Thursday, February 08, 2007

Photo: Iraqis gather in front of a hospital in Fallujah, 65 kilometers (40 miles) west of Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, Feb. 8, 2007, to inspect a body of a young man that was killed in a U.S. army air raid on the nearby village of Zaidan. (AP Photo) (See below)
A U.S. airstrike Thursday killed 13 insurgents in a volatile area west of Baghdad, the military said. Local officials said 45 civilians, including women and children, died in the attack.
American forces launched the attack after intelligence showed suspected insurgents were assembled in two safe houses for foreign fighters northeast of Amiriyah, 25 miles west of Baghdad, the military said.
Five militants were detained and a weapons cache including armor-piercing ammunition was found in an initial raid on a nearby target, the military said.
That operation was followed by the airstrike on the two suspected safe houses in which the military said 13 insurgents died.
Police and hospital officials in the area offered a conflicting account, saying the airstrike hit the village of Zaidan south of Abu Ghraib and flattened four houses, killing 45 people, including women, children and old people.
An Associated Press photo showed the body of a boy in the back of a pickup truck at the nearby Fallujah hospital and people there said he was a victim of the Zaydan airstrike. Other photos showed several wounded children being treated in the hospital.
Thamir al-Dulaimi, a doctor with the Fallujah Public Hospital, said 20 other civilians from the village were being treated, while a highway patrol officer said civilian cars were being used to bring the wounded to the hospital.
Joint Iraqi and US forces stormed the Iraqi Health Ministry building, detaining Deputy Health Minister Hakem al-Zamli, ministry spokesman Kasem Allawi told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa. Joint Iraqi and US forces stormed the ministry premises, firing several gunshots in the air as they forced reception employees to remain still. The forces broke into al-Zamli's office and took him to some unknown place, Allawi added. It was reported that some ministry employees were also detained.
Bring 'em on: Four Marines assigned to Multi-National Force - West died Feb. 7 from wounds sustained due to enemy action in two separate incidents, while operating in Al Anbar Province. (CENTCOM)
At least six Iraqis were killed and 10 others wounded, some seriously, in a car bomb blast near a mosque in the Shiite Amin district in eastern Baghdad.
A parked car bomb tore through a minibus in the Amin neighborhood in southeastern Baghdad, killing seven passengers and wounding 10, police said. The blast blew out the windows of at least one car parked in a nearby driveway and left piles of rubble and ashes that were being cleared away by street sweepers as the burned out frame of the bus stood nearby.
Mortar fire killed three Iraqi children and injured at least 12 people west of Baghdad Thursday, the U.S. Army said. The U.S. statement said the mortar shells were fired by Iraqi insurgents, KUNA, the Kuwait News Agency, reported.
A high profile official from Iraq's Assyrian Christian community and former deputy director of Iraqi Airways has been shot and killed by militants near his home, BosNewsLife monitored Thursday, February 8. The Assyrian International News Agency (AINA) said Isaac Esho Alhelani was assassinated in the area of Mekanik last Wednesday, January 31, after he was stopped while driving with his wife. He was "forced out of the car and shot twice before the assassins fled with his" vehicle, AINA said. The news agency quoted his children in Australia as saying that their father was taken to a hospital in Baghdad, but that the hospital "did not have the resources or medication to treat his serious wounds." He was later flown by helicopter to the city of Arbil where he died, AINA said.
Gunmen attacked the convoy of a member of the Fadhila Shi'ite political party, and wounded one of his guards near Mansour district in western Baghdad, police and the media office of his party said. He was unharmed.
Police found 20 bodies in Baghdad, all apparent victims of sectarian killings.
A suicide bomber attacked an Iraqi police checkpoint north of Haditha in Anbar province, killing seven policemen and wounding three.
Diyala Prv:
Al-Khalis forensic department received on Thursday eight unidentified bodies, five were beheaded, a medical source said.
An eyewitness told VOI "mortar rounds were fired today onto an Iraqi army checkpoint near a village in northeast of al-Khalis".
Four Iraqi policemen and one civilian were killed when gunmen attacked a police patrol in Baquba, 60 kilometres north-east of the capital, witnesses said.
At least five civilians were killed when gunmen attacked their car on a main road near Baaquba, a police source said.
Two explosive devices detonated Wednesday in Suwayrah city, killing at least eight Iraqis and wounding 20. The devices exploded consecutively on a main street in Suwayrah, 50 kilometres south-east of Baghdad.
