consequences to American Empire. If abandoned, Iraq's significant share of "the greatest material prize in history" can only be left to the control of others, an outcome that is unacceptable to American policymakers for (again) "very good [imperial] reason[s]." The fully and ugly truth is that the self-proclaimed universal state and global super-power Uncle Sam has no intention of granting management of the world's most "stupendous source of strategic power" and "critical" global political-economic "leverage" to the people who happen to live on its merely national, not-so sovereign topsoil. At this precarious and potentially late point in the history of its global dominance, the U.S. can be expected to hold on to that control with an impressive imperial death grip. It will likely exhibit a fierce determination to defend that grasp through even the most terrible conflicts and violence abroad and at home, where more and bigger 9/11's seem all-too likely in coming years. The risks of not holding on are simply too great, as far as those structurally super-empowered U.S. actors who crave planetary (and indeed inter-planetary) supremacy (the real objective of U.S. foreign policy) are concerned. Withdrawal from Iraq is a most unlikely thing for Uncle Sam to seriously contemplate in light of his tendency to value hegemony over survival, consistent with deadly choices made by concentrated power through the long, reckless, and criminal record of empire. BEYOND IRAQ Here we go again!: Now it's Iran. Bush, again mumbling something about Iran's being a threat to the world, the same crap as about Iraq. But this time, the west European countries (the "traditional" allies) are at it, too. Isn't it strange how all these countries, the USA, Israel, England, France, Germany...with all their weapons of mass destruction, feel so easily threatened? Why shouldn't Iran be a nuclear power? The U.S, England, France, Israel, Russia, China, Japan (yes! Japan, too), India and Pakistan are. These idiots are the cause of nuclear proliferation. If they are so concerned about the safety of the world they should lead by example and dismantle their nuclear weapons. When the U.S, Israel, England France and Germany talk about the safety of the world being their main reason to object to Iran's possessing nuclear technology, what world are they talking about? They are the only ones (as always) who feel threatened. I don't hear about Thailand, Bhutan, Bulgaria, Latvia, Vietnam, Zambia... feeling threatened. I mean, really, what world is in question? The world comprised of the U.S, England, Israel, France, Canada, Germany, Italy, and Japan? The O.E.C.D world? The world made up of the G7 the E.U the IMF, World Bank, WTO, N.A.T.O, the UN Security Council, NAFTA, Wall Street, OIL interests, cheap OIL. Is this the world we hear so much about? Because, if this is the world the West is worried about, then it is a world of SHAME that is in question, a world of deceit, greed, wars, theft, colonialism, capitalism, imperialism... An opulent white world born out of mainly colored peoples slave work, sweat and blood and their natural resources. If this is the world that is in danger then it might as well be done away with! We hear again words of shame, words like "the UN Security Council", "UNSC resolutions", "International community"... I thought all this didn't exist anymore. I thought the UN was finally dead, the coup de grâce being the (another) illegal US-UK-led war against the Iraqi people in order to rob them of their OIL. But let's face it, the UN was never very much alive. Actually, there never was a UN. All there was was the(UN) Security Council, a band of criminals bent on tearing the natural resources of the world at any cost. Although I am far from being a fan of the ruling Mullahs in Teheran, I still remember the Shah, Reza Pahlavi, a friend of the West, which means "the International Community" and oppressor of the Iranian people, a vicious dictator who was propped up and kept in power by the West, robbed his people blind and made himself and the West even richer and who eventually gave birth to the Mullahs. So, I urge Iran not to put its fate into the hands of "the International Community". When you hear "International Community" on the news, what countries pop up in your mind? Albania, Burkina Faso, Burundi...? Of course not! The countries that pop up in our mind are usually the US and whoever follows (pretty much the same faithful dogs : Israel, England, France, Germany, Italy, Japan...) or G7, EU, NATO, W.B., IMF, WTO... it's always the same gangsters anyway. This "International Community" that is so worried about the safety of the "world", that claims the higher moral ground, a higher sense of justice and is so vociferous in its proclamations of being the defender of democratic values, human rights and protector of the "civilized" world, this "International Community" is the same one that has betrayed millions of people around the real world in need of human rights, democracy, justice... Millions have been killed, tortured, oppressed, persecuted, exploited...as a result of the criminal policies of our angelic "International Community", because what mattered and still matters the most today is the economic interests of this "International Community" of SHAME! When