Saturday, July 21, 2007

Thursday, July 12, 2007


The Other War: Iraq Vets Bear Witness, by Chris Hedges and Laila al-Arian, appears in the 30 July issue of The Nation

This Nation investigation marks the first time so many on-the-record, named eyewitnesses from within the US military have been assembled in one place to openly corroborate these assertions....

Veterans said the culture of this counterinsurgency war, in which most Iraqi civilians were assumed to be hostile, made it difficult for soldiers to sympathize with their victims--at least until they returned home and had a chance to reflect.

"I guess while I was there, the general attitude was, A dead Iraqi is just another dead Iraqi," said Spc. Jeff Englehart, 26, of Grand Junction, Colorado. Specialist Englehart served with the Third Brigade, First Infantry Division, in Baquba, about thirty-five miles northeast of Baghdad, for a year beginning in February 2004. "You know, so what?... The soldiers honestly thought we were trying to help the people and they were mad because it was almost like a betrayal. Like here we are trying to help you, here I am, you know, thousands of miles away from home and my family, and I have to be here for a year and work every day on these missions. Well, we're trying to help you and you just turn around and try to kill us." He said it was only "when they get home, in dealing with veteran issues and meeting other veterans, it seems like the guilt really takes place, takes root, then."

The Iraq War is a vast and complicated enterprise. In this investigation of alleged military misconduct, The Nation focused on a few key elements of the occupation, asking veterans to explain in detail their experiences operating patrols and supply convoys, setting up checkpoints, conducting raids and arresting suspects. From these collected snapshots a common theme emerged. Fighting in densely populated urban areas has led to the indiscriminate use of force and the deaths at the hands of occupation troops of thousands of innocents.
These attitudes reflect the limited contact occupation troops said they had with Iraqis. They rarely saw their enemy. They lived bottled up in heavily fortified compounds that often came under mortar attack. They only ventured outside their compounds ready for combat. The mounting frustration of fighting an elusive enemy and the devastating effect of roadside bombs, with their steady toll of American dead and wounded, led many troops to declare an open war on all Iraqis.

Veterans described reckless firing once they left their compounds. Some shot holes into cans of gasoline being sold along the roadside and then tossed grenades into the pools of gas to set them ablaze. Others opened fire on children. These shootings often enraged Iraqi witnesses.
In June 2003 Staff Sgt. Camilo Mejía's unit was pressed by a furious crowd in Ramadi. Sergeant Mejía, 31, a National Guardsman from Miami, served for six months beginning in April 2003 with the 1-124 Infantry Battalion, Fifty-Third Infantry Brigade. His squad opened fire on an Iraqi youth holding a grenade, riddling his body with bullets. Sergeant Mejía checked his clip afterward and calculated that he had personally fired eleven rounds into the young man.
"The frustration that resulted from our inability to get back at those who were attacking us led to tactics that seemed designed simply to punish the local population that was supporting them," Sergeant Mejía said.

We heard a few reports, in one case corroborated by photo­graphs, that some soldiers had so lost their moral compass that they'd mocked or desecrated Iraqi corpses (and one example shared was)....witnessed by the dead man's brothers and cousins.

In the sections that follow, snipers, medics, military police, artillerymen, officers and others recount their experiences serving in places as diverse as Mosul in the north, Samarra in the Sunni Triangle, Nasiriya in the south and Baghdad in the center, during 2003, 2004 and 2005. Their stories capture the impact of their units on Iraqi civilians.

Nineteen interviews were conducted in person, while the rest were done over the phone; all were tape-recorded and transcribed; all but five interviewees (most of those currently on active duty) were independently contacted by fact checkers to confirm basic facts about their service in Iraq. Of those interviewed, fourteen served in Iraq from 2003 to 2004, twenty from 2004 to 2005 and two from 2005 to 2006. Of the eleven veterans whose tours lasted less than one year, nine served in 2003, while the others served in 2004 and 2005.

The ranks of the veterans we interviewed ranged from private to captain, though only a handful were officers. The veterans served throughout Iraq, but mostly in the country's most volatile areas, such as Baghdad, Tikrit, Mosul, Falluja and Samarra.

During the course of the interview process, five veterans turned over photographs from Iraq, some of them graphic, to corroborate their claims.


July 12, 2007
By Bob Woodward, Washington Post Staff Writer

President Bush appeared before the Iraq Study Group Panel in 2006. Bush was joined in the interview by Vice President Cheney, White House Chief of Staff Joshua B. Bolten and Hadley, but they did not speak. "We thought with that whole group there, we were going to get briefings, we were going to get discussions," said Perry. "Instead the president held forth on his views on how important the war was, and how it was tough."

In his meeting with members of the study group, Hayden described a situation in which the Iraqi government either would not or could not control the violence consuming the country and questioned whether it made sense to strengthen its security forces. He depicted the United States as facing mainly bad choices in the future.

"Our leaving Iraq would make the situation worse," Hayden said. "Our staying in Iraq may not make it better. Our current approach without modification will not make it better."
According to the written record and others in the room, Hayden at one point likened the situation in Iraq to a marathon. He said there comes a point in each race when the runner knows he can complete the challenge. But Hayden said he could see no such point in Iraq's future. "The levers of power are not connected to anything," he said, adding: "We have placed all of our energies in creating the center, and the center cannot accomplish anything."
Numerous U.S. generals already had told the study group that success in Iraq could not come without national reconciliation between the Sunnis and Shiites. Hayden agreed, saying: "The Iraqi identity is muted. The Sunni or Shia identity is foremost." But he clearly saw no end to sectarian killings. "Given the level of uncontrolled violence," Hayden said, "the most we can do is to contain its excesses and preserve the possibility of reconciliation in the future."
He compared the Iraq situation to the prolonged warfare in the Balkans. "In Bosnia, the parties fought themselves to exhaustion," Hayden said, suggesting that the same scenario could play out in Iraq. "They might just have to fight this out to exhaustion."
Hayden catalogued what he saw as the main sources of violence in this order: the insurgency, sectarian strife, criminality, general anarchy and, lastly, al-Qaeda. Though Hayden had listed al-Qaeda as the fifth most pressing threat in Iraq, Bush regularly lists al-Qaeda first.

