Sunday, August 20, 2006

And the war drags on . . .

Iraqi Health Ministry said on Sunday that the final death toll in armed attacks which targeted thousands of Shiite Muslim pilgrims in the Iraqi capital has risen to 322 killed and injured.
A source from the Iraqi Health Ministry said the final victims' death toll is 20 people were killed and 302 injured, with varying degrees of injuries.Meanwhile, Iraqi police said today that four police officers among them two brothers were killed by unknown gunmen in the Diyali province north east of Baghdad.

Kyle noted the above from KUNA's "Final Death toll is 322 killed, injured in armed attacks in Baghdad." Kyle notes this morning's Third Estate Sunday Review editorial and excerpts this:

Iraq today. Three years after the illegal war began with the March 2003 invasion, this is what "success" looks like?
To zoom in on Baghdad, the capital's 'crackdown' means walled off sections, curfews and traffic bans. Only in the World of Bully Boy could it be hailed as a "success."
"I don't believe you can win it," Bully infamously once said of his so-called war on terror and he constantly pushes Iraq as one of the main fronts of that so-called war. I don't belive you can win it? Never is that more clear than in Baghdad.
It was a week that saw General Peter Pace quote a soldier who asked him, "Is the war coming to an end?" [Click here for excerpt when that story disappears from Yahoo -- AP tends to vanish after a few weeks.] Is the war coming to an end?"
Twenty-one former generals and high ranking national security officials" must have their doubts since, as Free Speech Radio News reported, they held a press conference Thursday urging Bully Boy "to reverse course" and embrace diplomacy with Iran, Iraq and North Korea.Is the war coming to an end?
[. . .]
All the 'beefed' up measures added Friday didn't stop the violence. This is the capital. Over three years later and this is life in the capital.
This is "success"?
This is what failure looks like. We've been lying to ourselves for so long, who would know?

After that, what can you say? The crackdown gets 'beefier' and 'beefier' and not a damn thing changes. The illegal war is not just illegal but a failure (the latter is the real reason some War Cheerleaders began the distancing act). So three years and five months have gone into Bully Boy's war of choice with no results to show for it. There is no "plan B" -- just more of the same and the same requires 'beefing up' which means sending more troops over there at some point.
It's only a surprise to the historically ignorant or common sense deficiant.

Due to their own personal motives (of which there were many) a number of opinion makers were willing to look the other way . . . based on the perceived results. The results haven't come. If Bully Boy thinks he has problems with the left (he does) that is nothing compared to what's in store for him next. In terms of the public, they've turned against the war -- left or center and, yes, even some on the right.

It's easy to ignore the foul that's not called if your side is 'winning.' So a number could ignore the 'foul' of the illegality the war was built on (and some still rush to avoid the topic). The fact of the matter is Bully Boy has lost. Die-hards will still put on their jerseys and ball caps but most Americans have come to the conclusion that the administration doesn't know what it's doing.

So where does that leave us?

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 2601. Right now? 2607. Iraqis? Well the media would have to give a damn that the US government is keeping a bodycount and, big or small, we're only aware of three that did ( Nancy A. Youssef with"U.S.: Civilian deaths feeding insurgency," Aaron Glantz with "Pentagon: Tell Us How Many Civilians You've Killed" and Juliana Lara Resende with "50,000 Dead, But Who's Counting?"). Since the count's been kept for over an year, you can probably guess that Bully Boy's decision to cite the figures from Iraqi Body Count (if that's the name of the site) probably mean the US count was higher. As we've seen with their outing of Valerie Plame, their 'terror concerns,' when anything might benefit the administration, 'national security' and 'classified' fly out the window when they think they can score a point.

