Friday, March 31, 2006

DAILY WAR NEWS FOR FRIDAY, MARCH 31, 2006 PHOTO: Iraqis look at the bodies of three men who were found dead Thursday March 30, 2006 in Ramadi, Iraq. Unknown gunmen killed 3 people, two Egyptians and one Iraqi, and left notes on their bodies claiming that they were homosexuals and agents, police said. (AP Photo Bilal Hussein) Bring ‘em on: Britain’s casualties of Iraq war total 6,700 said MoD. Bring ‘em on: Mortar shell fell on the headquarters of multi-national forces in Kirkuk. No casualties reported. Security Incident: Update to yesterday: At least 27 people died in violence on Thursday, including a 4-year-old girl who was killed when a car bomb exploded near the Shiite Ali Basha mosque in Baghdad's eastern Kryaat neighborhood. Security Incident: Three civilians killed and three wounded by mortar round in northeast Baghdad. Soldiers discovered six bullet-riddled bodies wearing handcuffs in western Baghdad. There were male and between the ages of 25 and 30. Security Incident: FALLUJA - A policeman was killed when gunmen fired on his patrol in Falluja 50 km (30 miles) west of Baghdad, police said. BAGHDAD - A 62-year-old male prisoner died on Thursday of an apparent heart attack at Abu-Ghraib jail, a U.S. military statement said. Security Incident: At least four civilians killed by car bomb in al-Aathamiah district of Baghdad. Salem Hameed, member of the al-Daawa Party, gunned down in western Baghdad. Majed Hameed, also a member of that political party, also shot dead in al-Adel district in Baghdad. Two more civilians killed by a mortar shell that hit their car in al-Ghazaliah district of Baghdad. Four Iraqis killed and 22 others injured by IED and car bombs in Baghdad (some of these may have been mentioned yesterday). Security Incident: Two civilians killed by unknown gunmen in two separate shooting incidents in Kirkuk. Security Incident: Eight oil workers killed in Baiji. They were taken off the bus they were on and accused of being “agents of the occupation”. One person killed in Baghdad and 11 injured by two roadside bombings. Two killed and seven injured in a car bombing in Baghdad. Five injured in a suicide car bombing near a police convoy. Three workers from Ramadi General Hospital were found blindfolded and shot in the head, with notes that said al Qaeda in Iraq did the killings, and the men were killed for being homosexuals (story of the picture above). Security Incidents: Gunmen target Baghdad firm, killing eight workers. The officials said the assailants were wearing the familiar green camouflage uniforms of the Interior Ministry's Majhaweer, an elite force that has taken the lead in a number of operations against insurgents in and around Baghdad. Security Incidents: BAGHDAD - The bodies of two people were found in two different districts in the capital, police said. BAGHDAD - Three civilians were wounded when a roadside bomb hit a police patrol in central Baghdad, police said. KIDNAPPING REPORTS
Iraqis Are Most Likely Kidnap Victims The most likely kidnap victims in Iraq increasingly are Iraqis, with an average of 10 to 20 taken hostage every day for nearly three years, a U.S. official in Baghdad said Thursday. U.S. Embassy spokeswoman Elizabeth Colton said freedom comes at a heavy price, with ransoms averaging between $20,000 and $30,000. "It's huge," she said. "There are a lot more Iraqis being held hostage in Iraq now than most people are aware of." The puzzle is how Iraqis come up with such large ransom payments in a country where unemployment is estimated between 28 and 40 percent and the average monthly wage is about $100. Equally unclear is who the kidnappers are — they have grown increasingly bold and now are striking in broad daylight. Carloads of masked gunmen have driven up to several Baghdad businesses this month, charging through the doors and seizing employees inside. At least 90 Iraqis have been picked up in such mass kidnappings in March; there has been no word on any of the captives. Police say they are investigating who is behind the attacks, and whether they are linked. Some officials speculate that the assailants are insurgents running out of money.
RAMADI - A Syrian journalist and an Iraqi political analyst were released by kidnappers after being held for three days
Iraqi Shopkeeper Still Haunted by Hostage Ordeal Uncertainty ate away at him. Some days he was beaten, at other times the gunmen reminded him of the sectarian violence that has pushed his country close to civil war. "Are you Sunni or Shi'ite?," he was constantly asked. The answer was always one given by Iraqis who refuse to accept they have been torn apart by communal strife. "I told them I am a Muslim," he said proudly. That earned him more whippings, until he finally said he was a Sunni, the minority sect once dominant under Saddam. But his hopes began fading: "I felt like I was already dead." Back at his home, his family was frantically borrowing money to pay the $20,000 ransom demanded by his captors. After two weeks of being kept underground and blindfolded, Ahmed was released. "They let me go. But they warned me not to say anything about them or they would kill me," he said. Still gripped by fear, he imagines gunmen will suddenly turn up again, as they do across Iraq. "I am afraid of my own shadow," he said. "Whenever I walk down the street I look behind me." (The original ‘deck of cards’ issued by US authorities just after the war started contained 40% Shi’ites. – Susan)
Elated Carroll Family Plead for Iraq Hostages "My wish is that this joyous occasion will offer hope to all the mothers of Iraq whose children have been kidnapped. May they all be returned safely and swiftly to their mothers' arms," she said in a statement from her Illinois home. Thousands of Iraqis have been kidnapped in the past three years, many for ransom. More than 200 foreigners have also been taken prisoner. Many have been freed but others have been killed by militant groups making political demands. Earlier, outside the Boston offices of The Christian Science Monitor, Carroll's editor Richard Bergenheim read statement from her family. "Our hearts are full. We are elated by Jill's safe release," it said. "Our thoughts are with the families of others still being held hostage in Iraq and we hope that their loved ones will return safely to them soon."
Iraq Hostage Believes Ransom Paid A peace activist held hostage in Iraq for nearly four months says he believes a ransom was paid for his freedom. Harmeet Singh Sooden said he had no evidence but "instinct" told him money had been exchanged for his release and that of his two fellow hostages. Mr Sooden, 33, a Canadian who lives in New Zealand, was freed last week after being held by militants in Baghdad. New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark said her government had not paid a ransom for Mr Sooden. The activist for the Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) group was released unhurt along with fellow Canadian James Loney and Briton Norman Kember. A fourth hostage captured at the same time in Baghdad, US citizen Tom Fox, was found shot dead earlier this month. Speaking publicly for the first time since his release, Mr Sooden said he believed he and his colleagues had been captured "to fund the insurgency". "They kept telling us that 'if we wanted to kill you, you wouldn't have been given the treatment you have been given'," Reuters news agency reported. He said it was highly unusual his captors had been absent when the three men were freed from a house west of Baghdad by multinational forces, adding that he disapproved of the payment of ransom to secure the release of hostages. "I wanted to be released. I didn't want money to be paid for me to be released because I know where that money is going to go," he said. "I'd rather it went on social work or feeding people who need food, not on killing people." Report: Carroll Threatened Before Release Jill Carroll's kidnappers reportedly warned her before her release that she might be killed if she cooperated with the Americans or went to the Green Zone, saying it was infiltrated by insurgents. The freelance writer for The Christian Science Monitor, who was freed by her captors Thursday and dropped off at a branch office of the Iraqi Islamic Party, was later escorted to the Green Zone by the U.S. military, the newspaper said Friday. OTHER REPORTS Garbage Dump Second Home for Iraqi Children Every day before school, seven year old Mohammed Fariq Rostam goes with his father on their donkeys to scrounge through Sulaimaniyah's garbage dump. Mohammed's eyes often burn from the smoke that rises from the rubbish, and his forehead bears a scar from when he slipped on trash and sliced it on a piece of glass. But he is proud when he helps his father find a source of income for their five member family. That could be aluminium cans that they can resell in the market, or a piece of electrical equipment that has been thrown away but can be repaired. Shoes and clothes, though torn or stained, are also prized. "This isn't a place for him," said Mohammed’s father Fariq, 31, who is illiterate and unemployed. "I want him to have a better future." The dump lies in an industrial area 11 kilometers southwest of Sulaimaniyah city, near seven villages that are home to more than 100 families. It has become a source of income for many like the Rostams who are out of work and looking for anything that can be resold or reused. Zereen Abdullah, 12, sloshes through garbage with a pair of muddy boots - one of her many finds. She has rashes all over her body from the trash that itches her skin, but triumphantly announces, "I have found three dolls, and whenever I go home I play with them." Parents in the area close to the dump criticize the government for not providing basic services for their children such as kindergartens, parks or a playground. Their relatives do not visit, they say, because of the stench of the rubbish heap, which clings to their clothes even when they return. For local children, though, the dump is an a big attraction, so much so that some say they dream of becoming garbage workers when they grow up - much to the consternation of parents, who they want more for their families. "Our children have nowhere to go during vacations except this garbage dump," said Parween Muhammed, 48. Iraq Politician Says 1,700 Sunnis Killed in Unrest A Sunni Arab leader said on Thursday more than 1,700 Sunnis had been killed in Iraq's sectarian bloodshed since a major Shi'ite mosque was bombed a month ago, but it was unclear how he arrived at the figure. The spiralling violence between Shi'ites and minority Sunnis, with death squads and militias leaving scores of horribly mutilated corpses in the streets every day, has stoked fears of an all-out sectarian civil war. "Up to now, more than 1,700 bodies of Sunnis have been delivered to the morgue," Adnan al-Dulaimi, who heads the largest Sunni bloc in the newly elected parliament, told Reuters. "The killing is continuing and every day nearly 50 Sunnis get killed and we expect this number will rise in the coming days." Dulaimi said the 1,700 was for the main central morgue alone and did not include smaller morgues in smaller hospitals. But he did not say how he had determined the figure amid the confusion and uncertainty that shrouds everything in postwar Iraq. Morgue officials do not have comprehensive records but they estimate 1,100-1,500 victims of sectarian violence, from all sides, have been brought to the central morgue over that time. Iraq Accuses US of Damaging Ancient City American forces are damaging the ancient city of Kish and must withdraw from the 5,000-year-old archaeological site, an Iraqi ministry said Thursday. The Ministry of State for Tourism and Antiquities Affairs said U.S. forces had set up a camp in Kish, near Hillah, about 60 miles south of Baghdad. In a statement, the ministry said the U.S. military was preventing anyone from entering this important archaeological site to assess the damage, which was not specified. The U.S. military had no immediate comment. Last year, the British Museum said that U.S.-led troops using the ancient Iraqi city of Babylon as a base had damaged and contaminated artifacts dating back thousands of years in one of the world's most important ancient sites. The U.S. military then said all earth moving had been halted and that all engineering work were discussed with the head of the Babylon museum. Mosul Slips Out of Control As the Bombers Move In When the 3,000 men of the mainly Kurdish 3rd Brigade of the 2nd Division of the Iraqi Army go on patrol it is at night, after the rigorously enforced curfew starts at 8pm. Their vehicles, bristling with heavy machine guns, race through the empty streets of the city, splashing through pools of sewage, always trying to take different routes to avoid roadside bombs. "The government cannot control the city," said Hamid Effendi, an experienced ex-soldier who is Minister for Peshmerga Affairs in the Kurdistan Regional Government. He is influential in the military affairs of Mosul province with its large Kurdish minority, although it is outside the Kurdish region. He believes: "The Iraqi Army is only a small force in Mosul, the Americans do not leave their bases much and some of the police are connected to the terrorists." In the days since a suicide bomber killed 43 young men waiting to join the Iraqi army at a recruitment centre near Mosul last week soldiers in the city have been expecting a second attack. He claims that the situation is very different today when the people of Mosul "welcome us, hate the terrorists and give us information about them". But the general's own account of recent events in the city show the depth of the divisions between Arabs and Kurds as well the Arab hostility to the occupation. For instance at the end of last year the Arab chief of police Ahmed al-Jibouri, appointed after the uprising, was dismissed with 40 of his officers for aiding the insurgents. "He was telling people that every family should have one of its members in the resistance," recalled the general. In reality, Mosul city, like so many places in Iraq, is an ethnic minefield which the US has sought to negotiate with varying success since the overthrow of Saddamin 2003. At first US commanders did not want Kurdish forces in the city fearing the reaction of the Arabs. General David Petraeus of the 101st Airborne tried to bring on board the Sunni Arabs but when he left this policy languished. Since November 2004 Arabs in the province claim that the US has simply joined forces with the Kurds after the mass desertion of the Arab police and army. "The Americans are now just one more of the tribes of Mosul," said one Arab source alleging that the CIA got all its information from Kurdish intelligence. Most soldiers have an ethnic map of Mosul imprinted on their brain. "I feel safer now because there is nothing but Kurdish villages from now on," said a driver, with a sign of a relief, as we drove away from the city. For the moment nobody is wholly in control and most expect more fighting. Saddam Better for Women Women were far better off under former Iraq dictator Saddam Hussein, a women's group has found after an extensive survey in Iraq. ''Under the previous dictator regime, the basic rights for women were enshrined in the constitution,'' Houzan Mahmoud from the Organisation of Women's Freedom in Iraq told IPS in an interview. The group is a sister organization of MADRE, an international women's rights group. Under Saddam, she said, ''women could go out to work, university and get married or divorced in civil courts. But at the moment women have lost almost all their rights and are being pushed back into the corner of their house.''