Members of the study group said Hayden's stark assessment of the Iraqi government dovetailed with what they had heard in September during their visit to Iraq. There, they met with a senior CIA official who held an equally unenthusiastic view. "Maliki was nobody's pick," the CIA official had said, according to written notes from that meeting. "His name came up late. He has no real power base in the country or in parliament. We need not expect much from him."

Given the constant threats and persistent violence, the official had said, it was remarkable that Iraqi government employees showed up for work.

"We continue to be amazed that the Iraqis accept such high levels of violence," he told the study group. "Maliki thinks two car bombs a day, 100 dead a day, is okay. It's sustainable and his government is survivable."

....Hayden's frustration with Maliki provides a context to the administration's continuing efforts to pressure the Iraqi leader into finding a political settlement between Sunni and Shiite factions in Iraq. During one week last month, three senior administration officials visited Baghdad to try to speed up the political process.

In her testimony Nov. 13, Rice recounted her discussions with Maliki in which she bluntly told him the importance of making progress on national unity and reconciliation. Rice said she had told the prime minister, "Pretty soon, you'll all be swinging from lampposts if you don't hang together."

Nov. 13, 2006: A Day of Testimony at the White House Officials who met with the Iraq Study Group on that day in the White House Roosevelt Room.

IRAQ STUDY GROUP AT A GLANCETHE ORIGIN: In March 2006, Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.) asked the U.S. Institute of Peace to coordinate the group, and Congress appropriated funds for its administration.

Sunday, July 8, 2007


click above to hear Colm Wilkinson sing
God on high
Hear my prayer
In my need
You have always been there
He is young
He's afraid
Let him rest
Heaven blessed
Bring him home
Bring him home
Bring him home
He's like the son I might have known
If God had granted me a son.
The summers die
One by one
How soon they fly
On and on
And I am old
And will be gone
Bring him peace
Bring him joy
He is young
He is only a boy
You can take
You can give
Let him be
Let him live
If I die, let me die
Let him live
Bring him home
Bring him home
Bring him home
THE NEW YORK TIMES EDITORIAL: It is time for the United States to leave Iraq, without any more delay than the Pentagon needs to organize an orderly exit.

Like many Americans, we have put off that conclusion, waiting for a sign that President Bush was seriously trying to dig the United States out of the disaster he created by invading Iraq without sufficient cause, in the face of global opposition, and without a plan to stabilize the country afterward.
At first, we believed that after destroying Iraq’s government, army, police and economic structures, the United States was obliged to try to accomplish some of the goals Mr. Bush claimed to be pursuing, chiefly building a stable, unified Iraq. When it became clear that the president had neither the vision nor the means to do that, we argued against setting a withdrawal date while there was still some chance to mitigate the chaos that would most likely follow.

While Mr. Bush scorns deadlines, he kept promising breakthroughs — after elections, after a constitution, after sending in thousands more troops. But those milestones came and went without any progress toward a stable, democratic Iraq or a path for withdrawal. It is frighteningly clear that Mr. Bush’s plan is to stay the course as long as he is president and dump the mess on his successor. Whatever his cause was, it is lost.

The political leaders Washington has backed are incapable of putting national interests ahead of sectarian score settling. The security forces Washington has trained behave more like partisan militias. Additional military forces poured into the Baghdad region have failed to change anything.

Continuing to sacrifice the lives and limbs of American soldiers is wrong. The war is sapping the strength of the nation’s alliances and its military forces. It is a dangerous diversion from the life-and-death struggle against terrorists. It is an increasing burden on American taxpayers, and it is a betrayal of a world that needs the wise application of American power and principles.

A majority of Americans reached these conclusions months ago. Even in politically polarized Washington, positions on the war no longer divide entirely on party lines. When Congress returns this week, extricating American troops from the war should be at the top of its agenda.
That conversation must be candid and focused. Americans must be clear that Iraq, and the region around it, could be even bloodier and more chaotic after Americans leave. There could be reprisals against those who worked with American forces, further ethnic cleansing, even genocide. Potentially destabilizing refugee flows could hit Jordan and Syria. Iran and Turkey could be tempted to make power grabs. Perhaps most important, the invasion has created a new stronghold from which terrorist activity could proliferate.

The administration, the Democratic-controlled Congress, the United Nations and America’s allies must try to mitigate those outcomes — and they may fail. But Americans must be equally honest about the fact that keeping troops in Iraq will only make things worse. The nation needs a serious discussion, now, about how to accomplish a withdrawal and meet some of the big challenges that will arise.

The Mechanics of Withdrawal

The United States has about 160,000 troops and millions of tons of military gear inside Iraq. Getting that force out safely will be a formidable challenge. The main road south to Kuwait is notoriously vulnerable to roadside bomb attacks. Soldiers, weapons and vehicles will need to be deployed to secure bases while airlift and sealift operations are organized. Withdrawal routes will have to be guarded. The exit must be everything the invasion was not: based on reality and backed by adequate resources.

The United States should explore using Kurdish territory in the north of Iraq as a secure staging area. Being able to use bases and ports in Turkey would also make withdrawal faster and safer. Turkey has been an inconsistent ally in this war, but like other nations, it should realize that shouldering part of the burden of the aftermath is in its own interest.

Accomplishing all of this in less than six months is probably unrealistic. The political decision should be made, and the target date set, now.

The Fight Against Terrorists

Despite President Bush’s repeated claims, Al Qaeda had no significant foothold in Iraq before the invasion, which gave it new base camps, new recruits and new prestige. This war diverted Pentagon resources from Afghanistan, where the military had a real chance to hunt down Al Qaeda’s leaders. It alienated essential allies in the war against terrorism. It drained the strength and readiness of American troops. And it created a new front where the United States will have to continue to battle terrorist forces and enlist local allies who reject the idea of an Iraq hijacked by international terrorists. The military will need resources and bases to stanch this self- inflicted wound for the foreseeable future.

The Question of Bases

The United States could strike an agreement with the Kurds to create those bases in northeastern Iraq. Or, the Pentagon could use its bases in countries like Kuwait and Qatar, and its large naval presence in the Persian Gulf, as staging points.