So where does that leave us? Geared up for the events of September. Jill notes "At Long Last ..." (Camp Democracy):

At long last, Americans are preparing to say "Enough is enough" on September 5th when Camp Democracy begins on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Can we count on you to help make it happen? Sign Up to stay informed and volunteer to participate.
Tents will provide activist activities, trainings, workshops, and entertainment on these themes: End War: Peace, nonviolence, accountability, and impeachment Human Rights: Civil Rights, Immigrants Rights, Workers Rights, Women's Rights, Voting Rights, Katrina End Corporate Welfare, Meet Human Needs: Healthcare/ Energy/ Education/ Environment Communications and Creativity: Hands-on Media and Arts Training.
You can
visit Spaceshare to offer a ride or to ask for one, or if you have or need a room in the Washington, D.C., area. Camp Democracy is a grassroots effort and will only succeed with the help of many, many people. Can you help us? Click here to make a donation to Camp Democracy.
Here are more things you can do to get involved locally:

On the same topic, Lucy notes "Join Camp Democracy in Washington, D.C. September 5-21, 2006A Summer of Resistance and an Autumn of Accountability" (NOW):

August 17, 2006
Join NOW activists at
Camp Democracy for a variety of activities focusing on peace and ending the violence in the Middle East and around the world. Activists can participate in a number of activities including nonviolence training, film screenings, discussions with international peace activists, and a concert for peace. NOW and CodePink are organizing a day of events on September 20 focusing on the impact of war on women and families. Download a flyer (pdf) announcing Camp Democracy.
If you would like information about how you can participate in Camp Democracy in Washington, D.C., and updates as the schedule is finalized
let us know if you will be in town.
Activists who can not make it to Washington are encouraged to host a discussion or events demanding an end to war and violence.
Host a Peace Party in your home.
Purchase the DVD and invite friends to watch "Sir, No Sir".
Add your voice to the blogosphere and share your voice and why you believe peace is a feminist issue.
Create your own blog or comment on your favorite blog.
Hold candlelight vigils in your community. Ask activists to bring flashlights and organize people into the shape of a Peace symbol or the word Peace. If possible, select a location that is visible from above (e.g., office buildings, hillside etc.)
Go door-to-door in your community and talk about the Peace Vote.
Plan visibility events leading up to elections calling for a Vote for Peace.
Activities continue to be added to the
schedule so check back frequently.
Send us stories and photos about your peace events so we can share them on the website.

Lucy also asks that we note "DVD Must See: Sir! No! Sir!" (The Third Estate Sunday Review) and wants it noted: "I appreciate the focus on Iraq" referring to the fact that instead of a feature or two each week, the site has turned each edition into features commenting on the war in some way.

In Friday's snapshot, we noted the kidnapping of a priest in Baghdad. Dominick notes "Pope appeals for release of kidnapped priest" (AP):

Pope Benedict XVI has appealed for the release of a priest kidnapped at gunpoint in Baghdad earlier this week, the Vatican said Saturday.
In the telegram, sent by the Vatican’s Secretary of State Angelo Sodano, the pontiff said he was "deeply saddened" by the abduction of the Rev. Hanna Saad Sirop on Tuesday. The pope also made a "heartfelt appeal to the abductors to release the young priest at once, so that he can return to the service of God, the Christian community and his countrymen."

Dominick wondered if it was okay to note AP and, I'm guessing, not because it was mainstream. To clarify, we're trying to not note AP (or AFP or Reuters) via Yahoo. Why? We know in three to four weeks the story will vanish and you'll get a message of "page not found." Wally's the one who noted that to the rest of us and, since then, when possible, we're trying to note them from other sites. They can still be noted (and in some case, noted via Yahoo) but ideally, we'd like them to come from a TV station, newspaper site, etc. because they are up longer at those (and, in some instance, up 'forever').