The recent constitution which was written under the U.S. government's supervision is ''very backward and anti-women,'' Mahmoud said. ''They make Islam the source for law making, and the main official religion of the country. This in itself means Islamic Sharia law and according to this women will be considered second-class citizens and will have no power in deciding over their lives.'' The whole of Iraqi society has been subjected to ''chaos and brutalisation,'' she said. ''Security is absent, all basic services, and above all the protection for women's rights is in no way on the agenda of any of the political parties who have been hand-picked by the U.S. administration in the installed so-called parliament.'' MADRE is calling for the deployment of a United Nations-led peacekeeping force and an immediate end to the U.S. occupation. As the crisis in Iraq intensifies, the group says women and their families in Iraq face an urgent need for security, functional government, and the provision of basic services within a human rights framework. An Intimate Story of Marines in Iraq (A PBS program on US TV.) What's working and what's failing in the US-led effort to battle the Iraqi insurgents? On Friday, video journalist Brian Palmer, who was embedded with US Marines in Iraq's volatile Anbar province, gives us an uncensored, inside look at the extremely dangerous and often overwhelming job of fighting the committed insurgency. "I don't see any more good coming out of being here," Lance Corporal Damon Broussard told Palmer. "You can only make so much progress and then you have the guys hiding behind the scenes planting IEDs and stuff ... You can only do so much until you friggin' slam your face into the wall so many times." What's it really like going door-to-door on the front lines of the War on Terror? Iranian Infiltrators Captured Interior Ministry forces have seized 17 Iranians after entering the country illegally. In a statement, the ministry said the infiltrators were on their way to the southern city of Kut. It did not say when these infiltrators were captured or what they intended to do in Iraq. Several provinces in southern Iraq have struck their own agreements with the Iranian government on the flow of goods and travellers. Trade between the countries is booming and Iran is now Iraq’s largest trade partner and exporter. The U.S. has repeatedly said that Iran was interfering in Iraqi affairs, a claim the country’s Shiite-dominated government denies. But undoubtedly, Iran now exercises tremendous influence in the central and southern parts of the country. The U.S. has only recently come to acknowledge the immense power Iran has in Iraq and the countries have agreed to negotiate the Iraqi issue. MEDIA ISSUES, YET AGAIN…. OR STILL….. All the ‘Good News’ From Iraq I bet you guys didn't really listen to President Bush this week. Too bad, because for once he told the truth. I listened, heard the truth and checked it out. And, as he promised, it was a real eye-opener. It happened at one of Bush's fake "town hall meetings" this week. An Army wife asked Bush why the mainstream media only focuses on "the bad news" from Iraq and never reports "the good news." Bush furrowed his brow and nodded in agreement. Earlier in the week the administration launched a Vietnam-era-style "blame the media" campaign to explain plummeting public support for both the war and Bush himself.
The woman's question offered Bush an opportunity for another anti-media riff on that theme. He sympathized with her distress and suggested (pay attention -- here comes the truth part) that she should turn to alternative sources for news, "like the internet." (He used to call it the "internets" until his handlers informed him that, like God, the internet is not plural.) Whoa! When I heard Bush say that, it struck me. Of course! The internet! Why have I been relying on the New York Times and Washington Post and CBS, NBC, CNN to tell me what's really going on in Iraq. Hell, they don't even speak the language. And, of course, we learned four years ago we can't believe anything the U.S. government says about the war. So I checked with Iraqis to see how much "good news" I could find. I read dozens of March postings by folks living in U.S.-'liberated' Iraq. Bush was right. It was time well spent. CNN, MSNBC, FOX, eat your hearts out. These postings are a revelation. And, hey, big dude -- thanks for the tip, George. Now I suggest you take your own advice and do the same. Here's a sampler and some links to get you started on your search for all the "good news" from Iraq that the scheming evil U.S. media is hiding from you. From A Star from Mosul: March 9: It was about 6 p.m. last night when dad's mobile rang, dad was in the mosque, my aunt was calling him and so mom picked up the mobile instead. Mom's emotions on the phone only led to one conclusion: Someone is dead. … Mom put the mobile aside and said: "Uncle S is dead." … Yesterday he was shot by Americans on his way back home, and he died. Like many others, he died, left us clueless about the reason and saddened with this sudden loss. He was shot many times, only three reached him: One in his arm, one in his neck and one in his chest. But they said they're sorry. They always are. From Healing Iraq: March 16: Black-clad Mahdi army militiamen drag the body of Sheikh Ghazi Al-Zoba'i, the imam and preacher of the Al-Sabbar mosque around a street in Husseiniya, a mixed suburb north of Baghdad. … Someone shouts: "Drag the Wahhabi," while another describes him as a "bastard." … Then they dump him on the side of the road. Another militiaman suggests they bury him. "What do you mean bury him?" the gang leader snaps back with indignation. "Leave him here to the dogs." Then they joke about his underwear and cover the corpse with a cardboard that life looks absolutely normal in the surroundings. You can see children running about, stores open, religious holiday flags and even a traffic jam. Perhaps Ralph Peters will happen to drive by with an American army patrol and enjoy the scene of children cheering for the troops, while wondering where his civil war is, dude. I see people blown up to smithereens because a brainwashed virgin seeker targeted a crowded market or cafe. I see all that and more. … Don't you dare chastise me for writing about what I see in my country. From Hammorabi: March 20: Death and killing in Iraq become a daily event and apprehension of death is a concomitant issue with every person. The Iraqi politicians who fight for the power, their hands are stained with the blood of the innocent Iraqis … Iraq, as the rest of the world, is much better without Saddam but much worse in every other aspect, especially the security. Why The Media Get The War Wrong To a question from CBS's Bob Schieffer on Face the Nation – had his "over optimistic" statements had led Americans "to be more skeptical in this country about whether we ought to be in Iraq?" – Vice President Dick ("in the last throes") Cheney replied: "No. I think it has less to do with the statements we've made, which I think were basically accurate and reflect reality, than it does with the fact that there's a constant sort of perception, if you will, that's created because what's newsworthy is the car bomb in Baghdad. It's not all the work that went on that day in 15 other provinces in terms of making progress towards rebuilding Iraq." This was Cheney's version of an ongoing litany of not-enough-good-news complaints from officials of the Bush administration who are already preparing their (media) stab-in-the-back/we-lost-the-war-at-home arguments to cover their Iraqi disaster. ("A few violent people can always grab headlines and can always kill innocent people" was the way Condoleezza Rice put it on Meet the Press Sunday.) Missing, they regularly claim, are those quiet, behind-the-scenes stories of what's really happening in Iraqi life. They imagine such missing "good news" reports as like those the U.S. Central Command regularly sends out in its weekly electronic newsletter with headlines like "Darkhorse Marines Deliver Wheelchair to Iraqi Girl" and "Bridge Reopens over Euphrates River." (snip) The invasion was initially successful, but the plan for the peace was faulty. Bush administration officials misestimated the amount of resistance they would find in the wake of Baghdad's fall. Donald Rumsfeld and his civilian officials in the Pentagon ignored military warnings and did not deploy sufficient soldiers to handle this initial resistance. As a result, the occupation was unable to quell the rebellion when it was small. This first blunder allowed what was at best a modest insurgency to grow to formidable proportions, at which point occupation officials committed a second disastrous blunder, dismantling the Iraqi army which otherwise could have been deployed to smash the rebellion. Bottom line: General Eric Shinseki was right. If the U.S. had deployed the several hundred thousand troops that he insisted were needed to lock down the country (instead of hustling him into retirement), then the war would have been short and sweet, and the U.S. would now be well on its way both to victory and withdrawal.
This, I think, is a fair summary of the thinking on Iraq currently dominant in the mainstream media and, because it ignores the fundamental cause of the war-after-the-war – the American attempt to neo-liberalize Iraq – it is also profoundly wrong. The claim that the war has an economic foundation may sound strange in the context of American media coverage, because it is so unfamiliar. So let me begin by agreeing with two key points in the currently fashionable media analysis: The initial attack on Saddam Hussein's regime was a success and there was a moment – just after the fall of Baghdad – when the Bush administration might have avoided triggering a formidable armed resistance. The war and proto-civil war of the present moment were not the inevitable result of the invasion, but of Bush administration actions taken afterwards. The War Reporter Who Turned Prophet on Iraq Looking back at E&P’s extensive, and often critical, commentary on media coverage of the Iraq war three years ago, I was struck again by how Chris Hedges stands out as a kind of prophet. The longtime war reporter, who decided to sit this one out, was among the few who recognized that taking Baghdad would be the easy part. Let's contrast it with the criminal incompetence of the U.S. war planners. That British memo recording President Bush's meeting with Prime Minister Blair two months before the war, in contrast, reveals that the two leaders expected an easy ride during the occupation with little sectarian violence. One thing Hedges said back then, in early April 2003, has stuck with me. I think it could go down, unfortunately, as the most prescient quote of the entire war. Speaking of what the U.S. was facing in an Iraq occupation, he said: “It reminds me of what happened to the Israelis after taking over Gaza, moving among hostile populations. It's 1967, and we've just become Israel.”
E&P contributor Barbara Bedway interviewed Hedges during the run-up to the war in early 2003, and then during and just after the invasion. He was a logical source. Hedges had covered 12 wars, most recently for The New York Times, and was held for a week by the Iraqi Republican Guard during the Shiite uprising following the Gulf War. He also wrote the influential book, "War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning." Even before the attack on Iraq, he warned of the limits of the embedding program, which discouraged independent reporting on the “other side,” the civilian toll, and the long-term obstacles to the success of any occupation. "Most reporters in war are part of the problem," he cautioned. "You always go out and look for that narrative, like the hometown hero, to give the war a kind of coherency that it doesn't have.” He also warned: “When the military has a war to win, everything gets sacrificed before that objective, including the truth." The US Propaganda Machine: Oh, What A Lovely War The Lincoln Group was tasked with presenting the US version of events in Iraq to counter adverse media coverage. Here we present examples of its work, and the reality behind its headlines. A week after the US Defence Secretary criticised the media for " exaggerating" reports of violence in Iraq, The Independent has obtained examples of newspaper reports the Bush administration want Iraqis to read. They were prepared by specially trained American "psy-ops" troops who paid thousands of dollars to Iraqi newspaper editors to run these unattributed reports in their publications. In order to hide its involvement, the Pentagon hired the Lincoln Group to act as a liaison between troops and journalists. The Lincoln Group was at the centre of controversy last year when it was revealed the company was being paid more than $100m (£58m) for various contracts, including the planting of such stories. The Pentagon - which recently announced that an internal investigation had cleared the Lincoln Group of breaching military rules by planting these stories - has claimed these new reports did not constitute propaganda because they were factually correct. But a military specialist has questioned some of the information contained within their reports while describing their rhetorical style as "comical". Furthermore, it has been alleged that quotations contained within these reports and others - attributed to anonymous Iraqi officials or citizens - were routinely made up by US troops who never went beyond the perimeter of the Green Zone. What seems clear is that, taken by themselves, these reports would provide an unbalanced picture of the situation inside Iraq where ongoing violence wreaks daily chaos and horror. Three years since US and UK troops invaded, more than 2,500 coalition troops have been killed. How many Iraqi civilians have died is unclear. The Iraqi Body Count puts the minimum at 33,773, but this figure is based on media reports and the group admits "it is likely that many if not most civilian casualties will go unreported by the media". An extrapolation published in The Lancet 18 months ago said more than 100,000 had been killed. (example follows) 'IRAQI ARMY DEFEATS TERRORISM' 26 October 2005 The Lincoln version With the people's approval of the constitution, Iraq is well on its way to forming a permanent government. Meanwhile, the underhanded forces of al-Qa'ida remain bent on halting progress and inciting civil war. The honest citizens of Iraq, however, need not fear these criminals and terrorists. The brave warriors of the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) are hard at work stopping al-Qa'ida's attacks before they occur. On 24 October, soldiers near Taji received a report that terrorists were stockpiling dangerous weapons. The soldiers found over 150 tank and artillery rounds. These munitions are similar to the ones that al-Qa'ida bomb-makers often use to construct their deadly bombs. The troops destroyed every last round, ensuring they will never be used against the Iraqi people. Three al-Qa'ida mercenaries in Baqubah were planning to conduct a suicide vest attack. Officers of the Iraqi Police Service (IPS) spotted them as they drove towards their target. But then something happened. The would-be murderer lost his faith and leapt from the moving vehicle. One of the other suicide bombers panicked and detonated his vest while still inside the car, instantly killing himself and another accomplice. The reality check At least five Iraqis killed by suicide bomber on bus in Baqubah, north-east of Baghdad. Bodies of nine Iraqi border guards, who were shot dead, found previous day. Joint US-Iraqi convoy targeted by car bomb in al-Ma'mun area of Baghdad. The “Salman Rushdie of Iraqi-Kurdistan” Forced to Flee to Sweden As first reported by the Kurdish language weekly Hawlati on March 27, 2006, and later reported by the Peyamner News Agency and The Hewler Globe on March 28, Mariwan Halabjayee, "the Salman Rushdie of Iraqi-Kurdistan” has been forced to flee to Sweden. Halabjayee departed from Suleimaniya International Airport. Mala Bakhtiar, a political bureau member of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, was responsible for facilitating Halabjayee’s escape. The PUK effectively controls the Eastern half of Iraqi-Kurdistan, including Suleimaniya. Halabjayee is in possession of a warrant for his arrest issued by the Suleimaniya police department. Halabjayee reportedly intends to use the warrant in an attempt to secure political asylum in Sweden. Halabjaee is the author of the book ‘Sex, Sharia and Women in the History of Islam. The book is about how Islam is allegedly used to oppress women. "I wanted to prove how oppressed women are in Islam and that they have no rights," said Halabjayee. The Islamic League of Kurdistan has issued a “conditional” fatwa to kill Halabjayee if he does not repent and apologize for writing his book. The "conditional" nature of the fatal fatwa is uncertain. Halabjayee reported that "a couple of weeks ago in Halabja, the mullahs and scholars said if I go to them and apologize they will give me 80 lashes and then refer me to the fatwa committee to decide if I am to be beheaded. They might forgive me, they might not." As a result, Halabjaye went into hiding with his pregnant wife and three children. Courage in Coverage Yesterday's release of American journalist Jill Carroll makes this a good moment to celebrate the work that reporters are doing every day in Iraq. They are taking huge personal risks to bring back the news -- not "good news," as some supporters of the administration often seem to want, but the news. Anyone taking potshots at the "mainstream media" should read the description of what it's like to cover Baghdad that appears in the April/May issue of the American Journalism Review. The story opens with a description of NPR's Deborah Amos, dressed in Arab clothes, anxiously scanning the street for bombers and kidnappers as she heads for an interview in the protected Green Zone. And that's an easy assignment. Like most resident correspondents, National Public Radio reporters such as Amos live and work in the "Red Zone" -- meaning the real Iraq. These reporters are in daily contact, through their Iraqi staffs, with the nightmare the Iraqi people are experiencing. When their reporting contrasts with the more upbeat accounts coming out of the Green Zone, the reporters in the Red Zone generally have been right, for a simple reason: They are closer to the story. (This commentary goes on to state): “Fortunately that point wasn't lost on U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, who has warned in recent days that America will not support an Iraqi government that doesn't crack down on the Shiite militias.” (Too late for that, but this comment does illustrate how the corporate US media totally supports the “right” of the US government and military to go and interfere and even run foreign countries as they see fit. In this case, that may mean stopping a human rights abuse, but in other cases it is exactly the opposite. This war in the Middle East has been a real boon for Latin America countries – since the USA is too busy to mess with them and has mainly left them alone. And, no surprise, they are doing much better. This attitude that this columnist supports underscores the real problem we are up against. The underlying reason they support this type of attitude is because that is what keeps THE CORPORATIONS going. No morality to be found here. – Susan) “But there are also some horrific stories: Time magazine published a disturbing account in its March 27 issue about how U.S. Marines are believed to have killed 15 Iraqi civilians in their homes in Haditha last November after a roadside bomb attack. This may prove a shocking tale when more details emerge about what happened, but it's a story that journalists must report.” (I suppose such an incident would be “shocking” if one is totally ignorant of war and how things go in war. I wish I suffered from such naiveté, to think that ‘my’ people have an “anti-revenge” gene or something. – Susan)
