Sunday, November 26, 2006

And the war drags on . . .

Failures on the battlefield and in the recent American elections are propelling the Bush Administration to consider significant changes in Iraq policy. Having placed the Shiite majority in power, the Administration now wonders if the country is being delivered to Iran. Having fought the Sunni-led insurgency for three years, the Administration wonders if negotiations are the only way to reduce American casualties. It is not to holiday that Bush and Rice are meeting next week with Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki while Cheney rushes to Saudi Arabia. The only question being kept from the American people is what the high-level talks are about.
On November 22 on the Huffington Post, I revealed that American officials have contacted Sunni nationalist insurgents to explore a cease-fire and replacement of the al-Maliki government with an interim one. This plan would reduce US casualties against the Sunni-led insurgency [recently one hundred deaths per month], while being consistent with the Pentagon desire to focus firepower on the Shiite Mahdi Army, led by "radical cleric" Moktada al-Sadr, the most prominent Shiite leader calling for an American withdrawal from Iraq. The current obstacle to an all-out American offensive against al-Sadr's stronghold in Sadr City happens to be Prime Minister al-Maliki, whose governing coalition includes al-Sadr.
Today's car bomb explosions in Sadr City and the violent attacks against Baghdad's health ministry are aimed at two main al-Sadr power bases [his representatives direct the health ministry].
Sensing that al-Maliki will agree to anything Bush demands, al-Sadr now is demanding that al-Maliki call off his meeting with the President.

The above, noted by Cindy, is from Tom Hayden's "Documents Reveal Secret Talks Between U.S. and Iraqi Armed Resistance" (The Huffington Post via Common Dreams) and is a follow up to Hayden's "U.S. Retreat from Iraq? The Secret Story." Noting the earlier article, Katrina vanden Heuvel ("Backdoor Diplomacy in Iraq," Editor's Cut, The Nation) writes:

On Thanksgiving eve, writer and activist Tom Hayden posted an explosive article at Huffington Post about what may be elements of the US's secret diplomatic exit strategy from Iraq. Hayden details a possible endgame strategy--including reports of US officials having contacted Sunni nationalist insurgents to explore a cease-fire and replacement of the Iraqi Al-Maliki government with an interim one. He also alleges that in October Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice appealed to the Gulf Cooperation Council to serve as intermediaries between the US and armed Sunni resistance groups [not Al Qaeda].
Such contacts, Hayden also makes clear, "may be nothing more than 'probes'--in the historic spirit of divide-and-conquer, before escalating the Iraq war in a Baghdad offensive....Yet Americans who voted in the November election because of a deep belief that a change of government in Washington might end the war have a right to know their votes counted." Confronted with an escalating humanitarian disaster in Iraq and increasingly horrific sectarian violence, it appears the US may be offering significant concessions without its citizens knowing.

It is explosive but I'm not seeing much on it. (Members e-mail if you do.) The article excerpted at the top continues the story and provides more details. It deserves more attention so watch to see whether it receives that or not. In other reality, let's note some of the events in Iraq today.

Reality continues to intrude even for the puppet of the occupation, Nouri al-Maliki, when he leaves the safety of the Green Zone. Mussab Al-Khairalla and Alastair Macdonald (Reuters) report that al-Maliki visited the Sadr section of Baghdad and found himself shouted at ("It's all your fault!"), jeered and "pelted with stones." "King," Mel Brooks said, "it's good to be king." Not puppet. Baghdad continues to be under a vehicle curfew. This is the curfew that followed Thursday's bombings and was thought to be ending Saturday but was, instead extended. The puppet might not have been pelted in Tehren. But he wasn't invited. That's where Jalal Talabani, Iraq's president, was supposed to be this weekend, meeting with the presidents of Iran and Syria, however the latest version of the 'crackdown' resulted in airports in Baghdad and Basra being closed -- Basra's curfew has been lifted. (The BBC reports the curfew is supposed to last through Monday -- that's dependent on some semblance of what passes for calm admist the chaos and the violence taking hold.) More on Basra in a bit.

First, Kuna reports the shooting death, in Mosul, of Fadhila Abdulkarim who worked for Iraqi television, while, still in Mosul, mortar rounds wounded five students. Reuters notes the following: in Baghdad, mortar attacks occurred "in the vicinity" of a US military base, Sunni mosuqes were attacked, gunfire was exchanged between "gunmen," the body guards for a Sunni politician and US forces, and at least two people were wounded in mortar attacks; in Baquba 25 corpses were discovered; US air forces bombed Ramadia; police and residents tell Reuters that 25 people were kidnapped in Kanaan; a car bomb in Haswa took the lives of at least five people and left 23 more wounded; in Aziziya, two people were shot dead and eight more wounded; in Wajeiya Amir Shakir was shot dead; and in Mahaweel "Two memeber of the local town council were dragged from their car and killed by gunmen" on Saturday.

