Monday, March 19, 2007

Photo: An Iraqi woman pleads with Iraqi National Police as they detain her son during a joint patrol with US soldiers in the Dora neighbourhood of southern Baghdad, 17 March. Iraqis are increasingly pessimistic about their future, according to a new opinion poll as the nation battles to curb relentless bloodshed four years on from the US-led invasion.(AFP/File/David Furst)
In Sharja district in central Baghdad, three people were killed and 10 others wounded when an explosive device went off near a Shiite mosque, an Iraqi police source said.
A bomb exploded during prayers at a Shiite mosque in the capital, killing at least eight worshippers and wounding nearly three dozen on the eve of the war's fourth anniversary, police said. The attack occurred about 12:30 p.m., shattering windows and damaging a wall of the small green-domed mosque that is situated among several shops in the central Shorja market area. Police initially blamed it on a suicide bomber trying to enter the building but later said the blast was caused by a bomb placed in the corner behind the preacher's podium, leaving a crater in the floor.
In Alwiya district also in central Baghdad, a number of Iraqis were killed and wounded in twin blasts, al-Iraqiya state TV reported. No further details were immediately available in either attacks
A roadside bomb wounded four people in southern Baghdad, police said.
Iraqi army soldiers killed eight insurgents and arrested 66 others during the last 24 hours in different parts of Iraq, the Defence Ministry said.
Diyala Prv:
In Diyala province north-east of Baghdad, unidentified gunmen shot one Iraqi dead and wounded another, local Voices of Iraqi news agency reported citing an Iraqi police source.
Four civilians were killed and five others were wounded when two katyusha rockets hit a residential area north of Hibhib town, 55 km north of Baghdad, said a police source.
The mayor of a small Shiite village south of Baghdad was kidnapped and killed today.Police say the mayor (of Dijelah) was abducted on his way to work. Later, his bullet-riddled body was found dumped along a highway. The village is about 100 miles southeast of the Iraqi capital.
A mortar round landed on a house, killing a woman and her daughter on Sunday in Iskandariya, police said.
Gunmen killed a man and wounded four others on Sunday in two different incidents in drive-by shootings in the town of Iskandariya, police said.
Gunmen killed a policeman in the town of Iskandariya, 40 km (25 miles) south of Baghdad, police said.
Gunmen killed a man on Sunday in a town near Hilla, 100 km (60 miles) south of Baghdad, police said.
Three people were killed when gunmen opened fire on them in the city of Hilla, south of Baghdad, police said.
Police found the body of a police captain on Sunday in Diwaniya
, police said.
Gunmen killed the head of the local passport office on Sunday in the city of Diwaniya, 180 km (110 miles) south of Baghdad, police said.
Police found the body of a man with gunshot wounds in the head in the town of Mahaweel, 75 km (50 miles) south of Baghdad, police said.
Two police stations were badly damaged when suspected al Qaeda militants planted bombs in and around them in the town of Dhuluiya, 80 km (50 miles) north of Baghdad, police said.
A roadside bomb targeting an Iraqi army patrol killed one soldier and wounded three others in the town of Dour, near Tikrit, the U.S.-Iraqi Joint Coordination Centre said.
Police found the body of an Iraqi soldier in the city of Tikrit, 175 km (110 miles) north of Baghdad, the U.S.-Iraqi Joint Coordination Centre said.
Gunmen attacked a police checkpoint, killing a policeman and wounding three others in Samarra, 100 km (60 miles) north of Baghdad, police said.
Insurgents attacked a police station near Balad with a car bomb and small-arms fire on Thursday, the U.S. military said on Monday. Six people were killed in subsequent clashes -- three insurgents, two policemen and a civilian -- and one civilian was wounded, a U.S. statement said.
Three car bombs and two roadside devices killed 18 people and wounded 37 in the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk on Monday, police said. The blasts happened in different parts of the city but exploded within a few minutes. One car bomb targeted the local offices of the secular political party of former prime minister Iyad Allawi.
The first and the biggest attack, a car bomb near two mosques, killed 10 people and wounded eight, police Colonel Taha Salaheddin told AFP. The bomb went off in central Kirkuk's Sector 90 district which houses the two mosques, one Shiite and one Sunni, as well as the emergency police command, Salaheddin said. He said 10 cars were completely burnt and 20 shops damaged.
The second car bomb went off in south Kirkuk's Ras Domeez market near a branch of the Islamic Bank, killing five people and wounding 26, he said. Of the five killed, four were policemen whose patrol was passing by at the time of the blast.
and the third exploded in a commercial street, Brigadier Sarhat Qader said.