POLITICS IRAQ AND VIETNAM DEJA VU President George W. Bush, March 21, 2006: "We're making progress because we've got a strategy for victory." President Lyndon Johnson, November 17, 1967: "We are inflicting greater losses than we're taking... We are making progress." Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, March 19, 2006: "The terrorists seem to recognize that they are losing in Iraq. I believe that history will show that to be the case." President Richard Nixon, March 28, 1985: "No event in American history is more misunderstood than the Vietnam War. It was misreported then, and it is misremembered now." President George W. Bush, March 19, 2006: "We are implementing a strategy that will lead to victory in Iraq." President Richard Nixon, January 4, 1971: "The end is in sight." Vice President Dick Cheney, March 19, 2006: "And I think we are going to succeed in Iraq. I think the evidence is overwhelming." Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, October 1972: "We believe that peace is at hand.” Gen. George Casey, March 19, 2006: “So, yes we’re making good political progress and yes, we continue to make good progress with the Iraqi security forces.” Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, May 1962: "We are winning the war.” Shiite Ayatollah Ignores Letter From Bush A letter from Bush is Iraq’ supreme Shiite spiritual leader, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, was hand-delivered earlier this week but sits unread and untranslated in the top religious figure’s office, a key al-Sistani aide told the Associated Press on Thursday. The aide — who has never allowed use of his name in news reports, citing al-Sistani's refusal to make any public statements himself — said the ayatollah had laid the letter aside and did not ask for a translation because of increasing "unhappiness" over what senior Shiite leaders see as American meddling in Iraqi attempts to form their first, permanent post-invasion government. The aide said the person who delivered the Bush letter — he would not identify the messenger by name or nationality — said it carried Bush's thanks to al-Sistani for calling for calm among his followers in preventing the outbreak of civil war after a Shiite shrine was bombed late last month. The messenger also was said to have explained that the letter reinforced the American position that Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari should not be given a second term. Al-Sistani has not publicly taken sides in the dispute, but rather has called for Shiite unity. Iraq Shi’ite Ayatollah Demands US Fire Envoy A leading Iraqi Shi'ite cleric demanded on Friday that the United States sack its ambassador, accusing Zalmay Khalilzad of siding with his fellow Sunni Muslims in the sectarian conflict gripping the country. In a sermon read out at mosques for Friday prayers, Ayatollah Mohammed al-Yacoubi said Washington had underestimated the bloody conflict between Shi'ites and the once dominant Sunni Arab minority, which many fear threatens to trigger a civil war. "By this, they are either misled by reports, which lack objectivity and credibility, submitted to the United States by their sectarian ambassador to Iraq ... or they are denying this fact," Yacoubi said in the message, later issued as a statement. (Or, it has been part of the plan all along – how many times do bad things have to happen under this administration before we conclude they are doing it on purpose? – Susan) "It (the United States) should not yield to terrorist blackmail and should not be deluded or misled by spiteful sectarians. It should replace its ambassador to Iraq if it wants to protect itself from further failures." After the imam of Baghdad's Rahman mosque read that line, worshippers chanted "Allahu Akbar" -- God is Greatest. Afghan-born Khalilzad, former envoy to Kabul and the most senior Muslim in the U.S. administration, has been in Iraq for 10 months and is spearheading Washington's increasingly urgent efforts to pressure Iraq's leaders into a unity government. Yacoubi is the spiritual guide for the Fadhila party, one of the smaller but still influential components of the dominant Islamist Alliance bloc. He is not part of the senior clerical council around Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in Najaf. Nonetheless, Shi'ite politicians said his comments reflected widespread disenchantment among them with the ambassador. Soldiers Flee to Canada to Avoid Iraq Duty Hundreds of deserters from the US armed forces have crossed into Canada and are now seeking political refugee status there, arguing that violations of the rules of war in Iraq by the US entitle them to asylum. A decision on a test case involving two US servicemen is due shortly and is being watched with interest by fellow servicemen on both sides of the border. At least 20 others have already applied for asylum and there are an estimated 400 in Canada out of more than 9,000 who have deserted since the conflict started in 2003. Ryan Johnson, 22, from near Fresno in California, was due to be deployed with his unit to Iraq in January last year but crossed the Canadian border in June and is seeking asylum. "I had spoken to many soldiers who had been in Iraq and who told me about innocent civilians being killed and about bombing civilian neighbourhoods," he told the Guardian. "It's been really great since I've been here. Generally, people have been really hospitable and understanding, although there have been a few who have been for the war." He is now unable to return to the US. "I don't have a problem with that. I'm in Canada and that's that." Blair Leaves NZ Saying Focus Should Not Be On Iraq British Prime Minister Tony Blair has ended his 24-hour visit to New Zealand agreeing to closer ties between the two countries and calling for those angry about the invasion of Iraq to focus on other issues instead. During the 24 hours Mr Blair was questioned numerous times about Iraq and his role in the decision to topple Saddam Hussein. Repeatedly Mr Blair said even those who disagreed with the decision should recognise the occupation was now mandated by the United Nations and welcomed by the Iraqi Government. He argued that the whole world would now benefit from a stable, democratic Iraq. (I can only surmise that he is not current on what is happening in Iraq. But, what I want to know is: how dare that little punk tell us what we should or should not focus on? – Susan) Rice Admits “thousands” of Errors in Iraq Rice accepted on Friday the United States had probably made thousands of errors in Iraq but defended the overall strategy of removing Saddam Hussein. Local Muslims and anti-war activists told Rice to "Go Home" when British counterpart Jack Straw earlier led her on a tour of his home town of Blackburn in the industrial northwest, an area which rarely plays host to overseas politicians. "Yes, I know we have made tactical errors, thousands of them," she said in answer to a question over whether lessons had been learned since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. "I believe strongly that it was the right strategic decision, that Saddam had been a threat to the international community long enough," she added. COMMENTARY OPINION: May God Rest Our Souls! Every Baghdad neighbourhood must have a wall or a corner for black banners announcing recent deaths in the area so that people who recognize the names can attend the funerals and express their condolences to the bereaved families, if there were any family members left. On the other hand, white banners indicate that the victim was killed by the Americans. Throughout the past three years, the number of banners was mounting. Calligraphy and coffin-making have become booming industries. I once read an interview with a coffin-maker, who said that his workshop was in full swing that he had to hire a large number of skillful carpenters to keep up with the increasing demand on his products. Families started to refer to reasons for death, about which nobody gave a damn ten or fifteen years ago, when most people died of cancer thanks to the depleted uranium the US Administration have wholeheartedly bestowed upon us. Not surprisingly, the majority of banners these days read "Due to a Cowardly Accident". When there's no mention of any causes, people tend to raise their eyebrows and say, "oh! Natural causes, that's weird!", "he or she must be old!" OPINION: ‘If You Start Looking At Them As Humans, Then How Are You Gonna Kill Them?’ They are a publicity nightmare for the US military: an ever-growing number of veterans of the Iraq conflict who are campaigning against the war. To mark the third anniversary of the invasion this month, a group of them marched on Katrina-ravaged New Orleans. At a press conference in a cavernous Alabama warehouse, banners and posters are rolled out: "Abandon Iraq, not the Gulf coast!" A tall, white soldier steps forward in desert fatigues. "I was in Iraq when Katrina happened and I watched US citizens being washed ashore in New Orleans," he says. "War is oppression: we could be setting up hospitals right here. America is war-addicted. America is neglecting its poor." A black reporter from a Fox TV news affiliate, visibly stunned, whispers: "Wow! That guy's pretty opinionated." Clearly such talk, even three years after the Iraq invasion, is still rare. This, after all, is the Deep South and this soldier less than a year ago was proudly serving his nation in Iraq. The soldier was engaged in no ordinary protest. Over five days earlier this month, around 200 veterans, military families and survivors of hurricane Katrina walked 130 miles from Mobile, Alabama, to New Orleans to mark the third anniversary of the Iraq war. At its vanguard, Iraq Veterans Against the War, a group formed less than two years ago, whose very name has aroused intense hostility at the highest levels of the US military. OPINION: Bombing Civilians Is Not Only Immoral, It’s Ineffective No one knows how many civilians have died violently in Iraq since the US-led invasion in 2003. The most careful assessment, by the website Iraq Body Count, estimates at least 36,000. The true figure could be three times higher. The uncertainty is explained by General Tommy Franks' now-notorious remark, "We don't do body counts." Three interesting facts nevertheless help shape a sense of the possibilities. One is that the US forces insist that they use precision techniques to minimise "collateral damage". The second is that the coalition recently and controversially admitted using phosphorus weapons in its attack on Falluja. The third is that one of the US marine air wings operating in Iraq announced in a press release in November 2005 that since the invasion began it had dropped more than half a million tons of explosives on Iraq. The felt inconsistency between the first fact and the other two reminds one that ever since the deliberate mass bombing of civilians in the second world war, and as a direct response to it, the international community has outlawed the practice. It has been hypothesised that if allied bombing had been relentlessly focused on fuel and transport in Nazi-controlled Europe, the war would have been shorter by two years. To their credit, the Americans understood this and in Europe did not join the RAF in indiscriminate area bombing, but concentrated on these crucial assets. As a result they share with the Russian army the largest single credit for victory over nazism. But when the US got within bombing range of Japan it adopted the RAF tactic with a vengeance, and in less than a year killed as many Japanese civilians as were killed in Germany in the entire war. OPINION: Cheney's dysfunction Sunday morning (March 19), I listened to Bob Schieffer's interview with Dick Cheney on CBS's "Face the Nation." My diagnosis of Cheney's comments: The VP has "Iraqtile dysfunction." Bill Burnett, Greensboro, NC OPINION: Truth in Short Supply Truth in Iraq is in short supply. The raid on a Shiite mosque complex by Iraqi security forces and US special forces illustrates this. According to the Iraqi authorities, the operation against a terror cell of Moqtada Sadr’s Mehdi Army left 22 dead. The Americans said there had been 16 fatalities. A large hoard of weapons was seized and a kidnapped and tortured government employee was freed. Both denied the mosque itself had been entered, insisting the raid had focused on a nearby building. Worshippers claimed this was untrue. Video footage taken afterward appears to show bloodstains and bullet holes in the mosque itself. A fireman called to the site said he saw a US soldier leaving the mosque. The same day US forces said they raided an Interior Ministry building and arrested 41 staff guarding a secret prison and seized 17 Sudanese nationals held there. Government sources claimed only ten policemen had been detained and then released when it was realized that the Sudanese were being legitimately held. The Americans have yet to respond and there is no word on the fate of the Sudanese nor what precisely they were doing in Iraq. Even if there is not yet a civil war in Iraq, this is a looking-glass conflict in which nothing is ever quite what it seems and rarely what those involved claim it to be. The only things that seem apparent from these actions is that the US military, increasingly concerned at the growth of Shiite militias and their influence within the Iraqi police and armed forces, are belatedly trying to clip their wings. OPINION: War Hawks Show Callous Disregard for Working Class Troops Ah, but they volunteered, you say. Yes, they did. All the more reason to honor their commitment by making sure they aren't cannon fodder in a dubious cause. They took to heart the common platitudes and easy slogans about duty and honor and service while many who are wealthier did not. Soldiers shouldn't be ill-used simply because they believed in their country and its leaders. And they have been ill-used. They were sent to fight on a false pretext -- that Saddam was linked to Sept. 11 -- by civilian leaders who refused to plan for anything but quick and certain victory. Of course, combat veterans were rare among the armchair hawks in Congress and the White House who rallied the nation for war. Vice President Dick Cheney has said he had "other priorities" during the war in Vietnam. And President Bush ... well, that story is well-known. Even if you credit him with conscientiousness and brilliance as a National Guard pilot, he never left the United States. Their callousness about other people's children aside, it's not just Cheney and Bush whom I hold responsible for the deaths of more than 2,300 hundred Americans and tens of thousands of Iraqis. It's also men like Sen. John Kerry and former Secretary of State Colin Powell, Vietnam veterans who had seen young men die in combat. They knew better than to take the nation to war on the wings of a lie. That they did was not only unjust; it was immoral. OPINION: Iraqi Blogger Thursday, March 23rd, 2006Good morning…….The situation in Iraq is very dangerous currently; there are street fights