Sunday, July 23, 2006

And the war drags on . . .

The AP reports that "bombs" in Baghdad and Kirkuk today have already claimed the lives of "more than 60 people." On the Kirkuk bombing, BBC adds this: "In addition to the 20 who died, at least 92 people were wounded in the blast."Or how about this bit of news from Friday:
"Iraq as a political project is finished," a top government official told Reuters -- anonymously because the coalition of Shi'ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki remains committed in public to a U.S.-sponsored constitution preserving Iraq's unity.
"But the Iraqis want us there!" whine the uninformed. Iraqis have wanted us out for some time -- not surprising in an occupation, illegal or otherwise -- and anyone who's bothered to follow the polling or the events would have grasped that some time ago. But could it get any more clearer than Al Jazeera's Saturday report:
US forces have committed butchery in Iraq and should leave, the speaker of the country's parliament has said.
Mahmoud al-Mashhadani was speaking on Saturday at a UN-sponsored conference on transitional justice and reconciliation in Baghdad.
"Just get your hands off Iraq and the Iraqi people and Muslim countries, and everything will be all right," he said in a speech as the conference opened.
Still supporting the tragedy of the illegal war? Check out Australia's ABC:
A new report by US pressure group Human Rights Watch says American forces in Iraq continued to torture and abuse detainees after the Abu Ghraib prison scandal in 2004.The report flies in the face of claims by the US Defence Department that abuse of detainees was the work of a few bad apples acting on their own initiative.Human Rights Watch senior researcher John Sifton says the the findings are the result of direct testimony from three former US soldiers about prisoners in American custody in Iraq between 2003 and 2005.

The above is from The Third Estate Sunday Review's "Editorial: Bully Boy's Wars" this morning. As the AFP reports, the bombings (AFP puts the death toll at 63) come "just one day after the government launched national reconciliation talks."

Olive notes this news from Reuters via Austraila's ABC:

The US military has cleared a soldier of unlawfully killing an Iraqi civilian after investigators concluded Specialist Nathan Lynn had reason to believe the man was carrying a gun when he opened fire.
[. . .]
The conspiracy charge, that Specialist Lynn knew that others placed an AK-47 rifle next to Mr Zaben's body to justify the shooting, has also been dropped on the grounds that there is no proof he was aware of this.
A second soldier, Sergeant Milton Ortiz, is waiting for a decision on whether he will face a court martial on this charge.
Ortiz is also charged with a separate offence on March 8 of threatening an Iraqi with a weapon.

Now we're going to drop back to events closer to the beginning of July with a piece that's resulted in a number of calls (and will probably be noted by a visitor in an e-mail to the public account who feels the LA Times doesn't get enough play at this site). From Borzou Daragahi's
"Death's at the Door in Iraq: The massacre in Jihad was efficient. Someone in uniform with a list of names. A son taken. On the street, gunfire. At home, calls for help." (LA Times):

The uniformed gunmen knocked politely on Hamid Shammari's door.
They took away his 20-year-old son, promising to let him go the next day. He hasn't been seen or heard from since that dreadful Sunday that changed the Jihad neighborhood of western Baghdad, and perhaps the rest of Iraq.
For several hours on the morning of July 9, Jihad became a place of unspeakable brutality, not so much for the wanton bloodshed that has become a daily part of Iraqi life, but for the systematic nature of the killings. At least 36 and possibly as many as 55 Sunni Arab men were executed in what appears to have been a revenge operation condoned or even overseen by law enforcement officials. The shooting began early, in ferocious barrages that shook the neighborhood. Shiite youths acting in apparent collaboration with police officials cordoned off the area with barbed wire. Gunmen stood guard at checkpoints and prevented many from leaving. And later, men in police uniforms went door-to-door holding lists of names.
Witnesses say the Jihad massacre, which many Iraqis consider a disquieting watershed in the country's descent into an undeclared civil war between Shiite and Sunni Muslim factions, was carried out with clocklike precision as residents cowered in their homes making panicked cellphone calls to U.S. security forces, the Iraqi equivalent of 911 and, in one case, a commander in a Shiite militia.
Iraq's Interior Ministry vehemently denies that police took part in the slayings. One ranking official, speaking on condition he not be named, said police commandos rushed to Jihad that day and restored order as "violence broke out among civilians." The U.S. military also defended its role, saying it responded as soon as Iraqi police said it was needed.
Authorities did not act until 2 1/2 to four hours after the operation started, residents contend. The few hours were all the assailants needed. With shocking speed, lives built up over decades came crashing down, and a neighborhood was crushed within the grinding gears of Iraq's sectarian war.