The three roadside bombs targeted Iraqi police and army patrols, Qader said.
The car bombs targeted an Iraqi police patrol, an education directorate building, and a mobile phone company, according to police.
The fourth car bomb targeted a senior officer from Saddam Hussein's former army and destroyed a communication tower but caused no casualties.
A man was killed and two wounded on Sunday when clashes erupted between U.S. forces and gunmen in the city of Mosul, 390 km (240 miles) north of Baghdad, police said.
The bodies of four people with gunshot wounds were found on Sunday in Mosul, police said.
A roadside bomb targeting a police patrol wounded two civilians in the northern city of Mosul, police said.
Iraq will execute Saddam Hussein's aide and former vice president Taha Yassin Ramadan on Tuesday -- the day the war-ravaged nation marks the fourth anniversary of the US-led war to topple the former dictator, a lawyer from Saddam's defence team told AFP Monday.
> The optimism that helped sustain Iraqis during the first few years of the war has dissolved into widespread fear, anger and distress amid unrelenting violence, a survey found.
The poll — the third in Iraq since early 2004 by ABC News and media partners — draws a stark portrait of an increasingly pessimistic population under great emotional stress. Among the findings of this survey for ABC News, USA Today, the BBC and ARD German TV:
_The number of Iraqis who say their own life is going well has dipped from 71 percent in November 2005 to 39 percent now.
_About three-fourths of Iraqis report feelings of anger, depression and difficulty concentrating.
_More than half of Iraqis have curtailed activities like going out of their homes, going to markets or other crowded places and traveling through police checkpoints.
_Only 18 percent of Iraqis have confidence in U.S. and coalition troops, and 86 percent are concerned that someone in their household will be a victim of violence.
_Slightly more than half of Iraqis — 51 percent — now say that violence against U.S. forces is acceptable — up from 17 percent who felt that way in early 2004. More than nine in 10 Sunni Arabs in Iraq now feel this way.
_While 63 percent said they felt very safe in their neighborhoods in late 2005, only 26 percent feel that way now.
> The population of prisons in Iraq has soared in recent months with tens of thousands of Iraqis currently in U.S. custody without trial.
U.S. troops and Iraqi government are investing heavily in the construction of prisons in the country with more than 100,000 Iraqis currently behind bars.
A parliamentary investigation commission has found that U.S. troops alone now detain more than 61,000 Iraqis and the figure is expected to swell as the Americans press ahead with their military operations.
More than 50,000 Iraqis were reported to have been arrested in the past four weeks as part of the joint U.S.-Iraqi military campaign to subdue Baghdad.
U.S. troops detain Iraqis merely on suspicion. Once detained, Iraqis may stay indefinitely as they are denied access to lawyers and Iraqi courts and government have no right to question U.S. troops’ actions.
Even Iraqi troops operations and activities now fall beyond the Iraqi judicial system as the country has been placed under emergency rule under which the courts have no power to question what the security forces do.
His hands were bleeding and his eyes filled with tears as, four years ago, he slammed a sledgehammer into the tiled plinth that held a 20ft bronze statue of Saddam Hussein. Then Kadhim al-Jubouri spoke of his joy at being the leader of the crowd that toppled the statue in Baghdad's Firdous Square. Now, he is filled with nothing but regret.
The moment became symbolic across the world as it signalled the fall of the dictator. Wearing a black vest, Mr al-Jubouri, an Iraqi weightlifting champion, pounded through the concrete in an attempt to smash the statue and all it meant to him. Now, on the fourth anniversary of the US-led invasion of Iraq, he says: "I really regret bringing down the statue. The Americans are worse than the dictatorship. Every day is worse than the previous day."
The weightlifter had also been a mechanic and had felt the full weight of Saddam's regime when he was sent to Abu Ghraib prison by the Iraqi leader's son, Uday, after complaining that he had not been paid for fixing his motorcycle.
He explained: "There were lots of people from my tribe who were also put in prison or hanged. It became my dream ever since I saw them building that statue to one day topple it."
Yet he now says he would prefer to be living under Saddam than under US occupation. He said: "The devil you know [is] better than the devil you don't. We no longer know friend from foe. The situation is becoming more dangerous. It's not getting better at all. People are poor and the prices are going higher and higher."
Saddam, he says, "was like Stalin. But the occupation is proving to be worse".
According to an opinion poll of 5,000 Iraqis carried out over the past month, 49% say they are better off now than under Saddam, and 26% say life was better under Saddam. More than one in four said they had had a close relative murdered in the past three years.