the "International Community" threatens Iran to force it to give up its nuclear program in order to make the world safer, I wonder if its thoughts of safety include the Chechens, the Palestinians, the Iraqis, the Sudanese in Darfur, the campesinos and the Indios being massacred in Colombia by death squads backed by the cheap - natural resources - hungry U.S. and its west European vassals and Japan (read: "International Community") ...or the 30 000 daily deaths caused by hunger due to economic policies of the "International Community"...Will all these peoples and many other oppressed ones feel safer once they find out that Iran has agreed to get rid of its nuclear technology? Who or What will really be safer? The flow of cheap OIL to the West and Japan (the "International Community")? In light of this record of atrocities Iran should really hurry and develop whatever it needs to protect itself from us, I mean, "the International Community". Drug smuggling made easy: Profits from the heroin trade are astronomical. Those of us who work for a living just to keep on top of paying the rent can't even grasp the amount of money involved. It's a lot. In 2004, Prof. Michel Chossudovsky of the University of Ottawa stated that, "The Afghan trade in opiates constitutes a large share of the worldwide annual turnover of narcotics, which was estimated by the United Nations to be of the order of $400-500 billion." Prof. Chossudovsky goes on to state that, aside from oil production and weapons sales, the sale of opiates is the largest producer of revenue in the world. And everybody who listens to KPFA or even reads the New York Times knows that 85% of the world's heroin supply now comes from American-occupied Afghanistan. Just Google "Heroin/Afghanistan" and see what sh! ows up. This is NOT a closely-guarded secret. Okay. We now understand that the heroin drug trade represents big bucks. And we also understand that most of the world's heroin supply is coming from American-occupied Afghanistan. But what we don't understand is, with all those drug-sniffing dogs poking around American airports, how can all these billions of dollars worth of heroin sneak their way into our country? Through the ports! And now George W. Bush is insisting that our ports are to be handed over to his friends. Think about it. Now George and his friends are now in control of the ports where heroin enters America. How convenient for them. Now they have a monopoly on the production AND the distribution of drugs. This is a perfect example of the free enterprise system at work. Only it's only free for Bush and his friends. We who work for a living -- and our drug-vulnerable children -- still have to pay. PS: Am I saying that the Bush group will do anything to make a profit, even sell hard drugs to children? Yeah, duh. Never forget that the Bush bureaucracy's motto is, "We will do ANYTHING for cash." These guys did market research. They found out what sells best: Guns, drugs and oil. These are their products. And they have just been voted "Salesmen of the Year". You gotta admit that the Bush bureaucracy's sales campaign is brilliant. Their "divide and conquer" jingle is being hummed on every street corner in the world. These super-entrepreneurs have turned red state Americans and blue state Americans against each other. They've turned the American middle-class against the poor. They've turned Jews, Christians and Muslims against each other. They've even turned Muslims against Muslims. And in the resultant confusion, they make trillions of dollars in profit on drugs, guns and oil. Drugs, guns and oil. Is that what we want our troops to die for? Is that what "Christians" value most? Are "Muslims" willing to soil the words of the Prophet (PBUH) by killing non-Muslims who have done them no harm? And by killing other Muslims? Are the CEOs of Bush Incorporated creating a whole world of avid consumers, zealously killing for drugs, guns and oil? Is this what the human race has come to? We are being used. American Gulag: I represent six Kuwaiti prisoners, each of whom has now spent nearly four years at Guantanamo. It took me 2 1/2 years to gain access to my clients, but now I have visited the prison camp 11 times in the last 14 months. What I have witnessed is a cruel and eerie netherworld of concrete and barbed wire that has become a daily nightmare for the nearly 500 people swept up after 9/11 who have been imprisoned without charges or trial for more than four years. It is truly our American gulag. On my most recent trip three weeks ago, after signing a log sheet and submitting our bags to a search, my colleagues and I were taken through two tall, steel-mesh gates into the interior of the prison camp. We interviewed our clients in Camp Echo, one of several camps where prisoners are interrogated. We entered a room about 13 feet square and divided in half by a wall of thick steel mesh. On one side was a table where the prisoner would sit for our interviews, his feet shackled to a steel eyelet cemented to the floor. On the other side were a shower and a cell just like the ones in which prisoners are ordinarily confined. In their cells, prisoners sleep on a metal shelf against the wall, which is flanked by a toilet and sink. They are allowed a thin foam mattress and a gray cotton