Tuesday, January 16, 2007

"Photo distributed by the American occupation showing a bulldozer building an earthen rampart around the town of Barwana in western Iraq, part of a plan copying Israeli methods for sealing off the resistance." (from the Lebanese paper Al-Safir; see below "Sunday Editorial")
Bring 'em on: Four Task Force Lightning Soldiers assigned to the 4th Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division were killed Monday as a result of an improvised explosive device while conducting operations in Ninewa province, Iraq. (MNF- Iraq)
A car bomb and a suicide bomber killed 60 people and wounded 110 more, including many students blown up as they waited for cars to take them home at the entrance to a university in Baghdad. "The majority of those killed are female students who were on their way home," an official at the historic al-Mustansiriya University's media office said. A police source said a car bomb exploded near the main gate of the university in an area where students wait for minibuses and cars to pick them up to go home. A suicide bomber then blew himself up near a second gate to the university as people fled the first explosion.
Police and hospital officials say the university bombing toll has climbed to at least 65 dead and 138 wounded.
Four Iraqis were killed and 10 wounded when a blast ripped through a central Baghdad district. Two policemen and two civilians were killed when a roadside bomb went off as an Iraqi police patrol passed nearby, police sources said. The incident occurred close to a telecommunications network facility in Ulowiyya district.
A roadside bomb followed by a blast from a motorcycle rigged with explosives killed 15 people and wounded 70 near a Sunni mosque in central Baghdad on Tuesday, an interior ministry source said. A hospital source said at least 11 bodies and many wounded had been brought to the hospital. Television footage showed U.S. forces helping the wounded from the blasts in the Khilani district in the center of the city.
Two bombs were detonated five minutes apart in a used motorcycle marketplace in central Baghdad, killing at least 15 people and wounding 74 others, police said. The first bomb was attached to a motorcycle in the market. As the curious gathered to look at the aftermath, a suicide car bomber drove into the crowd and blew up his vehicle. Authorities said at least three policemen were among the dead.
US-led coalition troops said their forces killed one militant and detained seven suspects during an early raid Tuesday. The raid had targeted insurgents held responsible for producing manufacturing car bombs.
Gunmen tried to break into a girls' school in the Baghdad neighbourhood of Washash, but they fled after exchanging gunfire with two guards at the school, police said. One guard was wounded.
A sniper killed a guard of al-Sabah, a state run newspaper, in northern Baghdad, police said.
A bomb inside a car killed six people and wounded 11 in Sadr City.
U.S. and Iraqi combined forces sealed off on Tuesday morning some Sunni neighborhoods in east of Baghdad, an eyewitness said. "U.S. and Iraqi combined forces sealed off today morning the Sunni neighborhoods of al-Sulaigh, al-Adhamiyah and al-Qahira in east of Baghdad," an eyewitness told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq. The source said "the forces launched an intensive search campaign into the three neighborhoods that lie next to each other."
Police reported a drive-by shooting in a market in the city's northern al-Bounuk district that killed 10 people and wounded seven.
Unknown insurgents kidnapped a professor in the technology university downtown Baghdad
at 1 pm when he was leaving the university.
5 mechanics were kidnapped by a group of insurgents in Baghdad al Jadida neighborhood east of Baghdad at 3 pm.
4 Iraqi army soldiers were killed and 3 injured in a suicide car bomb explosion targeted their check point in Khadraa neighborhood western Baghdad at 3:30 pm.
A civilian was killed in an IED on Jadriya bridge downtown Baghdad at 4 pm.
A civilian was injured in an IED explosion in Saidiya neighborhood south of Baghdad at 5 pm.
2 civilians were wounded when an IED exploded under a car in Salman Faiq St. in Karrada neighborhood in downtown Baghdad at 11am.
5 mortars fell in al adil area north west Baghdad, 10 civilians were injured.
