Monday, January 22, 2007

Refugee flows in Iraq per the latest UN report. (Via "Picture of the Day" at Born at the Crest of the Empire)
Bring 'em on: A Task Force Lightning Soldier assigned to 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, was killed Monday when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle while conducting combat operations in Ninewa province. Four other Soldiers were wounded and transported to a Coalition Forces' medical treatment facility. (CENTCOM)
At least 78 people were killed and at least 134 wounded after two nearly simultaneous bombs struck a commercial area in central Baghdad Monday in the deadliest attack in two months, said Deputy Health Minister Hakim al-Zamili. The first blast occurred shortly after noon when a bomb left in a bag placed among the stalls of vendors peddling DVDs and secondhand clothes exploded in the Bab al-Sharqi area between Tayaran and Tahrir squares. It was followed almost immediately by a parked car bomb just feet away.
Gunmen killed a female teacher as she was on her way to work at a girls' school in the area of Khadra in western Baghdad, police said, adding that the teacher's driver was wounded in the drive-by shooting.
U.S.-backed Iraqi forces sealed off a predominantly Sunni neighbourhood in Baghdad on Monday, but the Defence Ministry said it was not the start of a promised new offensive in the capital. When asked whether Monday's clampdown on Adhamiya district was the start of a planned new sweep to regain control of Baghdad's streets from gunmen who kill hundreds every week, he said: "We are not going to witness any big announcements." Residents of Adhamiya, in northern Baghdad, said Iraqi soldiers had set up checkpoints on roads leading into the area and were preventing motorists from passing through. They said the operation followed several nights of shooting.
Two mortar shells slammed into a primary school in Dora, the dangerous south Baghdad neighbourhood, killing a woman who was waiting to take her child home. Eight students were wounded, police said.
Sporadic gunfire was heard in the Bab al-Sharki district, one of the poorest in the city and which has already been a repeated target of attacks.
A cell phone company employee and a Sunni tribal chieftain were killed in separate shootings in Baghdad.
Gunmen killed police Major Amer Fadhil in a drive-by shooting near Shaab stadium in western Baghdad.
(update) An Egyptian embassy worker was kidnapped in Baghdad while on a trip outside the compound, an Iraqi foreign ministry official said. In Cairo, Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alaa Hadidi confirmed that the man did not show up to work and said the ministry was in contact with Iraqi authorities to learn his fate. He did not give the name of the worker.
Police found 29 tortured and bullet-riddled bodies in various districts of Baghdad in the past 24 hours.
One civilian was killed and another wounded when a mortar round landed on a house in Amil district in southwestern Baghdad, police said.
Twenty gunmen broke into the office of Baquba Mayor Khaled al-Sinjari and kidnapped the official before leveling his office with explosives, an Iraqi security official said.
The attack came a day after another raid on the mayor's office in which weapons were stolen, guards were locked in a room and one of the mayor's cars swiped, the official said.
The mayor's office is in a residential area controlled by armed groups with no regular security forces, the official said.
Earlier Monday, U.S. Col. David W. Sutherland touted the improved security situation in Baquba, capital of Diyala province.
A bomb exploded at 5 p.m. near the main market in Khalis, 50 miles north of Baghdad, and a mortar shell struck the same area about five minutes later, according to the information bureau for the volatile Diyala province. It said 12 civilians were killed and 29 were wounded.
Police recovered the body of a man, bound and shot, from an irrigation canal on Sunday in the town of Mahaweel, 75 km (50 miles) south of Baghdad.
(update) A British soldier was wounded on in a road accident in west of Basra, the media spokesman for the Multi-National forces in southern Iraq said.
(update) According to an eye witnesses, unknown gunmen assassinated a liquor shop owner [Christian] in Al Jamaait area 8km west of Basra. This happened after some clerics in Basra warned the liquor shop owners that they should stop selling liquor in Basra.
The bodies of eight people were found on Sunday in different districts of Mosul, police said. All had been shot.
Two explosive charges went off in different places in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, wounding a policeman and damaging a police vehicle.
A car bomb exploded near Kirkuk police department without causing casualties.
Tal Afar:
A roadside bomb targeting a police patrol killed three policemen and wounded nine, including two policemen, in the northern town of Tal Afar, 420 km (260 miles) north of Baghdad.
(update) A U.S. Hummer was damaged when an explosive charge went off at a U.S. vehicle patrol in Saqlaiyah district, 15 km north of Falluja, a security source said on Monday.