There are arguments for, and against, both options. Leaving troops in Iraq might make it too easy — and too tempting — to get drawn back into the civil war and confirm suspicions that Washington’s real goal was to secure permanent bases in Iraq. Mounting attacks from other countries could endanger those nations’ governments.

The White House should make this choice after consultation with Congress and the other countries in the region, whose opinions the Bush administration has essentially ignored. The bottom line: the Pentagon needs enough force to stage effective raids and airstrikes against terrorist forces in Iraq, but not enough to resume large-scale combat.

The Civil War

One of Mr. Bush’s arguments against withdrawal is that it would lead to civil war. That war is raging, right now, and it may take years to burn out. Iraq may fragment into separate Kurdish, Sunni and Shiite republics, and American troops are not going to stop that from happening. It is possible, we suppose, that announcing a firm withdrawal date might finally focus Iraq’s political leaders and neighboring governments on reality. Ideally, it could spur Iraqi politicians to take the steps toward national reconciliation that they have endlessly discussed but refused to act on.
But it is foolish to count on that, as some Democratic proponents of withdrawal have done. The administration should use whatever leverage it gains from withdrawing to press its allies and Iraq’s neighbors to help achieve a negotiated solution.

Iraq’s leaders — knowing that they can no longer rely on the Americans to guarantee their survival — might be more open to compromise, perhaps to a Bosnian-style partition, with economic resources fairly shared but with millions of Iraqis forced to relocate. That would be better than the slow-motion ethnic and religious cleansing that has contributed to driving one in seven Iraqis from their homes.

The United States military cannot solve the problem. Congress and the White House must lead an international attempt at a negotiated outcome. To start, Washington must turn to the United Nations, which Mr. Bush spurned and ridiculed as a preface to war.

The Human Crisis

There are already nearly two million Iraqi refugees, mostly in Syria and Jordan, and nearly two million more Iraqis who have been displaced within their country. Without the active cooperation of all six countries bordering Iraq — Turkey, Iran, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Syria — and the help of other nations, this disaster could get worse. Beyond the suffering, massive flows of refugees — some with ethnic and political resentments — could spread Iraq’s conflict far beyond Iraq’s borders.

Kuwait and Saudi Arabia must share the burden of hosting refugees. Jordan and Syria, now nearly overwhelmed with refugees, need more international help. That, of course, means money. The nations of Europe and Asia have a stake and should contribute. The United States will have to pay a large share of the costs, but should also lead international efforts, perhaps a donors’ conference, to raise money for the refugee crisis.

Washington also has to mend fences with allies. There are new governments in Britain, France and Germany that did not participate in the fight over starting this war and are eager to get beyond it. But that will still require a measure of humility and a commitment to multilateral action that this administration has never shown. And, however angry they were with President Bush for creating this mess, those nations should see that they cannot walk away from the consequences. To put it baldly, terrorism and oil make it impossible to ignore.

The United States has the greatest responsibilities, including the admission of many more refugees for permanent resettlement. The most compelling obligation is to the tens of thousands of Iraqis of courage and good will — translators, embassy employees, reconstruction workers — whose lives will be in danger because they believed the promises and cooperated with the Americans.

The Neighbors

One of the trickiest tasks will be avoiding excessive meddling in Iraq by its neighbors — America’s friends as well as its adversaries. Just as Iran should come under international pressure to allow Shiites in southern Iraq to develop their own independent future, Washington must help persuade Sunni powers like Syria not to intervene on behalf of Sunni Iraqis. Turkey must be kept from sending troops into Kurdish territories.

For this effort to have any remote chance, Mr. Bush must drop his resistance to talking with both Iran and Syria. Britain, France, Russia, China and other nations with influence have a responsibility to help. Civil war in Iraq is a threat to everyone, especially if it spills across Iraq’s borders.

Pray for peace.

Saturday, July 7, 2007


UPDATE: The number has now risen to 150...

By YAHYA BARZANJI, Associated Press Writer
TUZ KHORMATO, Iraq (AP) - A string of suicide bombings killed at least 73 people and wounded dozens in Shiite villages north of Baghdad, including a large truck bombing Saturday that ripped through an outdoor market and buried victims in rubble, officials said. The quick succession of blasts within hours of each other suggested that Sunni militants are regrouping to launch their deadliest form of attack - suicide explosions, often against Shiites - in regions further away from Baghdad, beyond the edges of a three-week old U.S. offensive on the capital's northern flank.
The U.S. military on Saturday also reported that six American service members were killed in fighting in Baghdad and western Anbar province over two days, reflecting the increased U.S. death toll that has come with the new offensives.
Saturday's blast, at around 8:30 a.m., destroyed several mud homes in the village of Armili, and victims had to be transported in farmers' pickup trucks to the nearest health facility, in Tuz Khormato, 27 miles to the north, said Capt. Soran Ali of the Tuz Khormato police. Police said one man fled the truck before it detonated with another man still inside. Saleh Ali, a medic at Tuz Khormato hospital, said 25 dead and 100 wounded were brought to the facility. Residents of the village said more victims remained trapped under destroyed houses and shops, and doctors said many of the wounded were in critical condition, meaning the toll could rise. ``Some are still under the rubble with no one to help them. There are no ambulances to evacuate the victims,'' said Haitham Hadad, a resident who evacuated his wounded cousin in his car to Tuz Khormato hospital. Dozens of weeping relatives of victims crowded the hospital, searching for loved ones.
``I saw destruction everywhere, dozens of cars destroyed, about 15 shops and many houses, even some more than 700 meters (yards) away,'' said Haitham Yalman, whose daughter and sister were wounded.
The village, 100 miles north of Baghdad is mainly made up of Shiite Turkomen, an ethnic minority that is spread across north-central Iraq, though most of its members are Sunni Muslim.
The night before, a suicide bomber detonated a boobytrapped car at around 9:30 pm outside a cafe near a market stocking Iranian goods in the Shiite Kurdish village of Ahmad Marif, killing 26 and wounding 33, said an official at the joint security coordination committee of Diyala province, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
The village - 85 miles northeast of Baghdad in a remote corner of Diyala province - is home to about 30 Kurdish families who had been expelled under Saddam Hussein's rule and returned after his fall. Many Kurds in the area are Shiite Muslims.
A half hour after that blast, a suicide bomber detonated an explosives belt in a funeral tent in another Shiite Kurdish village, Zargosh, west of Ahmad Marif. The blast killed 22 people and wounded 17 others, said the head of Diyala provincial council, Ibrahim Bajilan, and a police official in the provincial capital of Baqouba, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.