Police found 30 anonymous bodies today. 26 bodies were found in the western part of Baghdad (Karkh) in the following neighborhoods (3 bodies each in Dora, Hay Al Forat and Al Hurriyah. 2 bodies each were found in the neighborhoods of Abo Dsheer, Saidiya, Baiyaa, Hay Al Amil, Kadhimiya and Shula. One body was found in each of the neighborhoods Hay Al Jihad, Al Adil, Al Amiriya, Hay Al Jami'aa and Al Mansoor}. 4 bodies were found in the eastern part of Baghdad (Rosafa) as the following (2 in Sadr City, 1 in Adhamiya and 1 body in Selikh.}.
3 policemen were killed and 2 were injured when an IED explosion targeted their patrol in Rostomiya town south east of Baghdad at 8:30 am.
At least four Iraqi people, including one policeman, were wounded when an explosive charge went off at an Iraqi police officer's motorcade in Baaquba, a police source said. "An explosive charge went off today morning targeting a police force commander's motorcade in Baaquba, 57 km northeast of Baghdad," the source told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq. The source said "the commander survived the attack unharmed." "The blast resulted in wounding four people, including a policeman," the source added. The wounded were rushed to a nearby hospital for treatment, the source added.
Police source in Diyala said that 3 civilians including women were injured in an IED explosion in Baladrooz city east of Baqouba. The source mentioned that a teacher in a primary school was injured in an attack in Baqouba city.
A source in the combined operation room of Diyala province said that a Kurdish civilian was assassinated in Miqdadiya city, 45 kms east of Baqouba city.
Diyala Prov:
A source in the 5th Iraqi army division in Dyala said that 6 terrorists were killed in clashes between a group of insurgents (more than 30 insurgents ) and one of the Iraqi army companies in Dalli Abbas district, a part of Khalis town 10Kms north of Baqouba city.
Gunmen entered a bus terminal and killed a driver in the town of Jibila, about 50 km (35 miles) south of Baghdad.
Gunmen killed two people, including an employee of an anti-corruption commission in a drive-by shooting in Mosul, 225 miles north-west of Baghdad.
Gunmen killed three people in a drive by shooting in Mosul.
A total of nine bodies, including a policewoman, were found shot dead in different districts of the northern city of Mosul, police said
Gunmen shot dead one person in the town of Hawija, 60 km (40 miles) southwest of the northern oil city of Kirkuk.
A police colonel survived a roadside bomb that exploded near his car, killing one civilian and wounding four, including two policemen, in Kirkuk.
The spokesman of the MNF in Basra city said that an insurgent was killed and another was injured in clashes with the British forces. The spokesman explained that the incident happened while the British forces were searching Tmimiya neighborhood in the center of Basra city looking for insurgents accused of attacking British forces.
A source in Basra police said that an officer in the criminal intelligence unit survived an assassination attempt while two of his guards were killed when a group of insurgents opened fire on them in Qibla neighborhood south of Basra city. The source confirmed that Aqeel hasan was injured in the accident.
Residents of Iraq's capital, Baghdad, are at risk of contracting a range of waterborne diseases as the city's sewage system has collapsed after four days of heavy rain, the country's health ministry said on Monday. (…)
Dr Abdul-Rahman Adil Ali of the Baghdad Health Directorate warned of the dire consequences of a non-operational sewage system.
"As the sewage system has collapsed, all residents are threatened with gastroenteritis, typhoid fever, cholera, diarrhoea and hepatitis. In some of Baghdad's poor neighbourhoods, people drink water which is mixed with sewage," Ali said.
He added that the health ministry was prepared for an initial outbreak of diseases, but expressed concern that unless the municipality could deal with the sewage problem quickly and effectively, health problems would inevitably escalate.
Hundreds of people have been trying to flee the eastern Iraqi province of Diyala, close to the Iraqi-Iranian border, following a recent offensive by US and Iraqi troops in the area. Although the offensive has ended, scores of families in rural villages were said to be hiding in their houses for fear that air strikes might start again.
"During the past week, US forces have been attacking rural areas near Baqubah trying to flush out insurgents. Their air strikes have killed about 14 civilians and led to the capture of dozens of insurgents. But these attacks have caused many people to suffer because of lack of assistance and difficulties in getting to health centres," said Salah Ahmed, media officer for Diyala provincial council. The most affected areas are villages east of Baqubah, a city some 40km west of the Iraqi-Iranian border.
