Friday, February 02, 2007

PHOTO: Boys gather things from a house damaged after U.S. troops clashed with insurgents in Ramadi, 100 km (60 miles) west of Baghdad, February 2, 2007. U.S. troops said they killed 18 insurgents in fierce clashes in the volatile western Iraqi city of Ramadi that began on Thursday and continued on Friday morning and ended only when air strikes were launched. REUTERS/Stringer (IRAQ)

Security Incidents for February 2, 2007

Bring em on: US helicopter down north of Baghdad near Taji.

Ramadi: US forces claim that they killed 18 insurgents in fighting on Thursday night and on Friday.

Hillah: Three day mourning period announced after Thursday’s suicide attack that killed at least 73 people and left 163 wounded. No group claimed responsibility for this attack.

Mosul: One police officer killed by a roadside bomb.

Najaf: Car ban in effect today.

Baghdad: Three hour vehicle ban to prevent car bombings during traditional Islamic religious services.

Fallujah: Sunni chairman of the Fallujah City Council (and an outspoken critic of al Qaida) was assassinated. He is the third council leader to be killed in a year.

Baghdad: Two US soldiers die in traffic accident.

Tikrit: One US soldier died from wounds from a vehicle tun over.

Baghdad: Weapons cache found east of Baghdad by US soldiers and Iraqi police. Two men were arrested.

Kirkuk: Nine suspects are arrested during a security operation by Iraqi police and US forces.

Baghdad: US targets senior al-Qaida leaders in air raid in southern Baghdad.

Baghdad: Four people were killed and 19 wounded by mortars on Friday in various parts of Baghdad.

Basra: Three British bases attacked in Basra over night. No casualties reported.


Najaf Put Under Curfew

Authorities have declared a curfew in the Iraqi city of Najaf as a "preventive security measure", citing fears of an attack by armed groups. The curfew, called on Thursday, comes as Iraq's Association Muslim Scholars called for an investigation into the Ashura day attack by US and Iraqi forces on a group just outside Najaf. Police in Najaf said: "The curfew imposed overnight has been extended and includes the entire region around Najaf including Kufa, northeast of the holy city ... Police checkpoints have been told to forbid people from entering or leaving the city, and this order applies to residents as well." More than 250 people were killed and almost 300 arrested in a battle on Sunday between an alleged doomsday cult and US and Iraqi forces. But on Friday, the Association Muslim Scholars called for an investigation into the incident, which they termed the "al-Zarka massacre". The association said it did not have confidence in the government over the matter and called the incident nothing more than the targeting of Arab clans who were not supporting the government. The association said the government's claims about the cult called "Jund al-Samaa", or the "Soldiers of Heaven", were baseless. [The people who were killed here seem to be from two tribes and they are anti-government in the sense that they are anti-Iranian. – dancewater]

More information on the January 28th Najaf massacre from SCIRI:

Shiite cleric Sadralddin al-Qubanji, a member of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, said the cult leader was a member of Saddam Hussein's feared security agency, the Mukhabarat. He claimed the group was established in 1993 and supported by Saddam's ruling Baath Party to exploit internal rivalries among Shiites. "What happened in Najaf represented an attempt to bring down the new situation in Iraq by occupying and bringing down the religious capital," al-Qubanji said during his Friday sermon in Najaf. "The Baath Party has been saving this person in order to create a Shiite-Shiite sedition." He also said two other groups with offices in Najaf have adopted the same ideology as the cult and called upon security forces to keep them from plotting any similar attacks. [This version of events is very much doubted by a lot of sources. Does show how violence is promoted, however. Each side blames someone else - and feels the only appropriate response is violence. So, this sermon will increase Shi’ite on Shi’ite violence in Najaf. – dancewater]

Ahmed Ibn al-Hassan Group Denies Any Link To Soldiers Of Heaven

The Ahmed Ibn al-Hassan group has no link whatsoever with the self-styled group Soldiers of Heaven, said the official spokesman for Ibn al-Hassan group in Basrah on Friday. There was a confusion between Ahmed Ibn al-Hassan al-Kufi and the leader of the Soldiers of Heaven who claimed to be the Awaited Mahdi, a Messiah-like figure in Islam and believed by the Shiites to be the duodecimal imam, said Abdul-Imam Jabbar, the spokesman for Ibn al-Hassan group, in statements to the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI) by telephone. Jabbar explained that the person who caused this confusion was Ali al-Kourani when he said in an interview with al-Arabiya news channel that a book titled "the Judge of Heaven" and distributed all over Iraq in one day was authored by Ahmed Ibn al-Hassan.

