Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Photo: An Iraqi holds his mother after she suffered a panic attack following the questioning and near-detainment of her son by US Army soldiers from the 5-20 Infantry Division during the launch of Operation Arrowhead Strike Six in the Shaab neighbourhood of northern Baghdad, 06 February 2007. (AFP/File/David Furst)
A Sea Knight helicopter crashed Wednesday in an insurgent stronghold northwest of Baghdad, killing all seven people on board, the military said, the fifth chopper lost in Iraq in just over two weeks.
A senior U.S. defense official said the helicopter did not appear to have been hit by hostile fire, but an Iraqi air force officer said it was downed by an anti-aircraft missile and an al-Qaida-linked Sunni group claimed responsibility for the downing.
The twin-rotor CH-46 went down about 20 miles northwest of the capital, said U.S. military spokesman Maj. Gen. William Caldwell. "A quick reaction force is on site and the investigation is going on as we speak," he told reporters in Baghdad.
The military said later that the Marine CH-46 helicopter went down in the volatile Anbar province while conducting routine operations and all seven crew members and passengers were killed in the crash.
U.S. forces sealed off the area and helicopters buzzed overhead as flames and a huge plume of black smoke billowed from the wreckage in an open field, not far from a squat concrete farmhouse.
Witnesses said the helicopter had been shot down in a field in the Sheik Amir area northwest of Baghdad.
Sunni insurgents claimed responsibility for the downing of a U.S. military helicopter northwest of Baghdad.
The claim was issued in an Internet statement signed by the Islamic State in Iraq, an umbrella group of several Sunni insurgent groups, including al-Qaida in Iraq. The authenticity of the statement - posted on a Web forum where the group often issues statements - could not be independently confirmed. (...)
"By God's grace, the downing of a helicopter of the crusaders was accomplished on Wednesday morning near the Karamah in Anbar province, leading to its destruction and the deaths of all those on board," the Islamic State in Iraq statement said.
It identified the downed helicopter as a Chinook. The Marine Corps' Sea Knight transport helicopter, with its pair of rotors, resembles the Army Chinook, though is slightly smaller.
The statement said the group would issue a video of the copter's downing in a later message.
Bring 'em on: One Marine assigned to Multi-National Force - West died Feb. 6 from wounds sustained due to enemy action while operating in Al Anbar Province. (CENTCOM)
A Polish soldier was killed and three others injured when their convoy hit a roadside bomb in Iraq Wednesday, the Defense Ministry said. The convoy was 30 kilometers (20 miles) from a Polish base in the central Iraqi city of Diwaniya when the bomb exploded, ministry spokesman Piotr Paszkowski said. The three wounded soldiers suffered only minor injuries, Paszkowski said.
Gunmen set fire to 16 houses in Baghdad's Amil district but caused no injuries, police said. [See below "Baghdad Security Plan Started With a Massacre"]
Two mortar shells landed on houses in a mainly Sunni area in northeastern Baghdad, killing one civilian and wounding seven.
Three people were killed in a drive-by shooting as they were driving in the Yarmouk neighborhood in a western part of the capital.
A roadside bomb struck a joint U.S.-Iraqi patrol on a highway east of Baghdad, killing an Iraqi police officer and wounding three others.
Police said they found 33 bodies around Baghdad, apparent victims of sectarian death squads.
A sniper shot dead three security guards outside the offices of the Iraqi Media Network, which runs Iraqiya state television, in Salhiya district in central Baghdad.
Diyala Prv:
Baaquba forensic department received six unidentified bodies in Baaquba, the capital city of Diala province.
Roadside bombs killed a woman and wounded two other people in Suwarah, 25 miles south of the capital, as well as the driver of a private car elsewhere in a nearby area.
Police retrieved the bodies of two people on Tuesday in the town of Yusufiya, 15 km (9 miles) south of Baghdad.
Police retrieved the bodies of three people on Tuesday in the town of Mahmudiya, 30 km (20 miles) south of Baghdad.