Two mortar shells fell on an Iraqi army base in eastern Falluja but it was not immediately clear if they caused any damage, a security source said.
A US helicopter that crashed in Iraq at the weekend, killing 12 US troops, may have been shot down with a shoulder-fired missile, a senior US defense official has said.
"Some reporting in operational channels indictates that it may have been shot down. It may have been a shoulder-fired missile," the official said Monday, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The Mujahadeen Army, an insurgent group active in Baqouba, claimed responsibility for a helicopter crash that killed 12 American soldiers, including four crew members and eight passengers.
First video with scenes of the aftermath surfaces (via IraqWar.ru)
The U.S. military said Sunday that about 3,200 U.S. soldiers are being deployed to Baghdad to assist Iraqi security forces in the coming weeks -- marking the first part of Bush's plan to add 21,500 troops to the war effort. The 2nd Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division, which had been on standby in Kuwait, has been added to Multi-National Corps-Iraq and will be fully operational "on or about" February 1, the military said.
The Iraqi defense ministry will receive a gift of 4,000 armored personnel carriers (APCs), 1800 Humvee vehicles and 16 helicopter gunships from the Pentagon and will hopefully arrive in March, a ministry spokesman said on Monday.
The Shiite Sadr movement on Monday said the occupation forces were deliberately provoking it through arrests of its members to drag it again into fierce military conflicts.
"The occupation forces tried deliberately several times through arrests of members of the Sadr movement to provoke it... in order to drag the movement again into fierce bloody military operations," the movement said in a statement a copy of which was received by the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI).
The statement said the arrest of Sheikh Abdul-Hadi al-Darraji, a top aide of Moqtada al-Sadr, by U.S. forces on Friday was expected because of his patriotic positions.
"The U.S. occupation forces have shown their teeth and revealed its deep hatred for the faithful sons of Iraq," it added.
Large numbers of civil servants, leaders and members of political and religious movements and civil society workers staged a sit-in on Monday outside the U.S. base Delta in Wassit province to protest the arrest of two council members.
The protestors demanded the immediate release of the detained officials and an apology from the U.S. forces that made the arrests.
A U.S. force raided the provincial council on Tuesday and detained Qassem al-Aaraji and Fadel Jassem Abul-Taiyeb, without giving any reasons. The whereabouts of the two members are not known so far.
On Friday and as the protests continued demanding a release of the detained council members, the U.S. army said the two detained members were suspected of involvement in smuggling weapons.
Hamid Majid Idi, a participant of Monday's protest, said the sit-in was an expression of denunciation of the arrests. (…)
On Thursday, the chairman of Wassit provincial council said the council decided to suspend its work as of Thursday until the release of the detained members.
A new video has just popped up on YouTube, which, if it is honestly labelled, gives an extremely disturbing account of events inside the walls of Abu Ghraib.
The piece has been extensively edited, and one hopes that this editing removed some context that would have made these statements of an alleged former Abu Ghraib guard represent something less inhumane.
If the subject of the video is really an ex-guard giving an honest account of his work inside the prison, then the story of Abu Ghraib has been far more brutal under American leadership than anything Charles Graner and his crew of photogenic yahoos ever showed.
President Bush is losing the heartland.
Conservative Kansas - home to the Army's Fort Riley, the U.S. Cavalry Museum, Republican icons Dwight Eisenhower and Bob Dole, and the place that gave Bush back to back landslide majorities - is turning against the Iraq war.
Kansas Democrats are quicker to oppose Bush, but growing numbers of Kansas Republicans also are rejecting his plan to send more troops to Iraq and the war itself. That threatens Bush's hope to maintain a solid base of support for his war policies and undermines White House efforts to portray war opposition as partisan Democratic politics.
"The president's war ideas are not very popular here," said Tim Shallenburger, the chairman of the Kansas Republican Party. "Even good Republicans are getting frustrated and believe the president is being stubborn. ... Seven out of 10 good conservative Republicans may not want to say it, but they oppose the war."
If true, that would be a far more negative vote on the war than registered by Republicans nationally. Although Americans overwhelmingly oppose the Iraq war, 61 percent of Republicans still approve of Bush's handling of it, according to the Gallup poll.
read in full...
A drug-resistant bacteria that is infecting wounded US soldiers in Iraq -- and has spread to civilian hospitals in parts of Europe -- accidentally evolved in US military hospitals in Iraq, Wired Magazine will report in a massive expose on Monday, RAW STORY has learned.
