SINCE 1964, THE NEWS WHILE THERE'S STILL TIME TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT
We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People by US diplomat Peter Van Buren
Based on the best figures we can find, here is a chart of the actual troop levels in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Non-mercenary troop levels are equivalent to US military presence in Vietnam in mid 1965
Robert Parry, Consortium News - Despite strong evidence to the contrary, it has become established conventional wisdom among mainstream Washington journalists that the "surge" was the singular reason for the recent decline in Iraq's violence. It's also agreed that McCain deserves great credit for pushing the "surge" idea early.
Barack Obama has been repeatedly chastised -- even badgered -- for opposing the "surge." His attempts to refocus the debate more broadly on the wisdom of invading Iraq in the first place are rudely rejected by Big Media interviewers. . .
In reality, the "surge" of about 30,000 additional troops sent to Iraq appears to have been only one factor and -- according to military officials interviewed for Bob Woodward's new book, The War Within -- possibly a secondary one in explaining the drop-off in the violence that had made Iraq a living hell. . .
Woodward, whose book draws heavily from Pentagon insiders, reported that the Sunni rejection of al-Qaeda extremists in Anbar province (which preceded the surge) and the surprise decision of radical Shiite leader Moqtada al-Sadr to order a unilateral cease-fire by his militia were two important factors.
A third factor, which Woodward argued may have been the most significant, was the use of new highly classified U.S. intelligence tactics that allowed for rapid targeting and killing of insurgent leaders. Woodward agreed to withhold details of these secret techniques from his book so as not to undercut their continuing success. . .
Other brutal factors -- that the Washington press corps almost never mentions -- help explain the decline in violence:
- Vicious ethnic cleansing has succeeded in separating Sunnis and Shiites to such a degree that there are fewer targets to kill. Several million Iraqis are estimated to be refugees either in neighboring countries or within their own.
- Concrete walls built between Sunni and Shiite areas have made "death-squad" raids more difficult but alshave "cantonized" much of Baghdad and other Iraqi cities, making everyday life for Iraqis even more exhausting as they seek food or travel to work.
- During the "surge," U.S. forces expanded a policy of rounding up so-called "military age males" and locking up tens of thousands in prison.
- Awesome U.S. firepower, concentrated on Iraqi insurgents and civilian bystanders for more than five years, has slaughtered countless thousands of Iraqis and has intimidated many others to look simply to their own survival.
- With the total Iraqi death toll estimated in the hundreds of thousands and many more Iraqis horribly maimed, the society has been deeply traumatized. As tyrants have learned throughout history, at some point violent repression does work.
WOODWARD: SURGE OPPOSED BY GENERALS AND WASN'T ALL THAT REDUCED VIOLENCE
Think Progress - In his "fourth insider account from the Bush White House," The War Within: A Secret White House History, 2006-2008, veteran journalist Bob Woodward "tracks the growing alarm in the White House in 2006, as U.S. casualties mounted during Iraq's plunge toward civil war." . . .
"While the violence in Iraq skyrocketed to unnerving levels, a second front in the war raged at home, fought at the highest levels of the White House, the Pentagon, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the State Department," Woodward writes. Indeed, "the idea of five brigades came from the White House, not from anybody except the White House." The Joint Chiefs of Staff "all but dismissed the surge option, worried that the armed forces were already stretched to the breaking point." Like Casey, the JCS "favored a renewal effort to train and build up the Iraqi security forces so that U.S. troops could begin to leave." By November 2006, the chiefs' frustrations burst into the open" after "news coverage that retired Gen. Jack Keane, the former Army vice chief of staff had briefed the president. . . about a new strategy being proposed by the American Enterprise Institute."
"When does the AEI start trumping the Joint Chiefs of Staff on this stuff," Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker, the Army chief, asked during one meeting. Adm. Michael Mullen, chief of naval operations, warned that "the all-volunteer force might break under the strain of extended and repeated deployments" and "several of the chiefs noted that the five brigades were effectively the strategic reserve of the U.S. military, the forces on hand in case of flare-ups elsewhere in the world." But Bush decided that the surge would "keep a lid on" violence and "also help here at home, since for many the measure of success is reduction in violence." For all his certainty, however, the president "did not know what his principal military adviser, Gen. Pace had recommended." During an interview with Woodward, Bush said, "Okay, I don't know this. I'm not in these meetings, you'll be happy to hear, because I got other things to do."
Despite conventional wisdom that "the surge had worked. . . the full story was more complicated." According to Woodward, the U.S. military's reliance on "a series of top-secret operations. . . had a far-reaching effect on the violence and were very possibly the biggest factor in reducing it." These covert activities enabled the military "to locate, target and kill key individuals in groups such as al-Qaeda in Iraq, the Sunni insurgency and renegade Shia militias, or the so-called special groups." Defense officials say that the military relied on "fusion cells" or "small, hybrid teams of special forces and intelligence officers" to capture "hundreds of suspected terrorists and their supporters in recent months" The book also reveals that U.S. intelligence closely tracked Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki. "There is significant surveillance of Maliki. And as one source told me, 'We know everything he says.' And others I've talked to about that say, 'You can't literally know everything.' But we know a great deal," Woodward said in the 60 Minutes interview. Woodward also confirms that "the so-called Anbar Awakenings, in which tens of thousands of Sunnis turned against al-Qaeda in Iraq and signed up with U.S. forces," and Moqtada al-Sadr's decision "to suspend operations" of his powerful Mahdi Army also contributed to the lessening of violence.
[The surge is a good
example of how politicians and the media become fixated on a
single idea to the point that everyone forgets that a "reduction
in violence" was never a reason for going to Iraq in the
first place and thus can't be used as a factor in how well we
did in the war- TPR]
2004 CABINET MEMBER'S BOOK REVEALED BUSH'S PLAN TO ATTACK IRAQ 8 MONTHS BEFORE 9/11, INCLUDING NOTES FOR "POST SADDAM IRAQ" STARTS AT 3:40 MINUTES INTO VIDEO
The notion that we ought to now go to Baghdad and somehow take control of the country strikes me as an extremely serious one, in terms of what we'd have to do when we got there. You'd probably have to put some new government in place. It's not clear what kind of government that would be, how long you'd have to stay. For the U.S. to get involved militarily in determining the outcome of the struggle over who's going to govern in Iraq strikes me as the classic definition of a quagmire. - Dick Cheney, when he was Secretary of Defense in 1991.
NATIONAL SECURITY NETWORK It has been five years since the President declared victory in the battle for Iraq. Since that day, more than 3,900 American troops have been killed - bringing the total to more than 4,000. There are still 150,000 American troops in Iraq, just as in May 2003 - but the number of soldiers from other countries fighting alongside them has fallen by more than half, to just 9,800. Under the strain of repeated deployments, two-thirds of Army brigades are rated "not combat ready." The cost to the American economy has reached $1.3 trillion ($16,500 per family of four) and in the end will likely rise to $3 trillion ($35,000 per family of four). Iraqi civilian casualties are in the hundreds of thousands, and four and a half million Iraqis have been forced from their homes. The Iraqi economy is stagnant with oil production and electricity below prewar levels.
The Iraq War has lasted longer than World War II. It has been 61 months since military operations in Iraq began. As of May 1, 2008 American troops have been in Iraq for 1,870 days, 267 weeks. World War II lasted 45 months.
The direct cost of the war in Iraq is more than 10 times what the Bush Administration said it would be. Roughly $525 billion have been allocated to fight the war in Iraq, with no end in sight. Once the fiscal year 2008 funding process is complete, the cost will go above $600 billion.
The war has cost the overall economy $1.3 trillion ($16,500 per family of four) thus far and Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz estimates that it could rise to $3 trillion ($35,000 per family of four
Last year was the deadliest yet for American troops in Iraq. 901 Americans were killed in Iraq in 2007, the most of any year of the war.
Civilian casualties appear to be well over 200,000 - roughly one percent of Iraq's population. The World Health Organization concludes that 150,000 Iraqi civilians were killed between April 2003 and the summer of 2006.
4.7 Million Iraqis have been forced from their homes. 2 million have fled the country. 2.7 million are displaced inside of Iraq.
Five years later, Iraqi oil production remains below prewar levels. Despite the assertion that Iraqi oil production would pay for the war, production is at 2.23 million barrels per day compared to 2.5 before the war.
Baghdad is getting only 9.7 hours of electricity per day - a fraction of what it was getting before the war. Without a steady supply of power businesses have suffered.
The U.S. military is overstretched, understaffed and under-equipped.