“I’ve Decided Not To Have Any More Children”

“Breathing in Iraq is very difficult. You always smell burning from the fighting and from explosions. This intensifies the air pollution and affects the most vulnerable, our children. “I have had enough. I am continually stressed and am on the brink of a nervous breakdown because of what is happening to my daughter and because of everything that is happening in Iraq – it is a 24-hour war zone. “Ever since I gave birth to Retaj, I decided not to have any more children. All the newly born generation has bared the effects of this war. It is unfair. I am not the only mother who feels this way. No one wants to have children anymore because they don't want the children to have to suffer from untreatable diseases caused by all the wars and their effects.”

Iraqi Children Flown to UAE For Medical Treatment

A fourth batch of Iraqi children has arrived in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to seek treatment for a number of injuries, some life-threatening, which are the direct or indirect result of the US-led occupation of Iraq, specialists said. “In this group, there are 55 children. Overall, we have brought a total of 111 children to the UAE since the war in Iraq began,” said Dr Saleh al-Ta’ei, head of Rescue and Emergency at the Red Crescent Society in Abu Dhabi, capital of the UAE. Another 350 children, mostly from Baghdad and Mosul, are on a waiting list to come to the UAE at a later date. “Most of these cases are directly or indirectly war-related,” said Dr Khaled al-Jaberi, Medical Director at Al Mafraq Hospital in Abu Dhabi, where most of the children are being treated. “These children are most affected psychologically as they were caught in the midst of the fighting and are in a state of shock because as they moved from one place to another, they could see the damage everywhere around them. Some of the children have war injuries. Some of the diseases the children have are congenital because of air pollution, also caused by war.”

Series On The Provincial Breakdown Of Humanitarian Needs

In a series of articles, IRIN documented the levels of violence and consequent needs of the population in six different areas of Iraq: Anbar province, the southern provinces, Baghdad province, Kurdistan, Kirkuk province, and Salah ad-Din province.

“We Were 21 Students And Today I’m The Only One In Class”

"I’m 11 years old and an only son. I’m a pupil at Mansour Primary School in Baghdad. Lately, I have been feeling very lonely in my class. This week, I was the only student in class because all my classmates didn’t come to school for various reasons. “Since last September, three of my classmates have been kidnapped and two have been killed. One was murdered with his family at home and the other was a victim of a bomb explosion a month ago. “The others have either fled to Jordan and Syria with their families or their relatives have prohibited them from coming to school for fear that something might happen to them. “I live very close to my school. I can walk there in two minutes. My mother takes me there and picks me up every day. She prays all the way to school and all the way back and tells me not to be scared. She says that at least I’m studying and one day I can be an important man and leave Iraq forever. “Most of our teachers have left the school. I heard that some of them have travelled abroad and others stopped working for security reasons on the insistence of their families. I miss them all. I miss the days when we used to run in our school and go home on our own, not worried by the violence.”

Iraqis Abandon Their Homes In Middle East’s New Refugee Exodus

They flee because they fear for their lives. Some 3,000 Iraqis are being killed every month according to the UN. Most come from Baghdad and the centre of the country, but all of Iraq outside the three Kurdish provinces in the north is extremely violent. A detailed survey by the International Organisation for Migration on displacement within Iraq said that most people move after direct threats to their lives: "These threats take the form of abductions; assassinations of individuals or their families." There are fewer mixed areas left in Iraq. In Baghdad, militias now feel free to use mortars to bombard each other knowing that they will not hit members of their own community. Shia and Sunni both regard themselves as victims responding to provocation. The most common destinations are Jordan and Syria which have taken 1.6 million people. At first it was the better-off who fled, including half of Iraq's 34,000 doctors. Now it is the poor who are arriving in Amman and Damascus with little means of surviving. Only Syria has formally recognised a need for temporary protection for Iraqis. Others, including the US and UK, are loath to admit that one of the world's great man-made disasters is taking place. The UNHCR thinks every Iraqi should qualify as a refugee because of the extraordinary level of violence in the country. "This is the fastest-growing refugee crisis in the world," Kenneth Bacon, president of Refugees International told the US Senate Judiciary Committee. …. For Sunni there is no real place of safety in Iraq. In Baghdad they are being squeezed into smaller and smaller areas. Cities like Ramadi and Fallujah are partly ruined and very dangerous. Mohammed Sahib Ali, 48, a government employee, was forced out of the al-Hurriyah area by Shia militiamen. A Sunni, he took refuge in a school in Salah ad-Din province. "We are dying here," said Ali. "Not enough food, not enough medicines. I can't go to work and my three sons can't attend their classes. We don't know what to do."