The several thousand word expose is set to bring uncomfortable new light to the bacteria Acinetobacter baumannii that Pentagon officials previously said was likely a product of Iraqi soil.
"By creating the most heroic and efficient means of saving lives in the history of warfare, the Pentagon had accidentally invented a machine for accelerating bacterial evolution and was airlifting the pathogens halfway around the world," the magazine reveals.
The story will go live online early Monday, newsroom sources say, and appear in February's print edition.
The U.S. military conducted massive interrogations at a secure compound in Karbala after a weekend attack by armed militants posing as American military officials, a Karbala police spokesman said. The attack killed five U.S. soldiers.
Saturday's raid happened as the U.S. military convened a meeting to discuss security for Ashura, the upcoming Shiite pilgrimage to the central Iraqi town of Karbala.
The assailants targeted only U.S. soldiers, said spokesman Abdul Rahman al-Mishawi, adding that not a single Iraqi soldier or policeman was killed.
McClatchy Newspapers: DETAILS EMERGE
On Saturday, a civil affairs team of American soldiers sat with local leaders in Karbala's provincial headquarters to discuss security for Ashoura, a Shiite commemoration of the massacre of the revered Imam Hussein that began Sunday.
Outside, danger was approaching. A convoy of seven white GMC Suburbans sped toward the building, breezing through checkpoints, with the men wearing American and Iraqi military uniforms and flashing American ID cards, Iraqi officials said. The force stopped at the police directorate in Karbala and took weapons but gave no reason, said police spokesman Capt. Muthana Ahmed in Babel province.
A call was made to the provincial headquarters to inform them an American convoy was on its way, said the governor of Karbala, Akeel al-Khazaali. But the Americans stationed inside the building, which acts as a coordination center for Iraqi officials, Iraqi security forces and U.S. forces, had not been informed, Iraqi officials said.
As the U.S. soldiers and the Iraqis scrambled to figure out if the men were Americans or an illegally armed group, the convoy arrived and the gunmen tried to break in.
The gunmen launched grenades, mortars and small arms fire, according to a U.S. military statement. The U.S. military said Sunday it was still not clear if the gunmen were Sunni or Shiite militia. Abu Abdullah, a commander in Karbala of the Mahdi Army, the militia led by firebrand Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, on Sunday denied involvement in the attack.
After 15 minutes of fighting, the gunmen fled towards Hilla, the capital of Babel, a mixed Sunni-Shiite province, Ahmed said.
Babel police were notified as the convoy sped toward their capital city, and Iraqi police commandos gave chase. The police commandos discovered the vehicles and found three dead men inside, a wounded man and five others, Ahmed said. He said they all spoke English. Iraqi police took the men back to the police station and American forces retrieved them by dawn.
Also inside the vehicles, Iraqi police found a bag filled with American military uniforms. They also found flak vests, American weapons and American ID cards that had allowed the gunmen to maneuver through the city, Ahmed said.
The U.S. military did not reveal details Sunday, but acknowledged the gunmen posed as American and Iraqi soldiers using U.S. and Iraqi military uniforms, GMC Suburbans and American and Iraqi identification.
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Al-Malaf Press also quotes an unnamed security source in Karbala who claimed that the group that attacked the Governorate Council building in Karbala, killing several American soldiers and destroying a Hummer vehicle, is from a well-known political movement and was aiming to abduct an American military officer who was inside the building. Karbala governor Aqeel Al-Khuza'I had said that the attacking force, which arrived in six four-wheel-drive vehicles from out of Karbala, was dressed similarly to U.S. and Iraqi Special Forces and was very professional and highly trained. On the other hand, Abdul Aal Al-Yassiri, chairman of the Karbala Governorate Council, said that the gunmen were American and Iraqi troops and that the whole incident was due to lack of coordination between troops inside and outside the governorate building. SCIRI's Buratha News Agency also repeated the claims that the incident was a result of clashes between two different American contingents.
In Juan Cole's news roundup this morning, he notes:
CSM [the Christian Science Monitor] writes on new counter-insurgency efforts by US in Iraq. The article points out that such efforts depend on good intelligence on the enemy. I'm not sure how we are going to get that.
In fact, there's been extensive discussion in the blogiverse the past few days over an article detailing how awful U.S. intelligence is in Iraq, with CIA staff unable to leave the Green Zone (or American military bases) because it's too unsafe.