BAHRAIN PAPER REPORTS OIL COMPANIES BRIBING IRAQI POLITICIANS
AKHBAR ALKHALEEJ, BAHRAIN - An Iraqi MP preferred to remain anonymous told the newspaper that highly confidential negotiations took place by representatives from American oil companies, offering $5 million to each MP who votes in favor of the Oil and Gas law. The amount that could be paid to pass the votes do not exceed $150 million dollars in the case of $5 million to each MP, pointing out that the Oil law requires 138 votes to pass. . . Focusing on the heads of parliamentary blocs and influential figures in the parliament to ensure the votes, the Americans guaranteed the Kurdish votes in advance but they are seeking enough votes to pass and approve the law as soon as possible.
WE INTERRUPT THE GOOD NEWS ABOUT THE SURGE WITH A FEW FACTS
BILL BLUM, ANTI-EMPIRE REPORT - The "surge" is working, we're told. Never mind that the war is totally and perfectly illegal. Not to mention totally and perfectly, even exquisitely, immoral. It's making progress. That's a good thing, is it not? Meanwhile, the al Qaeda types have greatly increased their number all over the Middle East and South Asia, so their surge is making progress too. Good for them. And speaking of progress in the War on Terror, is anyone progressing faster and better than the Taliban?
The American progress is measured by a decrease in violence, the White House has decided -- a daily holocaust has been cut back to a daily multiple catastrophe. And who's keeping the count? Why, the same good people who have been regularly feeding us a lie for the past five years about the number of Iraqi deaths, completely ignoring the epidemiological studies. A recent analysis by the Washington Post left the administration's claim pretty much in tatters. The article opened with: "The U.S. military's claim that violence has decreased sharply in Iraq in recent months has come under scrutiny from many experts within and outside the government, who contend that some of the underlying statistics are questionable and selectively ignore negative trends." . . .
Oh, did I mention that 2007 has been the deadliest year for US troops since the war began? It's been the same worst year for American forces in Afghanistan.
One of the signs of the reduction in violence in Iraq, the administration would like us to believe, is that many Iraqi families are returning from Syria, where they had fled because of the violence. The New York Times, however, reported that "Under intense pressure to show results after months of political stalemate, the [Iraqi] government has continued to publicize figures that exaggerate the movement back to Iraq"; as well as exaggerating "Iraqis' confidence that the current lull in violence can be sustained." The count, it turns out, included all Iraqis crossing the border, for whatever reason. A United Nations survey found that 46 percent were leaving Syria because they could not afford to stay; 25 percent said they fell victim to a stricter Syrian visa policy; and only 14 percent said they were returning because they had heard about improved security. . .
THE SUN, UK - Gordon Brown delivered a stirring festive message to Our Boys in Iraq: "Happy Christmas - war is over." The PM was cheered as he praised UK troops and revealed combat operations in Basra will end "within two weeks". Iraqi forces will take over as the 4,500-strong British force switches from front-line duties to a training role. By early next year, our contingent in Southern Iraq will be cut to 2,500 - and may be withdrawn completely in March.
BUSH AGREES TO AN "ENDURING" U.S. PRESENCE IN IRAQ
PROGRESS REPORT - The administration has announced one of its goals is an endless, unqualified, "enduring" presence in Iraq. President Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki "signed the new U.S.-Iraq 'declaration of principles' during a secure video conference morning." The key principle in the agreement, according to the White House, is that "Iraq's leaders have asked for an enduring relationship with America, and we seek an enduring relationship with a democratic Iraq."
DEMOCRATS ZERO FOR 40 ON IRAQ
POLITICO - As the congressional session lurches toward a close, Democrats are confronting some demoralizing arithmetic on Iraq. The numbers tell a story of political and substantive paralysis more starkly than most members are willing to acknowledge publicly, or perhaps even to themselves.
Since taking the majority, they have forced 40 votes on bills limiting President Bush's war policy. Only one of those has passed both chambers, even though both are run by Democrats. That one was vetoed by Bush.
Indeed, the only war legislation enacted during this Congress has been to give the president exactly what he wants, and exactly what he has had for the past five years: more money, with no limitations.
SURGE PRODUCES DEADLIEST YEAR YET FOR U.S. SOLDIERS IN IRAQ
REUTERS - Six U.S. soldiers were killed in Iraq on Monday, the U.S. military said, making 2007 the deadliest year for U.S. forces in the country. The deaths took the number of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq this year to 852. The worst previous year was 2004, when 849 deaths were recorded. In total, 3,855 U.S. soldiers have been killed since the U.S.-led invasion to topple Saddam Hussein in 2003.
LARGEST IRAQ DAM IN DANGER OF COLLAPSE, COULD DROWN A HALF MILLION
AMIT PALEY, SYDNEY MORNING HERALD,
AUSTRALIA - The largest dam in Iraq is in danger of an imminent
collapse that could unleash a huge wave of water, possibly drowning
500,000 people, new assessments by the US Army Corps of Engineers
Even in a country gripped by daily bloodshed, the possibility of a catastrophic failure of the Mosul dam had alarmed US officials, said Abdulkhalik Thanoon Ayoub. . .
At the same time, a US reconstruction project to help shore up the dam in northern Iraq has been marred by incompetence and mismanagement, according to Iraqi officials and a report by a US oversight agency that was to be published yesterday. The reconstruction project, worth at least $US27 million, was not intended to be a permanent solution to the dam's deficiencies.
The effort to prevent a failure of the dam has been complicated by behind-the-scenes wrangling between Iraqi and US officials over the severity of the problem and how much money should be allocated to fix it. The Army Corps has recommended building a second dam downstream as a fail-safe measure, but Iraqi officials have rejected the proposal, arguing that it is unnecessary and too expensive.
CIA'S LAST MAN IN VIETNAM SAYS IT'S
TIME TO PLAN FOR A QUICK EXIT FROM IRAQ
THE ONE CLEAR WINNER IN IRAQ: MERCENARIES & WAR PROFITEERS
JEREMY SCAHILL, COUNTERPUNCH - With almost no congressional oversight and even less public awareness, the Bush administration has more than doubled the size of the U.S. occupation through the use of private war companies. There are now almost 200,000 private "contractors" deployed in Iraq by Washington. This means that U.S. military forces in Iraq are now outsized by a coalition of billing corporations whose actions go largely unmonitored and whose crimes are virtually unpunished.
In essence, the Bush administration has created a shadow army that can be used to wage wars unpopular with the American public but extremely profitable for a few unaccountable private companies.
Since the launch of the "global war on terror," the administration has systematically funneled billions of dollars in public money to corporations like Blackwater USA , DynCorp, Triple Canopy, Erinys and ArmorGroup. They have in turn used their lucrative government pay-outs to build up the infrastructure and reach of private armies so powerful that they rival or outgun some nation's militaries. . .
Precise data on the extent of U.S. spending on mercenary services is nearly impossible to obtain - by both journalists and elected officials-but some in Congress estimate that up to 40 cents of every tax dollar spent on the war goes to corporate war contractors. At present, the United States spends about $2 billion a week on its Iraq operations. . .
At present, an American or a British Special Forces veteran working for a private security company in Iraq can make $650 a day. At times the rate has reached $1,000 a day; the pay dwarfs many times over that of active duty troops operating in the war zone wearing a U.S. or U.K. flag on their shoulder instead of a corporate logo.
THE TURKISH FACTOR IN IRAQ
DJELLOUL MARBROOK - Turkey, a Sunni nation and a member of NATO, has been telling the government of Nuri al-Maliki in Baghdad for more than a year now that it must curb pan-Kurd ambitions in northern Iraq. The situation is far more volatile than the press has described. The Shias have their own militias. The Kurds have the well-trained Pesh Merga, which is in fact a standing army. But Iraq's Sunnis have only their tribes. That in itself is enough to explain Sunni concerns.
The Kurds would like to see an independent Kurdistan. Considering the large Kurdish minorities in Iran and Turkey, it is not difficult to see why Shia Iran and Sunni Turkey are worried. Short of independence, the Kurds would like a semi-autonomous Kurdistan, which would contain Mosul's rich oil fields. The Kurds could then continue to agitate for a greater Kurdistan, perhaps even arming militants inside Iran and Turkey.
Where does this leave us? In the soup, where we have been from the beginning. Consider these combustibles:
- Turkey has not set foot on Arab land
since the fall of the Ottoman Empire.
- The Sunni Arabs have more in common with the Turks than they have with the Iranians, but the reappearance of Turkish soldiers on Arab land would be viewed with alarm.
- There are more than 100 million people in the world of Turkish origin. Turkey, a secular nation with an Islamist party in power, regards itself as the protector of these people. There are large Turkish minorities in Iran and Afghanistan, and people of Turkish origin are spread throughout Central Asia.
- Turkey has no oil, but it is host to oil pipelines. Moving into northern Iraq would give Turkey control of its oil fields. The Turks would say they have come only to stabilize the situation, but that is our story too, and we have already witnessed how many people in the world believe us.