Funds Urgently Needed For Displaced

A report released on Tuesday said that 1.5 million internally displaced people (IDPs) in Iraq lack basics such as drinking water, sanitation, health and education facilities, in addition to food and non-food items. Yet funding allocated for the displaced is falling. Entitled ‘Iraq Displacement 2006 Year in Review’, the report by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) said that the most urgent needs for IDPs in Iraq are food, water, shelter and employment. “The increase in the number of IDPs has led to chaos in trying to meet their needs. Dozens of local and international NGOs are encountering difficulties in helping displaced families for various reasons, including lack of security and funds,” said Mowafaq Abdel-Raoof, spokesman for the Ministry of Displacement and Migration. “We were forced to leave our house six months ago and since then we have moved more than eight times. Sectarian violence has now reached even the displacement camps but we are tired of running away. Sometimes I ask myself if it was not better to die than to live like a Bedouin all my life,” said Abu Mustafa, 56, a Baghdad resident who was first displaced in August 2006.”

“My Daughter Likes Being In Hospital [in UAE] Because There Is Water And Electricity”

My 10-year-old daughter Azel was diagnosed with a viral infection in her eyes at birth. The infection is called granulomatous multicentric papilloma and it needs continuous treatment. So far, she has undergone 13 operations in her eye in Iraq and this week she will have her 14th in the UAE [United Arab Emirates]. “Azel has been exposed to a virus which has been around since the US bombing of Iraq in 1995. She has become very tired from all the operations - almost every four months she has to undergo an operation. “She is in the 5th grade in school. Children at her school do not want to play with her. They keep teasing her about her eye. They think she looks weird.”

“Because of the insecurity, we can’t go to the hospital. There is a clinic very close to our home but we can’t go at all. I run to the pharmacy in our neighborhood to get her medication, then I run back home. I can’t spend too much time outside. The city is like a ghost town, especially after five o’clock in the evening, there is absolutely no one in the streets. Azel likes being in the hospital [in the UAE] because she enjoys the fact that there is electricity and water. In Iraq, we can only shower every three or four days and there is no power or electricity.”

Explosions Destroying People and Infrastructure

Since the US-led occupation of Iraq began in 2003, hundreds of explosions have rocked the country, killing thousands of civilians and causing serious damage to vital infrastructure. There are no official statistics on the total number of people who have been killed or injured specifically in bomb explosions and suicide attacks. However, officials at the Iraqi Ministry of Interior said the 20 deadliest bomb attacks in the country since 2003 had killed 1,750 people and injured 3,100. “The constant attacks in Iraq have different targets but all of them have caused the further deterioration of water and sewage systems, the death of dozens of citizens and the destruction of hospitals, clinics, schools and universities,” said Fua’ad Rassi, a spokesman at the Ministry of Municipality and Public Works. “When the government is trying to fix the infrastructure of Iraq, terrorists bring more panic and destruction, further delaying the repair of such important systems,” Rassi added.

Violence Distressing Mental State Of Population

Bullets and bombs are killing thousands of civilians every month in Iraq while the psychological impact of the ongoing violence is affecting the mental health of millions and is a major cause for concern for future generations, psychologists say. In a privately funded study entitled ‘Psychological effects of war on Iraqis’, the Association of Iraqi Psychologists (AIP) said out of 2,000 people interviewed in all 18 Iraqi provinces, 92 percent said they feared being killed in an explosion. Some 60 percent of those interviewed said the level of violence had caused them to have panic attacks, which prevented them from going out because they feared they would be the next victims. Um Youssef said that she stopped watching news on television because it was seriously affecting her health. “Every time I saw another explosion on the news I got shocked, trembled and could not sleep. I have heart problems and cannot stand this suffering anymore,” she said.