By contrast, the people we're trying to impose our will on in Iraq have intelligence like this (more via Laura Rozen):
The armored sport-utility vehicles whisked into a government compound in the city of Karbala with speed and urgency, the way most Americans and foreign dignitaries travel along Iraq's treacherous roads these days.
Iraqi guards at checkpoints waved them through Saturday afternoon because the men wore what appeared to be legitimate U.S. military uniforms and badges, and drove cars commonly used by foreigners, the provincial governor said.
Once inside, however, the men unleashed one of the deadliest and most brazen attacks on U.S. forces in a secure area. Five American service members were killed in a hail of grenades and gunfire in a breach of security that Iraqi officials called unprecedented.
As the New York Times notes:
The sophisticated attack hinted at what could be a new threat for American troops as they start a fresh security plan centered on small bases in Baghdad's bloodiest neighborhoods, where soldiers will live and work with Iraqi forces. Military officials have said that one of their greatest concerns is that troops will be vulnerable to attack from killers who appear to be colleagues.
I guess you could call the Karbala attack a shot across the bow -- and a brutally effective psychological strike that will only increase the paranoia of Americans everywhere in Iraq.
There's a piece of hilariously transparent spin-doctoring going around. According to the AP version of it, "Iraq's prime minister has dropped his protection of [Muqtada al-Sadr]'s Shiite militia after U.S. intelligence convinced him the group was infiltrated by death squads". See, the reason Maliki has hitherto protected the Shiite militias isn't that he owes his political position to their leaders, or that he personally is committed to establishing complete Shiite domination of the Iraqi state by violently subjugating the Sunnis, no no no, it was that he had somehow been entirely unaware of the sectarian violence until now. I feel so much more confidence in Maliki now, don't you?
read in full...
Something I noticed in the paper yesterday but didn't get around to posting about due to all the football: The NY Times ran a piece on how the White House is scrambling to figure out their next step if Maliki doesn't make The Beeg New Plan look good:
The result is that some members of the administration are already discussing what one called "Plan C," even as the administration publicly expresses support for Mr. Maliki. Some senior officials, insisting on anonymity, are discussing alternative leadership for the Iraqi government, including throwing American support behind another Shiite leader, Adel Abdul Mahdi. Mr. Mahdi is the deputy to Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, the leader of the Iranian-backed Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, a party known as Sciri. Mr. Mahdi has long been a favorite of the White House to take the top job; he lost out last spring when the anti-American cleric Moktada al-Sadr, whose family has long feuded with Mr. Hakim's, threw his support behind Mr. Maliki in a vote within the Shiite coalition. [....]
Some in the administration complain that backing a member of Mr. Hakim's party would quickly give Iran enormous influence over the Iraqi government; when American military forces picked up Iranian operatives in Baghdad late last month, the raid took place within Mr. Hakim's compound. Those operatives were later released after Iran and Iraq claimed they had diplomatic immunity; the Pentagon said one of the men was the chief of operations for an elite Iranian military unit.
Just what the heck is going on over there? Or is passing Iraq over to Iran now a ploy to give them the headache? Seems not to fit the Cheney game plan, which Lawrence Wilkerson described when he gave the reason Iran's 2003 offer to help stabilize Iraq was snubbed:
"...as soon as it got to the White House, and as soon as it got to the Vice-President's office, the old mantra of 'We don't talk to evil'... reasserted itself."
"We don't talk to evil": who says Darth Cheney doesn't have a sense of humor?
Aswat al-Iraq published yesterday the bare bones of the Sunday press-conference at which the president of Parliament announced the return of the Sadrist bloc to parliamentary and government activities, citing an agreement to study the Sadrist demands by a five-party parliamentary committee, and a remark by a non-Sadrist in the UIA to the effect all the parties agree on the essence of what the Sadrists are demanding, and the differences have to do with technical issues of implementation. Al-Hayat this morning adds important details. Among the demands are a resolution to the effect that the American military presence in Iraq will not be extended (beyond its current UN justification) without the approval of the Iraqi parliament, and that there will be deadlines for the handover of security to the Iraqi forces.
And one of the Sadrist members at the press conference said there was also agreement with the government that Sadrist persons arrested will be released over the coming weeks, starting with Abdul Hadi al-Darraji who will be released "in the coming hours". The Sadrist member, Nassar al-Rubaie, added that the negotiations that have been going on over the recent period of time have resulted in "cutting down major ostacles separating the political parties, respecting the need to expel the American forces from the country since they have become persona non grata".