The new back-to-back bombings could mean the militants have moved a step away from the capital, but still are able to unleash attacks in a region where Iraqi and American security forces are far lighter. ``Because of the recent American military operations, terrorists found a good hideout in Salahuddin province, especially in the outskirts areas in which there isn't enough number of military forces there,'' said Ahmed al-Jubouri, an aide of the province's governor.
Armili, the village hit Saturday morning, is on the edge of Salahuddin province, near the border with Diyala.
The U.S. military on Saturday announced the deaths of six U.S. service members in combat, most in the Baghdad area. Two soldiers died Friday when a roadside bomb exploded near their patrol in east Baghdad, the military said. A U.S. soldier and an Iraqi interpreter were killed Friday when an explosively formed penetrator exploded near their patrol in southeastern Baghdad. Explosively formed penetrators are high-tech bombs that the U.S. believes are provided by Iran, a charge denied by Tehran.
On Thursday, two Marines were killed in western Anbar province and a soldier died in Baghdad, the latest military statement said. Another soldier died Friday of a non-battle-related cause and his death is under investigation, the military said without giving further details. The deaths bring to 3,599 the number of members of the U.S. military who have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.
While violence has continued elsewhere, attacks on civilians - particularly car bombings - appear to have eased somewhat in Baghdad in recent weeks, and residents in some districts have felt safe enough to keep shops open later. By midafternoon Saturday, there had been no police reports of civilian deaths in the city.
In the far south of Iraq, British troops came under heavy attack by militants in Basra, killing one soldier and wounding three, the British military said Saturday. The troops were hit by bombs, rocket-propelled grenades and small arms during an arrest operation in the city before dawn, the military said in a statement. Coalition aircraft destroyed roadside bombs as the British soldiers were extracted from the city, it said.
Britain has withdrawn hundreds of troops from Iraq, leaving a force of around 5,500 based mainly on the fringes of Basra, Iraq's second-largest city, 340 miles southeast of Baghdad. British bases come under frequent mortar attacks from Shiite militias. The U.S. currently has about 155,000 troops in Iraq.


by Tom Engelhardt
Iraq by the Numbers: Surging Past the Gates of Hell

Sometimes, numbers can strip human beings of just about everything that makes us what we are. Numbers can silence pain, erase love, obliterate emotion, and blur individuality. But sometimes numbers can also tell a necessary story in ways nothing else can.