in Baghdad and other cities, the connections are cut-off, the occupation forces closed the Internet Cafés in the hot towns, like Sammara'a, Al-Qaim, and Al-Ramadi, cutting off their communications with the Iraqi and international cities, meaning- even someone living in Iraq wouldn't know what is happening there…I try to call by Mobile phone, and written messages, some of them get through, and a lot don't…I called my sister in Jordan, and she says the boarders with Iraq are also closed, and every connection with the people there by Internet was cut off…. Our people there are besieged; by an occupation force which commits crimes against civilians and children, by mercenaries who kill, kidnap, and ravage, corrupting the country, by criminal militias who perform eliminations and sectarian revenges, while people are hiding in their houses, aiming to protect their children and families from violence and killings. The Iraqis say: Someone out there is destroying our country, and we are hiding in our houses, without any power or might, without being able to do anything? We cannot defend our country?A friend of mine there told me yesterday, by Phone message: Each of us is holding his shroud by his hands, awaiting death…Her words struck me, leaving me stunned and sad all day, and all night, imagining their life, feeling panic, awaiting death each second….People are in grave pain and sadness, saying that these are the worst days since Baghdad fell, these are the most dangerous stages, and the darkest for us… Story about the same blogger as above: Iraqi Woman Tours U.S. to Tell True Story of Iraq War Faiza Al-Araji, a middle-class Iraqi woman, was able to pay her innocent son’s way out of jail last summer. That’s when she understood that she had to leave. With her husband and three sons, she went to Jordan, leaving behind the chaos and misery of the country of her birth. “I was lucky. I had money to pay for the release of my son,” Al-Araji said, speaking to a small home gathering in Berkeley on Wednesday evening. Al-Araji’s talk was part of a tour by six Iraqi women organized by San Francisco-based Global Exchange to promote a better understanding of the effects of war on the Iraqi people. It took place in a house owned by Becky and Mike O’Malley, also owners of the Daily Planet. She will speak at three large public events in Oakland, Palo Alto and Santa Cruz this weekend. “I have come here to talk about the truth. It’s been three years of pain and suffering,” Al-Araji said. “I hope we can open people’s eyes.” An engineer since 1976—taught in part by women professors, she said proudly—the family’s exit follows on the heels of countless Iraqi professionals who have fled. Al-Araji and her husband, who still own a water treatment company in Iraq, have the means to live in Jordan, where life is very expensive. A Summary of Remarks By George W. Bush and Dick Cheney on the Third Anniversary of the Invasion of Iraq: Our strategy for peace there Is really working well. It's just that all the killing Can make it hard to tell. Iraq Unbreakable Three years have passed and the world continues diving into ever obscurantist times. On 15 February 2003, collective humanity felt it so deeply that it used every available tool to get organised against power, taking to streets simultaneously across the planet to oppose this terrifying war. Three years have passed and as we sensed pre-emptively, it's a massacre; a bloodshed of unspeakable brutality. Three years have passed and Iraq has been destroyed as a state and as a nation. Its natural resources have been plundered, its civilisational and cultural heritage looted, its religious heritage desecrated, its people raped, tortured, drilled, murdered and even melted. Cynicism nowadays refuses the call for an immediate and complete withdrawal of occupation forces for fear of civil war. Since the very first day of this occupation we have witnessed the development of a two-sided power system. One side is the occupation and its stooges; the second is the Iraqi people and its various forms of resistance. Even if some part of the population might have been inclined to welcome an occupier, temporarily, the methods used by the occupation, along with its ultimate end, are contrary to the interest of the Iraqi people, therefore challenged and blunted by an ever- increasing number. OPINION: Not A Country Anymore Think about contractors in Iraq, and what's the first thing that comes to mind? Halliburton, raking in billions and overcharging taxpayers by billing the government for stuff it never delivered, and then getting bonuses for almost all its questionable charges? The Lincoln Group, paying Iraqi journalists to plant "good news" stories in the press? The Pentagon's private army of outsourced "security specialists," like Blackwater and Custer Battles, the mercenaries whose greed and shameful tactics make the CIA look like choirboys? You'd be right. And wrong. Wrong because what you probably don't know is that these miscreants are not the only contractors there. There is also a not-nearly-large-enough cadre of contractors who don't make millions. Most of them work for USAID - the much-maligned US Agency for International Development. They are both Americans and Iraqis - Shia, Sunni, Kurd. And they work side by side every day, in an environment of chaos, fear and violence, risking their lives trying to improve the lives of ordinary Iraqis. That they make any progress at all in that kind of environment is truly remarkable. But they do make progress. And that may be the only piece of legitimate "good news" coming out of what can now only be described as "not a country anymore." I get a near-free pass today, because the rest of this column has been written by one of those unsung heroes - a dear friend who heads a sizable economic development team. But I cop out with sadness. Here's the email he sent me this morning (slightly edited to protect identities): "I just now talked to my security manager in Baghdad, and am left speechless. He describes a complete breakdown of law and order. We reviewed our staff list to determine each individual's circumstances. One guy, Ahmed, has his brothers stay with him at night. They take turns sleeping in case someone attempts to break into his home. Abdullah is the same. He and his father alternate sleeping at night, three hours on and three hours off. Walid and his family live in Sadr City where violence has once again brought tragedy to large numbers of families. "On and on, one by one, we discussed all of our people. All are scared. None of these friends is specifically targeted, so there is nothing for us to do except hope that they do not become victims of random and senseless violence. The most common words are death, kidnapping, injury and danger. Iraq, especially Baghdad, is not a country any more. It is hell. "I am beyond angry, and only feel a deep sadness. The optimism we felt in 2003 and early 2004 has been replaced by despair and wretchedness - there is no longer even a thread of hope to hang onto. How to Lose the ‘War on Terror’ We have been accused of "giving legitimacy to terrorist organizations", of "suffering from the Stockholm syndrome", of being "naive and soft", of treading on ground where only "more realistic, experienced and trained diplomats" have a right to go, and of being "apologists for violence". The US administration has insisted that we make it clear that our program does not have its approval or even tacit endorsement. We repeatedly sought a meeting with US officials to brief them on our work, but were told that such a meeting "would be seen as a confirmation that you are acting on our behalf as some kind of back channel - which you are not". The message to us was repeated several times by a number of officials: "The United States is not talking with terrorists, we will not talk to terrorists and we do not endorse or in any way support those who do." We have agreed that we would make it clear: we do not represent anyone but ourselves. This has been plain to all our interlocutors from the outset. But we adamantly reject the view that our willingness to engage in "an exercise in mutual listening" with Islamist organizations gives them legitimacy. They already have legitimacy. The Muslim Brotherhood (the most recognizable as well as the oldest pan-Islamic party in the region) is the most widely respected Islamist organization in the Middle East and the second-largest party in the Egyptian legislature, Jamaat e-Islami is the most powerful and respected elected opposition to the Pervez Musharraf government in Pakistan, Hezbollah forms the second-largest bloc in the Lebanese parliament, and Hamas is now the majority party in the Palestinian Authority. In southern Lebanon and in the West Bank and Gaza, the largest proportion of constituent services - in health care, child care, education and employment - is conducted under the auspices of Hezbollah and Hamas, respectively. The question of legitimacy is important because for democracies, legitimacy is not conferred, but earned at the ballot box. Hamas and Hezbollah would welcome a dialogue with the West not because it would confer "legitimacy" - they already have that - but because such a dialogue would acknowledge the differences between Islamist movements that represent actual constituencies from those (such as al-Qaeda and its allied movements) that represent no one. The West's insistence that opening a political dialogue [with organizations such as Hamas and Hezbollah] be preceded by and conditioned on disarmament is simply unrealistic: it suggests that we believe that "our" violence is benevolent while "theirs" is unreasoning and random - that a 19-year-old rifle-toting American in Fallujah is somehow less dangerous than a 19-year-old Shi'ite in southern Lebanon. In fact, political agreements have rarely been preceded by disarmament. United Nations demands for the disarmament of the South West Africa People's Organization (SWAPO) in 1978 unraveled a conflict-ending political agreement (a situation put right when the rebels were allowed to keep their weapons), and Northern Ireland's "Good Friday Agreement" allowed the IRA to keep its weapons until a political process (leading to "decommissioning") reflecting their concerns was put in place. The West often views Islamic violence as random and unreasoning, but Hamas and Hezbollah believe that violence can shift practical political considerations to create a psychology in which armed groups can use the tool of de-escalation as a way of forwarding a political process. That is to say, absent a political agreement, Hamas and Hezbollah will not voluntarily abandon what they view as their only defense against the overwhelming weight of Israeli military power. Disarmament (or "demilitarization") is possible: it worked in Northern Ireland and South Africa. When coupled with substantive political talks, the unification of armed elements into a single security or military force - demilitarization - provides the best hope for increased stability and security in Lebanon, the West Bank and Gaza. As a part of our program with Hamas and Hezbollah, we invited John Lord Alderdice to Beirut to brief the groups on how demilitarization might work in their societies. Lord Alderdice helped to negotiate the "Good Friday Agreements" in Northern Ireland that "decommissioned" the IRA and allowed, among other things, for Catholic policing of Catholic neighborhoods and the recomposition of a more representative Ulster Constabulary. Hezbollah leaders have acknowledged that they would be willing to undertake a process of demilitarization that would allow Shi'ite officers to hold more senior level officer positions in the Lebanese army, while Hamas leaders have openly talked of creating a national army - thereby acknowledging the importance of the "one commander, one security service, one gun" solution promoted by the Bush administration. Demilitarization is not a panacea, it does not work always and in every case, but it holds out greater hope for long-term stability and security than conditioning peace on requirements that cannot be met. CASUALTY REPORTS (or, ‘WAR IS DEATH’ REPORTS) Local Story: Lemay Women Killed in Iraq. Local Story: Engineering college dean killed in Baghdad. Local Story: U.S. solider had shot and killed Fadhil’s 81-year-old uncle, Saadi Al-Tahi, as he drove through an intersection in Mosul, Iraq. Local Story: Principal fondly recalls fallen GI. Local Story: Tom Fox commemorated in Baghdad. Local Story: Local serviceman from Shafter dies in Iraq. Local Story: Residents say US Marines killed 15 members of two innocent families. Local Story: Two soldiers with 101st Airborne killed in Iraq. Local Story: Family remembers son killed in Iraq. Local Story: Local soldier killed in Iraq. Local Story: Kentucky guardsman killed in Iraq to be buried in Bowling Green. Local Story: Two Fort Lewis soldiers killed in Iraq. Local Story: Indianapolis soldier killed in Baghdad. Local Story: Fort Hood soldier dies of non-combat injuries in Iraq. Local Story: Two Army Rangers are killed in Iraq. Local Story: Memorial service held for Marine. (Hawaii) Local Story: Kentucky National Guardsman dies in Iraq. Local Story: Soldier from Aberdeen dies in Iraq. Local Story: White House, Tennessee soldier killed in Iraq. Local Story: 200 gather to mourn fallen soldier. Local Story: Green Beret killed in Iraq. Local Story: Allan Enwiya, fatally shot during Jill Carroll’s capture, is one of 26 media assistants killed since the war began. Local Story: Indiana county soldier killed in Iraq. (Pennsylvania) Local Story: Four Iraqis hanged from lampposts in Baghdad. Iraq violence turns inward. Local Story: Romanian soldier dies in Kuwait hospital from suicide attempt in Iraq. Local Story: Schoolboy dies in bomb blast. Local Story: Prince George’s police officer killed in Iraq. Local Story: Iraqi woman, child killed in Iraq violence. Local Story: Native Hoosier killed in Iraq. Local Story: Iraq detainee beaten to death by fellow inmate. Local Story: Soldier from Bethlehem killed in Iraq. Local Story: (same individual as above story) PA soldier dies in Iraq, autopsy pending. Local Story: Remembering Professor Salah Jmor of uncommon grace, dignity and style. “On the day he turned 49, he arrived in Baghdad for a family visit. One day later on the 28th of June 2005 he was killed by the invading American troops in Baghdad.” Local Story: Oxford Hills honor fallen soldier. (Maine) Local Story: Funeral for fallen Kentucky soldier. Local Story: Iraqi girl tells how seven members of her family were killed. PEACE ACTION: No More Victims was founded in September 2002. We work to find medical sponsorships for war-injured Iraqi children and to forge ties between the children, their families and communities in the United States. We believe one of the most effective means of combating militarism is to focus on direct relief to its victims. We are committed to developing information and strategies that empower local communities to engage in direct aid and advocacy. QUOTE OF THE DAY: The Dixie Chicks talk back….and say they are “Not Ready to Make Nice” (Click link to hear the song.) “I know you said Can’t you just get over it It turned my whole world around And I kind of like it I made my bed and I sleep like a baby With no regrets and I don’t mind sayin’ It’s a sad sad story when a mother will teach her Daughter that she ought to hate a perfect stranger And how in the world can the words that I said Send somebody so over the edge That they’d write me a letter Sayin’ that I better shut up and sing Or my life will be over I’m not ready to make nice I’m not ready to back down I’m still mad as hell and I don’t have time to go round and round and round It’s too late to make it right I probably wouldn’t if I could ‘Cause I’m mad as hell Can’t bring myself to do what it is you think I should” I want to personally thank the Dixie Chicks for speaking up when it counted – before the war. -Susan


Thursday, March 30, 2006

DAILY WAR NEWS FOR THURSDAY, March 30, 2006 Photo: Workers remove from a balcony in Rome's City Hall the poster of American reporter Jill Carroll - who was kidnapped three months ago in a bloody ambush that killed her translator -, and who was released from captivity Thursday March 30, 2006. Like other colleagues in Iraq, Carrol's poster was hung in Rome's City Hall after her kidnapping. (AP Photo/Pier Paolo Cito) Bring 'em on: U.S. airman killed and another wounded by roadside bomb while conducting operation near Baghdad. Bring 'em on: U.S. soldier dies from wounds received in clashes in Fallujah on March 28. Bring 'em on: U.S. soldier dies in Rutbah on March 28, after improvised explosive device detonates near his Humvee. OTHER SECURITY INCIDENTS Baghdad: Suicide car bomb goes off at entrance of a police commando headquarters near Green Zone. The blast was powerful but the cement barriers protected the guards, minimizing the casualties to two wounded along with killing of the suicide bomber. Assailants in speeding cars gun down police commando as he was leaving his house in south Baghdad. Police discover body of strangled man in a northern Baghdad neighborhood. Suicide car bomber rams police convoy in west Baghdad's Yarmouk neighborhood, killing one police commando and wounding three others. Two civilians also were hurt. Roadside bombs hits minibus and a police patrol, wounding at least five civilians. Gunmen wound at least two policemen in Baghdad, authorities said. Armed men in Baghdad target bakery in the neighborhood of Dura, shooting dead three people. Attack on bakery in the neighborhood of Amiriyah, with one employee wounded in a hail of bullets. Bomb explodes in west of Baghdad as a commando convoy passed, wounding five commandos. Basra: Drive-by shooters kill lawyer as she gets out of taxi in Basra. Kirkuk: Policeman killed and three others wounded when roadside bomb hits their patrol in Kirkuk. "Insurgents" blow up pipeline transporting oil from Kirkuk to Beiji refinery. Nasiriyah: Two people wounded by bomb targeting a patrol of infrastructure guards protecting oil pipelines in Nasiriyah. Baiji: U.S. forces launch operation in town of Baiji, Tikrit. Iraqi troops supported the American military units in the offensive late last night. Roundups were staged early this morning. Heavy weapon fire was heard in the town. Gunmen ambush and kill eight workers from Iraq's main oil refinery in Baiji. One worker was also wounded when their minibus was stopped at a roadblock after they left work for the day. IRAQ NEWS JILL CARROLL RELEASED