Mortar bombs killed seven people and wounded 10 in the town of Iskandariya, 40 km (25 miles) south of Baghdad.
Fourteen Iraqis were killed and 15 injured, some seriously, when a remote-controlled car bomb went off at a public market in Azziziyah, south of Baghdad, sources said. The blast also damaged a number of stores close to the site. Police arrested four Iraqi men and a woman suspected of being involved in the blast.
Gunmen have shot dead 14 men from the same Sunni Arab family in a massacre north of Baghdad. Police say the gunmen stormed two neighbouring homes and separated the men from the women and children before killing the 14 men. Police say a 15th man has survived, despite being shot six times, but is in a serious condition in hospital.
Gunmen in two vehicles attacked the two houses in Rafiyaat, a mainly Sunni village near the town of Balad, 80 kilometres north of Baghdad, on Thursday morning. Police said the gunmen dragged all the male members of the family from their homes, lined them up outside and then shot them with machine guns.
Police found 16 bodies in Mosul, during the past 24 hours. Among the dead were five policemen.
A car bomb exploded near a mosque and killed a worshipper and wounded four others on Wednesday in a town near Falluja, police said
Police found the bodies of three people with gunshot wounds in the head in the town of Garma, near Falluja, 50km (35 miles) west of Baghdad.
A former military officer on trial for the mass killing of Iraqi Kurds in the 1980s testified Thursday he was defending the country from Iran and that U.S. commanders should also face prosecution for waging an "illegal" war in Iraq.
Rashid Hussein Mohammed, a former deputy director of operations for the Iraqi military, is among six defendants on trial for crimes against humanity and other offenses allegedly committed during Operation Anfal, a deadly crackdown against pro-Iranian Kurdish rebels in the 1980-88 war with Iran.
More than 180,000 Kurds, mostly civilians, were killed, according to the prosecution.
"If defending our country is our crime, then we are proud of it," Mohammed said. "We do not regret liberating our country."
Mohammed said that top U.S. commanders should also face prosecution for the 2003 invasion of Iraq to topple Saddam Hussein.
"This war was illegal," Mohammed said of the Iraq invasion. "No U.S. military commander has asked his government about the legitimacy of the occupation."
Since the invasion, a legal arrangement has existed under which American troops are immune from prosecution under Iraqi law. The U.N. Security Council has also authorized the U.S. and coalition presence at the request of the Iraqi government.
During his testimony, Mohammed maintained his role in the Anfal crackdown was to provide technical advice and that he did not take a direct part in killing anyone.
"I did not commit any crime against humanity," he said. "The ethnic cleansing was a big lie."
He said the Iraqi army had to take severe measures in Kurdistan because Iranian forces were planning to flood Baghdad by blowing up two major dams in the north.
A US Marine squad leader congratulated soldiers "for getting away with murder" after an Iraqi civilian was bound and shot dead at point-blank range, a military court has heard.
Sergeant Lawrence Hutchins, who will stand trial for murder next month, made the comments after the abduction and killing of 52-year-old Hashim Ibrahim Award in Hamdania outside Baghdad last April, a witness testified.
Condoleezza Rice revealed that she had authorized diplomatic talks with Syria about the Iraqi refugee crisis, despite a continuing freeze on high-level contacts with Damascus.
A helicopter operated by a private security firm came down in Iraq last week, U.S. officials said on Thursday, an incident that marks the sixth downing of a helicopter in three weeks. Reports of the January 31 incident, in which no one was killed. One U.S. military official told Reuters he had heard reports that the private security helicopter came down under fire. "It did not crash, it made a hard landing. They were able to get all crew and equipment out," the official said. The New York Times, quoting American officials, reported the helicopter was shot down south of Baghdad after insurgents attacked it with heavy-caliber ground fire.
There is a diplomatic standoff between the US and Egypt over the hosting by a Cairo-based satellite provider of an Iraqi TV station that fiercely backs Sunni insurgents.
The Americans have told Egyptian officials they want the broadcasts to stop, but up till now, al-Zawraa can still be seen.
Media analysts say Egypt's reluctance to take the channel off air may be due to its growing wish to be seen to stand up for Sunni Muslim interests in Iraq.
Iraqi insurgents blowing up trucks, snipers picking off American soldiers, the charred bodies of Sunni civilians burnt alive - al-Zawraa offers a constant stream of these brutal images.