If we are soon presented with a situation in which Turkey has as many troops in Iraq as we do it will change the entire equation, and yet the Washington establishment - the press, the government, the think tanks, the industry lobbyists - are all silent about an eventuality that would change everything in a thin minute.
have exceeded those in 2006 each month so far.
A PLAN FOR PEACE IN IRAQ
[From the Transnational Foundation]
1. Withdraw foreign troops, mercenaries and bases and end the occupation.
2. Respect Iraq's sovereignty and territorial integrity and reduce the role of the U.S. Embassy
3. Establish an international peace building mission for Iraq under UN leadership
4. Cancel all Iraq's debt
5. Compensate Iraq for the sanctions, the war and the occupation
6. Secure that Iraq regains full sovereignty over its oil resources and receives 100% of the revenues
7. Make the Middle East as a Zone free of Weapons of Mass Destruction
8. Establish a Truth and Reconciliation Process, public apology accompanied by dialogue and forgiveness
9. Organize people-to-people co-operation and civil society exchanges
10. Organize a long-term regional conference working toward a comprehensive settlement for the entire region, including its two core conflicts - Iraq/the West and that Palestine/Israel
BAGHDAD RUNS SHORT OF WATER
SIGNS OF THE TIMES - For the past 24 hours, Baghdad has had virtually no running water. Major parts of the city of six million people have lacked running water for six days, while daily high temperatures have ranged from 115 to 120 degrees. The tiny amount of water dripping through the pipes is causing many of those who must drink it to suffer acute intestinal illness. According to reports, not enough electricity is available to run Baghdad's water pumps. This in a country with vast energy resources. . .
According to Article 55 of Geneva Conventions to which the U.S. government is a signatory: "To the fullest extent of the means available to it the Occupying Power has the duty of ensuring the food and medical supplies of the population; it should, in particular, bring in the necessary foodstuffs, medical stores and other articles if the resources of the occupied territory are inadequate."
Article 59 states: "If the whole or part of the population of an occupied territory is inadequately supplied, the Occupying Power shall agree to relief schemes on behalf of the said population, and shall facilitate them by all the means at its disposal."
To say that a huge city deprived of running water is "inadequately supplied" would rank as one of the great understatements of human history. . .
The U.S. government tries to relieve itself of its obligations by pretending that Iraq's "sovereignty" was restored in June 2004. But that is just another hoax.
HAVE INVADED BAGDHAD
[BACK IN 1994]
ONLY 10 OF 1,000 U.S. STAFFERS AT BAGHDAD EMBASSY SPEAK ARABIC
ABC NEWS BLOTTER - Of the 1,000 U.S. employees at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, only 10 have a working knowledge of Arabic, according to the State Department. . . The report found that more than one-third of public policy diplomacy positions at Arabic language posts were filled by people who did not speak the language at the designated level.
FOUR YEARS SINCE MISSION ACCOMPLISHED: A REPORT ON THE POST WAR ERA
NATIONAL SECURITY NETWORK - It has been four years since the President declared victory in the battle of Iraq. Since that time, more than 3,000 American troops have been killed. The cost to the American taxpayer is approaching $500 billion - ten times what the White House estimated before the war began. Insurgent attacks in Iraq doubled between 2005 and 2006, while estimates of civilian casualties are in the hundreds of thousands. Four years into the war, the Iraqi economy is going backwards with oil production and electricity below prewar levels. Meanwhile, as the U.S. military continues to suffer under the strain of repeated deployments, Iraqi politicians have made little progress on meeting the benchmarks that are so critical for political reconciliation. . . .
"The idea that it's going to be a long, long, long battle of some kind I think is belied by the fact of what happened in 1990. Five days or five weeks or five months, but it certainly isn't going to last any longer than that . . . It won't be a World War III." - Donald Rumsfeld, 11/15/02
America has been in Iraq longer than it was in World War II. It has been 50 months since military operations in Iraq began. As of May 1, 2007, American troops have been in Iraq for 1,504 days the equivalent of 214 weeks. [NPR, 11/27/06]
Four years after "Mission Accomplished," American troop levels in Iraq are where they were in May 2003. There were 150,000 American troops in Iraq in May 2003. Today there are 146,000 troops in Iraq. [Brookings Institution, 4/23/07]
"Well, the Office of Management and Budget, has come up come up with a number that's something under $50 billion for the cost." - Donald Rumsfeld, 1/19/03
The actual cost of the war in Iraq is almost 10 times the Bush Administration's initial estimates. Roughly $450 billion have been allocated to fight the war in Iraq, with little to show for it. Once the FY 2008 funding process is complete, the cost could reach nearly $600 billion. [Congressional Research Service, 3/14/2007]
Even the White House's most realistic analysis was far lower than the costs of the war. White House Economic Adviser Lawrence Lindsay's "aggressive pre-war estimate, stated that the war would cost $100 billion to $200 billion. He was asked to resign. [MSNBC, 3/17/06]
Annual costs have risen every year since the war began. FY 2007 appropriations for the Iraq War are almost twice as much as what they were three years ago (FY 2004) and 2.5 times more than the costs in FY 2003. [Congressional Research Service, 3/14/2007]
A study by a Noble Prize winning economist found that factoring in the indirect costs of the war could raise the final bill to more than $2 trillion. Estimating the cost of the war ignores the value of losses in military readiness, increased recruitment costs, the cost of medical treatment for returning veterans, and even declining profits for American businesses in the region due to rising anti-Americanism. These factors suggest that the real cost of invading Iraq has been somewhere between $750 billion and $1.2 trillion and could ultimately cost as much as $2 trillion. [Boston Globe, 1/8/2006]
"The level of activity that we see today from a military standpoint, I think, will clearly decline. I think they're in the last throes, if you will, of the insurgency." - Vice President Cheney, 06/05
American troop fatalities are up 33 percent. Since the escalation was announced on January 10, 2007, American troop fatalities have risen by 33%, averaging 3 per day as opposed to 2.25 per day during 2006. [Iraq Coalition Casualty Count]
Civilian casualties are in the tens if not hundreds of thousands. The United Nations estimates that 35,000 civilians were killed in Iraq during 2006 alone. No one really knows how many people have died. [Brookings, 4/23/2007]
As of the end of 2006, the rate of insurgent attacks had hit record highs. By the end of 2006, average insurgent attacks had skyrocketed to 185 per day, almost two and a half times the number of attacks at the end of 2005. [Brookings, 4/23/2007]
Despite more than four years of nearly constant combat, the estimated size of the Iraqi insurgency has actually grown. It is believed that there were between 3,000 and 5,000 insurgents fighting U.S. forces in Iraq at the end of 2003 and beginning of 2004. That estimate has grown to more than 20,000 by the end of 2004, and has remained constant ever since. [Brookings, 4/23/2007]
U.S. USES A QUARTER MILLION BULLETS FOR EVERY OPPONENT KILLED
ANDREW BUNCOMBE, INDEPENDENT, UK - US forces have fired so many bullets in Iraq and Afghanistan - an estimated 250,000 for every insurgent killed - that American ammunition-makers cannot keep up with demand. As a result the US is having to import supplies from Israel. A government report says that US forces are now using 1.8 billion rounds of small-arms ammunition a year. The total has more than doubled in five years, largely as a result of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as changes in military doctrine
HOW TO GET THE U.S. OUT OF IRAQ
JUAN COLE, NATION - The key to preventing an intensified civil war is US withdrawal from the equation so as to force the parties to an accommodation. Therefore, the United States should announce its intention to withdraw its military forces from Iraq, which will bring Sunnis to the negotiating table and put pressure on Kurds and Shiites to seek a compromise with them. But a simple US departure would not be enough; the civil war must be negotiated to a settlement, on the model of the conflicts in Northern Ireland and Lebanon.
Talks require a negotiating partner. The first step in Iraq must therefore be holding provincial elections. In the first and only such elections, held in January 2005, the Sunni Arab parties declined to participate. Provincial governments in Sunni-majority provinces are thus uniformly unrepresentative, and sometimes in the hands of fundamentalist Shiites, as in Diyala. A newly elected provincial Sunni Arab political class could stand in for the guerrilla groups in talks, just as Sinn Fein, the political wing of the Irish Republican Army, did in Northern Ireland.
The United States took a step in the right direction by attending the March Baghdad summit of Iraq's neighbors and speaking directly to Iran and Syria about Iraqi security. Now the United States and Britain should work with the United Nations or the Organization of the Islamic Conference to call a six-plus-two meeting on the model of the generally successful December 2001 Bonn conference on Afghanistan. The Iraqi government, including the president and both vice presidents, would meet directly with the foreign ministers of Iran, Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait to discuss the ways regional actors could help end the war as the United States and Britain prepare to depart. Unlike the Baghdad summit, this conference would have to issue a formal set of plans and commitments. Recent Saudi consultations with Iranian leaders should be extended.