Of Courage and Nightmares

The ethnic cleansing that has driven Shi'ites, Sunnis, Kurds and others from homes across Iraq has not spared our journalists. I have watched colleagues go pale and weep in the newsroom as word came in of relatives slaughtered, heard their tales of midnight flight from family homes in fear of their lives and took dazed reports from those caught up in suicide bombings. These are the everyday stories of Iraqis today, and their ebb and flow through our office has been a vital part of gauging the state of Iraq. Journalists face particular dangers, too. A policeman pistol whipped our Najaf correspondent this week, a commonplace occurrence. Worse, some 130 journalists and support staff, most of them Iraqis, have been killed since 2003 in the deadliest conflict for our trade since World War Two. Many were killed by militants exercising the ultimate censorship -- a tactic that has all but closed some areas to the media. Not all are killed by insurgents. When U.S. troops shot and killed our television soundman Waleed Khaled in 2005, as he reversed his car away from covering a news assignment, two bullets punctured the press card lying over his heart. After handling it, I typed the story. Waleed's blood stained the keys. It was hard. Perhaps harder still has been the way the U.S. military has refused to accept responsibility for the deaths of four colleagues and the detention and abuse of others. Those who shot Waleed acted "appropriately", U.S. officers concluded. An independent report commissioned by Reuters found their actions "prima facie unlawful" but there was no inquiry.

Wassit Antiquities Department Calls For Force To Protect Archaeological Sites

Scores of important archaeological sites all over the province of Wassit, 172 km south of the capital Baghdad, are stolen or vandalized continuously, said an archaeologist in Wassit, calling for devoting a force to protect these sites. "These valuable sites are subject to tampering, vandalism and random excavations by outlaws on a daily basis," Ahmed Hassan Qader, the director of the archaeological department in Wassit, told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI) on Friday. "There are about 400 archaeological sites in Wassit, where some people steal antiquities they find and sell them at cheap prices or smuggle them outside Iraq," said Qader. He said these sites are pricelessly important because they contain manuscripts, artifacts and other valuable treasures that date back to different eras in Iraq's ancient history.


Sadrist Lawmakers Meet Barazani in Arbil

A delegation from the Sadrist parliamentary bloc met on Monday Iraq's Kurdistan President Massoud al-Barazani to "correct" many misunderstandings over the Sadr movement, a legislator said. "Our meeting with President Barazani corrected many understandings about the objectives and mechanisms of the Sadr movement," legislator. Al-Aaraji, currently on a visit to Arbil, said "Barazani expressed support to the Sadr movement and we appreciated his back-up." This is the first meeting of its kind between Barazani and the Sadrists (followers of the Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr), the legislator pointed out and added "many issues were discussed during the meeting which made a number of recommendations." Branding his visit to Arbil as historic, al-Aaraji said "the Sadr movement will back the Kurdistan Coalition demands in the parliament if these demands did not clash with the national and Islamic basics." A Sadrist delegation, composed of parliamentarians Nassar al-Rubaie, Falah Shanshal, Baha al-Aaraji and Saleh Hassan al-Ugauili, arrived on Sunday in Arbil to meet Iraq's Kurdistan Pesident Massoud al-Barazani.

Iraq Halts Flights To And From Syria

Iraq indefinitely halted all flights to and from Syria and closed a border crossing with Iran as the government prepares for a new security crackdown aimed at crushing violence in the capital and surrounding regions, a member of parliament and an airport official said Wednesday. The airport official said flights to and from Syria would be canceled for at least two weeks and that service had been interrupted on Tuesday. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to reveal the information. Hassan al-Sunneid, a legislator and member of the parliament Defense and Security Committee, said the move "was in preparation for the security plan. The state will decide when the flights will resume." The actions were seen as a signal to both countries not to interfere in Iraq's affairs as U.S. and Iraqi forces prepare for the major crackdown on armed groups in the capital.