-Since (January)...., 28,500 new American troops have surged into that country, mostly in and around Baghdad
-Number of American troops in Iraq, June 2007: Approximately 156,000.
-Number of American troops in Iraq, May 1, 2003, Approximately 130,000.
-Number of Sunni insurgents in Iraq, May 2007: At least 100,000, according to Asia Times correspondent Pepe Escobar on his most recent visit to the country.
-American military dead in the surge months, February 1–June 26, 2007: 481.
-American military dead, February–June 2006: 292.
-Number of contractors killed in the first three months of 2007: At least 146.
-Number of armed "private contractors" now in Iraq: at least 20,000–30,000, according to the Washington Post. (Jeremy Scahill, author of the bestseller Blackwater, puts the figure for all private contractors in Iraq at 126,000.)
-Number of attacks on U.S. troops and allied Iraqi forces, April 2007: 4,900.
-Percentage of U.S. deaths from roadside bombs (IEDs): 70.9% in May 2007; 35% in February 2007 as the surge was beginning.
-Percentage of registered U.S. supply convoys (guarded by private contractors) attacked: 14.7% in 2007 (through May 10); 9.1% in 2006; 5.4% in 2005.
-Percentage of Baghdad not controlled by U.S. (and Iraqi) security forces more than four months into the surge: 60%, according to the U.S. military.
-Number of attacks on the Green Zone, the fortified heart of Baghdad where the new $600 million American embassy is rising and the Iraqi government largely resides: More than 80 between March and the beginning of June, 2007, according to a UN report. (These attacks, by mortar or rocket, from "pacified" Red-Zone Baghdad, are on the rise and now occur nearly daily.)
-Size of U.S. embassy staff in Baghdad: More than 1,000 Americans and 4,000 third-country nationals.
-U.S. air strikes in Iraq during the surge months: Air Force planes are dropping bombs at more than twice the rate of a year ago, according to the Associated Press. "Close support missions" are up 30–40%. And this surge of air power seems, from recent news reports, still to be on the rise. In the early stages of the recent surge operation against the city of Baquba in Diyala province, for instance, Michael R. Gordon of the New York Times reported that "American forces.... fired more than 20 satellite-guided rockets into western Baquba," while Apache helicopters attacked "enemy fighters." ABC News recently reported that the Air Force has brought B-1 bombers in for missions on the outskirts of Baghdad.
-Number of years Gen. Petraeus, commander of the surge operation, predicts that the U.S. will have to be engaged in counterinsurgency operations in Iraq to have hopes of achieving success: 9–10 years. ("In fact, typically, I think historically, counterinsurgency operations have gone at least nine or 10 years.")
-Number of Iraqi police, trained by Americans, who were not on duty as of January 2007, just before the surge plan was put into operation: Approximately 32,000 out of a force of 188,000
-Amount of "reconstruction" money invested in the CIA's key asset in the new Iraq, the Iraqi National Intelligence Service: $3 billion, according to Asia Times correspondent Pepe Escobar.
-Number of Iraqi "Kit Carson scouts" being trained in the just-captured western part of Baquba: More than 100.
-Number of Iraqis who have fled their country since 2003: Estimated to be between 2 million and 2.2 million, or nearly one in ten Iraqis. According to independent reporter Dahr Jamail, at least 50,000 more refugees are fleeing the country every month.
-Number of Iraqi refugees who have been accepted by the United States: Fewer than 500, according to Bob Woodruff of ABC News; 701, according to Agence France Presse. (Under international and congressional pressure, the Bush administration has finally agreed to admit another 7,000 Iraqis by year's end.)
-Number of Iraqis who are now internal refugees in Iraq, largely due to sectarian violence since 2003: At least 1.9 million, according to the UN. (A recent Red Crescent Society report, based on a survey taken in Iraq, indicates that internal refugees have quadrupled since January 2007, and are up eight-fold since June 2006.)
-Percentage of refugees, internal and external, under 12: 55%, according to the President of the Red Crescent Society.
-Percentage of Baghdadi children, 3 to 10, exposed to a major traumatic event in the last two years: 47%, according to a World Health Organization survey of 600 children. 14% of them showed symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. In another study of 1,090 adolescents in Mosul, that figure reached 30%.
-Number of Iraqi doctors who have fled the country since 2003: An estimated 12,000 of the country's 34,000 registered doctors since 2003, according to the Iraqi Medical Association. The Association reports that another 2,000 doctors have been slain in those years.
-Number of Iraqi refugees created since UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon declared a "humanitarian crisis" for Iraq in January 2007: An estimated 250,000.
-Percentage of Iraqis now living on less than $1 a day, according to the UN: 54%.
-Iraq's per-capita annual income: $3,600 in 1980; $860 in 2001 (after a decade of UN sanctions); $530 at the end of 2003, according to Asia Times correspondent Pepe Escobar, who estimates that the number may now have fallen below $400. Unemployment in Iraq is at around 60%.
-Percentage of Iraqis who do not have regular access to clean water: 70%, according to the World Health Organization. (80% "lack effective sanitation.")
-Rate of chronic child malnutrition: 21%, according to the World Health Organization. (Rates of child malnutrition had already nearly doubled by 2004, only 20 months after the U.S. invasion.) -According to UNICEF, "about one in 10 children under five in Iraq are underweight."
-Number of Iraqis held in American prisons in their own country: 17,000 by March 2007, almost 20,000 by May 2007 and surging.
-Number of Iraqis detained in Baquba alone in one week in June in Operation Phantom Thunder: more than 700.
-Average number of Iraqis who died violently each day in 2006: 100 – and this is undoubtedly an underestimate, since not all deaths are reported.
-Number of Iraqis who have died violently (based on the above average) since Ban Ki-Moon declared a "humanitarian crisis" for Iraq in January 2007: 15,000 – again certainly an undercount.
-Number of Iraqis who died during the week of June 17–23, 2007, according to the careful daily tally from media reports offered at the website 763 or an average of 109 media-reported deaths a day. (June 17: 74; June 18: 149; June 19: 169; June 20: 116; June 21: 58; June 22: 122; June 23: 75.)
-Percentage of seriously wounded who don't survive in emergency rooms and intensive-care units, due to lack of drugs, equipment, and staff: Nearly 70%, according to the World Health Organization.
-Number of university professors who have been killed since the invasion of 2003: More than 200, according to the Iraqi Ministry of Higher Education.
-The value of an Iraqi life: A maximum of $2,500 in "consolation" or "solatia" payments made by the American military to Iraqi civilians who died "as a result of U.S. and coalition forces' actions during combat," according to a U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report. These payments imply no legal responsibility for the killings. For rare "extraordinary cases" (and let's not even imagine what these might be), payments of up to $10,000 were approved last year, with the authorization of a division commander.
-The value of an Iraqi car, destroyed by American forces: $2,500 would not be unusual, and conceivably the full value of the car, according to the same GAO report. A former Army judge advocate, who served in Iraq, has commented: "[T]he full market value may be paid for a Toyota run over by a tank in the course of a non-combat related accident, but only $2,500 may be paid for the death of a child shot in the crossfire."

June 28, 2007
Tom Engelhardt [send him mail] is editor of, a project of the Nation Institute. He is the author of several books, including The Last Days of Publishing: A Novel, The End of Victory Culture, and most recently, Mission Unaccomplished (Nation Books), the first collection of Tomdispatch interviews. His new blog is The Notion.

Thursday, July 5, 2007


Arms & Influence by Thomas Ricks

PowerPoint Corrupts the Point Absolutely
Posted by John Holbo (excerpt)
[Army Lt. General David] McKiernan had another, smaller but nagging issue: He couldn’t get Franks to issue clear orders that stated explicitly what he wanted done, how he wanted to do it, and why. Rather, Franks passed along PowerPoint briefing slides that he had shown to Rumsfeld: "It’s quite frustrating the way this works, but the way we do things nowadays is combatant commanders brief their products in PowerPoint up in Washington to OSD and Secretary of Defense…In lieu of an order, or a frag [fragmentary order], or plan, you get a bunch of PowerPoint slides…[T]hat is frustrating, because nobody wants to plan against PowerPoint slides."
That reliance on slides rather than formal written orders seemed to some military professionals to capture the essence of Rumsfeld’s amateurish approach to war planning. "Here may be the clearest manifestation of OSD’s contempt for the accumulated wisdom of the military profession and of the assumption among forward thinkers that technology—above all information technology—has rendered obsolete the conventions traditionally governing the preparation and conduct of war," commented retired Army Col. Andrew Bacevich, a former commander of an armored cavalry regiment. "To imagine that PowerPoint slides can substitute for such means is really the height of recklessness." It was like telling an automobile mechanic to use a manufacturer’s glossy sales brochure to figure out how to repair an engine.


Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov warned on Wednesday that Moscow will have no choice but to install new missile systems in Western Russia if the United States proceeds with plans to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) shield in Central Europe.
Specifically, he said, the return of nuclear-armed missiles to Kaliningrad -- a sliver of Russian territory wedged between Poland and Lithuania -- would be all but inevitable. Talk of missiles, nuclear and otherwise, has become all the rage in Moscow since the United States publicly said it wants a hedge -- as imperfect as U.S. nuclear missile defense technology might be -- against the possibility of a future Iranian ICBM program. Various Russia politicians have promised various Russian responses, but most -- even those in supposedly lofty positions, such as the prime and foreign ministers -- have no influence over state policy. That power rests solely in the hands of President Vladimir Putin, who spent most of his soon-to-be-expired two terms in office consolidating power.
But now there is a second person Russia-watchers should take seriously: Ivanov. Since a November 2005 Cabinet reshuffle, Putin has been field training Ivanov and Dmitry Medvedev, the other first deputy prime minister, as his potential successors. Recently, however, Putin's feelings toward Medvedev have turned sour, and Ivanov has emerged as the clear front-runner. Unlike Medvedev, an economist, Ivanov shares Putin's background in intelligence and served as defense minister before his most recent promotion. As Putin evaluated his two possible replacements, the change in the West's view of Russia figured into this decision. A West more congenial toward Russia might have found itself dealing with Medvedev's natural gas policies; however, a more aggressive West will have to deal with Ivanov's military strategy. Barring missteps or stray bullets, Ivanov is the only serious candidate in the March 2008 Russian presidential election, in which only one vote matters: that of Putin. All that remains for Ivanov to do now -- to put it bluntly -- is not screw up. That seems like a rather short order, but bear in mind that a year ago that was all Medvedev needed to do as well.
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Iraqi Christians endure a hellish life
On April 1 -- Palm Sunday -- after bullets were fired into the Church of the Holy Spirit in Mosul, Iraq, during Mass, the pastor, Father Ragheed Ganni, a Chaldean Catholic, e-mailed friends at The Asia Times:

``We empathize with Christ, who entered Jerusalem in full knowledge that the consequence of His love for mankind was the cross. Thus, while bullets smashed our church windows, we offered our suffering as a sign of love for Christ.'' `Our cross to the very end'

The attacks continued. Ganni wrote again: ``Each day we wait for the decisive attack, but we will not stop celebrating Mass; we will do it underground, where we are safer. I am encouraged in this decision by the strength of my parishioners. This is war, real war, but we hope to carry our cross to the very end with the help of Divine Grace.''

As the bombings in Mosul and Baghdad rose during April and May, and priests were kidnapped, Ganni grew weary. In his last e-mail, May 28, he wrote, ``We are on the verge of collapse.''

A day before, Pentecost Sunday, a bomb exploded in his church, and Ganni seemed dispirited: ``In a sectarian and confessional Iraq, will there be any space for Christians? We have no support, no group who fights for our cause; we are abandoned in the midst of the disaster. Iraq has already been divided. It will never be the same. What is the future of our church?''
Though tempted by despair, Ganni did not give up hope. ``I may be wrong, but I am certain about one thing -- one single fact that is always true: that the Holy Spirit will enlighten people so that they will work for the good of humanity, in this world so full of evil.''

Following Mass on Trinity Sunday, a week after Pentecost, Ganni and three sub-deacons were seized, taken away and murdered. Their killers placed vehicles loaded with explosives around the bodies so no one would dare approach them. The story of ''The Last Mass of Father Ragheed, a Martyr of the Chaldean Church,'' is related by Sandro Magister of www.Chiesa.
Ganni had completed his studies in Rome in 2003, Magister writes, and returned full of hope. ''That is where I belong, that is my place,'' he said of Iraq. ``Saddam has fallen, we have elected a government, we have voted for a constitution.''
Since 2003, a tragedy has befallen the Iraqi Christians. In 2000, Chaldeans, Syro-Catholics, Syro-Orthodox, Assyrians from the East, Catholic and Orthodox Armenians and Greek-Melkites together numbered 1.5 million. Today, perhaps 500,000 remain. Hundreds of thousands have found sanctuary in Syria and Jordan, tens of thousands in Egypt and Lebanon. Among the refugees are many of Iraq's professionals -- doctors and teachers who could have helped build a better future for all in Iraq.
Centuries-old monasteries
The region around Mosul and Nineveh, writes Magister, is the ``cradle of Christianity in Iraq. There are churches and monasteries that go back to the earliest centuries. . . . Aramaic, the language of Jesus, is used in the liturgies.'' As the war has dragged on, life has become hellish for the remaining Christians. Yet they have never resorted to bombings or assassinations.
Ganni is neither the first nor last of the Iraqi martyrs. After Pope Benedict gave his speech in Regensburg, Germany, touching on Islam, Father Paulos Iskander was kidnapped and beheaded in retaliation by the ''Lions of Islam.'' Father Joseph Petros was murdered. A Catholic nun told the Vatican news agency: ``The imams preach in the mosques that it is not a crime to kill Christians. It is a hunting of men.'' In May, St. George's Assyrian Church in the Dora neighborhood, a Christian enclave of Baghdad, was burned down, destroying what had survived a firebombing in 2004. The Assyrian International News Agency (AINA) reports it was the 27th church destroyed by Muslim gangs since the liberation of Iraq.
Misbegotten war
Now the ancient practice of the jizya -- the ''head tax'' that Muslims have traditionally imposed on Christians, Jews and religious minorities -- is being reinstituted. According to AINA, ``Al Qaeda is demanding that Christians pay 250,000 dinars (around $200) for the right to remain in their own homes, a sum equivalent to an average month's salary in Iraq.''
All this, and the news of Ganni's murder, moved Benedict XVI to raise the issue with President Bush. For when Bush left the Vatican, he told reporters: ``He (the pope) is worrisome about the Christians inside Iraq being mistreated by the Muslim majority. . . . He was concerned that the society that was evolving would not tolerate the Christian religion.''
For the martyrdom of Christianity in its birth cradle, blame must fall heavily upon the men who conceived this misbegotten war.
©2007 Creators Syndicate

Wednesday, July 4, 2007


The President's Lawyers protect Rove

"This was a coverup."
When asked about the fact that Libby was not convicted of any underlying crime, Wilson replied, "Al Capone was convicted of tax evasion, but that doesn't mean he wasn't a mobster."

Chris Matthews of MSNBC's Hardball concluded the segment by pointing out that "the president had to act ... or else this guy would have gone to prison."

"This war is immensely hated by most Americans," Matthews continued. "They don't trust the way it was sold to us. And now it will look like one more seal has been closed on us. ... Scooter Libby knows so much ... All this information now goes with Scooter Libby into freedom and one less chance to get the information. You have to make your own conclusions. ...