So let's go over the above for a bit. More for visitors, than for members. This month there have been two incidents (probably more, but two noted here) where what the residents of a town or city (or village) in Iraq states was a watch guard was killed and US military spokespersons have described the killed as 'insurgents.' If they weren't insurgents, visitors always argue, they wouldn't be on a rooftop with a gun. The visitors are apparently unaware of how violent and chaotic Iraq has become. (They usually accuse me of making the corpse count, or the bombings -- despite the fact that the links are provided to the Reuters, AFP, AP, etc. stories.) With what appears to be civil war, why wouldn't populations want, need or seek out a watch guard? It's perfectly normal (and there's something sad about applying 'perfectly normal' to what's going on Iraq -- agreed) considering what's going on from the kidnappings (AFP reports four on Saturday, the four turned up as corpses on Sunday), to the drive-bys, to the bombings, to the shootings, the home invasions, the bakery invasions, the . . .

What's being described in the LA Times article above (with the usual denials from the usual suspects) doesn't need "verification." This isn't a court room jury. What matters is what the people believe. That's how they're seeing the illegal occupation. In that neighborhood, people feel that that Shi-ite attackers were aided by the police. Is it "true"? I have no way of knowing (but would guess it is from the above and other reported eye witness acounts). But it's what the people (the 'liberated') feel and it goes along way to explaining why the government (that we imposed -- the puppet government) doesn't have huge support. (Though the support rises when al-Maliki or anyone speaks in an independent voice -- independent from the United States -- and then falls when Donald Rumsfeld or any other US official begins telling the world what Iraq's so-called independent government can and cannot do.)

Visitors have also, apparently, missed the many reports of 'gunmen' garbed in police clothes leading attacks on civilians. (One friend serving over there states that some Iraqis are also suspicious of the vehicles being used in drive-bys and kindappings and where exactly those vehicles come from since, they argue, they are similar to what the occupiers drive.) There is chaos and violence every day. It may be students enroute to the university or school, it may be workers at a store or bakery, it may be athletes, but people trying to live daily lives, something as simple as pick up the ingredients for the evening's meal, find themselves in the middle of an attack, possibly killed.

Last week, police were pelted with rocks in one incidents (we noted it here via Reuters and a report Aaron Glantz did as well) and yelled out for not doing anything and being lackeys of the US occupation. In a recent gunfire attack, the Iraqi police stood down. US troops were only yards away and they stood down as well while killings were taking place. (The US quickly issued the statement that in those situations, they wait for the Iraqi police to invite them in. That's a curious 'excuse.') People see this, survivors tell it.

You can give the Iraqi police and the US forces all the benefits of the doubt you want, but the reality is that the people in Iraq seeing this aren't going to be so generous. When your friend or family member or neighbor is killed and you're grief stricken, your concern isn't "fairness" or seeing "all sides." You know what you saw and that's what you share.

And the nature of the illegal occupation is such that it wont' get a lot of benefits of the doubt. The Iraqis have wanted the US out for years now. (No, Fox "News" apparently doesn't tell their viewers that to judge from the e-mails. Other outlets aren't very good about informing on that either.) When I speak to friends serving there or friends covering the events, I hear over and over that the animosity grows worse each day. (No surprise.) When the Green Zone was nearly stormed, it was a wake up for some people. They began to realize how hated the Green Zone was. And why wouldn't it be?

