Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Photo: Wounded US Marine returns home from Iraq to marry. (Portraits: 1st prize singles, World Press Photo 2007; by Nina Berman, USA, Redux Pictures for People)
Bring 'em on: A U.S. soldier was killed during a combat operation in the province of al-Anbar, west of the capital Baghdad, the U.S. army said in a statement on Tuesday.
A suicide bomber blew up the truck he was driving near a college in Baghdad, killing at least 15 people and wounding 27, police and hospital officials said.
The attack occurred about 9:50 a.m. at the College of Economic Sciences as students were arriving for class at the campus in the Iskan neighborhood in western Baghdad.
"A U.S. warplane dropped today afternoon two bombs on Iyar tourist hotel in south of Haditha city," an eyewitness told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI). The source added "the raid destroyed the whole hotel with no civilian casualties."
Earlier, local police warned the city residents through loudspeakers not to come close to the hotel which was believed to be a weapons cache for gunmen, the eyewitness added. The U.S. army has yet to confirm the raid.
Six gunmen were killed while trying to plant explosives inside a car south of Baaquba, 57 km north of Baghdad.
> Iraq will close its borders with Syria and Iran for 72 hours as part of the drive to secure and pacify Baghdad, the Iraqi commander of the crackdown said Tuesday, hours after a suicide bombing in a mainly Shiite neighborhood killed at least 15 people.
Lt. Gen. Abboud Gambar, addressing the nation on behalf of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, did not say when the borders would be closed. A government official said it was expected within two days.
The government official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media, said the borders with Iran would only be partially reopened even after the 72-hour period ended.
> More security forces were deployed in the Iraqi capital Baghdad as a number of main streets in the area of al-Rasafa were sealed off on Tuesday morning, eyewitnesses said.
"Security forces set up checkpoints on most of the main roads in Rasafa and bridges suffered traffic congestions due to the numerous barricades," an eyewitness told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI).
U.S. warplanes kept hovering in the skies of Baghdad since Monday night and until Tuesday morning, the eyewitness added.
Baghdad has been witnessing wide-scale deployments of Iraqi army and police forces backed by armored vehicles on the main roads since last week in a measure preceding the enforcement of a security plan, codenamed Order Imposing.
> The top U.S. military officer said the discovery that roadside bombs in Iraq contained material made in Iran does not necessarily mean the Iranian government was involved in supplying insurgents.
The comments by Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called into question assertions by three senior U.S. military officials in Baghdad on Sunday who said the highest levels of Iranian government were responsible for arming Shiite militants in Iraq with the bombs, blamed for the deaths of more than 170 troops in the U.S.-led coalition.
White House spokesman Tony Snow said Monday he was confident the weaponry was coming with the approval of the Iranian government.
Pace told reporters in the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, that U.S. forces hunting militant networks in Iraq that produced roadside bombs had arrested Iranians and some of the materials used in the devices were made in Iran.
"That does not translate that the Iranian government per se, for sure, is directly involved in doing this," Pace said. "What it does say is that things made in Iran are being used in Iraq to kill coalition soldiers."
On Monday, Pace said he had no firm knowledge that the Iranian government had sanctioned the arming of the insurgents.
"It is clear that Iranians are involved, and it's clear that materials from Iran are involved, but I would not say by what I know that the Iranian government clearly knows or is complicit," Pace told the Voice of America.
> Sixty percent of Americans oppose the deployment that is part of Bush's new strategy for restoring security in Iraq, according to a USA Today/Gallup Poll published on Tuesday. (…)
Nearly two-thirds of those surveyed said they were irritated by the Senate's failure to act last week on an Iraq resolution, USA Today said.
An overwhelming majority of Americans, 63 percent, support congressional action to withdraw all U.S. troops by the end of next year and 57 percent back a cap on troop levels, according to the poll.
Iraqi troops, US-led coalition forces and insurgents are all guilty of breaking Geneva conventions that govern the neutrality of hospitals, say health specialists. The increasing risk of being shot or arrested in a hospital in Iraq is preventing ordinary citizens from seeking medical attention. (...)
A report released by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq on 31 December 2006 said that its Human Rights Office had submitted an official memorandum in November to Major General Thomas Moore, chief-of-staff of the multinational forces in Iraq.
The memo requested more detailed information on a number of incidents involving coalition force activities in Ramadi and Fallujah and raised the issue of the military using facilities protected by the Geneva Conventions, such as hospitals and schools. To date, no response has yet been received.
IRIN contacted the press office of the multinational forces in Baghdad but received no response.
In addition to the official military and armed groups' occupying hospitals, insurgents have been forcing doctors to treat their injured but not to register their names in the hospital records.