Police Lt. Col. Falah al-Mohammedawi said Carroll was released near an office of the Iraqi Islamic Party, the main Sunni political organization, in western Baghdad. The party said in a statement that Carroll walked in at 12:15 p.m. carrying a letter written in Arabic asking the party to help her. Carroll then was transferred to party headquarters, given gifts that included a Quran and handed over to fellow journalists and American officials at about 2:30 p.m., the statement said. U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad met with Carroll and said she was in good spirits and anxious to go home. He also said no kidnappers were "yet" in custody, and no one in the U.S. mission was involved in paying a ransom. "No U.S. person entered into any arrangements with anyone. By 'U.S. person' I mean the United States mission," Khalilzad said. During Carroll's months in captivity, she had appeared in three videos broadcast on Arab television, pleading for her life. Her captors had demanded the release of all women detainees in Iraq by Feb. 26 and said Carroll would be killed if that did not happen. The date came and went with no word about her fate. On Feb. 28, Iraq's Interior Minister Bayan Jabr said Carroll was being held by the Islamic Army in Iraq, the insurgent group that freed two French journalists in 2004 after four months in captivity. She was last seen in a videotape broadcast Feb. 9 by the private Kuwaiti television station Al-Rai. Her twin sister, Katie, issued a plea for her release on Al-Arabiya television late Wednesday. Carroll is the fourth Western hostage to be freed in eight days. On March 23, U.S. and British soldiers, acting on intelligence gained from a detainee, freed Briton Norman Kember, 74, and Canadians James Loney, 41, and Harmeet Singh Sooden, 32, from a house west of Baghdad. Carroll's televised comments [to Baghdad TV upon release] "I was treated very well, it's important people know that. That I was not harmed, they never said they would hit me, never threatened me in any way." "I was kept in very good small, safe place, safe room, nice furniture, they gave me clothing, plenty of food. I was allowed to take showers, go to the bathroom when I wanted. They never hit me or even threatened to hit me." "I really don't know where I was. The room had a window, but the glass was ... you know you can't see, and curtains... I couldn't hear any sounds." "I once did watch television, but I didn't really know what was going on in the outside world. Here and there I would get some news. One time they brought me the newspaper." "I don't know what happened. They just came to me early this morning and said, 'OK, we are letting you go now.'"
Muslim discontent awaits Rice in northern England: U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will face Muslim resentment over the war in Iraq when she travels to northern England this week to meet her British opposite number Jack Straw. Rice will travel to Liverpool, a city steeped in left wing radicalism, and Straw's home town of Blackburn, where 20 percent of the population is Muslim. She will speak on U.S. foreign policy in the somewhat incongruous setting of Blackburn Rovers' soccer stadium, and had been due to visit a mosque in the city until the invitation was withdrawn on Wednesday. No one at the Masjid al Hidayah mosque was available for comment but the Foreign Office confirmed the cancellation, saying it was a pity. The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), the largest lobby group for the country's 1.6 million Muslims, said there was widespread opposition to U.S. foreign policy and Rice's visit. "This particular U.S. administration has upset many Muslims in the UK and around the world ... so it is not particularly surprising that the visit to a Blackburn mosque has had to be cancelled," MCB spokesman Inayat Bunglawala said. "The U.S. government needs to demonstrate that it is prepared to be more even-handed in its relations with Muslims and Muslim countries." The Stop The War coalition, which plans to demonstrate against the war in Iraq everywhere Rice goes, said the governing committee of the mosque had had a change of heart. "This decision is evidence that the bulk of the community, Muslim and otherwise, are strongly against the visit," Stop The War spokesman Alex Martindale said in a statement. REPORTS Video: We're Sorry: We have a powerful film this evening. We follow a group of former US soldiers who have returned from Iraq deeply affected by the experience. As they march across America to protest against the war they reveal their own experiences of the conflict, make some disturbing allegations about military practices in Iraq and reflect on how it feels to come home. We'll discuss some of the issues raised with the former Judge Advocate General for the US Army who is also a decorated combat veteran. BBC Newsnight program broadcast 03/29/06 COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS Iraq has not fallen: It is a rarity these days to see good news coming out of Iraq. Sure, I am not talking about the planted US military version of events or the bloggers on "assignment in Iraq" embedded with some military unit. Nor am I talking about the so-called valor and bravery of the Iraqi Army as it storms the hideouts of "insurgents" and scores kills against women and children. No, I am indeed talking about the voice of one woman, who has in nearly three years saved the writing of history from those who seek to enslave it, refashion it to their own whims and manipulate it for generations to come. Today, purported victors may attempt to write history, but the internet has made that impossible. Call it a matter of your own best invention turning its guns on you. I would ask readers of my blog and wherever else this short treatise may appear not to take Riverbend's nomination as a finalist for the prestigious Samuel Johnson literary prize lightly. It is an achievement that speaks volumes to the tenacity, no, the very indomitable spirit of the Iraqi people. A people who while under a senseless and merciless occupation and facing the break-up of their country continue to press on. Ever forward, ever defying the odds, ever thinking, innovating, producing and accomplishing. It is a pity that Riverbend's achievements will get no airplay or broadcast time in her own country, a testament to the terrible reppressive forces which have swept Iraq. Consider that this is a woman who has been forced to quit her job because conditions in her country took a detour to the worst becoming so few women could venture outside their homes. And those who did resorted to the head covering - hijab - in case they weren't already covered. Consider that English - the language in which she writes - is not her native tongue, and yet she is nominated for a prize in English Literature. Consider also that she shares the nomination with 18 others of mostly Anglo-Saxon descent. Consider she is the only Arab, the only Iraq, the only Muslim on this year's list. Consider these things as you read her blog, the stories of what she must endure, what her people must endure, of what the whole nation has had to endure. Consider these things when you read of the night her home was raided and the fears which are impounded in every word she writes. Riverbend's testimony to history is no less significant than the Diary of Anne Frank, for it reveals the human component that is so readily snuffed out by warfare. It reveals the beating heart of life where war seeks none. It does not matter if it is Riverbend's name that is sounded in June when the winner is announced. She has already won, and we Iraqis have won right alongside her. There are those who have sought to discredit her. Those that have doubted her existence, those that have shunned her because they were paid to. But she - and us - has emerged the victor. This was not the first time she was nominated for a prize, nor, I am sure, will it be the last. It is a small victory if one considers the overall defeat of the human experience during warfare. The Times of London had this headline in describing her: Literary honor for Baghdad blogger. Honor indeed. Iraqis, stand proud. American and Arab Youth Share Ideas on the occupation [Excerpts from an e-mail exchange] In an e-mail-based dialogue, sponsored by IslamOnline.net's Muslim Affairs section, between American student Evan Hays and Iraqi-Palestinian student Khalid Jarrar. Evan L. Hays, 21, is a senior student at in Illinois who has traveled through Egypt, Turkey, Syria, and Jordan, where he studied the people, language, politics, history, and faith of the Middle East. Khalid Jarrar, 23, is an Iraqi-Palestinian student with a major in environmental engineering who lived in Iraq from July 1991 through July 2005 and has recently moved to Jordan. Khalid maintains a blog, Tell me a secret, where he writes about ordinary Iraqis and daily life in post-war Iraq.
Excerpt from Part 1 Evan: Iraq is better off without Saddam Hussein. I will not shrink from this statement. In fact, I believe that even the liberal media in the United States, as well as most true Muslims, believe this deep down, even if they do not always vocalize it. Khalid: Iraq, that was built throughout years, is now destroyed, at all levels, and is still being destroyed everyday, by the occupation and the war that the US started-look at the killing and torture of Iraqis; bombing cities and villages; and installing puppet governments. The fake government that was installed in Iraq, which consists of pro-occupation figures, exists within and only within the boundaries of the Green Zone, which is surrounded by concrete walls, American soldiers, and American tanks-all to protect the government from the anger of people, the Iraqi people, whose voice you never hear in the media anymore. This government that is being attacked everyday at all levels by Iraqis, unable itself, let alone Iraqis, will fall, because it was installed as a result of external pressure and foreign intervention, something that never worked in Iraq throughout history, under many occupations that tried to control it and oppress the will of its people. I believe in the strength of Iraqis. I believe in the spirit of Iraqis. I believe in God above all, and therefore I know that this occupation, too, will be terminated, and that the occupation will leave against its will and against all its plans and despite the presence of the military bases that were built in Iraq for the occupation to stay (just like the American occupation in other countries around the world, except that in Iraq, occupations never last, and are always forced to leave.) Saddam was a terrible dictator, a phase that every country goes through till it revolts and achieves its granted democracy, a natural process that results in a democratic state where people rule themselves by electing governments that represent them. Saddam used violence against everyone who dared to criticize him, and so does the occupation. Saddam killed his enemies, or the people who stood against him, while the occupation kills innocent people everyday, people walking the streets, living in their cities. The occupation used cluster bombs against civilians, bombs that still kill innocent people. They were used against a neighbor who lived right next to where I lived. Their remains kept exploding and killing people whenever they stepped over them. Both Saddam and the occupation kill whoever they think are "bad people" or "insurgents," except that the occupation does that much more widely. Other than that, Saddam was a good "manager" in terms of providing the basic needs of life-water, security, food. Now we still have the same country of secret police and muhabarat (intelligence) except that we lost the small positive side of Saddam; we don't have water, security, electricity, or food rations anymore. Excerpt from Part 2 Evan: I also am disappointed and shocked that Khalid takes such a stand on the "resistance," as this is implicitly saying that he is in favor of the terrorism that continues to kill far more people over the last year than the military battles have for quite some time. (…) At this point I am not asking the readers to even support American military actions, but I am asking the readers to at least see this resistance for what it is, and finally to get involved for peace if they really do want to change things. Join the Red Crescent or the Arab League or various Muslim human rights organizations and go to Iraq-the more hands that there are working for peace, the sooner American soldiers will leave, but more importantly, the sooner the destructive ideology of the "resistance" will be defeated. Khalid: The resistance is the force of the oppressed against this oppressor. The resistance couldn't possibly have started or continued, if it wasn't for the funding and protection of Iraqi people. Imagine four people in a car, carrying their weapons and waiting for an American convoy to pass so they can attack it. How many Iraqis see them? How many Iraqis can report them anonymously? How many Iraqis can attack them? But none of that happens! People protect them, and cheer for them when they perform their operations. They help the attackers in their escape after they are done. Some people even divide their income between their families and the resistance, some people work half-time to provide for their families and dedicate the rest of their day to working with the resistance. It is a public grassroots movement, and the official numbers and report show that it's increasing and getting smarter and stronger. These are facts that AP can't report because they don't know about them, and Talabani won't talk about them because he doesn't like them. I heard you talking over and over about the innocent Iraqis who were killed by the terrorists (well, according to your definition of terrorists, not mine). My question is: Do you support the killing of Iraqis by the American Army? Over 100,000 Iraqis have been killed. Cluster bombs and white phosphorus were used against civilians. Yes, civilians in civilian areas, as you know that kind of weapon doesn't discriminate. It's practically a weapon of mass destruction so to speak, in the sense that it's designed to kill as many people as possible in an area. Well, you might say that some of the resistance were among those civilians that were killed. Do you support killing these numbers of innocent civilians, just because maybe they work with the resistance? If the situation were the opposite and your country were occupied and the occupiers killed civilians, including your family members, by using white phosphorus-which means that they practically burned to death-just because some of the resistance happened to be in the neighbor, what would you think? (Sorry if I sound rude; I need to let you understand that I am not talking about theories. Those people who burned to ashes were families of other people you know.) Excerpt from Part 5 Evan: I pray that you do not view me as someone who is not deeply saddened by the pain in Iraq, someone who does not greatly appreciate Iraq and its people, someone who does not respect Islam, etc. I am simply someone trying to find out what is right, as we all are in this life. Perhaps you as readers are more inclined to believe Khalid's points because he is an Iraqi, and quite probably you are right to do so. Khalid: I have said before and will repeat that the goal of this debate is not getting closer to each other, but to demonstrate the facts and answer the questions, and let the readers see for themselves the elements of the case of each one of us. I represent the common anti-war side, and you represent the common pro-war side, so there is nothing personal here, and I have nothing personal against you of course. If you want a better way to get closer to an Iraqi, consider asking your government to stop occupying his country. (...) Consider the possibility of someone you love being burned or shredded with White Phosphorus (WP) or cluster bombs. Imagine your country occupied and the scenes of the military of another country on your land building military bases, and then spreading a propaganda about protecting your freedom. I hope that you will never have to go through that, but I am asking you to look closely at the life of Iraqis. They are not a political theory; they are people, humans, who are suffering from the lack of medicine, food, and security. But they still have their dignity, which is urging them to fight at all levels, a fight that won't stop, not till the last man falls, not till the last pen is broken, not before Iraq gets its freedom back, someday.