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Saboteurs have destroyed five more pylons linking Baghdad to the power stations in Baiji in the north, the Ministry of Electricity said. It is the second attack on the high voltage line in less than two weeks. (...)
Baghdad is almost plunged into total blackout day and night and most people rely on private generators.
The Iraqi national police has helped militias prevent medicine, food and fuel from getting to an area south of Baghdad, and even participated in slayings, Iraq's vice president wrote in a letter to the top U.S. commander in Iraq.
In the Dec. 24 letter to Gen. George Casey, Tarik al-Hashemi, a Sunni, says residents of the Madaein district, which includes Salman Pak, "are victims of a scheme aiming to restore this district to be under Persian Iranian predominance," specifically by an Iranian regime called Ali al-Shawki.
The regime has seized the local mosque and converted it into an "abattoir to slaughter innocent human beings on a sectarian basis," al-Hashemi wrote to Casey, commander of Multi-National Forces-Iraq.
Since November 2006, the Iraqi national police's "Wolf Brigade" has helped militias block deliveries of medicine, food, fuel, and even commit murder, al-Hashemi says. He lists nine demands, including the "evacuation" of the national police, delivery of aid and a "protective force consisting of the inhabitants of the area."
U.S. intelligence officials said they are worried the local Sunnis are prepared to form their own militia if they do not believe the Iraqi government - or U.S. forces - are working quickly enough to protect the people.
The killing of hundreds of people in Fallujah was sparked off when children below the age of 16 demonstrated in the streets of the city protesting against the American occupation of their school and the invasion of Iraq, a war crime victim told a war conference, here Wednesday.
Abbas Abid, 43, said when the demonstrators reached the school, the American troops shot at these children and killed 16 of them, one of whom was his nephew.
"After the shooting, some relatives of the murdered children, decided to fight the American troops for killing their children. This occurred at a time when resistance fighters throughout Iraq began their fight against the US occupation," he said.
Presenting his statutory declaration at the three-day War Crimes International Conference organised by the Perdana Global Peace Organisation at the Putra World Trade Centre, which ends today, Abas said after the invasion by the US army in Iraq, Fallujah city was not occupied immediately by any US troop.
He said it was only about four months later that American troops entered Fallujah city and divided themselves into different groups, and they used the government buildings and schools as their military bases and/or locations. These buildings were surrounded by tall barbed wire fences.
He said the American troops allowed the Iraqi army camps and bases to be unguarded, and this lack of security enabled the people to take weapons and ammunition from these camps to protect themselves.
"This was planned by the American troops as they wanted a civil war to erupt between the Iraqi people.
"At the time, the US troops did not think that the Iraqi people would oppose the occupation and fight them and that we would welcome them as liberators. They did not understand that the Iraqi people opposed occupation and did not want foreign troops in their country," he said in a session chaired by former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
Abas, who is an electrical engineer, said the military operation continued for about two months and the majority of the citizens left Fallujah waiting for the end of the military operation.
When the military operation ended, the American troops could not enter the city following a deal made between the defenders and the attackers. The situation in Fallujah became a lot better and things were calmer with the people who had fled the city earlier returning to their homes.
About six months later, the American troops again attacked the city as they could not accept their earlier defeat at Fallujah, Abbas said.
"This time, the American troops used all sorts of weapons and equipment like planes, heavy tanks, heavy canons, missiles and weapons with traces of uranium. They killed a lot of people using this method.
"The football field became a cemetery to bury the Fallujah people who died. Injured Fallujah people were not allowed to be admitted into the hospital. They were left in the open to die."
Abas said the whole city was destroyed as this time the American troops destroyed a lot of houses, roads, electrical networks, underground pipes, and cut off water supply, destroyed a lot of shops and the industrial regions.
He said after the US invasion, the living condition was very bad since there was not much fuel supply for vehicles and people could not get oil, kerosene or gas for cooking and heating despite Iraq being an oil exporter.
Abas, who is one of the survivors of the Fallujah massacre, also revealed the torture he had to endure when he was detained in the Al-Jadiria prison.
He said it all started on the evening of Aug 28, 2005, when more than 15 American and Iraqi soldiers entered his brother's house and his nephew came to his house for help as his brother was not at home then.
"I welcomed the soldiers and was ready to answer any question. They told me that they were searching the house for incriminating evidence. And when they could not find anything illegal in the house, the commander turned to a table in the living room that my nephews was used for studying.