blanket. The Pentagon's files on the six Kuwaiti prisoners we represent reveal that none was captured on a battlefield or accused of engaging in hostilities against the U.S. The prisoners claim that they were taken into custody by Pakistani and Afghan warlords and turned over to the U.S. for bounties ranging from $5,000 to $25,000 - a claim confirmed by American news reports. We have obtained copies of bounty leaflets distributed in Afghanistan and Pakistan by U.S. forces promising rewards - "enough to feed your family for life" - for any "Arab terrorist" handed over. The files include only the flimsiest accusations or hearsay that would never stand up in court. The file on one prisoner indicated that he had been seen talking to two suspected Al Qaeda members on the same day - at places thousands of miles apart. The primary "evidence" against another was that he was captured wearing a particular Casio watch, "which many terrorists wear." Oddly, the same watch was being worn by the U.S. military chaplain, a Muslim, at Guantanamo. When I first met my clients, they had not seen or spoken with their families for more than three years, and they had been questioned hundreds of times. Several were suspicious of us; they told me that they had been interrogated by people who claimed to be their lawyers but who turned out not to be. So we had DVDs made, on which members of their families told them who we were and that we could be trusted. Several cried on seeing their families for the first time in years. One had become a father since he was detained and had never before seen his child. One noticed his father was not on the DVD, and we had to tell him that his father had died. Most prisoners are kept apart, although some can communicate through the steel mesh or concrete walls that separate their cells. They exercise alone, some only at night. They had not seen sunlight for months - an especially cruel tactic in a tropical climate. One prisoner told me, "I have spent almost every moment of the last three years, and eaten every meal, here in this small cell which is my bathroom." Other than the Koran, prisoners had nothing to read. As a result of our protests, some have been given books. Every prisoner I've interviewed claims to have been badly beaten and subjected to treatment that only could be called torture, by Americans, from the first day of U.S. captivity in Pakistan and Afghanistan. They said they were hung by their wrists and beaten, hung by their ankles and beaten, stripped naked and paraded before female guards, and given electric shocks. At least three claimed to have been beaten again upon arrival in Guantanamo. One of my clients, Fayiz Al Kandari, now 27, said his ribs were broken during an interrogation in Pakistan. I felt the indentation in his ribs. "Beat me all you want, just give me a hearing," he said he told his interrogators. Another prisoner, Fawzi Al Odah, 25, is a teacher who left Kuwait City in 2001 to work in Afghan, then Pakistani, schools. After 9/11, he and four other Kuwaitis were invited to dinner by a Pakistani tribal leader and then sold by him into captivity, according to their accounts, later confirmed by Newsweek and ABC News. On Aug. 8, 2005, Fawzi, in desperation, went on a hunger strike to assert his innocence and to protest being imprisoned for four years without charges. He said he wanted to defend himself against any accusations, or die. He told me that he had heard U.S. congressmen had returned from tours of Guantanamo saying that it was a Caribbean resort with great food. "If I eat, I condone these lies," Fawzi said. At the end of August, after Fawzi fainted in his cell, guards began to force-feed him through tubes pushed up his nose into his stomach. At first, the tubes were inserted for each feeding and then removed afterward. Fawzi told me that this was very painful. When he tried to pull out the tubes, he was strapped onto a stretcher with his head held by many guards, which was even more painful. By mid-September, the force-feeding had been made more humane. Feeding tubes were left in and the formula pumped in. Still, when I saw Fawzi, a tube was protruding from his nose. Drops of blood dripped as we talked. He dabbed at it with a napkin. We asked for Fawzi's medical records so we could monitor his weight and his health. Denied. The only way we could learn how Fawzi was doing was to visit him each month, which we did. When we visited him in November, his weight had dropped from 140 pounds to 98 pounds. Specialists in enteral feeding advised us that the continued drop in his weight and other signs indicated that the feeding was being conducted incompetently. We asked that Fawzi be transferred to a hospital. Again, the government refused. When we saw Fawzi in December, his weight had stabilized at about 110 pounds. The formulas had been changed, and he was being force-fed by medical personnel rather than by guards. When I met with Fawzi three weeks ago, the tubes were out of his nose. I told him I was thankful that after five months he had ended his hunger strike. He looked at me sadly and said, "They tortured us to make us stop." At first, he said, they punished him by taking away his "comfort items" one by one: his blanket, his towel, his long pants, his shoes. They then put him in isolation. When