Mahdi Army Gains Strength Through Unwitting Aid of US

The U.S. military drive to train and equip Iraq's security forces has unwittingly strengthened anti-American Shiite Muslim cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militia, which has been battling to take over much of the capital city as American forces are trying to secure it. U.S. Army commanders and enlisted men who are patrolling east Baghdad, which is home to more than half the city's population and the front line of al-Sadr's campaign to drive rival Sunni Muslims from their homes and neighborhoods, said al-Sadr's militias had heavily infiltrated the Iraqi police and army units that they've trained and armed. "Half of them are JAM. They'll wave at us during the day and shoot at us during the night," said 1st Lt. Dan Quinn, a platoon leader in the Army's 1st Infantry Division, using the initials of the militia's Arabic name, Jaish al Mahdi. "People (in America) think it's bad, but that we control the city. That's not the way it is. They control it, and they let us drive around. It's hostile territory." The Bush administration's plan to secure Baghdad rests on a "surge" of some 17,000 more U.S. troops to the city, many of whom will operate from small bases throughout Baghdad. Those soldiers will work to improve Iraqi security units so that American forces can hand over control of the area and withdraw to the outskirts of the city. The problem, many soldiers said, is that the approach has been tried before and resulted only in strengthening al-Sadr and his militia. [The US has a long history of arming and funding their future enemies. Turn-around time is short in this war, however. One might think this is done to make wars more sporting, but I think it is done to increase profits from arm sales. – dancewater]


The Experts Speak

The corporate media, as we all know, will report undeniable, observable individual facts, but is generally reluctant to assemble them into a coherent view of reality. When it comes to explaining what the hell is going on, their job is to channel the pronouncements of the powerful -- and furthermore, if powerful people happen to make an assertion that is contrary to some of those undeniable, observable individual facts, they generally don't bother to point it out. So it's important that today we get two summaries of expert opinion that they can channel, which do try to assemble a coherent view of reality, and which are as far as I can tell reasonably non-tendentious, although I do have to exercise proper skepticism about the first one, which is the non-classified summary of the National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq. So, shorter NIE:

[I am convinced that no matter when the US leaves, the violence will get worse. And the longer we take to get out, the worse it will get. This is a sad fact, and why the US forces need to get out now. – dancewater]

Testimony to US Senate by Brzezinski

It is time for the White House to come to terms with two central realities:

  1. The war in Iraq is a historic, strategic, and moral calamity. Undertaken under false assumptions, it is undermining America's global legitimacy. Its collateral civilian casualties as well as some abuses are tarnishing America's moral credentials. Driven by Manichean impulses and imperial hubris, it is intensifying regional instability. 2. Only a political strategy that is historically relevant rather than reminiscent of colonial tutelage can provide the needed framework for a tolerable resolution of both the war in Iraq and the intensifying regional tensions.

If the United States continues to be bogged down in a protracted bloody involvement in Iraq, the final destination on this downhill track is likely to be a head-on conflict with Iran and with much of the world of Islam at large. A plausible scenario for a military collision with Iran involves Iraqi failure to meet the benchmarks; followed by accusations of Iranian responsibility for the failure; then by some provocation in Iraq or a terrorist act in the U.S. blamed on Iran; culminating in a "defensive" U.S. military action against Iran that plunges a lonely America into a spreading and deepening quagmire eventually ranging across Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.

Peace In Iraq “A Long Time Coming”

President Bush's choice to be the new military commander in the Middle East warned Tuesday that the U.S. may have to lower its expectations for Iraq, saying the country's transition into a peaceful democracy may be "a long time coming." Navy Adm. William J. Fallon, who was picked this month by Bush to replace retiring Army Gen. John P. Abizaid as head of U.S. Central Command, said security and stability must come first in Iraq — meaning many of the political reforms once viewed as essential to the administration's democratization goals may need to be postponed. "Going back to 2003, we had hundreds of good ideas of things that we would like to see in Iraq that are more reflective of the kind of society and process that we enjoy here," Fallon said at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee. "We probably erred in our assessment of the ability of these people to take on all these tasks at the same time." [I wonder how well Americans would maintain “our kind of society and process” with SHOCK AND AWE. I suspect we would do very poorly. – dancewater]

Arab League Ambassador Resigns In Protest

Mukhtar Limani, the Moroccan diplomat who headed the Arab League’s mission in Baghdad submitted his resignation last week. Limani’s decision, and the letter of his resignation, created a stir in the Arab world. Limani, a well-liked figure in Baghdad and among many Iraqi circles said that his decision was due to his “frustration” and his belief that very little is being done to alleviate the crisis in Iraq. Limani’s letter conveyed a sense of deep alarm regarding the developments in Iraq, which threaten to “tear apart the very fabric of Iraqi society.” Following his resignation from his post as the head of the Arab League’s mission in Baghdad, the Pan-Arab daily, Al-Sharq al-Awsat, published an interview with Mukhtar Limani. Limani exposed much inside information concerning the Iraqi situation. He criticized many of the American actions in Iraq, including the disbanding of the Iraqi Army and the ‘de-Ba`thification’ policies. Limani also said that the ISG report “ultimately serves American interests alone,” and asserted that the infighting in Iraq has surpassed killings between sects and is now exhibiting itself as intercinine conflict within sects. Limani was one on the few diplomats, and the only Arab ambassador in Baghdad (most Arab embassies are currently operating from Amman, Jordan). Furthermore, Limani established the Arab League’s mission in the heart of Baghdad and outside of the Green Zone, as Limani says, the mission was in the ‘red zone’ (he defined the ‘red zone’ as the entirety of Iraqi except for the Green Zone). Limani also said that the Arab League mission was protected by Kurdish Peshmerga forces, which he found ironic, “An Arab mission protected by the Kurds.”