"The soldiers examined some papers on the table which were articles downloaded from the Internet from various sites - some referred to the violence in Iraq, the future of Iraq and others to political figures like Ahmed Al-Jalaby.
"The soldiers then ordered me to follow them for further questioning. I was first brought to the Al-Muthanna brigade beadquarters where they beat me up and demanded to know the names of 'terrorists' in my neighbourhood.
"I told them that I did not know any terrorist. But they did not believe me and continued to beat me. They even applied electric shocks on me and threatened to shoot me. The Americans took part in the torture and provided beer to the investigators and guards. I knew this because I could hear and understand English," he recalled.
Abas said after four weeks he was transferred to the Al-Jadiria prison and again tortured. He was hit with various tools including cables, metal pipes and metal ribbons, and the soldiers applied electric shocks on various parts of his body especially the penis.
He said no medical care was available at all, and the detainees were left to die from their injuries caused by torture.
On Sept 5 last year, he was brought to court, and the judge ruled that he should be set free for lack of evidence and a month later he was released.
It wasn't clear who came up with the idea to win over Iraqis with soccer balls. A March 2004 press report from the Pentagon describes a unit of the 1st Armored Division handing out soccer balls in the Karadah district of Baghdad. "The children were thrilled to receive new soccer balls as soldiers tossed the balls to the boys and girls," the report said. In a December 2004 release, Kiowa helicopter pilots with the 1st Cavalry Division are described tossing soccer balls to grateful kids in an operation aptly dubbed "Operation Soccer Ball." Spc. Thom Cassidy, who worked in the logistics shop in Reppenhagen's battalion, recalled that giving out soccer balls to the kids around Baquba was passed down from higher command to a battalion colonel at the base. In any event, Cassidy said, "this was a very, very Army idea. This was the prototypical Army idea."
At Forward Operating Base Warhorse, [Garett] Reppenhagen and his fellow soldiers encountered a five-ton truck stacked with large cardboard boxes. They began to unload the truck and open the boxes. There were maybe 50 soccer balls in each box. But the balls had not been inflated. They were all flat. Reppenhagen scoured the boxes. No pumps. What was worse, nobody had bothered to pack the needles to inflate the balls.
Resourceful soldiers that they were, the men carried some of the balls to mechanics in the motor pool. "They tried to pump them up with tire pumps," Reppenhagen said. But the mechanics had the equipment to inflate Humvee tires, not soccer balls.
Frustrated, the soldiers asked their commanding officers what to do. None were sure. They kept calling their own superiors. Cassidy suggested that they order pumps and needles, which would arrive in about two weeks. The battalion colonel quickly tired of the whole discussion and said he wasn't about to requisition soccer ball pumps. "He decided this was a waste of time," Cassidy said. "His thought was, 'Iraqis should be grateful.' Not, 'They will be grateful' -- 'They should be.'" Finally, the lieutenant commanded the troops to deliver the balls to the children. "He was pretty much like, 'Shut up and hand out these soccer balls,'" Reppenhagen said.
It seemed crazy. "We were so pissed," said Reppenhagen. But orders are orders. When you are told to hand out flat soccer balls, you hand out flat soccer balls. So the soldiers who served in 2nd Battalion, 63rd Armored Regiment piled the flat soccer balls into their Humvees. Driving through the Sunni Triangle's war-torn towns, they tossed the deflated balls to children, who crowded the sides of the roads, running beside the canals and lush greenery that lined the banks of the Diyala River. "Kids were swarming us," Reppenhagen said. "We went to a couple of schools and delivered stacks of them. Everybody we saw got a flat soccer ball."
Which, of course, the kids quickly figured out. Pretty soon, Reppenhagen recalled, "They were like, 'What are you doing? What are we supposed to do with this?" When the Humvees began to retrace their route back to the base, the futility of the operation was becoming painfully clear. "Kids were wearing these soccer balls as hats," Reppenhagen said. "They were kicking them around. They were in trees. They were floating in canals. They were everywhere. There were so many soccer balls." (...)
Reppenhagen said he certainly knows what he and his platoon got when they drove to the base: The Iraqi kids were expressing their hearts and minds with rocks and stones. "On the way back, kids were throwing rocks at us," he said. "I assumed it was because we gave them deflated soccer balls. Maybe if we had given them inflated soccer balls, they would have been out playing soccer.