this failed to persuade him to end the hunger strike, he said, an officer came to him Jan. 9 to announce that any detainee who refused to eat would be forced onto "the chair." The officer warned that recalcitrant prisoners would be strapped into a steel device that pulled their heads back, and that the tubes would be forced in and wrenched out for each feeding. "We're going to break this hunger strike," the officer told him. Fawzi said he heard the prisoner next door screaming and warning him to give up the strike. He decided that he wasn't "on strike to be tortured." He said those who continued on the hunger strike not only were strapped in "the chair" but were left there for hours; he believes that guards fed them not only nutrients but also diuretics and laxatives to force them to defecate and urinate on themselves in the chair. After less than two weeks of this treatment, the strike was over. Of the more than 80 strikers at the end of December, Fawzi said only three or four were holding out. As a result of the strike, however, prisoners are now getting a meager ration of bottled water. Fawzi said eating was the only aspect of life at Guantanamo he could control; forcing him to end the hunger strike stripped him of his last means of protesting his unjust imprisonment. Now, he said, he feels "hopeless." The government continues to deny that there is any injustice at Guantanamo. But I know the truth. On being "good Americans" in a time of torture: As a teenager, I could not understand how the German people could claim to be "good Germans," unaware of what the Nazis had done in their names. I could understand if these ordinary German people had said they had known and been horrified, but were afraid to speak up. But they would then be "weak, fearful or indifferent Germans," not "good Germans." The idea that only the Nazis were responsible for the Holocaust made no sense. Whatever the Germans as a whole know about the concentration camps, they certainly knew about the systematic mistreatment of Jews that had occurred before their very eyes, and from which so many had profited. And if they were not really "good Germans," I wondered, what should or could they have done, given the reality of Nazi tyranny? The issue became personal for me in the summer of 1961, when I hitchhiked through Europe with a lovely German woman named Inge. Still in love after an idyllic summer, we visited Hyde Park the day before I was to return home. A bearded, middle-aged concentration-camp survivor was angrily attacking the German people for standing by and letting the Jews be slaughtered. I was moved beyond words. Suddenly the woman I loved began yelling angrily at him, screaming that the Germans did not know, that her father had just been a soldier and was not responsible for the Holocaust. Our relationship essentially ended then and there. I understood intellectually that she was just defending her father and was neither an anti-Semite nor an evil person. But there it was. She on one side. The survivor on the other. A gulf between them. Whatever my head said, my heart knew that the world is divided into evil-doers, their victims, and those like Inge who do not want to know. And that I had no choice but to stand with the victims. I never dreamed at that moment that I, as an American, would a few years later face this same question as my government committed mass murder of civilians in Indochina in violation of the Nuremberg Principles. Or that more than four decades later I would still be struggling with what it means to be a "good American" after learning that a group of U.S. leaders has unilaterally seized the right to torture anyone it chooses without evidence and in violation of international law, human decency, and the sacrifice of the many Americans who have died fighting autocracy and totalitarianism. (…) We are in some ways more morally compromised than the "good Germans" of the 1930s. To begin with, we are far less able to claim we do not know. Our daily newspapers regularly report new revelations of Bush Administration torture. Second, by opposing torture, we face far less severe threats than did Germans who tried to help Jews. Even the strong possibility that we could become targets of illegal spying by this Administration for protesting its torture is far less frightening than the death or imprisonment faced by Germans who helped Jews. And, third, unlike the Germans, we cannot reasonably claim that it is futile to oppose our leaders. Creating or joining an organized effort to prevent torture can succeed because we possess one great advantage that human rights advocates in Germany did not have: the public is with us. (…) Whatever a movement to abolish torture will achieve for society, it is clear what participating in it means for each of us as individuals. It means above all that our children and grandchildren will not remember us with shame, that they will not one day have to try to justify to our victims our failure to oppose the torture being conducted in our names, and that the term "Good American" will mean just that, and not an excuse for fear or indifference, like the idea of the "Good German." When we fight to end torture we not only fight for human decency, international law, democracy, and freedom. We fight for ourselves.