Cabinet ministers and legislators loyal to the radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr were instructed to end their six-week boycott of the political process, a parliamentarian in the political bloc said Tuesday, indicating that the decision was linked to the new security drive.
"We might be subjected to an attack and we should try solve the problem politically. We should not give a chance for a military strike against us," said the legislator, speaking on condition of anonymity because the information was not yet public.
The lawmaker said the group's return was conditional, including demands that the government set up a committee to establish a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops and a second that would set a date by which Iraqi forces were to take control of security nationwide.
Mahdi Army commanders were reported to have held a meeting recently to outline their strategy to counter the U.S. military campaign. The commanders had orders not to resist U.S. troops as part of their own strategy to preserve their weapons and power in preparation for the post-U.S. era in Iraq.
Moqtada, who is Mahdi Army's chief commander, is reported to have instructed the militias to behave in a manner that will not lead to the loss of "even a single Mahdi Army member."
Moqtada, analysts say, is keen to remain a force to reckon with following the withdrawal of U.S. troops which he believes cold take place at the end of the year.
Mahdi Army militia members have stopped wearing their black uniforms, hidden their weapons and abandoned their checkpoints in an apparent effort to lower their profile in Baghdad in advance of the arrival of U.S. reinforcements.
"We have explicit directions to keep a low profile . . . not to confront, not to be dragged into a fight and to calm things down," said one official who received the orders from the anti-American Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.
Al-Sadr heads the Mahdi Army, Iraq's largest Shiite militia, headquartered in Najaf.
The official asked not to be named because he was not authorized to reveal the militia's plans.
Militia members say al-Sadr ordered them to stand down shortly after President George Bush's announcement that the U.S. would send 17,500 more American troops to Baghdad to work alongside the Iraqi security forces.
The decision by al-Sadr to lower his force's profile in Baghdad will likely cut violence in the city and allow American forces to show quick results from their beefed up presence. But it is also unlikely in the long term to change the balance of power here. Mahdi Army militiamen say that while they remain undercover now, they are simply waiting for the security plan to end. (...)
Mahdi Army sources said that their heavy weaponry had been moved from Sadr City or hidden since the announcement.
Nearly 35,000 civilians were killed last year in Iraq, the United Nations said Tuesday, a sharp increase from the numbers reported previously by the Iraqi government. Gianni Magazzeni, the chief of the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq, said 34,452 civilians were killed and 36,685 were wounded last year.
A justice ministry spokesman said that the US military and Iraqi security forces were holding 24,000 Iraqis in detention without charge. The justice ministry spokesman said that 14,447 of the prisoners were being held by coalition forces, 8,303 were being detained by the interior ministry and 1,346 by the defence ministry
Some Shia money dealers in Iraq have begun refusing to accept dollars and now take only Euros. They explain that "the Seyid," which can refer to Seyid Sistani, Seyid Muqtada or several other Shia leaders, has proclaimed that those who use dollars will go to hell. This may be related to the Iranian preference for dollars. The Iraqi Ministry of Finance is controlled by the Iranian sponsored Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, and its minister has vowed to reduce the value of the dollar to only 1,000 Iraqi Dinars.
Bush's address to the nation last week left Americans more pessimisti about the likely outcome of the war. In a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll taken Friday through Sunday, more than 6 of 10 people back the idea of a non-binding congressional resolution expressing opposition to Bush's plan to commit an additional 21,500 U.S. troops to Iraq. (...)
Among key findings:
•The central elements of Bush's "new way forward" in Iraq command limited public support. Now, 38% support a significant increase in U.S. troop levels, up from 36% before the speech.
Six in 10 have little or no confidence the Iraqi government will be able to take responsibility for handling security there by November, as Bush suggested. And by more than 2-1, those surveyed oppose his plan to send an additional $1 billion in economic aid.