Safe in the Green Zone (seen as the seat of the illegal occupation) while lives are taken daily outside of it. Money poured into the Green Zone, prime housing 'occupied' and a US embassy being built that's like no other embassy the US has in the world (in terms of cost and scale). That's reality. Now reality travels around Iraq and gets a detail added here and there. That's the reality of how news travel. There is tremendous hatred for the Green Zone (and for the new one being constructed in Ramadi) because of a number of issues but primarily because those residents (which are largely not Iraqis) get protection, get safety. Outside the Green Zone?

Maybe a bomb falls on your house or on a house in your neighborhood. If so, it doesn't just take out "one target." And it doesn't just cause something to disappear. There is debris, there is some, there is death. Those boms aren't roadside bombs, they're not bombs under a severed head. The people don't trace them back to 'insurgents,' they trace them back to the foreign fighters, the US occupiers.

There are no hearts and minds to be won at this point. Those preaching the illegal occupation of Iraq continues have no grasp of how much the US is now hated in that country or of how deep that hatred is. They want the US out. They've wanted that for some time. That's the nature of an occupation (legal or illegal). They've heard a lot of big talk about 'democracy' and 'liberation' and they see the reality that Iraqis still do not control their own country.

They're just there to try and make the people free,
But the way that they're doing it, it don't seem like that to me.
Just more blood-letting and misery and tears
That this poor country's known for the last twenty years,
And the war drags on.
-- words and lyrics by Mick Softly (available on Donovan's Fairytale)

Last Sunday, the American military fatality count in Iraq stood at 2548. Tonight? 2565. That's reality -- despite the number of people who choose to look the other way. (People on the left and on the right. There are some on the right who are more committed to honoring the dead than others on the right or left. They see the sacrifices as necessary and they don't hide from the death toll. (Peace activist and anti-war activists don't hide from the death toll either. My point re: the right, is that despite the media portrayals, not every right-winger screams, "Don't cover the dead!" A number of right-wingers, especially older right-wingers, have e-mailed the site to note that they feel the media and the Bully Boy dishonor the dead by ignoring them. That's because they grew up during a period where if a media or leader attempted to pull the nonsense that both have pulled during this war, they'd be considered unpatriotic.)

The war is coming home. On the left and on the right. Pundits and politicians can ignore that fact, but it's reality. And candidates campaigning around people (as opposed to hiding away with their image makers and pollsters) grasp that.

With that in mind (and read the comments after the excerpt), Carl Sheeler is running for elected office (US Senate) out of Rhode Island. William Shaw writes:

I am the Deputy Campaign Manager with the Sheeler for US Senate (D-RI) campaign; Carl is a marine veteran of the gulf war who has a strong connection with every day Americans -- a blend of Paul Wellstone and Russ Feingold. His strong stances on alternative energy; cutting middle class taxes while reforming millionaire and big corporate taxes; funding the NO child left behind (NCLB) federal mandates to alleviate the tax burden on property owners and demanding single payer, national healthcare for all Americans and calling for social and economic equality are what makes his campaign connect with most Americans regardless of party affiliation.
Carl is a fiscally, reasonable, progressive Democrat, the real deal, a working Senator, the peoples' voice -- a voice for all Americans. Many call Carl's "of, for and by the people", a 70's style democrat referring to his likeability and "building bridges, not walls" views. His Be Patriotic Impeach Bush with a backdrop of our Constitution and Fund OUR Future Not BU$H's War billboards along I-95 in Rhode Island speak for themselves. Go to Carl's fantastic site at to look at the billboards this say's it all.
News and press releases
These groups are just a fraction of groups who are supporting, endorsing or will be adding a score card to their sites, Gold Star Families for Peace; Code Pink; Impeach Pac; Grassroots Democrats; Lynn Woolsey for Peace; CODEPINK Cape Code; Progressive Democrats; CLG Citizens for Legitimate Government; Impeach Bush Coalition;; VetPAC...

I'm not endorsing him (or anyone) but Shaw e-mailed The Third Estate Sunday Review (and this site, I see -- actually to the mirror site for this site) and we had meant to note the above. (We may do so next Sunday. In case we don't, I'll note it here.) If you're interested in learning more, by all means check out the link. If you're not, that's fine too. I'm not endorsing, I'm not asking people to donate money to campaigns. But Ty had seen the e-mail (that went to The Third Estate Sunday Review) and we didn't know much about Carl Sheeler or his campaign. We thought we'd note it there but time ran out. So it's being noted here in case time runs out next week. Ty's feeling was (and we were all in agreement) that this is the case of someone running against an incumbent in a race that hasn't gotten as much attention as other races so we should note it.