Military expert has fighting words for Bush: Eric Haney, a retired command sergeant major of the U.S. Army, was a founding member of Delta Force, the military's elite covert counter-terrorist unit. He culled his experiences for "Inside Delta Force". Today he serves as an executive producer and technical adviser for "The Unit," CBS' new hit drama based on his book, who drew 18 million viewers in its first two airings. Q: What is the cost to our country [of the war in Iraq]? A: For the first thing, our credibility is utterly zero. So we destroyed whatever credibility we had. ... And I say "we," because the American public went along with this. They voted for a second Bush administration out of fear, so fear is what they're going to have from now on. Our military is completely consumed, so were there a real threat - thankfully, there is no real threat to the U.S. in the world, but were there one, we couldn't confront it. Right now, that may not be a bad thing, because that keeps Bush from trying something with Iran or with Venezuela. The harm that has been done is irreparable. There are more than 2,000 American kids that have been killed. Tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis have been killed ñ which no one in the U.S. really cares about those people, do they? I never hear anybody lament that fact. It has been a horror, and this administration has worked overtime to divert the American public's attention from it. Their lies are coming home to roost now, and it's gonna fall apart. But somebody's gonna have to clear up the aftermath and the harm that it's done just to what America stands for. It may be two or three generations in repairing. Q: What do you make of the torture debate? Cheney ... A: (Interrupting) That's Cheney's pursuit. The only reason anyone tortures is because they like to do it. It's about vengeance, it's about revenge, or it's about cover-up. You don't gain intelligence that way. Everyone in the world knows that. It's worse than small-minded, and look what it does. I've argued this on Bill O'Reilly and other Fox News shows. I ask, who would you want to pay to be a torturer? Do you want someone that the American public pays to torture? He's an employee of yours. It's worse than ridiculous. It's criminal; it's utterly criminal. This administration has been masters of diverting attention away from real issues and debating the silly. Debating what constitutes torture: Mistreatment of helpless people in your power is torture, period. And (I'm saying this as) a man who has been involved in the most pointed of our activities. I know it, and all of my mates know it. You don't do it. It's an act of cowardice. I hear apologists for torture say, "Well, they do it to us." Which is a ludicrous argument. ... The Saddam Husseins of the world are not our teachers. Christ almighty, we wrote a Constitution saying what's legal and what we believed in. Now we're going to throw it away. Q: As someone who repeatedly put your life on the line, did some of the most hair-raising things to protect your country, and to see your country behave this way, that must be ... A: It's pretty galling. But ultimately I believe in the good and the decency of the American people, and they're starting to see what's happening and the lies that have been told. We're seeing this current house of cards start to flutter away. The American people come around. They always do. Why many Iraqis were willing to confront a formidable military machine with only small arms and their own wits: It is now lost to history, but the run-up to the ferocious first battle of Fallujah in April, 2004 - triggered by the mutilation of four private security contractors - actually began a full year earlier when American troops fired on a peaceful protest organized around a host of local issues, killing 13 Iraqi civilians. It was exactly this sort of ferocious reaction to peaceful protest that made the US military such a factor in the stoking of what would become an ongoing rebellion. In fact, in 2003, the occupation response to protests was forceful, almost gleeful, repression. Top officials of the CPA and the US military command considered these demonstrations, peaceful or not, the most tangible signs of ongoing Ba'athist attempts to facilitate a future return to power. They therefore applied the occupation's iron heel on the theory that forceful suppression would soon defeat or demoralize any "dead-enders" intent on restoring the old regime. Protests were met with arrests, beatings, and - in any circumstances deemed dangerous to US troops - overwhelming, often lethal military force. Home invasions of people suspected of anti-occupation attitudes or activities became commonplace, resulting in thousands of arrests and numerous firefights. Detention and torture in Abu Ghraib and other American-controlled prisons were just one facet of this larger strategy, fueled by official pressure - once a low-level rebellion boiled up - to get quick information for further harsh, repressive strikes. In general, the Iraqi population came to understand that dissent of whatever sort would be met by savage repression. This policy might have worked if, as Bush administration officials regularly claimed, the resistance had indeed been nothing but remnants of the Saddam regime, thirsting for a return to power. It might even have worked - or at least worked somewhat better - if the growing resistance had rested only on the anger people felt about the occupation of their homeland by an alien army. In these circumstances, protesters might have decided to bide their time in the face of overwhelming demonstrations of force. It was, however, an unworkable policy in the face of a deepening disaster caused by the CPA's own economic nostrums which, by generating new problems, kept recruiting new protesters (and deepening the anger of existing rebels). In this context, the CPA's heavy-handed responses were like oil to the flames. The rear guard of a deposed regime was a tiny part of their problem when protest and rebellion were fundamentally being fueled by a rapidly growing economic depression endangering the livelihoods of a majority of the Iraqi population. In such circumstances, each act of repression added the provocation of brutality, false arrest, torture and murder to the economic crimes that triggered the protests to begin with. And each act of repression convinced more Iraqis that peaceful protest would not work; that, if they were going to save their lives and those of their families, a more aggressive, belligerent approach would be necessary. In this context, the American policy of repression backfired royally, stoking an ever angrier, more violent, more widespread, better supported resistance. Eventually, in both Sunni and Shi'ite areas, major uprisings occurred and, in the Sunni cities, these developed into more-or-less continuous warfare that by November resulted in about 700 small-scale military engagements per week. Could the US have suppressed even this economically driven rebellion, had it flooded the country with American troops (as Shinseki recommended) and kept the Hussein army more or less intact, using it - as Saddam had - to suppress growing discontent? Perhaps, but as long as American administrators were intent on privatizing the country, this too might have backfired. As a start, the American Army was not trained or prepared to act as the sort of local police force that might have contained protests generated by economic discontent. Even Shinseki's estimates rested on the existence of a viable Iraqi military to maintain law and order. Yet, retaining an army after overthrowing a government and rearranging its economic foundations is quite a different feat from retaining one after a coup d'etat that changes little except the leadership. CPA officials rightly feared major resistance from all the forces that served, and were served by, the old system, including the military, which in the Iraqi case benefited from government-controlled enterprises as much as any other part of the establishment. Certainly, an alien army entered Iraq, destroyed that country's sovereignty, and stoked nationalist resentments. But major media outlets in this country have lost track of the fact that what also entered Iraq was an American administration wedded at home and abroad to a fierce, unbending, and alien set of economic ideas. By focusing attention only on the lack of US (and Iraqi) military power brought to bear in the early days after the fall of Baghdad, they ignore some of the deeper reasons why many Iraqis were willing to confront a formidable military machine with only small arms and their own wits. They ignore - and cause the American public to ignore - the fact that there was little resistance just after the fall of Baghdad and that it expanded as the economy declined and repression set in. They ignore the eternal verity that the willingness to fight and die is regularly animated by the conviction that otherwise things will only get worse. Fighting Two Fronts In Iraq: One week into the fourth year of the war in Iraq, the United States is now fighting two robust insurgencies, not one. The first insurgency, of course, is the Sunni-led one, a resistance movement made up of former and current Iraqi Baathists, many loyal to Saddam Hussein, former Iraqi military officers and fighters from the old Republican Guard and a coalition of tribal and Sunni religious leaders bitterly opposed to the U.S. occupation. That force shows no sign of weakening. And indeed, it is steadily killing American soldiers and Marines, along with scores of Iraqi army and police recruits weekly. But now a Shiite insurgency has emerged-nearly full-blown and with Iranian support-to confront the occupation. Because it can draw on the majority of Iraq's population, and because it can count on lethal assistance from Tehran, it is a far more deadly threat to U.S. forces than the first insurgency. It's safe to say that most Americans, who've been paying attention to the first insurgency, have failed to notice the emergence of the second. (...) So the United States is now engaged in a two-front war in Iraq. One obvious danger is that as tensions between the United States and Iran-linked Shiites in Iraq grow, the simmering conflict between the United States and Iran could come to a boil. The United States is already pushing hard for a showdown with Tehran over its alleged program to develop nuclear weapons. And there are clear signs of a U.S. effort to force regime change in Iran (see "Déjà Vu All Over Iran"), with the creation of a State Department Office of Iranian Affairs, U.S. efforts to recruit Iranian exiles, $85 million to support anti-regime groups and propaganda and more. Does Khalilzad realize that by confronting the Iraqi Shiites, he could precipitate a larger conflict with Iran? Is that his intention? Most likely, there is no grand plan at this stage for the Bush administration's Iran-Iraq policy. Not only are Bush administration officials divided among themselves, it is likely that no one in the administration has any idea what to do about either Iraq or Iran. Both crises are beyond the White House's ability to solve, and it is safe to assume that they are scrambling madly, desperately trying for a magic formula that can stabilize Iraq and neutralize Iran simultaneously. The maddeningly shifting alliances inside Iraq among Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds-and the internal factions of each-make finding that winning combination almost as hard as picking the right lottery numbers. What Bush, Karl Rove and rest of the Bush team know is that if something isn't done, fast, the GOP is toast in the 2006 elections. For Bush and company, it may be all politics. But for the Iraqis, it is a steady diet of carnage. Scores of bodies turn up every day throughout Baghdad, many tied, bound and gagged and showing signs of having been tortured to death. Mass graves-that supposed relic of the Saddam years-are turning up again, and this time the bodies are fresh. Post-Saddam Iraq has become a nightmare, a Mad Max world in which warlords rule. It is not, as the president wants us to believe, a model for democracy in the Middle East. And the French, the Russians, the Chinese, the Arab League, the United Nations, the State Department, the CIA and the U.S. anti-war movement can all say: I told you so. The prophecy of America's false prophet: The recent statements by U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on predictions regarding the outbreak of a civil war in Iraq raise fury and disgust now matter their incentives and targets. We have followed U.S. media and statements by U.S. officials since last Wednesday's bloody events and the subsequent violent attacks. These statements say that a civil war is imminent if not already there in Iraq. But what is strange is the fact that some of these statements warn of the dangers of the sectarian push by some quarters in the society and its dangers to the national solidarity and the Iraqi national unity. I want first to say to the U.S. administration and assure it that the Iraqi people have lived together in cohesion throughout centuries despite their religious, sectarian and ethnic differences. And that the colonial powers have constantly tried to split the Iraqi society by playing the card of the sectarian, ethnic or religious differences in its ranks. These powers' aim has always been to split the society as a means to spread their control over it. But our society has shown remarkable patriotism due to its awareness of the great conspiracy the forces of sedition and enemies of the homeland are concocting. But what raises suspicions and anxiety is that we suddenly find the American occupier expressing its keenness for the unity of our people and country. Did not the occupation encourage in the aftermath of its invasion of Iraq sectarian division ... when it devoted its energies to establish sectarian politics by giving each sect or nationality a specific number of seats. Throughout its modern political history Iraq was not ruled by sectarian policies and it was not obligatory for any government to reflect the country's sectarian, ethnic or religious construction in its formation. (...) This is why we are not surprised by Mr. Rumsfeld's statements and predictions of civil war. We are also not surprised when his troops withdrew from the streets of Baghdad last Wednesday when these blood events took place and hid themselves in their holes. Since the bombing of the holy shrine in Samarra, Iraqis have seen no trace of Mr. Rumsfeld's troops. Even his planes have disappeared from Iraqi skies. Mr. Rumsfeld's motto is "let them kill each other." But the Iraqis have broken the spears of the conspiracy and torn its sails and are steadfast in the face of the strong winds of evil. And God willing the prophecy of this false prophet (Rumsfled) will not come true. -- Editorial in Azzaman, a pro-Western Iraqi paper American War Crimes: From my point of view, the American State has committed innumerable and grave war crimes by starting and prosecuting the Iraq War. I do not refer to crimes defined by international law or by past war crimes tribunals. I am no lawyer and neither are most Americans, but we understand what many crimes are. For my purposes here, it does not help us understand American war crimes in Iraq to subject our State's deeds in that country to an abstruse tangle of international code and interpretation. It does help us to look at what has happened from a simple commonsense point of view. Let us think of war crimes as a subset of all crimes. They are those crimes committed in the course of war, start to finish. There are many crimes that we are accustomed to domestically, such as murder, theft, rape, arson, kidnapping, assault, maiming, causing bodily injury, vandalism, and property destruction. We know what these crimes are. They also occur in the course of war. To simplify matters, I speak of all these crimes as one category: crimes against property, or crimes that violate property rights. I do not mean to minimize the severity of the loss of human life by lumping it together with the loss of a building. I mean to make an accurate simplification. Murder is a property crime, since each person owns his own body. Rape violates the property right of a person, since it