On the subject of questions -- three visitors wrote "Where's the report?" At first I thought they meant on the War Crimes Tribunal against the Bully Boy which was supposed to be a three-parter but, as noted in the round-robin, was put on hold and is probably off. Then Jim said they've got to be talking about Ruth's Report (the planned three parter was months and months ago). I think he's probably right. Ruth was a guest for from two Fridays ago until today (physical guest -- I'm talking offline) and this was a chance for her to have a vacation and have some fun. We brought her in last week on The Third Estate Sunday Review because she was physically present (over the phone, she's participated many times and I always worry that she's tired and too polite to say so). She enjoyed that (and we enjoyed it) so she worked again on it. If she's putting in hours on that, I say, "That's it." She can't be participating in that and also attempting to do a report. Well, she can, but it seems to be asking more than a bit much. Round-robin readers were advised of that. So if any visitor is wondering, Ruth returns Saturday with Ruth's Report; however, Ruth hasn't been 'silent,' she's participated actively in the last two editions of The Third Estate Sunday Review.

Because war's repeat and amnesia abounds, Gore Vidal Is God urges everyone to read Deborah Nelson and Nick Turse's "A Tortured Past: Documents Show Troops Who Reported Abuse in Vietnam were Discredited Even as the Military was Finding Evidence of Worse." (LA Times via Common Dreams):

In early 1973, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Creighton Abrams received some bad news from the service's chief of criminal investigations.
An internal inquiry had confirmed an officer's widely publicized charge that members of the 173rd Airborne Brigade had tortured detainees in Vietnam.
But there was a silver lining: Investigators had also compiled a 53-page catalog of alleged discrepancies in retired Lt. Col. Anthony B. Herbert's public accounts of his war experiences.
"This package … provides sufficient material to impeach this man's credibility; should this need arise, I volunteer for the task," wrote Col. Henry H. Tufts, commander of the Army's Criminal Investigation Division.
Now, declassified records show that while the Army was working energetically to discredit Herbert, military investigators were uncovering torture and mistreatment that went well beyond what he had described.
The abuses were not made public, and few of the wrongdoers were punished.
Tufts' agents found that military interrogators in the 173rd Airborne repeatedly beat prisoners, tortured them with electric shocks and forced water down their throats to simulate the sensation of drowning, the records show.
Soldiers in one unit told investigators that their captain approved of such methods and was sometimes present during torture sessions.
In one case, a detainee who had been beaten by interrogators suffered convulsions, lost consciousness and later died in his confinement cage.

Because denial runs deep, Margot urges everyone to read Michael Schwartz's "Tomgram: Schwartz, 7 Facts Making Sense of Our Iraqi Disaster" (TomDispatch):