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Along with the report of the downing of a Chinook helicopter in Anbar province, northwest of Baghdad, the fifth US helicopter hit in a month, Al-Hayat adds this:
Military specialists said armed [groups] that control the outskirts of Baghdad have been able to acquire a new generation of ground-to-air rockets of the "Strela" type. ...[T]he AlQaeda organization in Iraq claimed [reponsibility for] the operation in an internet announcement... and sources close to the armed groups said they had obtained a new generation of shoulder-held Strela ground-air rockets, and one result of that is a change the nature of their operations against the American helicopters. The sources said various armed groups in Iraq have been able to buy these new-type rockets, and they have been used in four of the five helicopter hits this year....
And an expert in the former military-manufacturing program said new generations of weapons have come into the possession of armed persons regardless of their group-affiliation, including new high-power explosive devices that exceed [in sophistication] the remote-control explosive devices of the type that the Americans go after. And he said some of the new weapons, like a long-range version of the Katyusha rocket have been developed domestically in Iraq.
According to this Al-Hayat report: The new-type weapons including the new shoulder-held Strelas are in the hands of a wide variety of armed groups; the new weapons have led to new methods of attack against helicopters; and just in passing, the reporter refers to "armed groups...which control the outskirts of Baghdad," all without singling out any one group as against another. The NYT reports a US military official in Iraq as having no information about any new types of weapons, but the paper does say US officials are seeing a new coordination. The paper says: "American officials emphasize that a new sense of coordinated aggressiveness on the part of insurgents toward attacking aircraft, or even luck, may be playing as large a role in the high pace of crashes as improved skill and tactics among insurgents."
Islammemo.cc (aka Mufkarat al-Islam) and Albasrah.net are two websites that regularly report on attacks against the US military without making any particular distinction between the Islamic State of Iraq (the AlQaeda creation) and domestic groups like Islamic Army of Iraq. For instance Islammemo reported, and Albasrah repeated in English (at that link under "Baghdad") the gist of an allegedly all-group meeting supposedly held recently to plan the response to the new Baghdad security plan, including divisions of Sunni Baghdad into military districts, assignment of infrastructure and supply tasks, and so on, and the reporter said each group, including the Islamic State of Iraq, the IAI and others, promised surprises on the military level. The "reporter" said the overall plan was proposed by the Islamic State of Iraq and was approved by acclamation. Naturally there is propaganda and morale-building in all of this, just as there is on the other side. However, the suggestion of some kind of integration of the AlQaeda offshoot with some of the other resistance groups is a feature common to this and also to the above-noted Al-Hayat news about broad proliferation of the new types of weapons.
What is just as noteworthy is the demise of AlQaeda as the frightening bugbear in US corporate media, (having been replaced by Iran). The NYT and the WaPo today bury the Islamic State of Iraq claim to having shot down the helicopter deep inside their stories, and they ostentatiously avoid mentioning the AlQaeda provenance of this group. One bugbear at a time, seems to be the idea.
If you are wondering why the "Green Zone" government renewed their criticism against Al-Jazeera today.
Al-Jazeera criticism renewed
The Iraqi government again hit out at the Arabic satellite channel Al-Jazeera on Wednesday, accusing it of contributing to the_"spread of death and destruction" in the country.
A statement issued by the government press office called on MPs to take further unspecified actions against the television station, which already saw all of its offices in Iraq closed two years ago.
This is the reason:
Al-Jazeera broadcast yesterday Channel4 documentary "Death Squads" in Arabic, for sure this is not good news for the puppets because millions of Arabs and Iraqis will see how the "Green Zone" government terrorize their own people.
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Syed Mohamed Husayn Fadlallah is on Ahmed Mansour's No Limits program on al-Jazeera live from Beirut right now. Fadlallah, of course, is often described as the spiritual leader of Hezbollah, and is one of the most prominent Shia figures in the Arab world (you can check out his website here). It never used to be seen as unusual for someone like Fadlallah to be featured on al-Jazeera, but in the current state of Sunni-Shia hysteria I guess it's worth noting.
It's also an absolutely fascinating encounter, one of the most interesting I've seen since this whole Shia-Sunni business got going (note: all that follows is liveblogging, not from transcript, so apologies if some of the wording isn't exactly right). Mansour sympathizes with the Sunni insurgency - he was the reporter whose reporting from Falluja in 2004 caused such problems for the American campaign there. He pushed Fadlallah hard, in his polite but dogged way, on the position of the Shia in Arab politics. (...)