Monday, February 27, 2006
Sunday, February 26, 2006
MADAEN - One police officer was killed and two were wounded when their patrol was hit by two roadside bombs near Madaen, the Interior Ministry said. BASRA - Explosives packed into the washing area of a Shi'ite mosque in the southern city of Basra blew up on Sunday, causing minor injuries, police and witnesses said. Police said they suspected three men wounded in the blast had been planting the bomb when it exploded prematurely. RAMADI - A Baathist officer in the previous Iraqi regime was killed in Ramadi, west of Baghdad, police said. FALLUJA - Three bodies with their hands bound and bullet wounds to the head were found near Falluja, west of Baghdad, police said. The killings took place some three days ago, according to a medical source. **BAGHDAD - A mortar round landed near a Shi'ite mosque in eastern Baghdad, police said. No casualties were reported. Juan Cole, who can read Arabic, which I cannot, relays some additional incidents from Arabic language sources. He says that according to Karbala news,
Guerrillas blew up a Shiite shrine in Bashir, south of Tuz Khurmato. This Turkmen region near Kirkuk is largely Shiite. It was not clear how much damage was done to the shrine. The people of the region formed units to guard the shrines and places of worship from any further destruction. The same source says that Iraqi officers announced that 20 guerrillas attacked the shrine of Salman the Persian. They killed the guards and placed explosives at the tomb, then blew it up, destroying it. Salman al-Farisi was a companion of the Prophet Muhammad who advised the early Muslims on military tactics, and is said to have introduced the technique of digging a trench to trip charging enemy cavalry. Because he was from Iran, and because the Iranians largely became Shiites after 1500, Salman is especially beloved by Shiites. The desecration took place 24 hours after 48 Shiites were killed in the same region. They had been on their way to a peaceful demonstration against Wednesday's destruction of the Askariyah Shrine at Samarra.Six killed, 38 injured in mortar attack in southern Baghdad. Gunmen fire on soccer game in Baquba, two dead. POINT OF VIEW FROM THE GROUND Christopher Allbritton was very afraid on Saturday night:
It’s clear the authorities, at least the ones who appear on television with titles such as “Defense Minister” and “U.S. Ambassador,” have no clue what to do. Their strategy seems mainly to consist of betting that Moqtada al-Sadr and the hardline Sunni group, the Muslim Clerics Association, really will make nice. Four sheikhs associated with al-Sadr and MCA spokesman Abdel Salam al-Qubasi publicly pledged a “pact of honor” and promised to end attacks. That’s nice. While these men were on television playing political footsie, we had reports that their followers were still trying to kill each other. There’s a real history here of saying one thing and doing another. We’ll have to see. More balderdash from the Americans, of course. U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad gave another press conference tonight in which he said the Iraqi “government” was holding lots of meetings, and that was good. Also, the Iraqi “government” has decided to ban people “who should not have arms” from patrolling the streets. “I think the government decision to ban that was a good thing,” he said. Well, sure. But in my experience, men with guns in their fists and rage in their hearts don’t wait around for their weapons license to come through when there’s killing to be done. And who is going to enforce this ban? The police? Badr Brigade members control the police of most of the southern cities. An entire Public Order Battalion in Baghdad is composed of Mahdi Army. In Anbar, most of the Army units are Shi’ites and Kurds. What happens when Mahdi militiamen run into a squad of their brothers in the police? Do you think they’ll turn in their guns? Or what happens in Anbar, where many of the police forces in the cities are now local (Sunni Arab) guys? Do you think they’ll confiscate the AK-47s of their mujahideen brothers off to fight the Shi’ite members of the 1st Division down the road?Today, he's decided to hope for the best:
Readers of this blog in recent days know that I’ve been very alarmed about the violence going around me. I don’t live in the Green Zone, so I’m not insulated from it as much as they are, and I don’t give much heed to diplomatic happy talk. But so far today, it seems quiet around Iraq and politicians seem — for the moment, at least — to have convinced their followers to stand down. The Sunnis have made noises about coming back to the negotiating table and that’s a good sign. There also was no evidence of any conflict between various parts of the security forces, which was a chief concern of mine, considering how deeply embedded the various militias are to the police, Army, etc. But still… The curfew is due to lift tomorrow morning at 6 a.m. Baghdad and its surrounding towns are still piano-wire tense. The potential for mayhem remains high. That said, I hope we won’t see a resumption of violence tomorrow, despite the carnage of the past four days.NEWS ARTICLES AND ANALYSIS Agence France Press has some tidbits.