"Every day they are asking for assistance in our hospital. And when they feel it looks dangerous for them to come, the insurgents capture a doctor, sometimes with a nurse, and take them to a place where their fighter, who needs medical care, is. We have no choice. If we don't accept, they will kill us within at most 24 hours as happened to two friends of mine," said a doctor working at Yarmouk Hospital, the main emergency centre in the capital, who spoke on condition of anonymity. (…)
Hassan said that sometimes insurgents offer huge amount of money after the treatment, especially when the injured person is someone of high rank in their group.
"Once, I refused to take the payment and they told me that it was a gift from their chief. I was afraid to turn them down and bought food with it and gave the rest to displaced families near my neighbourhood," the doctor said.
To make matters worse, the doctor said that when US and Iraqi forces came to hospitals looking for insurgents, doctors were often taken away for interrogation.
"Whatever we say they arrest us and treat us, doctors, as if we are terrorists. They take us for interrogation and threaten us. So, in reality, we face danger from the insurgents as well as from the [official] troops," the doctor said.
Life in Baghdad is like Hell, I used the term Hell and yet its worse than hell. People are locked up in their homes trying to be safe and yet they're not safe enough. streets are almost empty all the time and though they aren't safe enough. All life's activites are stopped, for me I stopped going to school two months ago, and now I only go there if I have an exam or an important lab.
Life in Baghdad became less meaningful, there is no life in the city, people are scared to go out, they are afraid of fake police patrols or fake check points, they are afraid of random explosions, they are afraid of black militias and gunmen who would kill people for sectarian reasons.Horror is everywhere, people are terrified even from their own shadows.
My life became less active since I got back to Baghdad in Oct. 10th. Now I stay at home 24 hours a day, without going out, I only go out if I had to do something important or go to college if I had an exam, otherwise, I won't go out, because it's too dangerous to be out in the streets.
Being locked up at home is a very sad experience that I'm going through, there's too much emptiness in our lives nowadays, too much horror and too much grieve for the innocent people who are dying everday.
I lost several friends of mine, because they died either in a field of action or due to sectarian violence.
read in full…
Sectarian tensions in Iraq were limited and controlled during Saddam's rule- the bitterness leading up to the violence increased after the U.S. occupation.
Many political experts, media pundits and news analysts have called the situation an Iraqi civil war.
Over the past year, Iraq witnessed unprecedented surge in sectarian attacks that killed thousands.
But some analysts raised suspicion over those sectarian attacks that swept through Iraq since the U.S. troops entered the country, and surged in recent months, specially following February 22 attack 2006 on a revered Shia site in the Iraqi city of Samarra. Some suggested that the aim of these attacks is to sow chaos and sectarian discord in the country which would grant the U.S. an easy implementation of its agenda, which includes stealing the country's oil wealth and keeping permanent presence in the country, without facing strong resistance from a united nation. (…)
In the wake of recent unrest and "sectarian attacks in Iraq", Muslim leaders in India blamed the U.S. for the escalation in Shia-Sunni tensions.
"The people who are behind this fratricide in Iraq are those who ultimately want to destroy Islam and Muslims, those who want to defame the community," said Naib Imam Moulvi Mouzzam Ahmed of the Fatehpuri mosque in Old Delhi.
"These things never happened in Iraq until the Americans came," he added.
"So long as the Americans don't leave Iraq, these things will continue," the Imam told IANS.
"Unfortunately, just as the British left behind the cancer of Hindu-Muslim tensions in India, America's legacy in Iraq will be Shia-Sunni tensions."
"America is fully involved in this violence," said Syed Ahmed Bukhari, the Shahi Imam at the Jama Masjid, the city's biggest mosque.
"They will use this violence to keep their forces in Iraq for ever. They don't want normalcy to return to Iraq."
"How do 'suicide bombers' go to Shia and Sunni areas? When there is so much security in Baghdad, how do these things happen? Who benefits from these clashes? Isn't the answer obvious?"
Putting all these threads together, it's difficult not to suspect that the U.S. is provoking hostility within the Iraqi population.
"Divide and Conquer" strategy is as old as warfare itself.
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Mohammed Ibn Laith, Gorilla's Guides: HAVE A NICE SURGE
This child whose body is being carried out of the burning building after the double car bomb attack today Monday, Feb. 12, 2007 died because those who search for bombs are being stopped from doing so.
They are being stopped from searching for bombs because the Americans are having one of their surges. If you think that the "surge" is about protecting the people of Irak from bombers you are a fool. It is about protecting the puppet government in the green zone. The Americans have never kept their promise to issue the Baghdad police bomb detection unit with explosive detection equipment. There is no reason to believe they ever will issue the Baghdad police bomb detection unit with explosive detection equipment.
That particular bombing set off numerous secondaries. More of my people died in those. Yes those are civilians risking their lives to save the wounded and bring out the dead. Please note the age of the boy carrying the front of the stretcher. You should also note the size of the corpse.