Things got most heated over Iraq, where Fadlallah doggedly tried to focus on common Sunni-Shia opposition to American occupation while Mansour equally doggedly tried to highlight Shia official cooperation with the United States. When Fadlallah said that the Shia of Lebanon were Lebanese first, but of course has relationships with outside powers (meaning Iran) just like everyone has relationships with outside powers, Mansour pounced: the Shia of Iraq have positive relations as well, but with the United States. Fadlallah responded by trying to focus all attention on the United States, the greatest problem for the region in his view. When Mansour quoted Abd al-Aziz Hakim saying that "America's vision for Iraq is closest to ours", Fadlallah looked pained. Fadlallah responded by announcing that he had private information that there was widespread armed Shia opposition to the US occupation of Iraq. (Mansour: can you show me this information? Fadlallah: no, it's secret.) He boasted of his own fatwas forbidding any Muslim from assisting the Americans in controlling Iraq and calling on Muslims to resist the US occupation and American strategy in the region. Fadlallah firmly denounced Sunni-Shia bloodshed of any kind, and called on all intra-Muslim killing to stop. But he also aired complaints about the "takfiris" (his word) who openly called for the killing of Shia Muslims. Fadlallah's bottom line: the Muslim umma needs to understand that the problems are not between Sunni and Shia but between Islam and the American administration.
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In the first year of the occupation of Iraq, Paul Bremer had two pots of money to hand out. Some $20bn of the Iraqis' own funds, mostly from Iraq's oil revenues and what was left over from the UN's Oil-for-Food programme. And $18.4bn appropriated by the US Congress to rebuild Iraq.
When Bremer quit Iraq in June 2004, his Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) had spent nearly all of the $20bn of the Iraqis' own cash, and only about $400m of the American taxpayers' dollars he'd been given by Congress.
And why not? The Bush administration made clear that the Iraqis themselves would largely pay for the "reconstruction" of their own country. That was always part of the bucket-shop approach to, and appeal of, the Iraq adventure.
"Reconstruction", however, is a hardly a straightforward term. And because Bremer was handing out the Iraqis' own money, he didn't have to comply with stiff laws that cover the expenditure of American federal funds - although details have gradually emerged via the proceedings of the House committee concerned in Washington.
So, when his CPA handed over $1.5bn to the Kurds in the last few days of his reign (that's six pallets of cash loaded on to three Blackhawk helicopters), there was no need to explain where it went. Ostensibly, the $1.5bn was money owed to the Kurds, left over from the Oil-for Food programme.
Yet, it also looked like a massive payoff by the Americans to the Kurds for their support. After all, if the Kurds were really owed the money, Bremer could easily have given it to the fledgling Iraqi government, which could have paid the Kurds in due course.
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The president has included an extraordinary fatal flaw in his plan for additional US troops in Iraq, a fact that may not make much sense to his advisers and allies, but is psychologically understandable in terms of a mechanism that governs his inner reality.
The escalation plan's strongest proponents warn that his requirement dictating two separate and independent command structures for Iraqi and American forces portends disaster, according to Mark Benjamin of Salon.
Lt. Gen. David Petraeus, the US forces commander in Iraq, has agreed with Senator John McCain that "I know of no successful military operation where you have dual command." American Enterprise Institute's Frederick Kagan, the neoconservative architect of the "surge plan" itself, says this provision means "the plan is going to fail."
Lt. Gen. William Odom sees Bush repeatedly making mistakes like this that are "so painfully clear that sometimes I think I might be crazy."
Pundits may rationalize that the self-defeating element of the surge derives from political expediency to get the Iraqi prime minister on board, but that's hardly a sufficient explanation.
As with many other aspects of the president's sometimes odd behavior, the root of this new self-subverting plan lies not in political expediency, in the advice he's received, or in his intellectual abilities as such, but in a psychological twist that begins with his long and well-documented history of failure (and his sense of his own failure) within his family of origin. Where his father was a standout as a scholar, athlete and businessman, the son, following with remarkable fixedness in his father's footsteps, stumbled repeatedly. In November 2006, the father's emissary, James A. Baker III, co-chair of the Iraq Study Group, came to deliver what must have been a familiar verdict: "The situation in Iraq is grave and deteriorating." Read, Son, once again you failed.