Congress Can Stop Iraq War

The U.S. Congress has the power to end the war in Iraq, several high-powered legal experts including a former Bush administration attorney told a Senate hearing on Tuesday. With many lawmakers poised to confront President George W. Bush by voting disapproval of his war policy in the coming days, four of five experts called before a Senate Judiciary subcommittee said Congress could go further and restrict or stop U.S. involvement if it chose.

Turkish Raids In Northern Iraq Could Further Strain Relations With The US

Amid constant bloody clashes between Turkish troops and PKK Kurdish separatist guerrillas operating out of northern Iraq, Ankara is weighing up a cross-border incursion to attack PKK bases. Turkey, its political leaders insist, has the right and the determination to eliminate threats to its territory wherever they come from. General Yasar Buyukanit, chief of the general staff, is expected to set out Turkey's concerns over Iraq when he visits Washington later this month. One possible outcome intended to guard against a unilateral Turkish intervention would be a joint anti-PKK military operation with US and Iraqi forces, says an analyst who asked not to be named. Turkey is also becoming alarmed by what it claims is electoral and demographic gerrymandering by Iraqi Kurds in Kirkuk, the oil capital of Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq. Ankara fears that Kurdish control of Kirkuk would give the Iraqi Kurds the economic basis for independence if Iraq were to break up.

Slovaks Pull Soldiers From Iraq

Slovakia has pulled its troops out of Iraq, Prime Minister Robert Fico said on Friday, branding the war there "unjust and wrong". The withdrawal of 110 Slovak army engineers fulfilled one of the leftist Fico's top campaign promises in a June 2006 election in which he beat the centre-right administration of Mikulas Dzurinda. By pulling out, Slovakia joins fellow European Union nations Spain and Italy that also withdrew troops from Iraq following a government change.

Ex-Iraqi Premier: U.S. Ignored Warnings

Iraq's first democratically elected prime minister said this week that he warned U.S. officials two years ago that Shiite Muslim militias were infiltrating the country's security services and that they would become entrenched in Iraqi society if they weren't stopped. ''But with deep remorse the friends did not help us,'' said Ibrahim al Jaafari, who became Iraq's prime minister after elections on Jan. 30, 2005. ``America didn't help us.'' Jaafari's recollection of his meetings with U.S. officials during his tenure as prime minister raises more questions about the Bush administration's assertion that Iraq's sectarian violence can be traced to the Feb. 22, 2006, bombing of a Shiite shrine in Samarra. Jaafari was uncharacteristically frank in an interview Sunday. He said Shiite militias, which are accused of killing, torturing and kidnapping Sunnis, had infiltrated the security forces long before the Samarra bombing. U.S. officials ignored his efforts to get them to do something about it, he said. Jaafari said that in meetings held twice a week in his office, he urged coalition forces to take action against the militias. In attendance, he said, were Army Gen. George Casey, then the top U.S. commander in Iraq, the U.S. ambassador, the British ambassador and a British general.

VIDEO: Fact Check – The Threat From Iran

[NBC can do the work of fact checking! Amazingly enough – they can do their jobs on occasion (for a brief while anyway)! And then they have a clip of McCain criticizing General Casey. - This probably the start of criticizing the military for losing the un-winnable war on Iraq. – dancewater]