There's not a journalist in Washington that wouldn't like to have Scooter Libby today under sodium pentathol and find out exactly what happened."

Monday, July 2, 2007


The context here matters a great deal. We're in an extremely tense and dangerous predicament with regard to Iran. Influential political factions in the U.S. -- including high officials in the White House -- have begun expressly calling for a bombing campaign against Iran. Accusations of the type Gordon passed on this morning have the potential, for painfully obvious reasons, to be highly inflammatory in shaping public opinion and enabling the warmongering elements of the administration and its base to "justify" such an attack. Indeed, if the Supreme Leader of Iran is planning and directing fatal attacks on U.S. troops --as Gordon's article alleges -- how many people would object to a military attack against Iran?

Under those circumstances, how can the NYT possibly justify an article of this magnitude, published without an iota of skepticism, doubt, or qualification? This behavior is particularly mystifying in light of the NYT's prior concession of journalistic wrongdoing, in which it castigated itself for uncritically turning over its front page to dubious pro-war claims prior to the invasion of Iraq, including in several articles by Gordon:

But we have found a number of instances of coverage that was not as rigorous as it should have been. In some cases, information that was controversial then, and seems questionable now, was insufficiently qualified or allowed to stand unchallenged. Looking back, we wish we had been more aggressive in re-examining the claims as new evidence emerged -- or failed to emerge.Claiming that the highest levels of the Iranian Government are planning fatal attacks on U.S. troops is the equivalent of pre-war claims that Saddam was developing nuclear weapons and actively working with Al Qaeda. What credibility could the NYT possibly have in claiming to regret so mindlessly passing on the latter when, now, they allow and encourage Gordon to pass along the former with equally slavish mindlessness? "Journalism" of this sort is a true menace, and though it probably shouldn't be, it is still just staggering to watch it spew forth day after day.

UPDATE: It is worth noting here -- though Gordon, of course, does not -- that the now-departed Joint Chiefs Chairman, Gen. Peter Pace, created a revealing controversy several months ago when he "said [] there was no evidence the Iranian government was supplying Iraqi insurgents with highly lethal roadside bombs, apparently contradicting claims by other U.S. military and administration officials." At the time, AP noted that Pace's "remarks might raise questions on the credibility of the claims of high-level Iranian involvement, especially following the faulty U.S. intelligence that was used to justify the invasion of Iraq in 2003."

General Who Uncovered Abu Graib Becomes Casualty

By Seymour Hersch in the New Yorker: (excerpt)

“Here . . . comes . . . that famous General Taguba—of the Taguba report!” Rumsfeld declared, in a mocking voice. The meeting was attended by Paul Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld’s deputy; Stephen Cambone, the Under-Secretary of Defense for Intelligence; General Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (J.C.S.); and General Peter Schoomaker, the Army chief of staff, along with Craddock and other officials. Taguba, describing the moment nearly three years later, said, sadly, “I thought they wanted to know. I assumed they wanted to know. I was ignorant of the setting.”
In the meeting, the officials professed ignorance about Abu Ghraib. “Could you tell us what happened?” Wolfowitz asked. Someone else asked, “Is it abuse or torture?” At that point, Taguba recalled, “I described a naked detainee lying on the wet floor, handcuffed, with an interrogator shoving things up his rectum, and said, ‘That’s not abuse. That’s torture.’ There was quiet.”
Rumsfeld was particularly concerned about how the classified report had become public. “General,” he asked, “who do you think leaked the report?” Taguba responded that perhaps a senior military leader who knew about the investigation had done so. “It was just my speculation,” he recalled. “Rumsfeld didn’t say anything.” (I did not meet Taguba until mid-2006 and obtained his report elsewhere.) Rumsfeld also complained about not being given the information he needed. “Here I am,” Taguba recalled Rumsfeld saying, “just a Secretary of Defense, and we have not seen a copy of your report. I have not seen the photographs, and I have to testify to Congress tomorrow and talk about this.” As Rumsfeld spoke, Taguba said, “He’s looking at me. It was a statement.”

Sunday, July 1, 2007


BAGHDAD, July 1 (Xinhua) -- A major Sunni political party on Sunday criticized the ongoing U.S.-Iraqi military operation in the province of Diyala northeast of Baghdad for heavy civilian casualties caused by it.The Iraqi Islamic Party, headed by Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi, accused the U.S. troops and the Iraqi government of conducting "collective punishment" against residents of the city of Baquba, the capital of Diyala province.The party said in a statement that the U.S. forces and aircraft bombed several neighborhoods in western Baquba, causing more than 350 people dead, whose bodies are still under the debris. Calling for a halt to the "massacre," the party highlighted the necessity to "distinguish between gunmen and innocent civilians."


"The current Iraq strategy is exactly what Al Qaeda wants—the United States distracted and pinned down by Iraq’s internal conflicts and trapped in a quagmire that has become the perfect rallying cry and recruitment tool for Al Qaeda," according to a new report released Monday by the Center for American Progress.
The report's authors, Brian Katulis, Lawrence J. Korb, and Peter Juul, warn that, "The fundamental premise of Bush’s surge strategy—that Iraq’s leaders will make key decisions to advance their country’s political transition and national reconciliation—is at best misguided and clearly unworkable. Neither U.S. troops in and around Baghdad nor diplomats in the Green Zone can force Iraqi leaders to hold their country together."
The most radical suggestion of the report concerns a recommendation that the US cease arming and training Iraqi security forces--at least until Maliki's government has reached consensus on outstanding political matters.
The Iraqi security forces have been plagued by the infiltration of militia groups, and implicated in sectarian violence, leading the report to conclude:
Spending billions to arm Iraq’s security forces without political consensus among Iraq’s leaders carries significant risks—the largest of which is arming faction-ridden national Iraqi units before a unified national government exists that these armed forces will loyally support. Training and equipping Iraqi security forces risks making Iraq’s civil war even bloodier and more vicious than it already is today. It also increases the dangers that these weapons will one day be turned against the United States and its allies in the region.
Rather than relying solely on the central government, the US initiative should "build on the efforts of the Bush administration to put more emphasis on provincial and local leadership."