A female official with the Census Department was shot to death today while she was riding to work with her husband in northern Iraq, police said. Gunmen in two cars opened fire on the woman about 9:30 a.m. as her husband was driving her to work at the Nationalities and Census Department in Mosul, 225 miles northwest of Baghdad.
Gunmen raided a house, killing a man and his wife in Mosul, 390 km (240 miles) north of Baghdad.
An Iraqi soldier was killed and two others were wounded in a road accident while a kidnapped soldier was found dead near the northern Iraqi city of Mosul.
A mortar round landed on a house on Tuesday, killing four people, including two women, in the Sunni stronghold of Falluja, 50 km (35 miles) west of Baghdad.
Ten gunmen were killed in armed clashes with Iraqi military forces in Ramadi, Iraq state-run al-Iraqia TV reported, citing an Iraqi military source. A number of suspected terrorists were detained during the clashes, the source added.
In Country:
(Baghdad?) An employee of Iraq's state-run television network, al-Iraqia, was shot to death outside the station's headquarters and a second employee was injured, an Interior Ministry official told CNN.
The long-awaited Baghdad security operation has begun, the top U.S. military spokesman in Iraq said Wednesday. The Iraqi general who is leading the security drive took over the operation headquarters on Monday, but there had been no announcement until Wednesday that the sweep, the third attempt to crush violence in nine months, was under way.
'It is ongoing as we speak,'' U.S. military spokesman Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell said. ''The implementation of the prime minister's plan has already begun and will be fully implemented at a later date, having all the parts and pieces that he wants. ''But portions are already being put in place, and we'll continue to put more into place as the forces arrive and the assets become available.'
Four Iraqi military officers are being held over the kidnapping this week of an Iranian diplomat in Baghdad, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari said on Wednesday.
"Those detained are military officers," Zebari told a news conference, adding they were being questioned over who had ordered the abduction.
Up to 30 gunmen in Iraqi army uniforms kidnapped Jalal Sharafi, the second secretary at the Iranian embassy, on Sunday. Zebari said it did not appear that the four officers were linked with the government, although he did not elaborate.
Iran blames the United States for the abduction and wants Sharafi released.
An Italian judge has decided that a US marine should stand trial for the fatal shooting in Iraq in March 2005 of an Italian secret agent. Ths trial of the marine, Mario Lozano, will open on April 17 almost certainly in his absence, as he has already been exonerated by the United States.
The affair could lead to further tensions between the two countries at a time when relations are under strain over Afghanistan and a US air base. (...)
In a separate case which has soured relations between the two allies, Italian prosecutors are seeking the extradition of 25 CIA agents and a US air force colonel implicated in the 2003 kidnapping of an Egyptian cleric.
Relations between Rome and Washington have become chillier in recent weeks. The Italian government did not appreciate an open letter signed by six ambassadors of states with troops in Afghanistan, among them the United States, urging Rome to stay the course there. (…)
Prodi agreed recently with reluctance to the controversial expansion of a US air base at Vicenza in northwestern Italy on the grounds that his predecessor Berlusconi had approved it.
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, according to an Associated Press analysis of casualty records. Not since the bloody battle for Fallujah in 2004 has the death toll spiked so high.
The reason is that U.S. soldiers and Marines are fighting more battles in the streets of the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, and other cities. The top killer is the roadside bomb, but hostile forces also have had more success lately shooting down U.S. helicopters.
Bush is proposing to slash medical care for the poor and elderly to meet the soaring cost of the Iraq war. Mr Bush's $2.9 trillion (£1.5 trillion) budget, sent to Congress yesterday, includes $100bn extra for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars for this year, on top of $70bn already allocated by Congress and $141.7bn next year. He is planning an 11.3% increase for the Pentagon. Spending on the Iraq war is destined to top the total cost of the 13-year war in Vietnam.
The huge rise in military spending is paid for by a squeeze on domestic programmes, including $66bn in cuts over five years to Medicare, the healthcare scheme for the elderly, and $12bn from the Medicaid healthcare scheme for the poor.