U.S. Delays Report on Iranian Role in Iraq

The Bush administration has postponed plans to offer public details of its charges of Iranian meddling inside Iraq amid internal divisions over the strength of the evidence, U.S. officials said. U.S. officials promised last week to provide evidence of Iranian activities that led President Bush to announce Jan. 10 that U.S. forces would begin taking the offensive against Iranian agents who threatened Americans. But some officials in Washington are concerned that some of the material may be inconclusive and that other data cannot be released without jeopardizing intelligence sources and methods. They want to avoid repeating the embarrassment that followed the March 2003 invasion of Iraq, when it became clear that information the administration cited to justify the war was incorrect, said the officials, who described the internal discussions on condition of anonymity. "We don't want a repeat of the situation we had when [then-Secretary of State] Colin L. Powell went before the United Nations," said one U.S. official, referring to Powell's 2003 presentation on then-Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's unconventional weapons program that relied on evidence later found to be false. "People are going to be skeptical." [Well, let’s hope so, but don’t hold your breath. – dancewater]

U.S. Agency Finds New Waste and Fraud in Iraqi Rebuilding Projects

A federal oversight agency reported Wednesday that despite nearly $108 billion that had been budgeted for the reconstruction of Iraq since the 2003 invasion, the country's electrical output and oil production were still below prewar levels and stocks of gasoline and kerosene had plummeted to their lowest levels in at least two years. The United States alone has accounted for nearly $38 billion of the rebuilding money, according to the agency, the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction. Even as the flow of reconstruction money from the United States is coming to an end, the litany of major American contractors that are suspected of having wasted large amounts of the money has lengthened, new investigations by the inspector general have found. Despite the allocation of more than $4 billion in American taxpayer money to electricity projects in Iraq, the nationwide electricity output recently dipped below the prewar level of about 4,200 megawatts after a brief period above it. The performance is so embarrassing to the United States that late last year, with no formal notice, the State Department eliminated the line indicating prewar output from its weekly report on electricity production in Iraq.

General: Shiite Militia Leaders Leaving Baghdad Strongholds

Shiite militia leaders already appear to be leaving their strongholds in Baghdad in anticipation of the U.S. and Iraqi plan to increase the troop presence in the Iraqi capital, according to the top U.S. commander in the country. "We have seen numerous indications Shia militia leaders will leave, or already have left, Sadr City to avoid capture by Iraqi and coalition security forces," Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr. said in a written statement submitted to the Senate Armed Services Committee as part of his confirmation hearing today to be Army chief of staff. Casey, who has been the senior U.S. military officer in Iraq since summer 2004, also stated that as part of the campaign to improve security in Baghdad, he expects that U.S. troops will be stationed in Sadr City with Iraqi army and national police units. U.S. plans call for five combat brigades, or about 17,500 troops, to move into Baghdad over the next four months and help occupy about 35 outposts across the city. If Sadr's militia does indeed attempt to wait out the security crackdown, Casey said, that "would clearly present a challenge" to the Iraqi government, which he said underscores the need to have Iraqi forces capable of bringing security to the country. Developing effective Iraqi forces has been a U.S. goal for more than three years. Casey noted earlier in his 46-page statement, which was filed yesterday with the committee, that one of the most significant mistakes that U.S. officials made in Iraq was overestimating the speed with which Iraqi forces could be developed.

US Pundits Profit After Mistakes On War

So we selected the four pundits who were in our judgment the most influentially and disturbingly misguided in their pro-war arguments and the four who were most prescient and forceful in their opposition. (Because conservative pundits generally acted as a well-coordinated bloc, more or less interchangeable, all four of our hawks are moderates or liberals who might have been important opponents of the war—so, sadly, we are not able to revisit Brooks's eloquent and thoroughly meritless prognostications.) Then we did a career check ... and found that something is rotten in the fourth estate.

Wrong and getting richer: Thomas Friedman, Peter Beinart, Fareed Zakaria, Jeffrey Goldberg

Right and getting poorer: Robert Scheer, William Lind, Jonathan Schell, Scott Ritter


OPINION: Our Profound Ignorance of Muslims

Long-time readers of my commentaries will know that I do not subscribe to the liberal notion that our main problems in the Middle East derive from our blundering in without really understanding the peoples and cultures of the region – any more than I believe that the situation in Iraq right now derives from our lack of understanding that "Shi'a and Sunni have been killing each other for 14 centuries in Iraq." Instead, I believe that the significance of "our" failure to understand "them," enormous as that failure is, pales in comparison with that of "our" failure to understand "us." Instead of a deep analysis of the Shi'a-Sunni question in the Middle East, even a basic understanding of what we did in the Vietnam War, and why we did it, would have served us in much better stead in deciding whether or not to go to war. Still, it is shocking, and not of minor importance, that over 5 years into the "war on terror," we understand so little about Islam and Islamic cultures.