The Saudi government should then be invited to reprise the role it played in brokering an end to the Lebanese civil war at Taif in 1989, at which communal leaders hammered out a new national compact, which involved political power-sharing and demobilization of most militias. At Taif II, the elected provincial governors of Iraq and leaders of the major parliamentary blocs should be brought together. Along with the US and British ambassadors to Baghdad and representatives of the UN and the OIC, observers from Iraq's six neighbors should also be there.
Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah has credibility with Iraq's Sunnis, especially now that he has denounced the US occupation as illegitimate. They could trust his representations, which would include Saudi development aid in places like Anbar province. Since the Sunnis are the main drivers of violence in Iraq, it is they who must be mollified, bribed, cajoled and threatened into a settlement. . .
On the basis of a settlement at Taif II, the US military should then negotiate with provincial authorities a phased withdrawal from the Sunni Arab provinces. The Sunnis will have to understand that this departure is a double-edged sword, since if they continued their guerrilla war, the United States could not protect them from Kurdish or Shiite reprisals. Any UN or OIC presence would be for peacekeeping and could not be depended on for active peace-enforcing. The rewards from neighbors promised at Taif II should be granted in a phased fashion and made dependent on good-faith follow-through by Iraqi leaders.
A FEW WEEKS AFTER 9/11: SEVEN COUNTRIES TARGETED BY BUSH
[Gen. Wesley Clark in a Democracy Now interview with Amy Goodman]
GEN. WESLEY CLARK: About ten days after 9/11, I went through the Pentagon and I saw Secretary Rumsfeld and Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz. I went downstairs just to say hello to some of the people on the Joint Staff who used to work for me, and one of the generals called me in. He said, "Sir, you've got to come in and talk to me a second."
I said, "Well, you're too busy." He said, "No, no." He says, "We've made the decision we're going to war with Iraq." This was on or about the 20th of September. I said, "We're going to war with Iraq? Why?" He said, "I don't know." He said, "I guess they don't know what else to do." So I said, "Well, did they find some information connecting Saddam to al-Qaeda?" He said, "No, no." He says, "There's nothing new that way. They just made the decision to go to war with Iraq." He said, "I guess it's like we don't know what to do about terrorists, but we've got a good military and we can take down governments." And he said, "I guess if the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem has to look like a nail."
So I came back to see him a few weeks later, and by that time we were bombing in Afghanistan. I said, "Are we still going to war with Iraq?" And he said, "Oh, it's worse than that." He reached over on his desk. He picked up a piece of paper. And he said, "I just got this down from upstairs" -- meaning the Secretary of Defense's office -- "today." And he said, "This is a memo that describes how we're going to take out seven countries in five years, starting with Iraq, and then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and, finishing off, Iran." I said, "Is it classified?" He said, "Yes, sir." I said, "Well, don't show it to me." And I saw him a year or so ago, and I said, "You remember that?" He said, "Sir, I didn't show you that memo! I didn't show it to you!"
Senators who voted in 2002 against going to war in Iraq:
Democrats: Akaka, Hawaii; Bingaman, N.M.; Boxer, Calif; Byrd, W.Va.; Conrad, N.D.; Corzine, N.J.; Dayton, Minn.; Durbin, Ill.; Feingold, Wis; Graham, Fla.; Inouye, Hawaii; Kennedy, Mass.; Leahy, Vt.; Levin, Mich.; Mikulski, Md.; Murray, Wash.; Reed, R.I.; Sarbanes, Md.; Stabenow, Mich.; Wellstone, Minn.; Wyden, Ore.
Republicans: Chafee, R.I
Independents: Jeffords, Vt.
as American troops train Iraqis. . . from Britain's Channel Four
IRAQ OIL SCAM UPDATE
INDEPENDENT, UK - Iraq's massive oil reserves, the third-largest in the world, are about to be thrown open for large-scale exploitation by Western oil companies under a controversial law which is expected to come before the Iraqi parliament within days. The US government has been involved in drawing up the law, a draft of which has been seen by The Independent on Sunday. It would give big oil companies such as BP, Shell and Exxon 30-year contracts to extract Iraqi crude and allow the first large-scale operation of foreign oil interests in the country since the industry was nationalised in 1972.
The huge potential prizes for Western firms will give ammunition to critics who say the Iraq war was fought for oil. They point to statements such as one from Vice-President Dick Cheney, who said in 1999, while he was still chief executive of the oil services company Halliburton, that the world would need an additional 50 million barrels of oil a day by 2010. "So where is the oil going to come from?... The Middle East, with two-thirds of the world's oil and the lowest cost, is still where the prize ultimately lies," he said. . .
Greg Muttitt, a researcher for Platform, a human rights and environmental group which monitors the oil industry, said Iraq was being asked to pay an enormous price over the next 30 years for its present instability. "They would lose out massively," he said, "because they don't have the capacity at the moment to strike a good deal.". . .
James Paul, executive director at the Global Policy Forum, the international government watchdog, said: "It is not an exaggeration to say that the overwhelming majority of the population would be opposed to this. To do it anyway, with minimal discussion within the [Iraqi] parliament is really just pouring more oil on the fire."
MOST U.S. TROOPS KILLED BY ROADSIDE BOMBS
BRAD KNICKERBOCKER, CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR - Of the 3,000 American GIs lost in Iraq as of midday Sunday, more have been killed by roadside bombs - improvised explosive devices - than any other cause. More than by rifle fire, mortar attack, or car bomb. . .
IEDs are "the enemy's most effective weapon," Army Gen. John Abizaid, commander of all US forces in the Middle East, told the Senate Armed Services committee last March. "They are the perfect asymmetric weapon - cheap, effective, and anonymous."
Improvised bomb attacks on US troops now top 1,000 a month, four times the rate in 2004. Insurgents have become more sophisticated in their bomb making, placement, and means of detonation. The British military has determined that there are enough stocks of illegal explosives to continue the same level of attack for years without resupply, reports DefenseNews.com.
Since the beginning of the war in March 2003, IEDs have accounted for about 45 percent of all US fatalities from hostile causes. And that percentage is increasing. Of 100 recent hostile fatalities, IEDs caused 67. December saw the highest number of Americans killed overall in Iraq in two years.
How to tell your country's in trouble
RIVERBEND, BAGHDAD - You know your country is in trouble when:
1. The UN has to open a special branch just to keep track of the chaos and bloodshed, UNAMI.
2. Abovementioned branch cannot be run from your country.
3. The politicians who worked to put your country in this sorry state can no longer be found inside of, or anywhere near, its borders.
4. The only thing the US and
Iran can agree about is the deteriorating state of your nation.
6. Your country is purportedly 'selling' 2 million barrels of oil a day, but you are standing in line for 4 hours for black market gasoline for the generator.
7. For every 5 hours of no electricity, you get one hour of public electricity and then the government announces it's going to cut back on providing that hour.
8. Politicians who supported the war spend TV time debating whether it is 'sectarian bloodshed' or 'civil war'.
9. People consider themselves lucky if they can actually identify the corpse of the relative that's been missing for two weeks.
ONLY 3,000 U.S. MILITARY KILLED, BUT 150,000 INJURED
AARON GLANTZ, IPS - On New Year's Eve, the number of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq passed 3,000. . . But the number of injured has far outstripped the dead, with the Veterans Administration reporting that more than 150,000 veterans of the Iraq war are receiving disability benefits. Advances in military technology are keeping the death rate much lower than during the Vietnam War and World War Two, Dr. Col. Vito Imbascini, an urologist and state surgeon with the California Army National Guard, told IPS, but soldiers who survive attacks are often severely disabled for life.
"If you lost an arm or a leg in Vietnam, you were also tremendously injured in your chest and abdomen, which were not protected by the armor plates back then," he said. "Now, your heart and chest and lungs and heart are protected by armour, leaving only your extremities exposed.". . .
According to documents obtained by the National Security Archive at George Washington University, 25 percent of veterans of the "global war on terror" have filed disability compensation and pension benefit claims with the Veterans Benefits Administration. . .
Pentagon studies show that 12 percent of soldiers who have served in Iraq suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. The group Veterans for America, formerly the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation, estimates 70,000 Iraq war veterans have gone to the VA for mental health care.
WHAT BUSH BURIED WITH SADDAM
ROBERT FISK, INDEPENDENT, UK - Now Saddam, who knew the full extent of that Western support - given to him while he was perpetrating some of the worst atrocities since the Second World War - is dead. Gone is the man who personally received the CIA's help in destroying the Iraqi communist party. After Saddam seized power, US intelligence gave his minions the home addresses of communists in Baghdad and other cities in an effort to destroy the Soviet Union's influence in Iraq. Saddam's mukhabarat visited every home, arrested the occupants and their families, and butchered the lot. Public hanging was for plotters; the communists, their wives and children, were given special treatment - extreme torture . . .