After numerous denials, the Pentagon has confirmed that a North Carolina company provided armed security guards in Iraq under a subcontract that was buried so deeply the government couldn't find it.
The secretary of the Army on Tuesday wrote two Democratic lawmakers that the Blackwater USA contract was part of a huge military support operation by run by Halliburton subsidiary KBR.
Vice President Dick Cheney ran Halliburton before he became vice president.
Several times last year, Pentagon officials told inquiring lawmakers they could find no evidence of the Blackwater contract. Blackwater, of Moyock, N.C., did not respond to several requests for comment.
The discovery shows the dense world of Iraq contracting, where the main contractor hires subcontractors who then hire additional subcontractors. Each company tacks on a charge for overhead, a cost that works its way up to U.S. taxpayers.
"This ongoing episode demonstrates the Pentagon's complete failure to safeguard taxpayer dollars," said Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., one of the lawmakers who had asked about the Blackwater contract and received denials.
read in full...
If you didn't heard of this yet but since yesterday there was a big massacre happened in Baghdad in "Hai-A'amil", people were burned alive inside their houses by death militias supported by the "Green Zone" army, this is on every Iraqi Arab news website.
Eyewitness : militias backed by the army burned entire families south west of Baghdad
Eyewitnesses said to "Quds Press" that armed militias attacked an area south-west of Baghdad [Hai-A'amil]. They burned entire families inside their homes.
According to eyewitnesses, the militias, backed by Iraqi commando troops clashed with the people there before they burned whole families alive inside the houses.
Abu Abdul Malik said:
Militias had poured petrol inside the house and set it on fire, which led to the burning of all of the houses inside them women and children, and the one who managed to get out, was killed by the militias immediately.
While the occupation forces were searching for weapons in the wrong side of the city
American and Iraqi forces are besieging areas east of Baghdad
Iraqi and American joint forces surrounded areas East of Baghdad, in preparation for inspection. A source in the Iraqi army told "Quds Press" correspondent that the American and Iraqi forces began Tuesday (February 6) that the American and Iraqi forces backed up by tanks, armored vehicles, and air cover preparing today to launch a campaign to search weapons.
There is one explanation for this; American occupation forces are fighting Iran's war, clean sweeping Baghdad from the Sunnis, and giving it to Iran.
Bush's new "security strategy" does nothing to promote American interests in Iraq; it benefits Iran alone. The "surge" is a tactic not a strategy. It does not consider the overall objectives of US involvement in Iraq, but continues to pursue the narrow aim of eliminating one enemy over another. This is hopelessly counterproductive and will end in disaster. By focusing all of his military resources on defeating the Sunni-led resistance, Bush has made a "devil's bargain" with the Iranian-backed Abdel Aziz al-Hakim, the biggest gangster in all of Baghdad, who is instigating much of the sectarian violence. Al-Hakim spent 20 years in Iran prior to the fall of Saddam and is clearly allied to the Mullahs. His militia, the Badr Brigade, was trained by the Iranian Republican Guards (as well as the CIA) and is perhaps the most feared death squad in all of Iraq. Al-Hakim's militia operates out of the Iraqi Interior Ministry and is deeply engaged in the purging of Sunnis from Baghdad.
What does Bush gain by defeating the Sunnis-led resistance but elevating the agents of Iran? How long will it be, after the last Sunni is driven out of Baghdad, before the Badr Brigade turns their guns on Bush and the American troops?
Bush is just substituting one adversary for another while exhausting his forces at the same time.
If we can understand what is meant by the "surge" then we can see why it is bound to fail and why it will further strengthen Iran's power in Iraq.