•Americans feel more pessimistic about the war in the wake of Bush's speech. For the first time, a narrow plurality - 49%-47% - say the United States is likely to lose the war. Before the speech, they said by 50% to 46% that the United States was likely to win.
Kirkuk, a city contested by Kurds, Sunni and Shia Arabs and Sunni and Shia Turkmen, is often described as a powder keg. But according to Iraqslogger sources in the city, "it is already exploding." Like much of Iraq, kidnappings are terrorizing the middle classes, and the lines between kidnapping for criminal motives as opposed to political motives, or to fund militias with political motives, or to merely intimidate a population into departing the city, is ambiguous. Kirkuk Television, the local television channel, is a Kurdish outlet. Nearly every evening at 7:30 PM a show televises the confessions of kidnapping gangs as they are interrogated by the Asayish, as the Kurdish secret service is called. The show begins every time with images of a Kurdish woman hitting herself and crying as she curses Saddam for the death of her son. The kidnappers shown are usually Arab Sunnis, but are occasionally, Turkmen or Kurdish Sunni radicals as well. The show has even produced Iraqi policemen involved allegedly in the kidnappings. While in the past, tensions were between the Kurds on one side and the Arabs and Turkmen on the other side, all Kirkukis feel targeted now and there are concerns that violence between Sunnis and Shias is increasing as well. Some Turkmen allegedly prefer the thought of living under Kurdish domination for the first time, to the alternative of living under radical Shias or even radical Sunnis. Several days ago the Shia place of worship, Huseiniyat Ahl al Beit, in the Domiz area, was blown up. It was the first Huseiniya in Kirkuk to be targeted.
Also nearby the government building in Kirkuk is the Tasahil shopping center. Militiamen had demanded $255,000 from the ownder, also a Turkmen. When he did not pay they blew up his shopping center, also destroying a nearby mosque tower. Then they phoned him and told him that this was only a small message, and that his sons would be targeted next. A similar threat was made to the Baghwan family, also Turkmen. They were recently told to pay $150,000 or their building would be blown up.
read in full...
Al-Zaman reports in Arabic that Interior Minister Jawad Bulani is warning Iraqi government employees against joining the Awdah Party. "`Awdah" means "the Return," and it is a successor to the Baath Party that the US overthrew in 2003. Al-Zaman says that informed sources in the Iraqi government have told it that the execution of Saddam Hussein caused many Iraqis to join the Baath Party and helped its activists restore their contact with thousands of local party leaders and with cadres who had earlier been on the fence. Thousands of invitations to join the party have been distributed in the largely Sunni Arab provinces of Salahuddin, al-Anbar, Diyala and Mosul. The sources say that party activists continue their political and military work in Baghdad and even in the largely Shiite provinces of the south. (About half of the middle- and lower-ranking Baath Party officials were Shiite, though the top leadership tended to be Sunni. So there were plenty of Shiite Baathists, and they have been targeted for assassination by the Mahdi Army and the Badr Corps. Maybe some of them have decided to fight back instead of just waiting for the sniper's bullet . . .)
The sources emphasized that party activists focus, in their political work, on criticizing former policies (i.e. of Saddam), but they concentrate on resistance to the Occupation and the Iraqi government, which they characterize as a client of Iran and of the Iraqi militias. The renewed contacts have led to the proliferation of party cells. The informed sources say that after April, 2003, the Baath Party divided into four separate parties or tendencies. [I take it that the Awdah Party is one of these four.]
Bulani strictly warned in his memo against anyone joining a party, the goal of which is tearing back down Iraq. He recalled the Baath Party's bloodthirsty past and its rule by terrorizing the population. He warned anyone who thought of joining this defeated fascist party that Iraqi security forces would be watching him.
read in full...
Former Carter national security advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski, summarized Bush's plans for a "surge" of troops in Iraq saying:
"The commitment of 21,500 more troops is a POLITICAL GIMMICK of limited tactical significance and of no strategic benefit. It is insufficient to win the war militarily. It will engage US forces in bloody street fighting that will not resolve with finality the ongoing turmoil and the sectarian and ethnic strife, not to mention the anti-American insurgency."