There is growing evidence across the Arab world that Saddam held a series of meetings with senior American officials prior to his invasion of Iran in 1980 - both he and the US administration believed that the Islamic Republic would collapse if Saddam sent his legions across the border - and the Pentagon was instructed to assist Iraq's military machine by providing intelligence on the Iranian order of battle. . .
HOW WASHINGTON HELPED CREATE THE MAN IT HANGED
RUPERT CORNWELL, INDEPENDENT,
UK - What is forgotten is that once, for more than a decade,
Saddam Hussein was staunchly supported by the US.
Saddam seized complete power in 1978. Two years later he attacked Iran, in what he called an "Arab war against the Persians", to overthrow the Islamic revolutionary regime. . . Quietly, the US delivered the technology, weapons and logistical support to prevent Iraq's defeat. Its policy was symbolized by the cordial meeting in Baghdad in December 1983 between Saddam and a certain Donald Rumsfeld, then President Reagan's special envoy to the Middle East. Two decades later, as Secretary of Defense, he would plan the invasion that toppled Saddam. . .
In 1982, the administration ignored objections in Congress and removed Iraq from its list of countries supporting terrorism. By November 1983, the National Security Council had issued a directive that the US should do "whatever was necessary and legal" to prevent an Iranian victory. Washington did nothing to deter Saddam's use of chemical weapons.
As the 1980s progressed, a clandestine network of companies developed in the US and other countries to help the Iraqi war effort. The conflict between Iraq and Iran ended in 1988, but Saddam continued his Western-supported military build-up until the very moment he invaded Kuwait in August 1990.
It would be the turning point. Until then, the US had dealt with Saddam in the context of keeping Iran at bay. Thereafter, however, the Iraqi dictator was the enemy in his own right. The irony, of course, was that America's previous support encouraged him to think he could get away with annexing Kuwait.
Indeed, just a week earlier, on 25 July 1990, the American ambassador, April Glaspie, had met Saddam. According to a transcript of the meeting, she informed him that Washington had no opinion on Arab-Arab conflicts, "like your border disagreement with Kuwait".
38,766: displaced persons living in Baghdad (as of December 11)
85 per cent of displaced living in Baghdad come from within the city
72 per cent of displaced living in Baghdad are Shia
27 per cent of displaced living in Baghdad are Sunni
17 per cent of displaced living in Baghdad are Yazidi
Source: International Organisation for Migration
ANTHROPOLOGIST REPORTED CIVIL WAR THREE YEARS AGO
[Modern media tends to use itself as a guide to reality. Hence NBC thinks Iraq's civil war started with its pronouncement that it had. This, of course, is nonsense, witness the following. Although we did not run this particularly item, we cited Beeman during both parts of the Iraq War (under Bush I & II) If NBC had spent less time with "military experts" and more time with people like Beeman who actually knew the area, they wouldn't have had to wait so long to make their ex cathedra pronouncements.]
WILLIAM O. BEEMAN, PACIFIC NEWS SERVICE, AUG 29, 2003 - The bombing of one of Islam's holiest shrines not only killed an important Shi'a leader, it also signals the first shot in an Iraqi civil war that Middle East experts warned would ensue if Saddam were removed without careful planning. One of the most consistent and ominous prewar warnings to the Bush administration by Middle East experts was that removal of Saddam Hussein without the most careful political and social engineering would result in the breaking apart of Iraq into warring factions that would battle each other for decades.
The hawks in the White House would not listen. They were so wedded to the fantasy scenario that the removal of Saddam in an act of "creative destruction" would result in the automatic emergence of democracy. They brushed aside all warnings.
Present-day Iraq was three provinces of the Ottoman Empire before World War I. It was cobbled together by the British for their own convenience after that conflict.
IRAQ WAR LASTS LONGER THAN WORLD WAR II
SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, AUSTRALIA - They were America's days of infamy, 60 years apart - Pearl Harbor and September 11. The first led the US into World War II, a conflict it endured for 1348 days; the second was followed by a war that from [November 25] will have lasted even longer.
America's involvement in Iraq will reach that milestone at a time when the clamor for withdrawal has never been louder, and the possibility of achieving it has never seemed so difficult. The decisive end of World War II in 1945 delivers no lessons that could be applied to a very different war in a very different era.
If anything, things seem to be getting worse, the options less appealing. . .
BRITAIN PLANNING TO BEGIN EXTRICATION FROM IRAQ EARLY NEXT YEAR
TORONTO STAR - Britain said yesterday it could hand back Basra
province to Iraqi control early next year, the first time Washington's
main ally has put a date on reducing its presence in Iraq. The
announcement came as the United Nations reported that 3,709 Iraqi
civilians were killed in October, the highest monthly toll of
the war and one that is sure to be eclipsed when November's dead
are counted. The United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq also
said citizens were fleeing the country at a pace of 100,000 each
month, and that at least 1.6 million Iraqis have left since the
war began in March 2003. . . Britain's Foreign Secretary Margaret
Beckett told Parliament yesterday: "The progress of our
current operation in Basra gives us confidence that we may be
able to achieve transition in that province ... at some point
GUARDIAN, UK - Tony Blair conceded last night that western intervention in Iraq had been a disaster. In an interview with Al-Jazeera, the Arabic TV station, the prime minister agreed with the veteran broadcaster Sir David Frost when he suggested that intervention had "so far been pretty much of a disaster". Mr Blair said: "It has, but you see, what I say to people is, 'why is it difficult in Iraq?' It's not difficult because of some accident in planning, it's difficult because there's a deliberate strategy - al-Qaida with Sunni insurgents on one hand, Iranian-backed elements with Shia militias on the other - to create a situation in which the will of the majority for peace is displaced by the will of the minority for war.". . .
Mr Blair's remarks came hours after his trade and industry minister, Margaret Hodge, was reported to have described Iraq as his "big mistake in foreign affairs" and criticized his "moral imperialism".
RIVERBEND, BAGHDAD - When All Else Fails... Execute the dictator. It's that simple. When American troops are being killed by the dozen, when the country you are occupying is threatening to break up into smaller countries, when you have militias and death squads roaming the streets and you've put a group of Mullahs in power - execute the dictator.
Everyone expected this verdict from the very first day of the trial. There was a brief interlude when, with the first judge, it was thought that it might actually be a coherent trial where Iraqis could hear explanations and see what happened. That was soon over with the prosecution's first false witness. Events that followed were so ridiculous; it's difficult to believe them even now.
The sound would suddenly disappear when the defense or one of the defendants got up to speak. We would hear the witnesses but no one could see them- hidden behind a curtain, their voices were changed. People who were supposed to have been dead in the Dujail incident were found to be very alive. Judge after judge was brought in because the ones in court were seen as too fair. . .
I'm more than a little worried. This is Bush's final card. . . Iraq has not been this bad in decades. The occupation is a failure. The various pro-American, pro-Iranian Iraqi governments are failures. The new Iraqi army is a deadly joke. Is it really time to turn Saddam into a martyr?. . .
It's not about the man - presidents come and go, governments come and go. It's the frustration of feeling like the whole country and every single Iraqi inside and outside of Iraq is at the mercy of American politics. It is the rage of feeling like a mere chess piece to be moved back and forth at will. It is the aggravation of having a government so blind and uncaring about their people's needs that they don't even feel like it's necessary to go through the motions or put up an act. And it's the deaths. The thousands of dead and dying, with Bush sitting there smirking and lying about progress and winning in a country where every single Iraqi outside of the Green Zone is losing. . .
I just read somewhere that some of the families of dead American soldiers are visiting the Iraqi north to see 'what their sons and daughters died for'. If that's the goal of the visit, then, "Ladies and gentlemen - to your right is the Iraqi Ministry of Oil, to your left is the Dawry refinery. . . Each of you get this, a gift bag containing a 3 by 3 color poster of Al Sayid Muqtada Al Sadr (Long May He Live And Prosper), an Ayatollah Sistani t-shirt and a map of Iran, to scale, redrawn with the Islamic Republic of South Iraq. Also. . . Hey you! You- the female in the back- is that a lock of hair I see? Cover it up or stay home." And that is what they died for.
THE MEDIA'S IRAQ OFFENSIVE
NORMAN SOLOMON, TOM PAINE - The American media establishment has launched a major offensive against the option of withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq. In the latest media assault, right-wing outfits like Fox News and the Wall Street Journal editorial page are secondary. The heaviest firepower is now coming from the most valuable square inches of media real estate in the USA - the front page of The New York Times. . .