The "surge" is not a plan for security as it is touted to be; that's merely a public relations smokescreen. No one in their right mind believes that 21,500 troops are sufficient to provide security to a city of 6 million Iraqis. Rather, the surge is designed to drive the Sunnis from Baghdad so that the platforms of support for the Iraqi resistance will be effectively removed. ("Drain the swamp") No one has shown a better grasp of what the "surge" really means than military analyst and historian, William Lind. In a recent article in counterpunch, Lind summarized the policy like this:
"The Americans will drive out the Sunni insurgents, leaving Sunni neighborhoods defenseless. As the American troops move on, they will be replaced by Iraqi soldiers and police, mostly Shiite militiamen, WHO WILL ETHNICALLY CLEANSE THE AREA OF SUNNIS ...The Americans will have fulfilled their allotted function, fighting the Sunnis on behalf of the Shiites". (William S. Lind "The Real Game in Iraq" counterpunch.org)
That's it in a nutshell; the surge is ethnic cleansing. (...)
The surge illustrates the Bush administration's basic misunderstanding of the war in which we are engaged. Iraq is not the type of conflict where one can simply draw up a checklist and eliminate enemies one by one. All of the main groups are lined-up against the occupation; some are merely waiting for the US military to crush their traditional rivals before they act. (We saw this unfold in thee recent massacre outside of Najaf this week) Increasing the violence at this point only strengthens future adversaries and undermines the prospects for a political solution.
read in full...
The supreme irony of President George W. Bush's campaign to blame Iran for the sectarian civil war in Iraq, as well as attacks on U.S. forces, is that the Shiite militias who started to drive the Sunnis out of the Baghdad area in 2004 and thus precipitated the present sectarian crisis did so with the support of both Iran and the neoconservative U.S. war planners.
The U.S. policy decisions that led to the sectarian war can be traced back to the conviction of a group of right-wing zealots with close ties to Israel's Likud Party that overthrowing the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq would not destabilise the region, because Iraqi Shiites would be allies of the United States and Israel against Iran.
The idea that Iraqi Shiites could be used to advance U.S. power interests in the Middle East was part of a broader right-wing strategy for joint U.S.-Israeli "rollback" of Israel's enemies. In 1996, a task force at the right-wing Israeli think tank, the Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies, under Richard Perle advised Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that such a strategy should begin by taking control of Iraq and putting a pro-Israeli regime in power there. Three years later, the former director of that think tank, David Wurmser, who had migrated to the neoconservative American Enterprise Institute, spelled out how the United States could use Iraqi Shiites to support that strategy in "Tyranny's Ally". Wurmser sought to refute the realist argument that overthrowing Saddam Hussein would destroy the balance of power between Sunni-controlled Iraq and Shiite Iran on which regional stability depended. (...)
The neoconservative plan for invading Iraq reflected Wurmser's assumption that the United States would not need to plan a long military occupation of Iraq, because toppling Hussein's regime would unleash the power of the Iraqi Shiites.
But the political realities in Iraq were nothing like Wurmser and his allies imagined them. They had not counted on the Sunnis mounting an effective resistance instead of rolling over. Nor had they anticipated that Shiite clerics of Iraq would demand national elections and throw their support behind the militant Shiite parties, SCIRI and Dawa, which had returned from exile in Iran in the wake of the U.S. overthrow of Hussein.
SCIRI and Dawa were not what the hardliners had in mind when they thought about Shiite power in Iraq. Their paramilitary formations had been created, trained and nurtured by Iran's Revolutionary Guards, and their views on international politics were not known to be distinguishable from those of the Islamic Republic of Iran. (...)
Throughout 2004 and the first half of 2005, the Shiite militias took advantage of the supportive policy of the United States to consolidate their power in Baghdad and began terrorising Sunni communities. After the government formed under the Dawa Party's Ibrahim Jaffari, the Shiite Badr Brigade moved into the Ministry of Interior, which became a vehicle for state terror. Despite media coverage of Shiite death squads operating freely in the capital, the Bush administration refused to admit that there was any problem with Shiite militias.
Only in October 2005, after what must have been a fierce internal struggle in Washington, did the U.S. Embassy began to oppose the Shiite effort to force Sunnis out of the capital. By then it was far too late. The genie of sectarian civil war could not be put back in the bottle.
read in full...