al-Sadr, returning from Iran, says "'I call on all Iraqis, Sunnis and Shiites, Muslims and non-Muslims, to take part in a demonstration of unity in Baghdad to call for the withdrawal of the forces of occupation, even if this has to take place over time,' he told supporters. 'Sunnis and Shiites must back each other and help each other because there is no difference between a Sunni and a Shiite. Iraqis must avoid division and unite in the face of the Crusaders," he said, speaking of US-led coalition forces.'"Also, contrary to indications from other sources, Khalilzad says U.S. forces are stepping up their activity:
"In the last 24 hours, we are conducting between 270 and 300 (patrols) in that range," US ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad said in a conference call Saturday, up from 60 a few nights back. "We are getting a lot of requests for more and our military leaders are looking at those requests." He said however that the overall situation was improving.However, Britain's former ambassador to Iraq appears to disagree with the optimism.
Iraq is slipping into a state of low-level civil war, Britain's former ambassador to the country said Sunday. Sir Jeremy Greenstock, who was London's senior representative in Baghdad until 2004, said the conflict is increasingly pitting the country's rival ethnic and religious groups against each other. The sectarian fighting, he added, bore a resemblance to ethnic cleansing in some parts of the country. "One could almost call it a low-level civil war already," Greenstock told British television channel ITV1's Jonathan Dimbleby program. He said that though he didn't believe a "classic civil war" would follow, he feared that local communities will look increasingly to militias for protection, ignoring central authorities in the process.No news on kidnapped journalist Jill Carol, although today is the deadline given by her captors to kill her if their demands are not met. (Note that although they initially demanded that all Iraqi women in U.S. custody be freed, they have subsequently made other demands which have not been made public.) Talabani calls for emergency meeting of various sectarian leaders to defuse violence. This story from KUNA is quite vague about what Talabani has in mind. This may be a reference to the meeting last night with government and party leaders, and Khalilzad. Not a major deal. Sure, this will fix everything. George the Conqueror calls Iraqi leaders, tells them to work together.