Under the headline "Get Out of Iraq Now? Not So Fast, Experts Say," the Nov. 15 front page of The New York Times prominently featured a "Military Analysis" by Michael Gordon. The piece reported that - while some congressional Democrats are saying withdrawal of U.S. troops "should begin within four to six months" - "this argument is being challenged by a number of military officers, experts and former generals, including some who have been among the most vehement critics of the Bush administration's Iraq policies."
Reporter Gordon appeared hours later on Anderson Cooper's CNN show, fully morphing into an unabashed pundit as he declared that withdrawal is "simply not realistic." Sounding much like a Pentagon spokesman, Gordon went on to state in no uncertain terms that he opposes a pullout.
If a New York Times military-affairs reporter went on television to advocate for withdrawal of U.S. troops as unequivocally as Gordon advocated against any such withdrawal during his Nov. 15 appearance on CNN, he or she would be quickly reprimanded-and probably would be taken off the beat-by the Times hierarchy. But the paper's news department eagerly fosters reporting that internalizes and promotes the basic worldviews of the country's national security state.
That's how and why the Times front page was so hospitable to the work of Judith Miller during the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq. That's how and why the Times is now so hospitable to the work of Michael Gordon.
MARINE GENERAL WANTED PENTAGON TO TELL HIM WHAT THEY WOULD DO WHEN HE WON. . .NEVER HEARD BACK
CBS - There is no one on the Joint Chiefs of Staff who has visited Iraq more often than Gen. Mike Hagee, whose term as Commandant of the United States Marine Corps ends Monday. . . As Commander of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force during the lead-up to the war, Hagee was in charge of planning for the Marines' original push to Baghdad. So I asked him about one of the enduring mysteries of the invasion - why there was no real plan for running the country once Saddam Hussein fell from power.. . . He says he was deeply concerned about who would take charge of major Iraqi cities, like Najaf, as the Marines pushed through them on their way to Baghdad. Hagee says he asked his boss again and again who would take charge of those cities. He wanted to know what the plan was for Phase IV - military terminology for the phase that follows the end of major combat operations. Phase IV is, in other words, what comes after "mission accomplished." Hagee says that he sent his questions up the chain of command, as they say in the military - and never heard back.
SOUTH JOINS NORTH IN DISTASTE FOR WAR
INSTITUTE FOR SOUTHERN STUDIES - Despite strong early support for the Iraq war in the South, the region's opposition to the war now matches national levels -- and by some measures frustration is higher in the South than elsewhere in the country. Those are the findings of a new public opinion poll run by the Institute for Southern Studies and the School of Public and International Affairs at North Carolina State University.
57% of Southerners believe the U.S. "should have stayed out of Iraq," compared to 44% who think the U.S. "did the right thing" by taking military action. Nationally, 58% of the public believes the U.S. should have stayed out and 43% now agree with military action.
Southerners are skeptical about the goals of the Iraq mission. 29% of Southerners agree with the Bush Administration's position that "Iraq is the central front in the war on terrorism," compared to 25% nationally. But 30% in Southern states -- the same as the national average -- believe the main reason the U.S. is in Iraq is "to ensure access to oil."
By at least one measure, Southerners are more frustrated with the war than their counterparts in other regions. Asked if they were "proud" or "sad" about Iraq, a surprising 62% of respondents in the South said they were "very sad" about the course of the war, compared to only 56% in other regions of the country. Only 10% of those surveyed in the South say they are "somewhat proud" or "very proud" of the Iraq mission -- slightly less than those polled in other states.
30% of those polled in Southern states say the U.S. should "withdraw completely" from Iraq. Those in non-Southern states were less likely to call for a total withdrawal of U.S. troops (26%), but more likely to think U.S. troop levels should be decreased "some" or "a lot" - 34% in non-Southern states, compared to 26% in the South. Put together, 56% of Southerners and 59% in other regions support a decrease or withdrawal of U.S. troops.
BRITISH CENSORING WAR COVERAGE
DOMINIC KENNEDY, TIMES UK - The Ministry of Defence has banned Britain's biggest commercial news broadcaster from frontline access to the nation's forces, The Times has learnt.
In an unprecedented move that risks accusations of censorship, the government has withdrawn co-operation from ITV News in war zones after accusing it of inaccurate and intrusive reports about the fate of wounded soldiers. . .
The row began last week after ITV broadcast the first of a series of reports showing how British soldiers wounded during the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan are treated. . . MoD sources have indicated that there was concern about images showing identifiable wounded servicemen arriving at Birmingham airport by night. It has been suggested that no permission was obtained from the men and that their families may have been caused distress.
RETIRED NSA CHIEF SAYS CUT AND RUN
LT GEN WILLIAM E. ODOM [RET] - The United States upset the regional balance in the Middle East when it invaded Iraq. Restoring it requires bold initiatives, but "cutting and running" must precede them all. Only a complete withdrawal of all U.S. troops - within six months and with no preconditions - can break the paralysis that now enfeebles our diplomacy. And the greatest obstacles to cutting and running are the psychological inhibitions of our leaders and the public.
Our leaders do not act because their reputations are at stake. The public does not force them to act because it is blinded by the president's conjured set of illusions: that we are reducing terrorism by fighting in Iraq; creating democracy there; preventing the spread of nuclear weapons; making Israel more secure; not allowing our fallen soldiers to have died in vain; and others.
But reality can no longer be avoided. It is beyond U.S. power to prevent bloody sectarian violence in Iraq, the growing influence of Iran throughout the region, the probable spread of Sunni-Shiite strife to neighboring Arab states, the eventual rise to power of the anti-American cleric Muqtada Sadr or some other anti-American leader in Baghdad, and the spread of instability beyond Iraq. All of these things and more became unavoidable the day that U.S. forces invaded. . .
Some lawmakers are ready to change course but are puzzled as to how to leave Iraq. The answer is four major initiatives to provide regional stability and calm in Iraq. They will leave the U.S. less influential in the region. But it will be the best deal we can get.
First, the U.S. must concede that it has botched things, cannot stabilize the region alone and must let others have a say in what's next. As U.S. forces begin to withdraw, Washington must invite its European allies, as well as Japan, China and India, to make their own proposals for dealing with the aftermath. . . Rapid troop withdrawal and abandoning unilateralism will have a sobering effect on all interested parties. . .
The second initiative is to create a diplomatic forum for Iraq's neighbors. Iran, of course, must be included. Washington should offer to convene the forum but be prepared to step aside if other members insist.
Third, the U.S. must informally cooperate
with Iran in areas of shared interests. Nothing else could so
improve our position in the Middle East. The price for success
will include dropping U.S. resistance to Iran's nuclear weapons
program. This will be as distasteful for U.S. leaders as cutting
and running, but it is no less essential. That's because we do
share vital common interests with Iran. . .
Fourth, real progress must be made on the Palestinian issue as a foundation for Middle East peace. The invasion of Iraq and the U.S. tilt toward Israel have dangerously reduced Washington's power to broker peace or to guarantee Israel's security. We now need Europe's help. . . less.
[Odom was the head of the National Security Agency during the Reagan administration]
INTELLIGENCE REPORT SAYS IRAQ WAR INCREASING TERRORISM
BBC - The New York Times newspaper has published what it says are the findings of a classified US intelligence paper on the effects of the Iraq war. The document reportedly blames the conflict for increasing the threat of terrorism and helping fuel Islamic radicalism worldwide. Such a conclusion is at odds with the White House's persistent claim that going to war has made the world safer. The paper has not seen the report, but spoke to people familiar with it.
IRAQI CIVILIAN DEATHS SOAR TO RECORD HIGH
GUARDIAN - Nearly 7,000 civilians were killed in Iraq in the past two months, according to a UN report just released - a record high that is far greater than initial estimates had suggested. As American generals in Baghdad warned that the violence could worsen in the run up to Ramadan next Monday, the UN spoke of a "grave sectarian crisis" gripping the country. With known Iraqi deaths running at more than 100 a day because of sectarian murders, al-Qaida and nationalist insurgent attacks, and fatalities inflicted by the multinational forces, the UN said its total was likely to be "on the low side" because of the difficulties of collecting accurate figures. In particular, it said that no deaths were reported from the violent region covering Ramadi and Falluja.
TORTURE IN IRAQ IS OUT OF HAND, SAYS UN
GUARDIAN, UK - "Bodies often bear signs of severe torture including acid-induced injuries and burns caused by chemical substances, missing skin, broken bones (back, hands, legs), missing eyes, missing teeth and wounds caused by power drills or nails." This gruesome litany of abuse, chronicle in a UN report published yesterday, features on the front page of the Independent. . . Iraq is in a "state of primal anarchy", the paper's Patrick Cockburn, in Arbil, says. The final collapse of security in the country has been masked from the outside world because Iraq is now too dangerous for journalists to report what is happening there, he writes. According to the Times, the Bush administration "reacted angrily" to the claim by the UN's chief anti-torture campaigner.