No I do not care about your feelings. I am interested in what if anything you have done to stop your country from murdering yet more of my people. That is all I am interested in. When I want to decide about someone I look at what they do not at what they say.
Enjoy your surge and have a nice day America. I do not think you will enjoy the countersurge but that is your problem not mine. I for my part will be cheering on the Iraki resistance. Irak is for the Irakis. This is my home, these are my people. Leave.
The only thing a predator understands is force. Predators can become prey.
So far, what exactly is surging in Iraq?
U.S. casualties, which are at a post-invasion high: According to an Associated Press analysis, more American troops were "killed in combat in Iraq over the past four months -- at least 334 through Jan. 31 -- than in any comparable stretch since the war began"; and February, with 34 American deaths in its first nine days, is exceeding this pace. These loses are largely due to roadside bombs (IEDs) and to the fact that U.S. troops are now engaged in almost continuous urban warfare. Before the invasion of Iraq, the possibility of fighting an urban war in the Iraqi capital's streets and alleys was the American high command's personal nightmare. Now, it's their reality -- and the President's surge plan can only make it more nightmarish.
Downings of U.S. helicopters, six in less than three weeks: With road travel, even in convoys, now so dangerous, thanks to IEDs, the helicopter has been a transport workhorse for the U.S. military in Iraq. The sudden surge in downed helicopters raises the specter of new tactics by the insurgents as well as the possibility that they have new, advanced missiles in their hands. It raises a warning flag of the first order. Let's not forget that the beginning of the end of the Russian occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s came when CIA-supplied Stinger missiles began to take down Russian helicopters in significant numbers.
Iraqi and American no-shows: The first Iraqi Army units promised by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki for the beginning of the February surge in the capital have shown up. But as with everything involving that Green Zone government and Iraqi forces generally, there is a catch: The initial Iraqi brigades are evidently at only 55-65% troop strength. Undoubtedly, these no-shows are Kurds and Shiites who didn't want to leave their home areas to fight in Baghdad. In addition, according to McClatchy's Tom Lasseter, who went out on patrol with Iraqi forces in Baghdad recently, despite the $15.4 billion the American military has so far poured into "standing them up," they are militia-infiltrated, incompetent, and exceedingly corrupt. "Two weeks with American units that patrolled with Iraqi forces in west and east Baghdad found," he wrote, "that Iraqi officers sold new uniforms meant for their troops, and that their soldiers wore plastic shower sandals while manning checkpoints, abused prisoners and solicited bribes to free suspects they'd captured." Nor have most American troops designated to surge into Baghdad arrived yet. Louise Roug of the Los Angeles Times estimates that only 20% of the promised surge forces, Iraqi and American -- about 5,000 troops in all -- have even made it to the capital. (The fifth and final American brigade in this plan isn't scheduled to arrive until May!) In the meantime, senior American diplomats, voting with their analytic feet, are resisting taking posts in Iraq, assignments which, unlike military personnel, they are not obliged to accept. (They are evidently doing so on the same basic what-the-hell-am-I-going-there-for principle as the Kurdish and Shiite troops.)
Iraqi refugees: One out of every seven Iraqis has by now "fled his or her home or sought refuge abroad," reports the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). "Every day," according to McClatchy's Warren Strobel, "violence displaces an estimated 1,300 more Iraqis in the country; every month, at least 40,000." According to UN officials, in surging Iraq, things are only expected to worsen. "The UNHCR projects that the number of internally displaced in Iraq could grow to about 2.7 million by year's end." An in-depth assessment conducted by the International Medical Corps, a humanitarian organization, suggests that "over one million residents of Baghdad could be driven from their homes in the next six months if Iraq's sectarian violence continues at its current level." That would be a surge indeed.
The devastation of Sunni neighborhoods in Baghdad: Some of these are being turned into ghost areas, as Ilana Ozernoy and Ali Hamdani indicate in a limited survey of one street in a Sunni area of the capital that appeared recently in the Atlantic. Other accounts seem to verify this. For instance, New York Times reporter Damien Cave, in a piece on how the vast Shiite slum of Sadr City is beginning to thrive under the protection of Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army and with reconstruction money from the Maliki government, comments in passing that, in contrast, "middle-class Sunni enclaves are withering into abandoned ghettos, starved of government services."
Massive publicity about the details of the slow-to-happen surge operation: These have been offered copiously by the supposedly security-conscious Bush administration, giving Sunnis and Shiites opportunity to prepare both defenses and evasions. It has meant, according to early American military assessments, that in the first search operations in key neighborhoods, they are finding little or nothing. ("'I don't know if it's bad information, bad intelligence, of if they knew we were coming and left,' said Capt. Isaac Torres of the Army's 3rd Brigade Stryker Combat Team. 'They were all dry holes.'")
read in full…
Michael Schwartz, Asia Times Online: DEATH STREET: A PRELUDE TO MADNESS
Even before the Americans arrived on Haifa Street last month as the vanguard of the new Bush strategy to pacify Baghdad, previous experience strongly suggested that the effort was doomed to failure. A month later, that expectation has certainly been fulfilled.