· Regrets of the Statue Man, the first of three films by Guardian Films to mark the fourth anniversary of the invasion, will be broadcast on ITV news at 6.30pm and 10.30pm tonight
Anthony Arnove, Asia Times Online: BILLBOARDING THE IRAQ DISASTER
As you read this, we're four years from the moment the administration of US President George W Bush launched its shock-and-awe assault on Iraq, beginning 48 months of remarkable, non-stop destruction of that country - and still counting. It's an important moment for taking stock of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Here is a short rundown of some of what Bush's war and occupation has wrought. (…)
Given the disaster that Iraq is today, you could keep listing terrible numbers until your mind was numb. But here's another way of putting the past four years in context. In that same period, there have in fact been a large number of deaths in a distant land on the minds of many people in the United States: Darfur. Since 2003, according to UN estimates, some 200,000 have been killed in the Darfur region of Sudan in a brutal ethnic-cleansing campaign, and another 2 million have been turned into refugees.
How would you know this? Well, if you lived in New York City, at least, you could hardly take a subway ride without seeing an ad that reads: "400,000 dead. Millions uniting to save Darfur." The New York Times has also regularly featured full-page ads describing the "genocide" in Darfur and calling for intervention there under "a chain of command allowing necessary and timely military action without approval from distant political or civilian personnel".
In those same years, according to the best estimate available, the British medical journal The Lancet's door-to-door study of Iraqi deaths, about 655,000 Iraqis had died in war, occupation, and civil strife between March 2003 and June 2006. (The study offers a low-end possible figure on deaths of 392,000 and a high-end figure of 943,000.) But you could travel coast to coast in the United States without seeing billboards, subway placards, full-page newspaper ads, or the like for the Iraqi dead. And you certainly won't see, as in the case of Darfur, celebrities on the American Broadcasting Co's weekday television program Good Morning America talking about their commitment to stopping "genocide" in Iraq.
Why is it that we are counting and thinking about the Sudanese dead as part of a high-profile, celebrity-driven campaign to "Save Darfur", yet Iraqi deaths still in effect go uncounted, and rarely seem to provoke moral outrage, let alone public campaigns to end the killing? And why are the numbers of killed in Darfur cited without any question, while the numbers of Iraqi dead, unless pitifully low-ball figures, are instantly challenged - or dismissed?
In our world, it seems, there are the worthy victims and the unworthy ones. To get at the difference, consider the posture of the United States toward Sudan and Iraq. According to the Bush administration, Sudan is a "rogue state"; it is on the State Department's list of "state sponsors of terrorism". It stands accused of attacking the US through its role in the suicide-boat bombing of the destroyer USS Cole in 2000.
And then, of course - as Mahmood Mamdani pointed out in the London Review of Books recently - Darfur fits neatly into a narrative of "Muslim-on-Muslim violence", of a "genocide perpetrated by Arabs", a line of argument that appeals heavily to those who would like to change the subject from what the US has done - and is doing - in Iraq. Talking about US accountability for the deaths of the Iraqis the US supposedly liberated is a far less comfortable matter.
It's okay to discuss US "complicity" in human-rights abuses, but only as long as you remain focused on sins of omission, not commission. The US is failing the people of Darfur by not militarily intervening. If only the US had used its military more aggressively. When, however, the US does intervene, and wreak havoc in the process, it's another matter.
If anything, the focus on Darfur serves to legitimize the idea of US intervention, of being more of an empire, not less of one, at the very moment when the carnage that such intervention causes is all too visible and is being widely repudiated around the globe. This has also contributed to a situation in which the violence for which the United States is the most responsible, Iraq, is that for which it is held the least accountable at home.
read in full…
In one media outlet, the latest polling information from Iraq shows a hardy and resolute Iraqi populace bluffly denying civil war and stoically insisting that life is better than under Saddam Hussein, regardless of all prevailing conditions. In another, media outlet, carrying a different survey, the results says something completely different.