CH-46 U.S. Copter Crash Kills All 7 Aboard
Notice the lack of large scale air assault operations in Iraq. Even the 101st ABN is road bound. Why?
Because the day of the helicopter is done.
CENTCOM has lied for years about shootdowns. They can't any longer. Imagine what could happen if the US had to increase air operations?
When Congress asks where all those billions went, I think we can say the Sunni resistance and the Sadrists spent their money well.
read in full...
The NY Times reports today that the Iraqi PM has admitted that his end of the surge of forces has not gone well:
Mr. Maliki offered no reasons for the delay, but Iraqi military officials have expressed frustration over the slow pace and have cited several problems, including the failure of Iraqi troops from other parts of the country to arrive on schedule in Baghdad, the capital.
The Times offers no explanation for the delay either. A hint might be found in this AP piece from last week, which checks the troop levels of the two brigades due in Baghdad from the Kurdish north:
An Iraqi army brigade from Irbil, about 3,000 men in principle, will have at most 1,500 men when it finally arrives in Baghdad. The commander says 95 percent of the men don't speak Arabic. A brigade from Sulaimaniyah, also in the Kurdish north, has reached the Muthana Airport in central Baghdad, but it is only 1,000-men strong, not the expected 3,000.
No stats were available about the third brigade to be contributed from the south. But why rely on the Kurds, especially when the bulk of them don't speak Arabic? I wrote about that a month ago, citing this report:
[An Iraqi] general said Kurds, who are Sunni but not Arab, were being used against the Shiite militia because soldiers from other Iraqi units were likely to refuse to fight fellow Shiites. An estimated 80 percent of Iraq's army is Shiite.
It shouldn't be surprising that Kurdish troops aren't real interested in this role. And since there's no Plan B....
Thomas Gray's maxim stating that "ignorance is bliss" has been both, widely accepted and widely refuted. Proponents and opponents to what that gentleman said, or meant to say, back in 1742 seem to gather with equally opposing strength as centuries pass. Of late, however, the people of Latin America may have given us a replacement to that axiom, coining with their actions a true gem: "Bliss is being ignored - by the US!" (...)
The fact that George W. Bush has ignored the breaking of political piñatas south of the border - way, way south of the Rio Grand - might have made the powerful local elite, and their squire-class of enablers, politically restive in Central and South America; but as far as most of the people who live there, those best described as without a pied à terre in Miami or elsewhere in the States or Europe, these past six years have proven to be a true blessing, bringing a ray of hope for a true beginning of social and economic reform. It's not an anti-democratic or anti-American trend that is taking place, as we are being led to believe by a shamelessly lying government and a conformational press. What's happening in the Latin Down Under is not really about us, it's about them; about people freeing themselves from us, the "corporate America" that has kept the powerless in those nations as permanent beggars, at times mistakenly looking northward for alms.
At this point, all we have seen is nothing more than the unlocking of the gates to allow passage of both political reform and economic equity for hundreds of millions of Latin Americans. Whether or not these peaceful socio-economic revolutions succeed, and to what degree, remains an experimental unknown for now. (...)
One thing we feel safe to bet on: results, no matter how dismal, cannot possibly be as bad as those obtained in the past under predatory capitalism, even if blasphemously camouflaged as free-enterprise; not for 70 percent of the people in the region, perhaps a much higher figure in some nations with larger indigenous population. The people are simply fed up, and have been saying so where it counts: at the ballot box. They are shouting to the four winds: enough!
read in full...
QUOTE OF THE DAY: "Who in their right minds would send 360 tonnes of cash into a war zone? But that's exactly what [this government] did." -- Congressman Henry Waxman, chairman of the Hoversight committee investigating $5bn in payments made by the Bush administration in 2004 just six weeks before returning control of the government to Iraqis, asking Paul Bremer, who headed the Coalition Provisional Authority, Iraq's first post-occupation government, about the shipment by the US government in a 13-month period of 360 tonnes of cash to Iraq; quoted in “Billions given away in Baghdad free-for-all


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