Unfortunately, there are some genuinely new, grim elements to the battle for Haifa Street, elements that threaten to make the coming Baghdad-wide "surge" dramatically more damaging than its predecessors. To begin with, there is the far greater application of US air power; bombing runs and high-caliber assaults from helicopter gunships have dramatically increased the death and destructiveness of the still-ongoing battle, rendering much of Haifa Street an unlivable graveyard.
Added to this is the systematic and largely successful effort of the Sunni jihadists to expel the Shi'ite minority from the area, an effort triggered by the initial US incursions. And then, overlaid on top of the cleansing of the Shi'ite minority, came the contrary cleansing of the Sunni majority; engineered by the Iraqi military that arrived in the neighborhood with the Americans, and conducted their own purge with the support or acquiescence of the US military.
The Haifa Street battle sadly shows that Bush's new strategy will measurably increase the violence in Baghdad above already intolerable levels. With more troops at their disposal, American generals will try to pacify many more neighborhoods like Haifa Street and cities like Tal Afar that need "to be brought back under Iraqi security control". And when they do this, they will bring the same mix of horror that they brought to Haifa Street, including brutal air power, house-to-house searches and fighting, sectarian violence, massive dislocation, and ethnic cleansing.
Like the other campaigns initiated by the US occupation of Iraq, this new strategy will make things measurably worse.
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I happened to catch some of the House speeches this morning on the upcoming Iraq resolution. Republican thinking was at its finest when Lynn Westmoreland of Georgia took the floor. He criticized those opposed to the surge for thinking that "if we just leave, the Iraqis will go back to tending sheep and herding goats." Yeah, Lynn, there's a lot of that going on in Baghdad, a city of several million goatherds. It's tough carrying that White Man's Burden in taking care of these backwards Iraqi peasants, but Lynn's ready to keep at it. But then, who's going to notice a little casual racism from an ardent opponent of the Voting Rights Act?
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A Tiny Revolution: THE HUMAN TOLL OF WAR
More about George Tenet and his new book:
The publisher who met with Mr. Tenet said he had spoken extensively about the toll that the Iraq war had taken on his family, particularly on his son, who was "teased mercilessly" at school. "Other kids would yell, 'Your dad's a murderer!' and that kind of thing," the publisher recalled him saying.
While one feels for Tenet's son, we must remember he has not been the only one to suffer: a recent study by Johns Hopkins researchers estimated that 650,000 Iraqis have also been mercilessly teased. I've also heard 3,000 U.S. soldiers have been made fun of so cruelly by the other children that they ran back home to America hidden in metal boxes covered in flags.
Inside Iraq: ASK THEM ...
I wonder if the U.S. government has ever asked the Iraqi government the following question:
If the war started between U.S. and Iran, on which side the Iraqi government will be?
Please notice that the prime minister and the majority of the current Iraqi government were exiles before the U.S. led invasion in 2003 and if it wasn't the U.S. these guys will be outside the country.
What do you think their answer will be?
Please remember the Iraqi government is an Islamic government led by Islamist. Many of them were living in Iran for more than 25 years.
Many members of the current Iraqi government prefer to speak to you in Persian rather than Arabic
Now can you imagine on which side they will prefer to be.
After all the difference between Iran and Iraq is just the last letter, for them i suppose.
I keep saying that the United States is not going to attack Iran, but nobody believes me (six months from now, I'm expecting everyone to congratulate me on my prescience). One good indicator is the propaganda being churned out by the Bush Administration. It lacks all the conviction of the Iraq lies, and, even more telling, the mainstream media reports on it while simultaneously mentioning both that there are opposing views (something we never saw in the build-up to Iraq), and that the Bush Administration told similar stories about Iraq, stories which were all untrue and which led Americans into a disaster. The American Establishment has obviously ordered its lackies to try to tell the truth this time. Iran is going to do just enough to remain on side of the international inspectors, which will give Europe the excuse it is looking for to pour cold water on the Zionist plans (the Zionists have their hands full convincing the Europeans to keep the new Palestinian government, and the Palestinian people, on the 'diet plan').
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: "The Iraqi soldier carries a gun sent back by Poland: the Poles stole Iraqi equipment from Hilla and took it to their country, painted it and sent it back to us at the cost of 2000 [US] dollars per gun, whereas it does not cost more than 50 dollars in Iraq." -- Mahmoud al-Mash'hadani, Speaker of the Iraqi Parliament and prominent member of the Arab Sunni "Iraqi Accord Front"


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