Robert Reid, AP: In an unusual round of telephone diplomacy, President Bush spoke with seven leaders of Shi'ite, Sunni Arab, and Kurdish political parties in a bid to defuse the sectarian crisis unleashed by the bombing of the Askariya shrine in Samarra on Wednesday. Bush ''encouraged them to continue to work together to thwart the efforts of the perpetrators of the violence to sow discord among Iraq's communities," said Frederick Jones, a spokesman for the White House's National Security Council. A second straight day of curfew in Baghdad and three surrounding provinces kept the city relatively calm, raising hopes the worst of the crisis was past. Authorities lifted the curfew in the areas outside Baghdad but decreed an all-day vehicle ban today for the capital and its suburbs. Still, the violence continued. . . .The Globe's Thanassis Cambanis has a good overview. (Free registration may be required.) He mentions a couple of points I haven't seen elsewhere. in particular efforts to minimize the situation by some officials.:
Not since the 13th century, when Mongols sacked Baghdad, have Iraq's Sunnis faced such an assault on their community and houses of worship, Imam Ahmed Hassan al-Samaraei told worshippers at the Abu Hanifa mosque. ''These events serve only the enemies of Islam, Iraq, and the people of Iraq," said Samaraei. ''The Iraqi people should not be dragged into this sectarian war." Since Wednesday, when the golden dome of the Samarra shrine was blasted into a pile of rubble, hundreds of retaliatory attacks have been reported. Sunni groups assert that dozens of members and supporters have been murdered and that hundreds of mosques have been attacked. . . . Both Iraqi government and US officials dispute those reports. The spokesman for the US military in Iraq, Major General Rick Lynch, said yesterday that US forces investigated at least 25 reports of mosque attacks that proved false. and that since Wednesday only 22 mosques had been attacked. According to US military figures, 119 civilians were killed since Wednesday. The Iraqi government and Sunni groups put the number of deaths at more than 200. ''There have been pockets of violence, but we don't see that as a precursor to civil war," Lynch said. Interior Minister Bayan Jabr -- considered by Sunnis to be the power behind one of the most feared Shi'ite militias, the Badr Corps of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq -- said the government would arrest member of the news media and others who ''incite sectarianism" and spread false information about attacks. Still, over the television stations, in the mosques and political party offices, Shi'ite leaders repeated reports of Sunni terrorists killing Shi'ites, while Sunni leaders tallied a constantly growing number of retribution attacks against Sunnis, including death squad murders and mosque takeovers. Even the US military and Iraqi Army have reported instances of death-squad killings, but the extent of the phenomenon is not known.According to the Gulf Times, Ayatollah Sistani has called for the Iraqi tribes to raise militias to protect the shrines.
NAJAF, Iraq: Shia spiritual leader Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani called yesterday for Iraq’s powerful tribes to be deployed to protect the country’s holy places after three attacks on Shia shrines in four days, his office said. “Ayatollah Sistani, who received a tribal delegation from Kufa, asked that the Iraqi tribes reclaim their role of protecting the shrines,” said an official in Sistani’s office in the Shia clerical centre of Najaf. “After the crimes against the places of worship, including the blowing up of the mausoleum in Samarra and the attacks against the tombs of Salman al-Farsi and Imam Ali bin Mussa al-Rida, the tribes must take a stand and claim a role in the protection of these sites,” Sistani was quoted as saying.This does not bode well for the prospects of secular government in Iraq, obviously UN's former Human Rights Chief tells The Independent that hundreds of Iraqis are tortured to death every month by Interior Ministry death squads COMMENTARY AND OPINION Robert Fisk: As torture in iraq was being exposed, Rumsfeld grovelled before Saddam. Excerpt:
Everyone in the Middle East rewrites history, but never before have we had a US administration so wilfully, dishonestly and ruthlessly reinterpreting tragedy as success, defeat as victory, death as life - helped, I have to add, by the compliant American press. I’m reminded not so much of Vietnam as of the British and French commanders of the First World War who repeatedly lied about military victory over the Kaiser as they pushed hundreds of thousands of their men through the butchers’ shops of the Somme, Verdun and Gallipoli. The only difference now is that we are pushing hundreds of thousands of Arabs though the butchers’ shops - and don’t even care. . . As Bouthaina Shaaban, one of the brightest of Syria’s not always very bright team of government ministers, noted: “What is the nature of the kind of Middle East sought by the United States? Should Middle East states adapt themselves to that nature, designed oceans away?” As Maureen Dowd, the best and only really worthwhile columnist on the boring New York Times, observed this month, Bush “believes in self-determination only if he’s doing the determining … The Bushies are more obsessed with snooping on Americans than fathoming how other cultures think and react.” And conniving with rogue regimes, too, Dowd might have added. . . . Rumsfeld’s