People need to speak out against the war -- it's not an isolated position, it's not a minority position. The illegal war launched with lies and the 'logic' that if the US waits, it might be attacked some day -- some day -- has rippled across the world. We're seeing that in the actions of the Israeli government. With apologies to Carl (and Iwana who also e-mailed about the delay), here is an excerpt from Margaret Kimberley's latest, "Israel's Terror" (Freedom Rider, The Black Commentator):

"Israel must be like a mad dog, too dangerous to bother." -- Moshe Dayan
Moshe Dayan was one of the founding fathers of the state of Israel. His political and military successors are certainly living up to his frightening advice. In retaliation for the capture of an Israeli soldier, a policy of collective punishment has deprived Gazans of food, medicine, electricity and their lives. Israel has invaded a sovereign nation, Lebanon, bombed the Beirut airport and cut the nation off from the rest of the world. "Nothing is safe in Lebanon, simple as that," said Israeli General Dan Halutz.
Not only are the Lebanese being killed by Israeli bombs, but CNN won't
even mention it to their viewers. Anyone watching CNN or the other networks would think that Israel's arms magically avoid hitting human beings. The rest of the corporate media join in reporting the party line, that Israel is threatened, endangered and entitled to keep killing Arabs.
Not only is the media guilty of sins of omission, but they are once again assisting the administration and Israel in spreading outright lies. It was inexcusable when the press spread the falsehood that Iran was involved in capturing soldiers at the Lebanese border. More inexcusable was the lie that the soldiers would be sent to Iran. No stone is ever left unturned in the effort to drum up support for war against Iran.

No one can deny that the Bully Boy has impacted history, but I don't think most of us are expecting raves when he enters the history texts. On September 11th an attack took place on US soil. Bully Boy's response has been to use that attack to replay the events elsewhere. It wasn't something to be happened legally because the Bully Boy has no respect for the law. (Possibly that was best demonstrated when he lost his driver's lic and was on probation but running for the US Congress out of Texas without ever telling a single voter, "I'm on probation.")
He wanted to do things his way. The laws didn't matter, the treaties didn't matter, it was what he wanted, when he wanted it. (Twelve steps groups would have a field day with the dry drunk.) That attitude doesn't stay "local" -- others see it and think, "If he can do it, why can't I?"

So long after the Bully Boy leaves office (fingers crossed for an impeachment), we'll still be feeling the effects of his reckless disregard for the various systems in place, for the various conventions that have supposedly bound a civilized world in a universal understanding. What do he and Condi parrot all the time? "All bets are on the table"? "All options are on the table"? Whatever it is, that attitude traveled and will continue to travel. The destruction he has done to the United States should not be minimized, but the effects it has and will have around the world shouldn't be forgotten either.

Obviously, he has bred hatred in people around the globe. The United States is now seen by many to be a bigger threat to safety and security than many terrorist groups (or 'terrorist' groups depending upon who makes the US State Department's list on which day). But it's the breathing space his actions have given to tyrants and dictators that will haunt long after the US cleans house (or House -- some might say) and begins attempting to repair the damage he's done domestically. Just as US citizens will be paying the finanical costs for Bully Boy's illegal war for decades to come, there will also be blowback costs and costs in areas we may choose to look away from or ask, "Gee, what's their problem? Don't their leaders know that you follow the rule of law?"

For all the nonsense over Bill Clinton's relationship with Monica Lewinsky, outside of a few fringe zealots (mainly in the United States), most people, around the world, grasped that it was very much a personal affair. Bill Clinton didn't degrade the United States (domestically or worldwide). It took Bully Boy to destroy any claim that the US might have to arguing from a higher ground. It's going to be very hard for the US to argue over human rights, war, or pretty much anything and not be laughed at as a result of the Bully Boy's actions. It will take years to repair the damage he's done to the US reputation and to the global good. That's his legacy.