Brzezinski is right; Bush's plan is just a gimmick that has no chance of succeeding and is likely to make matters worse. 17,500 soldiers aren't enough to "clear and secure entire neighborhoods" as Bush suggests. The only purpose they might serve is to conduct massive sweeps through Sunni neighborhoods terrorizing the local people and displacing larger segments of the population.
That appears to be the real objective of Bush's "Choosing Victory" strategy; another major crackdown employing air and ground forces to ethnically cleanse the main Sunnis neighborhoods. The promise of "security" is just a diversion.
A number of articles have appeared in the last few days which indicate that Bush's "purge" is already underway. Jon Swain of the Times-online provides a chilling description of the military onslaught being carried out in the Haifa neighborhood just a few hundred yards outside the Green Zone:
(The operation involved over) 1,000 American and Iraqi troops backed by Apache helicopters and F-18 fighter jets; it was one of the most spectacular military operations there since the American invasion in spring of 2003. Flames and clouds of smoke filled the area as the battle against Sunni insurgents raged. Helicopters raked the rooftops with rocket and machinegun fire, jets swooped down to almost rooftop level, and tanks and fighting vehicles took up supporting positions as innocent people cowered inside."
Swain's account proves that Bush's real intention is not security but terrorizing the civilian population into submission. It's a textbook example of military pacification. As one 55 year old resident of Haifa queried, "Is this the new paradise the Americans said they would give us when they invaded our country?" Then he added, "When is this nightmare going to end"?
read in full...
In reading about Iraq, you need to keep two things separate. One is to understand the writer's preferred configuration for a resulting Iraqi government, and to make the necessary adjustments in what he has to say. Saudi writers, generally speaking, think of any Shiite-dominated government as pro-Iranian and therefore as to some degree an enemy. By contrast, to take one example, Juan Cole thinks a SCIRI/Kurd government is the natural result, and consequently he has had the tendency to associate the Iraqi Sunni population with terrorists and Baathists (adding lately some concessions to the Sunnis). These are natural human attitudes (for those who take a sectarian approach, that is), but when reading what these people have to say, it is important to see what other points or attitudes they are giving voice to, apart from advocacy for one side or the other.
This is particularly important now, because with the new Bush plan, there is starting to be a shift in Arab perceptions of what the United States is up to in Iraq, and this shift has nothing to do with which side you are on. It has to do with the nature of the American aims and objectives in and of themselves. Up to now, one of the prevailing views has been that America has been manipulating the sectarian forces in Iraq to weaken the Iraqi state and keep all sides off balance, against the backdrop of the US military presence. All-out attacks on Falluja and other places were seen as strategic anomalies in what was essentially a divide-and-conquer political strategy. This is where the new Bush plan comes in.
Under the new Bush plan, the dominant picture for some Arab commentators is no longer to see the US as essentially involved in a divide-and-conquer political scheme. Rather, the picture is now of a US plan is military domination of an entire population plain and simple, without regard to local politics. It is a horse of a different color, and people in all of the otherwise-competing camps are coming to see it that way.
The pan-Arabs see it that way: For instance, the Lebanese opposition paper Al-Safir showed a picture on its front page on Thursday of a bulldozer working on an earthen wall around the city of Barwana [at the top of today's post], and the caption read: "Photo distributed by the American occupation showing a bulldozer building an earthen rampart around the town of Barwana in western Iraq, part of a plan copying Israeli methods for sealing off the resistance." An opinion writer in Al-Quds al-Arabi wrote, also on Friday, about the LA Times scoop on Pentagon plans for "gated communities" as part of the Iraq strategy. He said the idea is closer to that of the ghettos of Eastern Europe in the Nazi era, and the idea symbolizes the American strategy of pure military domination.