latest pronouncements have included a defence of the Pentagon’s system of buying favourable news stories in Iraq with bribes - “non-traditional means to provide accurate information” was his fantasy description of this latest attempt to obscure the collapse of the American regime in Baghdad - and an attack on our reporting of the Abu Ghraib tortures. “Consider for a moment the vast quantity of column inches and hours of television devoted to the detainee abuse [sic] at Abu Ghraib. Compare that to the volume of coverage and condemnation associated with, say, the discovery of Saddam Hussein’s mass graves, which were filled with hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis.” Let’s expose this whopping lie. We were exposing Saddam’s vile regime, especially his use of gas, as long ago as 1983. I was refused a visa to Iraq by Saddam’s satraps for exposing their vile tortures at - Abu Ghraib. And what was Donald Rumsfeld doing? Visiting Baghdad, grovelling before Saddam, to whom he did not mention the murders and mass graves, which he knew about, and pleading with the Beast of Baghdad to reopen the US embassy in Iraq. . . .Martin Chulov, The Australian: The gates of hell are open. Excerpt
Since at least March 2005, a secret campaign has been fought in communities that co-existed for more than 30 years under the iron fist of Saddam Hussein. Sectarian killings have been commonplace - a dozen Shia Muslims one day, about as many Sunnis the next. Just as had happened across the global ethnic killing fields of the past three decades; Cambodia, Bosnia, Rwanda, Lebanon and Kosovo, the bodies were strewn where they fell, their homes and villages seized by those who slayed them. When the dictator Saddam strode the land, the Sunni minority walked with him, enjoying power and spoils that far outweighed their numbers. The Shias of Iraq, by far the largest ethnic group, mostly stayed silent, waiting for their turn to wield the levers of power - which was finally delivered to them in December. . . Jordanian regional analyst Labib Qamhawi says the beleaguered country is on a precipice. "I would say the threat of civil war is very, very imminent now," he says. "Unless the religious leaders and the political leaders on all sides join forces in preventing this possibility, we might see ourselves in the middle of a vicious civil war in a country that lacks effective central power. "This is a recipe for disaster because a large country like Iraq cut into pieces and partitions on various grounds [will not work]. The Iraqis must now gather forces and form a government of national unity that would prevail in the country, that would act as central government. The failure [to do so] is fusing various types of tension, whether religious or ethnic. The Sunnis must be rehabilitated within the Iraqi political system." The fledgling Iraqi democracy is nowhere near robust enough to see off the threat from mavericks such as Zarqawi, or even the Shia extremists certain to take the battle to him. Even in the eyes of Iraq's Sunni Arab neighbours, Saddam was an undisputed tyrant - but he was a strongman. Just as the former Yugoslavia was bound together by the iron rule of Tito, Saddam was his nation's glue. Once Tito was gone, Yugoslavia fell apart - with Croats, Serbs and Bosnians going their separate ways. History is in the process of repeating in Iraq.Note: this is a fairly standard analysis, some may question its premises LOCAL NEWS Clatskanie, Washington soldier still struggling to recover two years after nearly dying in bombing Pocatello, Idaho Marine returns home to recover from severe injuries. Pineville, Missouri soldier killed on Friday along with Staff Sgt. from Salt Lake City who leaves widow and four children, and two othe soldiers. The "Reverend" Fred Phelps and his fellow sociopaths show up at the funeral of Army 1st Lt. Garrison Avery of Lincoln, Nebraska. Maybe somebody will come up with an IED for this gang I posted this at 11:00 Eastern Time. Reports of new incidents are coming over the wires as I publish. Commenters will undoubtedly keep us up to the minute. Quote of the Day:
It was a time of great and exalting excitement. The country was up in arms, the war was on, in every breast burned the holy fire of patriotism; the drums were beating, the bands playing, the toy pistols popping, the bunched firecrackers hissing and spluttering; on every hand and far down the receding and fading spread of roofs and balconies a fluttering wilderness of flags flashed in the sun; daily the young volunteers marched down the wide avenue gay and fine in their new uniforms, the proud fathers and mothers and sisters and sweethearts cheering them with voices choked with happy emotion as they swung by; nightly the packed mass meetings listened, panting, to patriot oratory which stirred the deepest deeps of their hearts, and which they interrupted at briefest intervals with cyclones of applause, the tears running down their cheeks the while; in the churches the pastors preached devotion to flag and country, and invoked the God of Battles beseeching His aid in our good cause in outpourings of fervid eloquence which moved every listener. It was indeed a glad and gracious time, and the half dozen rash spirits that ventured to disapprove of the war and cast a doubt upon its righteousness straightway got such a stern and angry warning that for their personal safety's sake they quickly shrank out of sight and offended no more in that way.in Mark Twain, The War Prayer By Cervantes