But remember, it's still dickering time for whether or not it's a civil war. (It is a civil war and one that results from the illegal war -- including the illegal occupation.) For more on that, Brenda recommends The Third Estate Sunday Review's "Iraq's civil war." On the subject of civil war, King Abdullah II of Jordan appeared on ABC's This Week this morning and thinks there are three civil wars to be watched -- Lebanon, Syria and Iraq. Polly notes the BBC's
"Jordan's king warns of civil wars:"

King Abdullah will host US President George W Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki in Amman later this week.
He said the US should look at the big picture in seeking a resolution to the problems in Iraq and bring in all of the region, including Syria and Iran.
America needs to look at it in the total picture - it's not just one issue by itself
King Abdullah of Jordan
He said if a regional peace process did not develop soon, "there won't be anything to talk about".

Apparently, when the Bully Boy wants a meet up (Jordan), the airports in Iraq will be open to allow the puppet to fly out but when Bully Boy doesn't want a meet up to occur (Tehran), the president of Iraq is grounded.

In Wednesday's "Iraq snapshot" the following was noted:

Is there a change in the air? In England, This Is London reports: "Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett this afternoon surprised MPs by signalling the countdown to a withdrawal from Iraq. She told the Commons that Basra, where the bulk of the UK's 7,200 personnel are stationed, could be handed over from British military control to Iraqi forces as early as next spring." Basra has been a violent area for British soldiers (and for Iraqis). Earlier this month, on England's Rememberance Sunday, four British troops were killed while on a boat patrol in Basra and three more were wounded. The four killed included Sharron Elliott who was "the second British female servicewoman to die in action." The other three were Jason Hylton, Ben Nowak, and Lee Hopkins. Mortar attacks have been common in Basra and, in August, a British soldier died as a result of wounds received from mortar rounds. In October, a British soldier died in Basra from road traffic. The end of October was also when the British consulate in Basra was evacuated after it was decided it was no longer safe after two months of mortar attacks. (In August, British troops 'evacuated' from their base in Amara due to repeated mortar attacks.)

Yesterday, the British Military announced: "It is with deep regret that the Ministry of Defence must confirm the death of Sergeant Jonathan Hollingsworth, from the Parachute Regiment, following a planned search and detention operation in Basra City, Iraq, on Friday 24 November 2006." In Basra today, Reuters reports: "Gunmen killed three men and one woman in an attack on their car at a road junction in central Basra, a police official said." That's not all, Kuna reports, "seven British soldiers were injured when members of a local militia attacked their military base in the southern Iraqi city of Basra, a spokesman for the British forces said in a statement Sunday.The militants launched missiles at the military base at Shatt Al-Arab Hotel, in the center of Basra causing injuries to seven British servicemen. The soldiers were taken for treatment to a British field hospital in Al-Shuaiba area, south of Basra." Which may be why an announcement is expected shortly from the government. Gareth notes South London's "Browne to outline Iraq troop plans:"

Defence Secretary Des Browne is set to outline his strategy on the future of British forces in Iraq in a speech in London.
The BBC reports he is expected to stress his determination that British troops will not remain in Iraq longer than is necessary.
But he is expected to state this does not mean withdrawing from the country, underlining that British troops will still provide back-up for the Iraqi army and police.

And the war drags on . . .

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 Monday, the American military fatality count in Iraq stood at 2867. Today (Sunday)? 2876. And, to repeat from this morning: Saturday, the US military announced: "One Marine assigned to Regimental Combat Team 5 died Friday from wounds sustained due to enemy action while operating in Al Anbar Province." Today, the US military announced: "A Task Force Lightning Soldier assigned to 3rd Brigade CombatTeam, 1st Cavalry Division, was killed and two others were wounded when nimprovised explosive device detonated near their vehicle while they were conductingoperations in Diyala Province Saturday. The two wounded Soldiers were transported to Coalition Forces' medicaltreatment facilities." and: "One Marine assigned to Regimental Combat Team 5and one Marine assigned to Regimental Combat Team 7 died Saturday from woundssustained due to enemy action while operating in Al Anbar Province.

In news of war resistance within the military, Janet McConnaughey (AP) catches up with Kyle Snyder in "Two-time AWOL soldier says military ignoring his case:"

A soldier who is again absent without leave said his lawyer has repeatedly tried to speak with the Army about his status but the military is ignoring the subject.
Pvt. Kyle Snyder, 23, a former combat engineer, went AWOL from his Army unit after failing to report to Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., on Nov. 1 - a day after turning himself in after an 18-month AWOL stint. He had fled to Canada in April 2005 while on leave to avoid a second tour in Iraq.
"Legally, I'm AWOL again," Snyder said Friday. "My lawyer has tried to contact Fort Leonard Wood like 75 times - it's documented, 75 times - and tried to get in touch with the military. They've avoided this entire subject."
Snyder was among two dozen volunteers from Iraq Veterans Against the War spending the week in New Orleans, gutting houses belonging to veterans and musicians that were flooded more than a year ago by Hurricane Katrina.