A spokesman for the Kurdish coalition in parliament welcomed the return of the Sadrists, noting that their absense has contributed to the inability deal with major issues in Parliament for the lack of quorums. There isn't any elaboration on what issues they have in mind in particular.
It should be noted that of course Al-Hayat has no pro-Sadr or even anti-occupation tinge whatsoever, and this is something that should lend weight to their representation of this event as a bona fide rapprochement between the Sadrists and the other parties.
(The opposite view is that this is nothing but a mililtary tactic, with "Moqtada and his followers ly[ing] low in times when they are under direct military pressure...and are storing their arms in their closets". Cole cites with approval an AP story that says "Iraq's prime minister has dropped his protection of an anti-American cleric's Shiite militia after U.S. intelligence convinced him the group was infiltrated by death squads, two [anonymous] officials said Sunday.")
You can't make this stuff up. George Bush believes that "the Iraqi people owe the American people a huge debt of gratitude." On the other side of the political divide, Presidential hopeful Joseph Biden -- a sponsor of the anti-surge legislation pending before Congress -- maintains that we've "done enough for the Iraqis." (…)
Just like Vietnam, support for this quagmire gradually eroded with the escalating cost in American blood and American treasure. But even now -- after the official rationales for the war have been thoroughly debunked -- there continues to be few audible voices of contrition over Iraqi casualties.
Does it really matter how many of these unfortunate brown victims were children or how many women cradling babies were snuffed by "smart bombs?" Do American musicians regret the loss of gifted Iraqi musicians? Do American soldiers empathize with the simple farmer whose only sin was that he was drafted into Iraq's army? Have American academics taken a stand against the systematic slaughter of their colleagues in Baghdad?
Imagine if we lined up the cadavers of every innocent Iraq civilians who fell victim to Bush's Mesopotamian folly? What if we had a coast-to-coast tour of the horrors we have inflicted on the natives of that distant land? What if we could witness the blown out brains, the missing limbs and the bloated disfigured bodies with obvious signs of pre-mortem torture sessions? What if we could sense the constant fear that blights every Iraqi home?
Exactly how much gratitude should we expect from Iraqis? Should we bill them for the cost of our 'noble' adventure? So far, this murderous venture has killed half a million Iraqis at the cost of five hundred billion dollars. That works out to a million dollars for every 'kill.' Fire bombing Fallujah and Tel Afar, committing war crimes at Abu Ghraib, mowing down civilians at Haditha, recruiting Shia death squads into the Iraqi police and army, igniting a civil war. None of that comes cheap. Shouldn't the Iraqis set up collection plates to pay us back?
While there continues to be a great deal of controversy over the exact number of Iraqis maimed and murdered in the killing fields of our newest colonial acquisition -- you can be certain that Bush is indifferent to the actual toll. It's not only the American government and media that keep a lid on the number of casualties sustained by our colonial subjects. Maliki's sectarian regime -- an entity that sponsors death squads fully attired in police uniforms -- is openly hostile to any NGO that attempts to tabulate credible statistics.
It stands to reason that any government with an infrastructure capable of dispensing ration cards and registering eligible voters also has the facility to count Iraq's dead and wounded. The high-tech army fielded by Bush and Blair has more than enough talent and resources to set up accurate data bases to record each and every victim, their age, sex and cause of death.
You would think that the mass media moguls would find civilian casualties to be an interesting 'angle' to the Iraq story. But then again -- they've demonstrated only modest concerns about American casualties.
The most nauseating thing about the Iraq war debate is that -- even in the peace camp -- the discussion revolves around what the war has done to us. People are sincerely outraged that the Iraqis are 'not taking responsibility' for the Mess on Potamia. Welcome to America the narcissist. (...)
Bush isn't the only one living in denial. Americans need to stop wallowing in self-pity about what the Iraq war has done to us. Only then can we manage the essential task of impeaching Bush, rounding up the neo-con culprits responsible for the war, identify the MSM hooligans who conspired with the war party and initiate an expedited exit strategy that takes into account the welfare of the Iraqi people. And let's be decent enough to demonstrate a little guilt and contrition on the way out.
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The U.S.-led coalition forces in Afghanistan Monday bombed the Pakistani territory, killing one soldier and injuring two others, a Pakistani army statement said. "Today at 14:55 hours (9:55 GMT) in an unfortunate incident close to the Pak-Afghan border, coalition forces mistakenly fired on one of our posts near Shawal, North Waziristan Agency," said the statement from the army's Inter-Services Public Relations.


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