Shiites see it this way: For instance a Fadhila Party spokesman said "We view clauses of this [Bush plan] with apprehension and dread." (See the prior post)
Saudis see it that way too: This morning there is an opinion piece in Asharq al-Awsat by Bilal al-Hassan, in which he says the new Bush strategy actually started a few hours before the actual speech, with the joint American-Iraqi attack on the Haifa Street area, involving American aircraft and many killed and wounded, and he asks:
If the fight for control of one street required this kind of military effort, then what will be the case when we start talking about the internal neighborhoods of Baghdad, densely populated and practically closed? And what about the outlying neighborhoods in this city of around 70 kilometer diameter? And there is another important question. If control is to be achieved by fighting and by aerial bombings and by killing and destruction, then what will be the resulting relationship between the occupation and the Iraqi population?
He isn't talking about Sunni versus Shiite, he is talking about the ambition of overcoming all political sectors of the population with military force.
In terms of preferred configuration of a resulting government, all three of these classes of people differ: The pan-Arabs favor a non-sectarian nationalist government; the Shiites a Shiite-led government; the Saudis one that doesn't have connections to Iran. But they are now all starting to agree on one point: The US aim is military domination of Iraq pure and simple.
It is an important change in the way people in the region are looking at this.
From Rasmussen Reports, the favorite polling firm of Bush followers:
For the second straight day, 35% of Americans approve of the way that George W. Bush is performing his role as President. That's the lowest level of Approval ever measured by Rasmussen Reports.
That polling was conducted after the President's "surge" speech. What is particularly notable is this observation:
It is interesting to note that the last time the President's Approval Ratings hit a new low followed the President's speech on immigration. Typically, President's (sic) expect to get a positive bounce following a national address.
It really is striking that whenever one is convinced that Bush's unpopularity ratings have reached their nadir, the one thing that can always drive them even further downward is Bush's appearance on national television to explain himself to the country (or, to use Jules Crittenden's classic formulation: for the President to "address us . . . and show us the way forward"). Even after six years, the more Americans see and hear from George Bush, the more they dislike him.
The collapse of the Bush presidency is truly historic. It is always worth remembering that when Richard Nixon was forced to resign the Presidency, his Gallup approval rating was 25%. The 35% Rasmussen figure for Bush is above the low points measured by most other polls (which is why it is the favorite metric for Bush followers), but it is still abominably low. AP-Ipsos reported several days ago that Bush had just reached an all-time low in its poll -- 32%.
If George Bush continues to appear in public and makes speeches, he's going to soon be within the margin of error of Nixon's resignation-compelling unpopularity. While a weakened Bush presidency may appear intuitively to be a cause for celebration, it poses a serious danger.
(...) the weaker and more besieged the administration feels, the more compelled they will feel to make a showing of their power. Lashing out in response to feelings of weakness is a temptation most human beings have, but it is more than a mere temptation for George Bush. It is one of the predominant dynamics that drives his behavior.
His party suffered historic losses in the 2006 midterm elections as a result of profound dissatisfaction with his presidency and with his war, and his reaction was to escalate the war, despite (really, because of) the extreme unpopularity of that option. And as Iraq rapidly unraveled, he issued orders that pose a high risk of the conflict engulfing Iran. When he feels weak and restrained, that is when he acts most extremely.
Bush officials and their followers talk incessantly about things like power, weakness, domination, humiliation. Their objectives -- both foreign and domestic -- are always to show their enemies that they are stronger and more powerful and the enemies are weaker and thus must submit ("shock and awe"). It is a twisted world view but it dominates their thinking (and that is how our country has been governed for the last six years, which is what accounts for our current predicament). As John Dean demonstrated, a perception of one's weakness and the resulting fears it inspires are almost always what drive people to seek out empowering authoritarian movements and the group-based comforts of moral certitude.
The most dangerous George Bush is one who feels weak, powerless and under attack. Those perceptions are intolerable for him and I doubt there are many limits, if there are any, on what he would be willing to do in order to restore a feeling of power and to rid himself of the sensations of his own weakness and defeat.
read in full...