1. The Iraqi Government Is Little More Than a Group of "Talking Heads"
A minimally viable central government is built on at least three foundations: the coercive capacity to maintain order, an administrative apparatus that can deliver government services and directives to society, and the resources to manage these functions. The Iraqi government has none of these attributes -- and no prospect of developing them. It has no coercive capacity. The national army we hear so much about is actually trained and commanded by the Americans, while the police forces are largely controlled by local governments and have few, if any, viable links to the central government in Baghdad. (Only the Special Forces, whose death-squad activities in the capital have lately been in the news, have any formal relationship with the elected government; and they have more enduring ties to the U.S. military that created them and the Shia militias who staffed them.)
Administratively, the Iraqi government has
no existence outside Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone -- and little presence within it. Whatever local apparatus exists elsewhere in the country is led by local leaders, usually with little or no loyalty to the central government and not dependent on it for resources it doesn't, in any case, possess. In Baghdad itself, this is clearly illustrated in the vast Shiite slum of Sadr city, controlled by Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army and his elaborate network of political clerics. (Even U.S. occupation forces enter that enormous swath of the capital only in large brigades, braced for significant firefights.) In the major city of the Shia south, Basra, local clerics lead a government that alternately ignores and defies the central government on all policy issues from oil to women's rights; in Sunni cities like Tal Afar and Ramadi, where major battles with the Americans alternate with insurgent control, the government simply has no presence whatsoever. In Kurdistan in the north, the Kurdish leadership maintains full control of all local governments.
As for resources, with 85% of the country's revenues deriving from oil, all you really need to know is that oil-rich Iraq is also suffering from an
"acute fuel shortage" (including soaring prices, all-night lines at gas stations, and a deal to get help from neighboring Syria which itself has minimal refining capacity). The almost helpless Iraqi government has had little choice but to accept the dictates of American advisors and of the International Monetary Fund about exactly how what energy resources exist will be used. Paying off Saddam-era debt, reparations to Kuwait from the Gulf War of 1990, and the needs of the U.S.-controlled national army have had first claim. With what remains so meager that it cannot sustain a viable administrative apparatus in Baghdad, let alone the rest of the country, there is barely enough to spare for the government leadership to line their own pockets.
2. There Is No Iraqi Army
The "Iraqi Army" is a misnomer. The government's military consists of Iraqi units integrated into the U.S.-commanded occupation army. These units rely on the Americans for intelligence, logistics, and -- lacking almost all heavy weaponry themselves -- artillery, tanks, and any kind of airpower. (The Iraqi "Air Force" typically consists of fewer then 10 planes with no combat capability.) The government has no real control over either personnel or strategy.
We can see this clearly in a recent operation in Sadr City, conducted (as news reports tell us) by "Iraqi troops and US advisors" and backed up by U.S. artillery and air power. It was one of an ongoing series of attempts to undermine the Sadrists and their Mahdi army, who have governed the area since the fall of Saddam. The day after the assault, Iraqi premier
Nouri Kamel al-Maliki complained about the tactics used, which he labeled "unjustified," and about the fact that neither he, nor his government, was included in the decision-making leading up to the assault. As he put it to an Agence France-Presse, "I reiterate my rejection to [sic] such an operation and it should not be executed without my consent. This particular operation did not have my approval."
This happened because the U.S. has functionally expanded its own forces in Iraq by integrating local Iraqi units into its command structure, while essentially depriving the central government of any army it could use purely for its own purposes. Iraqi units have their own officers, but they always operate with American advisers. As
American Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad put it, "We'll ultimately help them become independent." (Don't hold your breath.)

Finally, Zach notes Peter Dyer's "An American Turning Point" (Consorortium News) which gets us back to the point we started with (where I'm stating that the ones above the pundits are reeling from the war) by focusing on the pundits/War Cheerleaders:

Editor's Note: The new trend among Washington pundits is -- finally -- to admit that the Iraq War has been a disaster. But they are still blaming tactical errors: not enough U.S. troops, not enough realism in the hasty decision to disband the Iraqi army, not enough targeting of Shiite militias, not enough saber-rattling against Iran and Syria.
Under this new "conventional wisdom," the Bush administration's mistakes in Iraq have indeed hurt the "war on terror" by alienating and radicalizing tens of millions of Muslims. But Washington's new "group think" continues to ignore a central reason why the United States is losing the hearts and minds of the Islamic world as well as vast numbers of non-Muslims across the globe: George W. Bush.
The elephant sitting in Official Washington's living room is this intractable reality: President Bush has so thoroughly lost credibility with nearly everyone on the planet and is so widely despised that he himself has become a clear and present danger to U.S. national security. Bush has become Osama bin Laden's
perfect foil, yet Bush is incapable of admitting mistakes and changing course.
Thus, no serious discussion can be held about solving Bush's disastrous foreign policy as long as Bush and his team remain in office. In this guest essay, Peter Dyer suggests the first difficult step that the United States must take is to change national leadership and to demonstrate to the world that the American people are determined to reclaim their proud history as the chief defender of international law:

If and when President Bush is impeached and removed from office, the next step should be to arrest him and the other architects of the unprovoked invasion and occupation of Iraq.
If Americans ever find the will to do this, as we once did to German aggressors, history will remember it as a turning point in international relations. It will go down as one of the most spectacular and complete affirmations of the very best of American ideals.
Such a turning point can’t come soon enough. On June 13, the Pew Research Group released a poll based on interviews with 17,500 people in 15 countries including the U.S. The poll showed that people in European and Muslim countries see U.S. policy in Iraq as a bigger threat to world peace than Iran's nuclear program.

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