BBC UNCOVERS ISRAELIS TRAINING KURDISH TROOPS
MAGDI ABDELHADI, BBC - The BBC has obtained evidence that Israelis have been giving military training to Kurds in northern Iraq. A report on the BBC TV program Newsnight showed Israeli experts in northern Iraq, drilling Kurdish militias in shooting techniques. Kurdish officials have refused to comment on the report and Israel has denied it knows of any involvement. The revelation is set to cause enormous problems for the Kurds, not only in Iraq but also in the wider region. Israel is seen as an enemy of Arabs and Muslims, both inside Iraq and elsewhere in Arab and Muslim countries.
Kurdish politicians will most likely come under pressure to explain what their semi-autonomous government has been up to. . . The news will most probably increase tension between the Kurds and Iraq's Arab population, both Sunnis and Shias, reinforcing fears that the Kurds are pursuing a secessionist agenda. . . Iran and Syria, which have long accused the Kurds of allowing the Israelis to operate on Iraqi territory, will most likely demand an explanation from the government in Baghdad.
The Israeli government says it is conducting an investigation into the BBC report because it is against Israeli law to export military know-how without prior permission.
Ever since the US-led invasion
of Iraq began over three years ago, Arab journalists have been
speaking of Israelis operating inside the autonomous region of
SINCE WAR STARTED
& OTHER WAR PROFITEERING SCANDALS
BAGHDAD'S SUMMER OF GOOD BYES
RIVERBEND, BAGHDAD - Residents of Baghdad are systematically being pushed out of the city. Some families are waking up to find a Klashnikov bullet and a letter in an envelope with the words "Leave your area or else." The culprits behind these attacks and threats are Sadr's followers- Mahdi Army. It's general knowledge, although no one dares say it out loud. In the last month we've had two different families staying with us in our house, after having to leave their neighborhoods due to death threats and attacks. It's not just Sunnis - it's Shia, Arabs, Kurds - most of the middle-class areas are being targeted by militias.
Other areas are being overrun by armed Islamists. The Americans have absolutely no control in these areas. Or maybe they simply don't want to control the areas because when there's a clash between Sadr's militia and another militia in a residential neighborhood, they surround the area and watch things happen.
Since the beginning of July, the men in our area have been patrolling the streets. Some of them patrol the rooftops and others sit quietly by the homemade road blocks we have on the major roads leading into the area. You cannot in any way rely on Americans or the government. You can only hope your family and friends will remain alive- not safe, not secure- just alive. That's good enough.
For me, June marked the first month I don't dare leave the house without a hijab, or headscarf. I don't wear a hijab usually, but it's no longer possible to drive around Baghdad without one. It's just not a good idea. . . Going around bare-headed in a car or in the street also puts the family members with you in danger. . .
I look at my older clothes- the jeans and t-shirts and colorful skirts - and it's like I'm studying a wardrobe from another country, another lifetime. There was a time, a couple of years ago, when you could more or less wear what you wanted if you weren't going to a public place. If you were going to a friends or relatives house, you could wear trousers and a shirt, or jeans, something you wouldn't ordinarily wear. We don't do that anymore because there's always that risk of getting stopped in the car and checked by one militia or another. . .
I've said goodbye this last month to more people than I can count. Some of the 'goodbyes' were hurried and furtive - the sort you say at night to the neighbor who got a death threat and is leaving at the break of dawn, quietly. Some of the 'goodbyes' were emotional and long-drawn, to the relatives and friends who can no longer bear to live in a country coming apart at the seams.
Many of the 'goodbyes' were said stoically - almost casually - with a fake smile plastered on the face and the words, "See you soon". . . Only to walk out the door and want to collapse with the burden of parting with yet another loved one. . .
I sometimes wonder if we'll ever know just how many hundreds of thousands of Iraqis left the country this bleak summer. I wonder how many of them will actually return. Where will they go? What will they do with themselves? Is it time to follow? Is it time to wash our hands of the country and try to find a stable life somewhere else?
GREAT THOUGHTS ON IRAQ
[Uncovered by Paul Krugman]
"The greatest thing to come out of [invading Iraq] for the world economy ... would be $20 a barrel for oil." Rupert Murdoch, chairman of News Corporation (which owns Fox News), February 2003
"The administration's top budget official estimated today that the cost of a war with Iraq could be in the range of $50 billion to $60 billion," saying that "earlier estimates of $100 billion to $200 billion in Iraq war costs by Lawrence B. Lindsey, Mr. Bush's former chief economic adviser, were too high." The New York Times, Dec. 31, 2002
"Peacekeeping requirements in Iraq might be much lower than historical experience in the Balkans suggests. There's been none of the record in Iraq of ethnic militias fighting one another that produced so much bloodshed and permanent scars in Bosnia." Paul Wolfowitz, deputy secretary of defense and now president of the World Bank, Feb. 27, 2003
"Regime change in Iraq would bring about a number of benefits for the region. . . Extremists in the region would have to rethink their strategy of jihad. Moderates throughout the region would take heart, and our ability to advance the Israeli-Palestinian peace process would be enhanced." Vice President Dick Cheney, Aug. 26, 2002
"It's time for Democrats who distrust President Bush to acknowledge that he will be the commander in chief for three more critical years, and that in matters of war, we undermine presidential credibility at our nation's peril." Senator Joseph Lieberman, Democrat of Connecticut, Dec. 6, 2005
RIVERBEND - It promises to be a long summer. We're almost at the mid-way point, but it feels like the days are just crawling by. It's a combination of the heat, the flies, the hours upon hours of no electricity and the corpses which keep appearing everywhere. The day before yesterday was catastrophic. The day began with news of the killings in Jihad Quarter. According to people who live there, black-clad militiamen drove in mid-morning and opened fire on people in the streets and even in houses. They began pulling people off the street and checking their ID cards to see if they had Sunni names or Shia names and then the Sunnis were driven away and killed. Some were executed right there in the area. The media is playing it down and claiming 37 dead but the people in the area say the number is nearer 60.. . .
At nearly 2 pm, we received some terrible news. We lost a good friend in the killings. T. was a 26-year-old civil engineer who worked with a group of friends in a consultancy bureau in Jadriya. The last time I saw him was a week ago. He had stopped by the house to tell us his sister was engaged and he'd brought along with him pictures of latest project he was working on- a half-collapsed school building outside of Baghdad.
He usually left the house at 7 am to avoid the morning traffic jams and the heat. Yesterday, he decided to stay at home because he'd promised his mother he would bring Abu Kamal by the house to fix the generator which had suddenly died on them the night before. His parents say that T. was making his way out of the area on foot when the attack occurred and he got two bullets to the head. His brother could only identify him by the blood-stained t-shirt he was wearing. . .
It's like Baghdad is no longer one city, it's a dozen different smaller cities each infected with its own form of violence. It's gotten so that I dread sleeping because the morning always brings so much bad news. The television shows the images and the radio stations broadcast it. The newspapers show images of corpses and angry words jump out at you from their pages. . .
The pity I once had for foreign troops in Iraq is gone. It's been eradicated by the atrocities in Abu Ghraib, the deaths in Haditha and the latest news of rapes and killings. I look at them in their armored vehicles and to be honest - I can't bring myself to care whether they are 19 or 39. I can't bring myself to care if they make it back home alive. I can't bring myself to care anymore about the wife or parents or children they left behind. I can't bring myself to care because it's difficult to see beyond the horrors. I look at them and wonder just how many innocents they killed and how many more they'll kill before they go home. How many more young Iraqi girls will they rape?
Why don't the Americans just go home? They've done enough damage and we hear talk of how things will fall apart in Iraq if they 'cut and run', but the fact is that they aren't doing anything right now. How much worse can it get? People are being killed in the streets and in their own homes- what's being done about it? Nothing. It's convenient for them- Iraqis can kill each other and they can sit by and watch the bloodshed- unless they want to join in with murder and rape.
Buses, planes and taxis leaving the country for Syria and Jordan are booked solid until the end of the summer. People are picking up and leaving en masse and most of them are planning to remain outside of the country. Life here has become unbearable because it's no longer a 'life' like people live abroad. It's simply a matter of survival, making it from one day to the next in one piece and coping with the loss of loved ones and friends- friends like T.