I've written about the movie, The Battle of Algiers; today, CNN is reporting that George Bush is reading a book on the subject (A Savage War of Peace: Algeria, 1954-1962) for lessons on what to do in Iraq. In closing out the piece, both the author and the reporter cautioned the viewer that after the French decided to pull out, tens of thousands of people were killed in the civil war which followed. According to Wikipedia, that's true enough. What CNN failed to inform its viewers, though, was that before the pullout, while the French were still fighting the Algerians, between 300,000 and 1 million Algerians are estimated to have died. Very much shades of Iraq.
In Iraq as in Algeria, it's unlikely that a pullout of foreign forces will end all killing immediately. But, if the Algerian example is any guide, there will be far fewer people killed after a pullout than would have been killed had a pullout not happened. Think that's the message Bush will get? No, me neither. And the viewers of CNN won't get that message either, not having heard the full story.
Iranian troops have shot down a U.S. pilotless spy plane, local Fars News Agency reported on Tuesday. The aircraft was brought down when it was trying to cross the borders "during the last few days," Seyed Nezam Mola Hoveizeh, a member of the Iranian parliament, was quoted as saying. The lawmaker gave no exact date of the shot-down or any other details about the incident, but said "the United States sent such spy drones to the region every now and then."
NATO-led troops thwarted a bombing at their base in Kabul after a man with an explosive-laden car attempted to enter inside, an alliance spokeswoman said. The bomber was arrested and NATO ordnance experts destroyed the vehicle outside the base, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of alliance rules. No further details were available.
(update) A Royal Marine has been killed during a mission to oust Taliban insurgents in southern Afghanistan, the Ministry of Defence said. The serviceman, from 45 Commando Royal Marines, died during an operation targeting known Taliban positions and firing points near Garmsir in Helmand province, the MoD said.
Lt. Gen. Karl Eikenberry, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, said in an interview that Taliban attacks surged by 200 percent in December, and a U.S. military intelligence officer said that since the peace deal went into effect Sept. 5 the number of attacks in the border area has grown by 300 percent.
Dahlia Lithwick: ABSOLUTE POWER
Why is the United States poised to try Jose Padilla as a dangerous terrorist, long after it has become perfectly clear that he was just the wrong Muslim in the wrong airport on the wrong day?
Why is the United States still holding hundreds of detainees at Guantanamo Bay, long after years of interrogation and abuse have established that few, if any, of them are the deadly terrorists they have been held out to be?
And why is President Bush still issuing grandiose and provocative signing statements, the latest of which claims that the executive branch holds the power to open mail as it sees fit?
Willing to give the benefit of the doubt, I once believed the common thread here was presidential blindness-an extreme executive-branch myopia that leads the president to believe that these futile little measures are somehow integral to combating terrorism. That this is some piece of self-delusion that precludes Bush and his advisers from recognizing that Padilla is just a chump and Guantanamo merely a holding pen for a jumble of innocent and half-guilty wretches.
But it has finally become clear that the goal of these foolish efforts isn't really to win the war against terrorism; indeed, nothing about Padilla, Guantanamo, or signing statements moves the country an inch closer to eradicating terror. The object is a larger one, and the original overarching goal of this administration: expanding executive power, for its own sake. (...)
In a heartbreaking letter from Guantanamo this week, published in the Los Angeles Times, prisoner Jumah Al Dossari writes: "The purpose of Guantanamo is to destroy people, and I have been destroyed." I fear he is wrong. The destruction of Al Dossari, Jose Padilla, Zacarias Moussaoui, and some of our most basic civil liberties was never a purpose or a goal-it was a mere byproduct. The true purpose is more abstract and more tragic: To establish a clunky post-Watergate dream of an imperial presidency, whatever the human cost may be.
read in full...
"If the Americans want armed resistance, we are ready, but we will work hard not to get involved in an armed opposition." -- Sheikh Abdul Razzaq al-Nidawi, a senior al-Sadr official in Najaf
"We're not necessarily going after the militias if the militias don't come after us." -- Army Lt. Col. Scott Bleichwehl, a military spokesman for the Multi-National Division-Baghdad.
"Get the feeling they know the U.S. 'surge' is just for show, and they're willing to play along as long as they get what they want in the end?" -- from "Nobody here but us death squads" at Needlenose


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?