uses his or her body against his or her will. Kidnapping involves physically controlling a person's body, again a property crime. Obviously crimes like theft, arson, and property destruction all violate property rights. Maiming a person is a crime. I think it helps us to count all these crimes together as one set of property crimes in order to sense the enormity of their totality. But I have said "if there are war crimes in Iraq." Have there been American war crimes in Iraq? To answer affirmatively, we need to document three facts: property destruction, American responsibility for property destruction, and criminality of the American acts. I believe that most Americans know that there has been massive property destruction, and they know that Americans are directly responsible for much of it. They have seen some of it on television. However, most Americans probably don't believe that America's acts have been criminal acts. The property destruction in Iraq is well-known. No one denies it. The only arguments are over how big it has been. A recent BBC News article places civilian Iraqi deaths at a minimum of between 33,710 and 37,832. Other estimates range far higher. No one knows how many Iraqi civilians have been injured. The group Iraq Body Count reports 42,500 injuries. Then there is destruction and damage done to all sorts of goods, from homes to capital goods to possessions. There are vast economic losses as businesses have been disrupted and destroyed. Civilians no doubt have been arrested and, at times, tortured. The American responsibility for a large fraction of this property destruction is well-known. Our military forces have actively been engaged in it from day one of the war. Domestic Iraqi elements and foreign interlopers have also done their share of crime and destruction. Again, my purpose is not to allocate the crimes among the groups and persons responsible. I am unable to do that. As an American whose taxes support the carnage, who'd like to see it ended, and who'd like to prevent a repeat performance, my interest here is in American culpability, in getting us to clean up our own act. This does not mean I do not condemn the crimes being committed by Arabs, Iraqis, or other nationalities. I do. This brings us to the third element, which is the criminality of the American acts. There is no doubt that American armed forces and possibly paid civilian contractors have destroyed large amounts of property. They have also seized large amounts of property. Whether or not these are crimes hinges on one question: Were these acts done in self-defense or not? It seems almost self-evident that many property rights violations have been visited upon people who either were not attacking Americans in Iraq or had not attacked them in America. But this is apparently not enough to condemn Americans for their acts. The rules of war allow for "collateral damage." I won't question that doctrine here, although it can be questioned. But collateral damage is only allowable if there is justification for fighting the war in the first place. The major concern is still the criminality or non-criminality of America's presence in Iraq. Criminality surely does not hinge on whether or not Iraq was or was not a democracy as this has nothing at all to do with self-defense, notwithstanding the ravings of the President and his cabal of neoconservatives. It has nothing to do with bringing freedom to anyone, because this goal also has nothing to do with American self-defense. Whether or not America is capable of bringing freedom and whether or not it has actually done this are pertinent questions and acts much to be doubted, but even if we were capable and did bring freedom to Iraq this would not justify attacking the country. There is no self-defense issue involved in "liberating" Iraq because there has been no attack on America by the Iraqis. While this sounds quite like the Soviet Union's liberation of its satellites after World War II, if we are generous and give the American State the benefit of the doubt as to its honorable intentions, there is still no way to justify the slaughter of tens of thousands of Iraqis while liberating their country. But the basic issue remains that doing the supposed good deed of bringing freedom does not excuse acts of aggression. If this rationale for war-making is accepted, which means that committing wrongs to accomplish a supposed right is morally acceptable, then I am justified in cutting out your kidney in order to give it to a person who can't live without it. I am justified in taking your home and turning it over to homeless people. When the President uses such a rationale, he only shows us that he is bereft of proper moral education. Criminality does not hinge on whether or not the Iraqi people suffered under Saddam Hussein. This has nothing to do with American self-defense. It does not hinge on provocative words or statements uttered by Iraqi leaders, although no one says this brought on the war. Political leaders make all sorts of statements and to construe them as an actual attack that requires self-defense would be folly. That would make for wars at the pleasure of any country that felt itself insulted or threatened by the words of another. This is not to say that there is no situation in which the combination of words and deeds, such as the massing of armies at a border or the sailing of warships or the overflights of airplanes, might trigger hostilities by a party under threat of attack. Nor does American self-defense hinge on whether or not Iraq did or did not obey various United Nations resolutions or cooperate fully or partially with U.N. officials. Just because there is an international political body that the states have set up does not change the substance of whether acts are criminal or not. The states have anointed the U.N. as a power that provides a legal cover when enough member states have enough votes to act. These political procedures do not mean that all actions taken under the U.N. aegis suddenly become non-crimes or always lawful no matter what their content is. The U.N. is not above the law although it is convenient for it to think it is. Anyway, in the Iraqi case, there was no Iraqi crime committed that justified Americans "defending" themselves by a wholesale attack and bombardment of Iraq and by a continuing war that has created huge property damage in Iraq. If this were so, I think we would hear President Bush reminding us about it today as justification for continuing our defense efforts. We hear nothing of the kind. We hear that the damage America has done is justified because the world is now a safer place with Saddam toppled from power. But this too, besides being a fantasy, has nothing to do with American self-defense. American and world safety may or may not have been lower with Saddam in office, but that does not justify attacking him. We are not talking about a serial killer haunting the streets of Los Angeles. We are talking about the head of a foreign country and making war on another country, with all its attendant death and destruction. If the U.S. or any other country starts wars on the flimsy basis of increasing its safety, then any country anywhere is justified in starting a war merely by identifying a country, neighboring or otherwise, as reducing its "safety." Hitler surely could, and probably did, justify his many aggressions on grounds such as this. Perhaps he spoke of some other reasons than safety, like Anschluß or Lebensraum, but the basic idea is the same, namely, "we are justified in attacking because it makes us better off." This has nothing to do with self-defense and everything to do with immoral behavior. The criminality or lack of it in America's actions does not hinge on the pragmatic strategy of attacking the terrorists before they attack us. It's quite obvious that the terrorists who brought down the Trade Towers died in the effort. Their actions trace back to Al-Qaeda, not Iraq, not Saddam Hussein, and still less to the Iraqi people against whom many crimes have been committed. Al-Qaeda fostered a number of terrorist acts in the past 25 years, and no one has ever tied them to Saddam Hussein as the kingpin. He's on trial now, but not for causing terrorism against the United States or Great Britain or Spain or Indonesia. And if there had been evidence that showed Saddam's complicity in international terrorist acts, that still would not have justified the sort of war that America began, executed, and is carrying out today, long after his capture. There is such a thing as a proportionate response to crimes. The damage inflicted by America on Iraq is out of all proportion to the crimes supposedly committed by Saddam Hussein that are supposed to justify the American action. Were American actions justified by self-defense? The answer is "no." This means that the officials of the American State committed war crimes. This means that they should be indicted and tried for war crimes. The Cowards Path: An open letter to Ralph Nader: Dear Mr. Nader, Sir, I owe you an apology... (...) In the 2000 elections even as I was impassioned by your words, and although inspired by your courage in a way that has alluded me since my youth. I sat silently applauding you (I even considered "vote-swapping"), but in the end, I cast my vote for Al Gore. I was completely secure in my convictions. As desperately, as we needed you, it was far more critical to elect Al Gore than to risk (I'd been doing my homework over the last twenty years) allowing America to fall into the hands of George Bush and Dick Cheney. When the 2004 elections rolled around--again I was mute, but this time I was even more resolute in my convictions, that a vote for you was a vote squandered. You were a luxury that we could not afford. Our constitution was under threat-Bush must clearly and definitively be re-defeated! Moreover, as the Downing Street Memo exposed Bush and the lies he told taking us to war in Iraq, a war of profit, a war of pestilence wrought on the peoples of Iraq after so many years enduring the tyrannies of Saddam Hussein. A pestilence that will haunt the peoples of the Middle East as well as the men and women serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, who's patriotism has been exploited so unconscionably by this regime. Depleted Uranium is the legacy that will resonate for generations to come. Brutality, torture and empire will now be the values most often associated with the United States. Mean-spirited debate and incivility are the new currency in Bush's America. Yet, while the lies and corruption continue to spill forth, we have in our democratic leadership, people unwilling to stand up, unwilling to stand up to protect our representative democracy, our basic civil liberties and our constitution. I like many across the country have stood by, nearly pulling out my hair, making phone calls, writing letters, signing petitions, watching in anguish, as our democratic leadership serves up more power and legitimacy to this regime. Now, here we are, a year and a half into Bush's second term-Lent. Lent, and although I no longer consider myself a catholic, I still find myself falling into the ritual of self-reflection, and a good habit indeed-one of my few... and sir, I owe you an apology... I understand now, that I am a war criminal. I am responsible. I am complicit in disseminating depleted uranium throughout the Middle East. I am responsible for the renditions, for Abu Ghraib, for the torture, for the illegal spying, etc. I am responsible. I am responsible for it all. I am responsible because, when we choose the cowardly path as we step into the ballot box, we choose cowardly people to represent us. We choose fear to dictate our actions rather than courage. Little wonder that that is what we see reflected back to us by our leadership. More importantly, in choosing weak and cowardly people, we choose to allow unspeakable acts to be committed in our name and for that, sir - I owe you and the world, an apology. The apocalyptic president: In his latest PR offensive President Bush came to Cleveland, Ohio, on Monday [March 20] to answer the paramount question on Iraq that he said was on people's minds: "They wonder what I see that they don't." After mentioning "terror" 54 times and "victory" five, dismissing "civil war" twice and asserting that he is "optimistic", he called on a citizen in the audience, who homed in on the invisible meaning of recent events in the light of two books, American Theocracy, by Kevin Phillips, and the book of Revelation. Phillips, the questioner explained, "makes the point that members of your administration have reached out to prophetic Christians who see the war in Iraq and the rise of terrorism as signs of the apocalypse. Do you believe this? And if not, why not?" Bush's immediate response, as transcribed by CNN, was: "Hmmm." Then he said: "The answer is I haven't really thought of it that way. Here's how I think of it. First, I've heard of that, by the way." The official White House website transcript drops the strategic comma, and so changes the meaning to: "First I've heard of that, by the way." But it is certainly not the first time Bush has heard of the apocalyptic preoccupation of much of the religious right, having served as evangelical liaison on his father's 1988 presidential campaign. The Rev Jerry Falwell told Newsweek how he brought Tim LaHaye, then an influential rightwing leader, to meet him; LaHaye's Left Behind novels, dramatising the rapture, Armageddon and the second coming, have sold tens of millions. But it is almost certain that Cleveland was the first time Bush had heard of Phillips's book. He was the visionary strategist for Nixon's 1968 presidential campaign; his 1969 book, The Emerging Republican Majority, spelled out the shift of power from the north-east to the south and south-west, which he was early to call "the sunbelt"; he grasped that southern Democrats would react to the civil-rights revolution by becoming southern Republicans; he also understood the resentments of urban ethnic Catholics towards black people on issues such as crime, school integration and jobs. But he never imagined that evangelical religion would transform the coalition he helped to fashion into something that horrifies him. In American Theocracy, Phillips describes Bush as the founder of "the first American religious party"; September 11 gave him the pretext for "seizing the fundamentalist moment"; he has manipulated a "critical religious geography" to hype issues such as gay marriage. "New forces were being interwoven. These included the institutional rise of the religious right, the intensifying biblical focus on the Middle East, and the deepening of insistence on church-government collaboration within the GOP electorate." It portended a potential "American Disenlightenment," apparent in Bush's hostility to science. Even Bush's failures have become pretexts for advancing his transformation of government. Exploiting his own disastrous emergency management after Hurricane Katrina, Bush is funneling funds to churches as though they can compensate for governmental breakdown. Last year David Kuo, the White House deputy director for faith-based initiatives, resigned with a statement that "Republicans were indifferent to the poor". Within hours of its publication, American Theocracy rocketed to No 1 on Amazon. At US cinemas, V for Vendetta - in which an imaginary Britain, ruled by a totalitarian, faith-based regime that rounds up gays, is a metaphor for Bush's America - is the surprise hit. Bush has succeeded in getting American audiences to cheer for terrorism. FROM BLOWBACK TO NEMESIS