It's difficult to believe T. is really gone. . . I was checking my email today and I saw three unopened emails from him in my inbox. For one wild, heart-stopping moment I thought he was alive. T. was alive and it was all some horrific mistake! I let myself ride the wave of giddy disbelief for a few precious seconds before I came crashing down as my eyes caught the date on the emails- he had sent them the night before he was killed. One email was a collection of jokes, the other was an assortment of cat pictures, and the third was a poem in Arabic about Iraq under American occupation. He had highlighted a few lines describing the beauty of Baghdad in spite of the war. . . And while I always thought Baghdad was one of the more marvelous cities in the world, I'm finding it very difficult this moment to see any beauty in a city stained with the blood of T. and so many other innocents
SCIENCE EXPLAINS THE IRAQI FIASCO
NEW SCIENTIST - Overconfident people are more likely to wage war but fare worse in the ensuing battles, a new study suggests. The research on how people approach a computer war game backs up a theory that "positive illusions" may contribute to costly conflicts.
"It supplies critically needed experimental support for the idea that positive attitude - which is generally a [beneficial] feature of human behavior - may lead to overconfidence and [damaging] behavior in the case of war," comments Peter Turchin of the University of Connecticut, US. . .
Men tended to be more overconfident than women. But the study found nothing to back up the popular idea that high testosterone causes confidence and aggression. Saliva tests showed that, within each gender group, testosterone level did not correlate with how participants expected to perform in the game.
Those who launched unprovoked attacks also exhibited more narcissism, scoring 13 out of 15 on a standard psychological test. More peaceful types scored 11 on average on the same test. The trend applied to both men and women. "So it's not maleness per se but narcissism that makes some people overly optimistic and aggressive," suggests Bertram Malle at the University of Oregon in Eugene, US. . .
Malle agrees that the study raises worrying questions about real-world political leaders. "Perhaps most disconcerting is that today's leaders are above-average in narcissism," he notes, referring to an analysis of 377 leaders published in King of the Mountain: The Nature Of Political Leadership by Arnold Ludwig.
NUREMBURG PROSECUTOR: PRIMA FACIE CASE THAT U.S. IS "GUILTY OF THE SUPREME CRIME AGAINST HUMANITY, THAT BEING AN ILLEGAL WAR."
JAN FREL, ALTERNET - Benjamin Ferenccz, a former chief prosecutor of the Nuremberg Trials successfully convicted 22 Nazi officers for their work in orchestrating death squads that killed more than one million people in the famous Einsatzgruppen Case. Ferencz, now 87, has gone on to become a founding father of the basis behind international law regarding war crimes, and his essays and legal work drawing from the Nuremberg trials and later the commission that established the International Criminal Court remain a lasting influence in that realm
Ferencz believes that a "prima facie case can be made that the United States is guilty of the supreme crime against humanity, that being an illegal war of aggression against a sovereign nation."
Interviewed from his home in New York, Ferencz laid out a simple summary of the case:
"The United Nations charter has a provision which was agreed to by the United States formulated by the United States in fact, after World War II. Its says that from now on, no nation can use armed force without the permission of the U.N. Security Council. They can use force in connection with self-defense, but a country can't use force in anticipation of self-defense. Regarding Iraq, the last Security Council resolution essentially said, 'Look, send the weapons inspectors out to Iraq, have them come back and tell us what they've found -- then we'll figure out what we're going to do. The U.S. was impatient, and decided to invade Iraq -- which was all pre-arranged of course. So, the United States went to war, in violation of the charter."
CUT AND RUN HALL OF FAME: EISENHOWER, REAGAN, BUSH I
THOMAS MICHAEL HOLMES, HISTORY NEWS NETWORK - Did Dwight D. Eisenhower "cut and run" in Korea in 1953? It was Ike who told the nation that if he were elected he would go to Korea and, by implication, end the war. It is generally conceded that Eisenhower did the responsible thing when he quickly completed the truce negotiations that ended the fighting.
Would Harry Truman have been accused of "cut and run" in September 1950, three months after the initial invasion of South Korea, had he accepted the status quo ante bellum following the rout of the overextended North Korean forces at the 38th parallel? Instead, Truman followed the advice of General Douglas MacArthur and elected to "liberate" North Korea. As the United Nations forces approached the border of the People's Republic of China at the Yalu River, communist China entered the war and almost drove the UN forces off the southern tip of the Korean peninsula.
Had Truman been willing to "cut and run," tens of thousands of American lives might have been saved and North Korea might not have been condemned to the isolation it has experienced ever since. In the end, the war lasted for another three years. America sent 1.8 million of our own into the fray: 54,200 were killed, 103,300 were wounded and 8,200 were listed as missing in action. We ended up at the 38th parallel, right where we were in September 1950 -- and where we remain today.
Did Richard Nixon "cut and run" in Vietnam? Who can forget the pictures showing Americans being evacuated by helicopter in 1975 as we left those Vietnamese who had depended upon us to the tender mercies of the North Vietnamese communists? They might feel, with some justification, that America had "cut and run."
Yet in retrospect, it appears that the responsible thing for Nixon to have done in 1969, when he first entered the White House, would have been to follow the example of President Eisenhower and pull the plug on the Vietnam War. It is worth remembering that almost half the 58,000 Americans killed in Vietnam died during Nixon's presidency.
The real mistake during what we call the Vietnam War was Lyndon Johnson's, when he escalated the war after the bogus Tonkin Gulf Resolution. . .
Did Ronald Reagan "cut and run" in 1983 after 241 American servicemen died in Beirut in the suicide bombing of the Marine barracks? Some would say that it wasn't the fact that Reagan pulled the American troops out of Lebanon that was the mistake; the real mistake was the fact that those Americans were put into an untenable position in the first place.
Did President George Herbert Walker Bush "cut and run" after the coalition's qualified victory in the First Gulf War in 1991? The Shiites of southern Iraq might say so. The elder Bush not only pulled out of Iraq, but on the way out he invited the Shiites to overthrow their repressive dictator, Saddam Hussein. Then, when they attempted to do so, American forces stood by and watched while Saddam's army ripped the Shiites to shreds.
It's ironic that the elder Bush, the current president's father, would later explain that he didn't intervene because he didn't want the U.S. to become bogged down in an Iraqi civil war. . .
Charges of "cut and run" have been leveled over the years by politicians on both sides of the aisle. Upon closer examination, it turns out to be a blunt rhetorical instrument that tends to obscure, rather than illuminate, difficult decisions in complex situations.
LE MONDE: HOW ZARQAWI WON
The elimination of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, killed June 7 in a U.S. Air Force raid near Baghdad, is a victory for the United States, engaged since September 2001 in a "war against terrorism," and since March 2003, in a war in Iraq. It's also a victory for the Iraqi government and security services, for Zarqawi was their enemy. Finally, it's a victory for a crushing majority of the Iraqi people since, whether they are pro or anti-American, they were the al-Qaeda leader's first victims.
That victory must, nonetheless, not hide the reality: the victor up to now in this war is Zarqawi himself. Before disappearing, the Jordanian jihadist had, in less than three years, won his main wagers.
Zarqawi promised an international rout: by attacking U.N. headquarters in Baghdad he succeeded in making United Nations' agencies, NGOs and businessmen flee Iraq.
Zarqawi promised a ruthless war against the American Army. Even if his participation from a military point of view was undoubtedly less decisive than he claimed - most operations being conducted by Iraqi rebels, ex-Saddamists, Islamists or Sunni villagers - the result is there: no American patrol can hope to leave its base in Baghdad or in the Sunni triangle without being harassed, often to deadly effect.
Zarqawi finally and above all - and this is what differentiated him from an Osama bin Laden who is at war with the West and Saudi Arabia - promised blood and tears to the Shiites, to the Kurds, and a civil war in Iraq: this has come to pass.
Certainly, Iraqis have not taken to the streets in their masses, Kalashnikov in hand, to kill their neighbors.
But Sunni and Shiite militias execute daily assassinations, population transfers have begun and a climate of inter-communal mistrust - even hatred - has set Iraq ablaze.
This civil war, emerging since 2004 and more violent since the spring of 2006, is Zarqawi's principal victory. He has imposed on Iraqis, including the Sunni guerrillas, this absolute hatred of Shiites. He has planted a much more disquieting seed for the governments of Washington and Baghdad than the deaths of soldiers and police.
ONE IN THREE IRAQ CHILDREN IS MALNOURISHED
IRIN - One in three Iraqi children is malnourished and underweight, according to a report released by the United Nations Children's Fund in Amman on 2 May. "Under-nutrition should not be accepted in a country like Iraq, with its wealth of resources," said UNICEF Special Representative for Iraq Roger Wright from the Jordanian capital, Amman. Wright added that ongoing insecurity served to deter parents from visiting health centers for essential services, while many health workers had been kidnapped or killed in different parts of the country. . . The problem is particularly dire in the south. . . due primarily to a lack of health funding.