One account, headlined Resilient Iraqis ask what civil war?, speaks of "striking resilience and optimism", a sense that perceptions of security have improved since Bush escalated the war, that only 27% believe there is a civil war, and a feeling among 49% that things - however bad - are better than under Saddam. The other, headlined Pessimism 'growing among Iraqis', reports declining confidence in the government and a mere 18% of the population having confidence in the occupiers. The former, by The Times, links to related articles including "Iraqis: life is getting better"; "A turning point for Iraq"; and, "Violence slashed as troop surge hits Baghdad", some written by the same reporter. The BBC links to related articles such as "Australia PM returns from Iraq"; "US in second day of Iraq rallies"; "US general upbeat on Iraq 'surge'"; "UN pleads for Iraq support". (…)
And that's it: that is the sole basis for the Sunday Times' ejaculation. A study that shows that Iraqi people think that security is terrible, fear that civil war is either imminent or in progress, say that the occupation has affected them all in the most devastating ways, and believe that security would improve immediately upon withdrawal of occupiers.
read in full…
Colin Kahl is the political scientist who wrote in the November/December issue of Foreign Affairs that "US compliance with noncombatant immunity in Iraq has been relatively high by historical standards, and it has been improving since the beginning of the war". By "historical standards" he was alluding to the fact counterinsurgencies in Philippines at the turn of the 19th century, and in South Vietnam more recently killed somewhere around 3% of the entire civilian populations in those countries, while the civilian death-toll in Iraq has been much lower on a dead-persons-per-capita basis. To understand what he means by "improvement since the beginning of the war", you would have to steel yourself, put on your white lab-coat and the read the whole article.
Today, thanks to the public-spiritedness of one of Kahl's scientific colleagues, we are offered some hints about the latest thinking about this. First of all, it seems the military-academic community has actually borrowed from the medical community the concept of "best practices", only in this case they are called "COIN [which means counterinsurgency] best practices", and this "COIN best practices" is something that is being implemented under the new leadership of Petraeus. So not only have efforts to "spare the civilian population" been improving, they are actually now part of an ideal approach: They represent "COIN best practices". There appear to be two main components of this: First of all, naturally you try not to do too much shelling of civilian neighborhoods; you try to minimize atrocities, and so on. Secondly, this appears to involve "spreading American troops out into smaller bases from which they can work with Iraqi forces to provide local security".
The next thing we learn is that there has recently been a "briefing", but the details of the briefing are kept out of sight, behind the three dots. All we can glean is that it appears US military authorities were doing the talking, and academics including Kahl were doing the listening and the nodding of the heads. Here's what Kahl says about the briefing:
In other words, among the other successful approaches to counterintelligence is the "Roman strategy", or scorched-earth approach, where the occupying forces annihilate target civilian populations. Kahl doesn't say this (along with its "somewhat softer, but still highly coercive" variants) is recognized as a shameful crime by every decent human being, he merely says it is "incompatible with norms against targeting of civilians embraced by the US military and political leadership." That is the first point. We have his word for it that the "Roman strategy" was "taken off the table," but only because they are "incompatible with the norms..." of the Bush administration. Am I the only person who hears an echo of the verbiage that has been used in the discussions about torture?
read in full…
A car bomb exploded near a three-vehicle U.S. Embassy convoy on a busy road in Kabul on Monday, wounding several people, one seriously, officials said. The blast, witnessed by an Associated Press reporter, badly damaged the front of one black SUV that was shunted to the other side of the road. First aid was administered to at least two people at the scene. The other two vehicles in convoy also were damaged, close to the burning wreckage of the car where the bomb was apparently planted. Joe Mellott, a spokesman for the U.S. Embassy, said several people in the convoy were wounded, one seriously. He did not identify them or say whether they were Americans. He said the U.S. ambassador, Ronald Neumann, was not in the convoy.
A suicide car bomber attacked a three-vehicle U.S. Embassy convoy on a notoriously dangerous road in the Afghan capital on Monday, killing an Afghan teenager and wounding five embassy security personnel, officials said. Five U.S. Embassy security personnel were injured, one seriously.
Anthony D'Amato, Jurist: True Confessions? The Amazing Tale of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed
Students of the Stalinist purges of the 1930s will recall the astounding confessions made in open court by the accused persons. They had been severely tortured over weeks and months. But they showed up in court without external marks of torture. With all apparent voluntariness, they admitted subverting the Five-Year Plans that would have provided the Soviet people with necessary food items. They sabotaged factories, making sure the production lines were inefficient. They managed to import inferior metals so that Soviet tanks and automobiles would fall apart after a few months’ use. They infiltrated the Soviet Army and through dint of their persuasiveness, convinced the foot soldier that it was absurd to risk his life defending a dictatorial government. In short these accused persons, briefly in court on their way to the firing squad, took responsibility for everything that had gone wrong for the past two decades in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.
So why is it today that no one draws the connection between the Soviet purge trials and the confession of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed? Mohammed said that he had been tortured by his American captors. No one contradicted his assertion. Then he went on, with a straight and sincere face, to take responsibility for a long list of crimes recently perpetrated.
read in full…


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