Is Nemesis coming after the U.S.? Excerpt from an interview with Chalmers Johnson by Tom Engelhardt of TomDispatch CJ: The officials of this administration are radicals. They're crazies. We all speculate on why they do it. Why has the president broken the constitution, let the military spin virtually out of control, making it the only institution he would turn to for anything - another Katrina disaster, a bird flu epidemic? The whole thing seems farcical, but what it does remind you of is ancient Rome. If a bankruptcy situation doesn't shake us up, then I fear we will, as an author I admire wrote the other day, be "crying for the coup". We could end the way the Roman Republic ended. When the chaos, the instability become too great, you turn it over to a single man. After about the same length of time our republic has been in existence, the Roman Republic got itself in that hole by inadvertently, thoughtlessly acquiring an empire they didn't need and weren't able to administer, that kept them at war all the time. Ultimately, it caught up with them. I can't see how we would be immune to a Julius Caesar, to a militarist who acts the populist. TD: Do you think that our all-volunteer military will turn out to be the janissaries of our failed empire? CJ: They might very well be. I'm already amazed at the degree to which they tolerate this incompetent government. I mean the officers know that their precious army, which they worked so hard to rebuild after the Vietnam War, is coming apart again, that it's going to be ever harder to get people to enlist, that even the military academies are in trouble. I don't know how long they'll take it. Tommy Franks, the general in charge of the attack on Baghdad, did say that if there were another terrorist attack in the United States comparable to September 11, the military might have no choice but to take over. In other words: If we're going to do the work, why listen to incompetents like George Bush? Why take orders from an outdated character like Donald Rumsfeld? Why listen to a Congress in which, other than John McCain, virtually no Republican has served in the armed forces? I don't see the obvious way out of our problems. The political system has failed. You could elect the opposition party, but it can't bring the CIA under control; it can't bring the military-industrial complex under control; it can't reinvigorate the Congress. It would be just another holding operation as conditions got worse. TD: Usually we believe that the Cold War ended with the Soviet Union's collapse and, in essence, our victory. A friend of mine put it another way. The United States, he suggested, was so much more powerful than the USSR that we had a greater capacity to shift our debts elsewhere. The Soviets didn't and so imploded. My question is this: Are we now seeing the delayed end of the Cold War? Perhaps both superpowers were headed for the proverbial trash bin of history, simply at different rates of speed? CJ: I've always believed that they went first because they were poorer and that the terrible, hubristic conclusion we drew - that we were victorious, that we won - was off the mark. I always felt that we both lost the Cold War for the same reasons - imperial overstretch, excessive militarism, things that have been identified by students of empires since Babylonia. We've never given Mikhail Gorbachev credit. Most historians would say that no empire ever gave up voluntarily. The only one I can think of that tried was the Soviet Union under him. TD: Any last words? CJ: I'm still working on them. My first effort was Blowback. That was well before I anticipated anything like massive terrorist attacks in the United States. It was a statement that the foreign-policy problems - I still just saw them as that - of the first part of the 21st century were going to be left over from the previous century, from our rapacious activities in Latin America, from our failure to truly learn the lessons of Vietnam. The Sorrows of Empire was an attempt to come to grips with our militarism. Now, I'm considering how we've managed to alienate so many rich, smart allies - every one of them, in fact. How we've come to be so truly hated. This, in a Talleyrand sense, is the sort of mistake from which you can't recover. That's why I'm planning on calling the third volume of what I now think of as "The Blowback Trilogy," Nemesis. Nemesis was the Greek goddess of vengeance. She also went after people who became too arrogant, who were so taken with themselves that they lost all prudence. She was always portrayed as a fierce figure with a scale in one hand - think, Judgment Day - and a whip in the other ... TD: And you believe she's coming after us? CJ: Oh, I believe she's arrived. I think she's sitting around waiting for her moment, the one we're coming up on right now. Imperial overreach accelerating global decline of America: It is clear that the US occupation of Iraq has been a disaster from almost every angle one can think of, most of all for the Iraqi people, not least for American foreign policy. The unpicking of the imperial logic that led to it has already commenced: Hyde's speech is an example, and so is Francis Fukuyama's new book After the Neocons, a merciless critique of Bush's foreign policy and the school of thought that lay behind it. The war was a delayed product of the end of the cold war and the triumphalist mentality that imbued the neocons and eventually seduced the US. But triumphalism is a dangerous brew, more suited to intoxication than hard-headed analysis. And so it has proved. The US still has to reap the whirlwind for its stunning feat of imperial overreach. In becoming so catastrophically engaged in the Middle East, making the region its overwhelming global priority, it downgraded the importance of everywhere else, taking its eye off the ball in a crucial region such as east Asia, which in the long run will be far more important to the US's strategic interests than the Middle East. As such, the Iraqi adventure represented a major misreading of global trends and how they are likely to impact on the US. Hyde is clearly thinking in these terms: "We are well advanced into an unformed era in which new and unfamiliar enemies are gathering forces, where a phalanx of aspiring competitors must inevitably constrain and focus options. In a world where the ratios of strength narrow, the consequences of miscalculation will become progressively more debilitating. The costs of golden theories [by which he means the worldwide promotion of democracy] will be paid for in the base coin of our interests." The promotion of the idea of the war against terror as the central priority of US policy had little to do with the actual threat posed by al-Qaida, which was always hugely exaggerated by the Bush administration, as events over the last four and a half years have shown. Al-Qaida never posed a threat to the US except in terms of the odd terrorist outrage. Making it the central thrust of US foreign policy, in other words, had nothing to do with the al-Qaida threat and everything to do with the Bush administration seeking to mobilise US public opinion behind a neoconservative foreign policy. There followed the tenuous - in reality nonexistent - link with Saddam, which provided in large measure the justification for the invasion of Iraq, an act which now threatens to unravel the bizarre adventurism, personified by Donald Rumsfeld, which has been the hallmark of Bush foreign policy since 9/11. The latter has come unstuck in the killing fields of Iraq in the most profound way imaginable. (...) That the world will be very different within the next two decades, if not rather sooner, is clear; yet there is scant recognition of this fact and what it might mean - not least in our own increasingly provincial country [UK]. The overwhelming preoccupation of the Bush administration (and Blair for that matter) with Iraq, the Middle East and Islam, speaks of a failure to understand the deeper forces that are reshaping the world and an overriding obsession with realising and exploiting the US's temporary status as the sole global superpower. Such a myopic view can only hasten the decline of the US as a global power, a process that has already started. The Bush administration stands guilty of an extraordinary act of imperial overreach which has left the US more internationally isolated than ever before, seriously stretched financially, and guilty of neglect in east Asia and elsewhere. Iraq was supposed to signal the US's new global might: in fact, it may well prove to be a harbinger of its decline. And that decline could be far more precipitous than anyone has previously reckoned. Once the bubble of US power has been pricked, in a global context already tilting in other directions, it could deflate rather more quickly than has been imagined. Hyde's warnings should be taken seriously. The Revolution Will Not Be American (And That's a Good Thing): Unlike the politicians, we have underestimated the American capacity for apathy. There is precedent for this apathy. It is our most favored example of Governments Gone Awry. The Nazi (and here I Godwin my own article) regime did in ten years what the American government is only now approaching after 60 years of political frog-boiling. In ten years the Nazis waged aggressive war on their political neighbors, their geographical neighbors, their racial neighbors, and their religious neighbors, took their businesses and placed them into fascist control, and tortured, mutilated and burned their own citizens in their back yards. A mere ten years of social conditioning, and the apathy of the German people allowed this to occur. And while there were undergrounds and secret groups working against the Nazi government, there was no popular uprising. All the horrors of the Nazi program were not enough to jar the German people into action away from their broken radios and phonographs. And today, Americans have six times the practice at apathy, with 160 channels to Tivo and a hundred different beers and circuses of every shape and style imaginable. Humiliation is public sport ranging from the seediest "reality" broadcasts right through to food preparation. They stare at the TV and wax poetic about how, "Aw'd never be cawt DED on one o' them showz!" while secretly thinking they could insult Simon into speechlessness if only they could get on. No, folks, there is no tearing (or tearing) away the eyes of this America from their idiot box, and they wouldn't dare risk their cell phone bars. Rome did not fall to the Romans. The Nazis were not defeated by Germans. The sole example of genuine popular uprising and destruction of government is the French Revolution, which soon fell to Napoleon, who did not abdicate to any Frenchman. Indeed, the Constitution itself was not an act of popular demand. The Second Revolutionaries of Washington, Paine and Hancock, et al met in secret, and spent years brokering the political deals to eclipse the Articles of Confederation; politicians overthrowing politicians in a new country's elimination rounds. Fundamental changes in government are almost universally external. The spark of the French Revolution was massive foreign debt (including funding the American Revolution as a method of covert war with England ) resulting in extreme taxation of which an absence of fiat money offered no veil of disguise. The Romans imploded against Germanic tribes, and the Nazis fell to American carpet bombings. The collapse of the USSR was not at all a proletariat revolution, but a combination of internal corruption and superior American fiat finesse (a point of pride for many Reaganites, but ultimately no better than proudly proclaiming, "My rapist is slicker than yours!"). So why, in the face of history, do we insist we can manufacture lightning and catch it in a bottle? The conclusion to all of this is one that even I did not want to think of until recently. But the Revolution will not be American. Not anymore. We have learned our lessons well. Modern Americans are riddled with apathy. If you want to know how far it can go, think of the worst atrocities the Nazis committed and realize there were no crowds storming the gates of Auschwitz. Foreign, invading soldiers opened those gates. And so shall it be with us. We can't wake the sleeping giant. But someone, somewhere, can club it in the head. When the Empire is too big, too aggressive, too starved and internally paralyzed (vibrantly demonstrated by Katrina, thank you, Ma'am, for that performance), and it finally oversteps one border too many, China, India, and Europe will implement, shall we say, "corrective procedures." And if we're ready, if we've planted our seeds and cultivated our memes strongly and deeply into the somnambulistic consciousness, the giant might just stumble a few bloody paces in the direction of liberty before slumping over the TV tray.
IRAN STANDOFF UN Security Council adoptes presidential statement calling on Iran to resume suspension of all uranium enrichment within 30 days: The statement was passed after the five permanent council members -- the United States, Britain, France, China and Russia -- reached agreement on the text earlier in the day ending three weeks of haggling over its contents. Iran Defiantly Rejects New U.N. Demands to stop enriching uranium: In Vienna, Iran's chief representative to the IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, told The Associated Press that "it is impossible to go back to suspension." "This enrichment matter is not reversible," Soltanieh said. Iran to stage massive Gulf military maneuver: Thousands of Iranian troops will on Friday start a week-long military maneuver in the Gulf to ready armed forces for warding off "threats", a senior commander announced on state television. The commander of the navy of Revolutionary Guards Corps, Rear Admiral Mostafa Safari, did not specify the nature of the threat although the maneuver comes amid increasing tensions with the West over Tehran's nuclear programme. "The Revolutionary Guards Corps navy and air force in collaboration with ( Iran's regular) army, navy, (the volunteer militia) Basij, and the Iranian police will start a maneuver from 31 March until 6 April in the Persian Gulf and Sea of Oman," he said Wednesday. He added: "We hope ... We will gain the necessary and needed readiness to decisively reply to any kind of threats." "More than 17,000 soldiers and sailors will be used, along with 1,500 different kind of vessels, in addition to the different sorts of jet fighter planes, choppers and different missiles," he added, but did not say whether Iran will use its ballistic missiles. Iran has medium-range Shahab-3 missiles with the capability of 2,000 kilometers (1,280 miles), able of hitting arch-enemy Israel and US bases across the Middle East. "The exercise will cover an area stretching from the northern tip of the Persian Gulf all the way to the port city of Chah-Bahar in the Sea of Oman extending 40 kilometers (25 miles) into the sea," he said. In addition, the spokesman of the maneuvers, Rear Admiral Mohammad Ebrahim Dehghan told state television that the strait of Hormouz will be one of the focal points of the exercise. "Some 80 percent of the Persian Gulf's oil is shipped out of this strait over which Iran has dominant and accurate control," he said. "If the enemy wants to make the area insecure, he should be rest assured that he will also suffer from the insecurity, since we know the location of their vessels," he added. Iran puts Revolutionary Guards on alert on Iraq border: The Supreme Command of Iran's Armed Forces issued the directive to Najaf and Karbala garrisons of the IRGC, which are respectively based in Kermanshah and Khuzestan provinces and are the headquarters of IRGC forces in western and south-western Iran. The directive took effect from March 14, according to the source, who requested anonymity. Najaf and Karbala garrisons are the primary Revolutionary Guards headquarters responsible for Iraqi affairs and house much of the IRGC's elite Qods Force whose stated objective is to spread Iran's Islamic Revolution to Iraq and other countries in the Middle East. "The decision [to put the armed forces on alert along the Iraqi border] could be defensive or offensive in nature, but it's significant because of its timing", said Ehsan Pourhaydari, a former colonel in Iran's regular armed forces who now lives in Germany. "It coincides with impending talks between Iran and the U.S. on the situation in Iraq. The ayatollahs must be calculating that the talks will make them more vulnerable, or will provide new opportunities for them in Iraq. Either way, it would make sense for them to put their forces on alert close to the Iraqi border". QUOTE OF THE DAY: "I am pro God, I am pro life, I am pro humanity, I am pro truth, and when the American goverment choses to be against all that then damn it: I AM anti American-goverment." --- Khalid Jarrar, Iraqi blogger at Tell me a secret


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