OPINION: Pure Idiocy in The National Review

That's the point, isn't it? I actually believe that Arabs are feigning outrage when they protest what they call American (or Israeli) "atrocities." They are not shocked at all by what in truth must seem to them not atrocious at all. It is routine in their cultures. That comparison shouldn't comfort us as Americans. We have higher standards of civilization than they do. But the mutilation of bodies and beheadings of people picked up at random in Iraq does not scandalize the people of Iraq unless victims are believers in their own sect or members of their own clan. And the truth is that we are less and less shocked by the mass death-happenings in the world of Islam. Yes, that's the bitter truth. Frankly, even I--cynic that I am--was shocked in the beginning by the sectarian bloodshed in Iraq. But I am no longer surprised.

Engagement With War

Earlier this week, I received a joyful phone call from Baghdad. Members of a family I've known since 1996 announced that one of their younger daughters was engaged. Broken Arabic and broken English crossed the lines: "We love you! We miss you!" My colleague here in Amman, who also knows this family well, shook her head, smiling, when I gave her the happy news. "What an amazing family," she said. "Imagine all that they've survived." A few hours later, the family sent us a text message: "Now bombs destroy all the glasses in our home - no one hurt." No one was home when the explosion shattered every window and damaged ceilings and walls. This was exceptionally fortunate, given that they are a family of nine living in a very small dwelling. The family has moved into an even smaller home where one daughter lives with her husband and newborn baby. It happens that their aunt and her three children are also with them. The aunt had traveled from Amman to secure needed documents in Baghdad. Seventeen people are crowded into an apartment the size of a small one car garage. This family suddenly joined the ranks of over a million people in Iraq who are homeless, displaced. I watched television coverage of the gruesome carnage at the intersection of the street where they had lived. The blood-spattered streets, charred vehicles, and desperate bereavement are part of everyday footage filmed in cities throughout the region, whether in Iraq, Lebanon, the West Bank, or Israel. The humanitarian crisis that mounts as a consequence of the catastrophic explosions and attacks is more difficult to portray. "We need everything," said the visiting aunt when I asked what they needed. A displaced family needs food, water, clothing, blankets, fuel and housing. Every family in Baghdad struggles with fuel and energy crises. In Baghdad, there is one hour of electricity every 12 hours. Only the more well-to-do families can afford a generator for back-up electricity. The price of fuel for transportation has risen so high that any travel has become extremely expensive. Families with no income in a society that has 50 to 75 percent unemployment find themselves scrounging for basic necessities and not at all prepared to offer hospitality to newly displaced families.

OPINION: The “Axis Of Fear” Is Born

The Bush administration, in a sense, is getting what it wants in the wider Middle East. To battle a fictitious Shi'ite crescent (a construct by Jordan's King Abdullah), it has emboldened even more a reactionary Sunni crescent (Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates), thus exacerbating to a paroxysm the "strategy" it has already applied in Iraq: sectarianism as the golden parameter of imperial divide and rule. Historically, Sunnis and Shi'ites have co-existed amid social tensions. But never have these tensions been so cynically exploited - by Washington - as in post-invasion Iraq and the wider Middle East. The administration of US President George W Bush was forced to acknowledge that the monumental disaster of occupied Iraq had to be blamed on a new scapegoat. Thus the umpteenth twist in the "war on terror": exit al-Qaeda, enter Iran. The Sunni Arab "axis of fear" is merrily playing along. King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia even complained in a Kuwaiti newspaper that Iran is trying to convert Sunni Arabs to Shi'ism. Even Israel is now by all means allied with Saudi Arabia against Iran - Mecca/Jerusalem against Qom; Muslims and Jews battling Muslims. It's enlightening to compare this development with how Iran's ambassador to Syria, Mohammad Hassan Akhtari, sees it - as nothing other than a replay of the British Empire's divide-and-rule. Washington is once again sowing the seeds of discord among Muslims: "Bush and his allies are in favor of further unrest, turmoil and crises so that they can justify deployment of their troops in the region."

PEACE ACTION: Progressive Democrats of America has been working and organizing support for HR 4232 since Rep. McGovern introduced this important bill in November of 2005. Rep. McGovern spoke at the PDA "Get out of Iraq" Town Hall meeting the day after he introduced HR 4232. We continue to work for its passage as a top legislative priority. We urge you to continue organizing support for HR 4232 and to ask your Congressional member to co-sponsor the bill.




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