To protect his psyche against humiliating feelings - inadequacy, isolation, incompetence, guilt - Bush has developed during his life several defenses that suppress, disguise and deflect those feelings. These defenses have included alcoholism, clownish behavior, emotional bullying, and Christian salvation. Six years ago, Bush found what must seem to him the near-perfect defense (though it was also a trap): The "presidential defense" allows him to avoid any feelings of humiliation by presenting himself as the plain-spoken, divinely inspired "decider" whose choices can't be seriously challenged as incompetent or inadequate, because only distant history (or a guiding Divinity) can judge a president's actions. (...)
With the public increasingly turning away from the illusions spewed out by his defenses, Bush's self-defeating reality comes more sharply into view. The public now faces the question of whether the president will soon fall prey to one of his "gut" inspirations telling him that to save the Middle East situation from failure, he will need to attack Iran. The fatal flaw in that approach would be obvious to almost everyone. But in his own mind, the aggression would offer momentary protection from feeling incompetent while at the same time guaranteeing that the terrible specter of his incompetence would soon return. It would confirm an inner reality he has always known.
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Felicity Arbuthnot: THE 'SURGE'
The 'surge' is going well. With streets blocked by check points and American troops 'advising' Iraqi forces, on consequtive days, the Bab Sharqi market was attacked, body parts strewn amongst stalls, goods - and bodies and injured hauled away on the wooden carts used to bring goods to sell. Shorja market was next in firing line, with its covered and outdoor stalls, alleys, serving all from traders who used to come from Kurdistan for the cheaper Baghdad price (road now too dangerous) locals, the Catholic priest, workers and refugees housed in the church moments walk away.
Next was the Friday Ghazil animal market, believed the oldest in the Middle East, a weekly amble through the exotic, the heartbreaking, the songbirds, snakes and the illicit. An exceptional act of bravery was the attack on the bird market. It takes a particularly fearless mindset to declare a war on birds. The mortars which landed in the Kholoud secondary school, in west Baghdad's Adil district, killing five students and injuring twenty, shredding young bodies with flying glass, were reportedly fired just thirty metres from a 'surge' crackdown checkpoint.
In 2003 Baghdad's ancient Muntanabi book market, a place to wander in wonder at its offerings, was blown up. It had stood on the site for inumerable generations, books laid out on the street, on tressles, on laps - and in the ancient alleyways and covered nooks and crannies, near dark, where the dust was blown off seventeenth century gems and first editions of the wonders of french philosphers, poets. Goethe, Shakespeare, Dickens, hid on piled shelves, no country's greats seemingly not to be found. The booksellers, professional or amateur, handled their volumes as if fragile, utterly precious. A purchase meant a parting.
'Bring 'em on' : the books, the birds, the kids, in this 'last ditch crackdown', part of a plan devised by George W. Bush, according to Al Jazeera. Perhaps when the last remnant of Mesapotamia's ancient heart and soul has been finally ripped out and the last Iraqi has left or been slaughtered, the new pioneers will arrive and build Walmarts, Starbucks, Kentucky Frieds, Mesapotamia Mackburgers, from northern Nineveh's wonders to Basra, from Babylon to Eden (Qurna.) The myriad marvels of this extraordinary land are truly pearls cast amongst swine - the occupying, brute forces.
The duty of care these illegal occupiers have is total, thus they are responsible for ever tragedy. But so depraved are these new Mongols, they have moved on from sending pictures of burned and slaughtered Iraqis to porn sites in exchange for their revolting images and reportedly now collect Iraqis' brain matter for 'trophies' to put in the fridge back at base. Heaven help the communities to which they return and the children they raise. And again, from where are these deviants recruited? Such psychotic sicknesses could surely only have come from a recruiting drive in secure psychiatric institutions, or maximum security penal institutions. (...)
'I gave them a good boy and they sent me back a monster', said the Mother of a Viet Nam veteran ( the indespensible 'Four Days in My Lai - a war crime and its aftermath', Michael Bilton and Kevin Sim, Penguin.) Nothing has changed. America, Britain, take your monsters home. Illegal invasion, illegal 'surge', illegal executions, illegal oil grab. Just go away - and take your discredited politicians with you.
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QUOTE OF THE DAY: "So many hand grenades tossed from buildings, that the men have built homemade protection for their exposed gunners. (...) Around here, something as simple as leaving a house after speaking with the owners requires smoke grenades for cover." -- CNN's Michael Holmes reporting from the US base nicknamed The Alamo in the Amiriyah district of Baghdad


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