Also see: INTERNATIONAL CRISIS GROUP REPORT which describes mismanagement of Basra militarily and says that Iraq is a failed state:

....What progress has occurred cannot conceal the most glaring failing of all: the inability to establish a legitimate and functioning provincial apparatus capable of redistributing resources, imposing respect for the rule of law and ensuring a peaceful transition at the local level. Basra’s political arena remains in the hands of actors engaged in bloody competition for resources, undermining what is left of governorate institutions and coercively enforcing their rule. The local population has no choice but to seek protection from one of the dominant camps. Periods of stability do not reflect greater governing authority so much as they do a momentary – and fragile – balance of interests or of terror between rival militias. Inevitably, conflicts re-emerge and even apparently minor incidents can set off a cycle of retaliatory violence. A political process designed to pacify competition and ensure the non-violent allocation of goods and power has become a source of intense and often brutal struggle.

Basra is a case study of Iraq’s multiple and multiplying forms of violence. These often have little to do with sectarianism or anti-occupation resistance. Instead, they involve the systematic misuse of official institutions, political assassinations, tribal vendettas, neighbourhood vigilantism and enforcement of social mores, together with the rise of criminal mafias that increasingly intermingle with political actors. Should other causes of strife – sectarian violence and the fight against coalition forces – recede, the concern must still be that Basra's fate will be replicated throughout the country on a larger, more chaotic and more dangerous scale. The lessons are clear. Iraq’s violence is multifaceted, and sectarianism is only one of its sources. It follows that the country’s division along supposedly inherent and homogenous confessional and ethnic lines is not an answer. It follows, too, that rebuilding the state, tackling militias and imposing the rule of law cannot be done without confronting the parties that currently dominate the political process and forging a new and far more inclusive political compact.

Iraq is in the midst of a civil war. But before and beyond that, Iraq has become a failed state – a country whose institutions and, with them, any semblance of national cohesion, have been obliterated. That is what has made the violence – all the violence: sectarian, anti-coalition, political, criminal and otherwise – both possible and, for many, necessary. Resolving the confrontation between Sunni Arabs, Shiites and Kurds is one priority. But rebuilding a functioning and legitimate state is another – no less urgent, no less important and no less daunting.

Saturday, June 30, 2007


The following is a translation of (an) making the rounds among residents of Baghdad and on Iraqi Web forums. The sarcastic email, which was written in Iraqi slang, attempts to classify the districts of Baghdad based on their level of danger. According to the author, the safest neighborhoods are the ones where the odds of staying alive are 50%:

The situation in different areas of Baghdad in regard to takfiri gangs of the new age: Al-Qaeda, the Mahdi Army, and their spiritual leaders – the forces of liberation falls into four different categories: safe, relatively safe, dangerous, and relatively dangerous. They are classified as follows:

A safe area: where the probability of you staying alive is 50%. -

A relatively safe: where the probability of you staying alive is 40%.-

A relatively dangerous area: where the probability of you staying alive is 30%.-

A dangerous area: where the probability of you staying alive is 20 to 10%.

Here we go:- The Bayya’ garage, the periphery of Bayya’: No one can ever reach them because the Mahdi Army is randomly abducting people and killing them for what they say is in retaliation for the husseiniya bombing a week ago. -

Shu’la: No one can reach it. - Thawra (Sadr City): No one can reach it.- Sha’ab: No one can reach it.- Amil: No one can reach it. - Jami’a and Khadhraa’: No one can reach them because Al-Qaeda fled Amiriya and Yarmouk and took refuge there. - Mishahda north of Baghdad: No one can reach it because of the presence of gangs that collectively burn people alive. -

Jadiriya is relatively safe. - Karrada is relatively safe. - Mansour is relatively safe. - Harthiya is safe (because of the presence of Kurdish militias). - Yarmouk is relatively safe. - Amiriya is dangerous. - Adhamiya is relatively dangerous (in some parts of it) but there are constant clashes.- Kadhimiya is safe. - Grai’at is relatively dangerous. - Utaifiya is safe. - Haifa Street is relatively dangerous. - The highway that connects Amiriya with the Baghdad gate is relatively dangerous. - Ghazaliya is relatively dangerous because of clashes.- Iskan is safe. - Alawi is relatively dangerous. - The Suq Al-Arabi area is relatively safe. -

Dora is not under the authority of the Republic of Iraq. It is currently an Islamic emirate complete with its own Islamic departments and ministers. Islamic CDs have been distributed to residents to explain the laws of the emirate. -

Saidiya is dangerous.- Camp is relatively safe. - Baladiyyat is safe. - Jisr Diyala is dangerous. - Arasat is safe.- Masbah is safe. - Baghdad Al-Jedida is relatively safe. - Jezirat Baghdad is dangerous. - Abu Ghraib is relatively dangerous. - Mashtal is relatively safe. - Qadisiya is safe. - Hurriya is dangerous. - Dola’i is dangerous. - Adil is dangerous. - Zayouna is safe. - Washash is relatively dangerous. - Bab Al-Sharji is relatively dangerous. - Sa’doun Street is relatively dangerous. - Waziriya is relatively safe. - The Mohammed Al-Qassim highway is relatively safe. - Bab Al-Mu’adham is dangerous. - Fadhl is dangerous. - The Baghdad International Airport highway is relatively safe. - Hutteen or Qudhat is relatively safe.- Ma’moun is relatively safe. - The Dora intersection is dangerous. - Abu Nuwas Street is safe. -

The Baghdad-Ba’quba road is bloody dangerous. - The Green Zone is safe, and sometimes it is dangerous.

I apologize if I left out any areas of our beloved Baghdad but I’m writing and racing with electricity at the same time.

As to Iraqi governorates:- The north of Iraq is safe, except the Ninewa governorate, which is dangerous. - The northern center governorates are relatively dangerous. - The southern center governorates are relatively dangerous. - The governorates of the south are safe, except for Diwaniya and Basrah, which are relatively dangerous. - The west is relatively safe, except for the western highway , which is dangerous sometimes. - The governorates of the east are all dangerous.