Pru gets the last word, steering us to an article by Alex Callinicos (Great Britian's Socialist Worker):

This article should be read after: » Israel is the terror state
Reaching the limits of imperial power
Today in Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan we are experiencing a test in the limits of imperial power. On the face of it, the military might that Israel is projecting at Lebanon is overwhelming in its capacity to pulverise solid infrastructure and soft human bodies.
But whether this might is effective is quite another matter. Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert is following in the footsteps of his predecessor Ariel Sharon, who as defence minister in 1982 mounted an invasion of Lebanon to stop the country being used as a base for attacks on Israel.
The result was terrible death and suffering for the Lebanese people and military humiliation for the Israel Defence Forces. The constant pinprick of guerrilla attacks mounted by Hizbollah forced the Israelis to retreat southwards until in 2000 they abandoned Lebanon altogether.
Olmert is trying to avoid a similar disaster by keeping ground troops out of Lebanon and relying on airpower. How much damage this is doing to Hizbollah is doubtful. In any case, they are showing the capacity to hit back hard.
Hizbollah missiles have not just struck Haifa and sunk an Israeli warship. According to journalist Robert Fisk, they have also targeted a secret military tracking centre at Miron in northern Israel.
My guess is that the Hizbollah offensive - for that is what the raid that captured two Israeli soldiers amounted to - was coordinated with the Iranian regime. The anti-Israel speeches of Iran’s president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad may not please Western liberals, but they have gone down a storm in the Arab world.
The Hizbollah leadership no doubt has its own goals, but for Iran the new Lebanese war is a signal to the US that any Western campaign against Iran will have a high price. Meanwhile, the radical Iraqi Shia leader Moqtada al-Sadr warned last week that "we in Iraq will not sit with folded hands" while Israel attacks Lebanon.
Bogged down
George Bush may rage against Hizbollah, but he is bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan. A recent New York Times report from Ramadi in western Iraq seemed to be describing Fort Apache.
US Marines live under constant siege, crowded together in stinking, sordid government offices. Guerrillas attack them, sometimes in groups of a hundred. Having tried everything else, the occupiers propose to raze much of the city centre and create their own version of Baghdad's Green Zone.
The picture in Afghanistan is little better. British troops allegedly sent to aid the "reconstruction" effort - though what fool would imagine the Paras playing this kind of role? - have been drawn into a US-led offensive against resistance forces, dubbed the Taliban for propaganda purposes.
It isn't going too well. A dawn raid last Saturday involving US, British, and Canadian troops discovered that most of the guerrillas they were seeking had gone. British soldiers find themselves hunkered down on the sites of old hill forts - maybe the same that their predecessors used during the unsuccessful British invasions of Afghanistan in the 1840s and the 1880s.
Watching the US's "long war" unfold it’s hard not to draw parallels with past empires that overreached themselves. The Bush administration sought after 11 September 2001 to demonstrate its overwhelming power to crush its enemies, but has provoked resistance that it cannot defeat.
This doesn't mean that the present situation is anything but extremely dangerous. If the Israeli operation in Lebanon is ineffective, then Olmert may hit out at Syria and Iran, which the US and Israel accuse of backing Hizbollah.
The Bush administration may well go along with such an escalation. Neo-conservatives such as William Kristol and Richard Perle have in recent weeks been denouncing Bush and US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice for a policy of "appeasement" towards North Korea and Iran.
Under pressure from its right, the administration might back a widening of the war. But, wicked and destructive though such a policy would undoubtedly prove, it would demonstrate yet again that the assertion of imperial power is evoking resistance it cannot crush.
The following should be read alongside this article:

» Israel is the terror state
» An unequal conflict - Israel's war on Lebanon
» George Galloway: Blair is Israel's ally
» Lebanon's history of resistance to Zionism
» Zionism: Israeli war drive fuelled by murderous doctrine
» Humanitarian crisis as Gaza Strip siege continues
» Media bias for Israel: 'a diet of undiluted lies'
» Demonstrate against Israel's attack on Lebanon
» Chair of Friends of Al-Aqsa backs Time to go demonstration
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