More information on Kyle Snyder (Snyder illustration's by The Third Estate Sunday Review) and other war resisters within the military who have gone public can be found at Courage to Resist. Now, as we wind down, Pru actually had two highlights but she thinks one would be better for the snapshot so it will go in this week (hopefully Monday). For tonight, she steers us to Simon Basketter's "Why we should get the troops out now" (The Socialist Worker):

The arguments for maintaining the occupation of Iraq crumbled a little further this week.
Tony Blair admitted, in an interview with David Frost on Al Jazeera English, that Iraq was a "disaster", before leaving the country for a photo opportunity with troops fighting his other war in Afghanistan.
Margaret Hodge also chose last week to launch an attack on the war, the most senior cabinet member yet to do so. She said that Iraq was Blair’s "big mistake".
Meanwhile, George Bush was hounded by huge anti-war demonstrations in Indonesia.
From the start, the war on Iraq was sold to a sceptical public through a series of lies -- in particular about weapons of mass destruction and Al Qaida’s alleged links to Iraq.
Once these lies were exposed, the Bush administration adopted a series of new and equally dishonest mantras -- "we are bringing democracy to Iraq", "we are rebuilding Iraq", "we are preventing civil war".
Some in the anti-war movement, horrified by the sheer level of chaos and destruction, have accepted the need for foreign troops to remain -- to maintain order and help rebuild the country.
But the reality is that the situation will get worse each day the occupation continues.
The arguments were already old in 1899 when Rudyard Kipling wrote his poem "The White Man's Burden" in support of US colonisation of the Philippines. Similar lies were uttered by British and French politicians throughout the 19th century who sought to justify their continued presence in the colonies.
Just as in former colonial adventures, the US and Britain have sought to turn sections of the Iraqi population against each other. The longer the occupation of Iraq continues, the greater the chance that these divisions will spill over into civil war.
The Iraq occupation is tearing the country apart and making life hell for the population. An estimated 655,000 Iraqis have died as a result of the invasion. Torture is widespread, and more than 14,000 people are detained. Over 300,000 people have fled their homes so far this year.
Over three years after the invasion, the national electricity grid can only deliver electricity to the capital for one hour out of every four. A Pentagon study estimated that "about 25.9 percent of Iraqi children examined were stunted in their physical growth" due to chronic malnutrition which is on the rise across Iraq.
The parallels with Vietnam are increasingly clear. When the Vietnam War turned bad for the US, there was talk of "peace with honour". Today the search is on for an exit strategy that can "salvage US prestige".
Instead of "Vietnamisation" -- the name given to the creation of local forces to do the work of the US -- we have talk of "Iraqification".
At best, this would involve a long term reduction of US forces to 50,000 -- still 20,000 more than former US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld hoped would remain in Iraq only months after the fall of Baghdad.
These troops would be pulled back into the enormous, permanent bases the US military has built in the region.
And any attempt to gradually withdraw troops will cause more horror. Just as in Vietnam, US troop levels cannot be slowly reduced in Iraq without increased use of air power.
The new US defence secretary Robert Gates, who replaced Rumsfeld earlier this month, laid out his thinking on phased withdrawal 18 months ago.
Some 60 years after the end of the Second World War, "there are still American troops in Germany," he said.
"We've had troops in Korea for over 50 years. The British have had troops in Cyprus for 40 years. If you want to change history, you have to be prepared to stay as long as it takes to do the job."
As the elites of US and Britain begin to panic over the quagmire they have created for themselves in Iraq, the anti?war movement cannot afford be complacent over the need for the immediate withdrawal of troops.
The US is determined to remain in Iraq to maintain its power over the region and to control vital oil resources. The price paid will be more Iraqi deaths, and the deadly toll will continue to rise as long as US and British forces remain.
How US credibility has been 'shrivelled'
A year ago former US secretary of state and war criminal Henry Kissinger issued a stark warning on the consequences of defeat in Iraq.
"Defeat would shrivel US credibility around the world," he argued. "Our leadership and the respect accorded to our views on other regional issues from Palestine to Iran would be weakened.
"The confidence of other major countries -- China, Russia, Europe, Japan -- in America's potential contribution would be diminished. The respite from military efforts would be brief before even greater crises descended on us."
He might have added that defeat for the world's most powerful military machine would boost those fighting imperialism, corporate globalisation and attacks on human rights the world over.
Kissinger is a significant player in right wing US politics. He was secretary of state for republican president Richard Nixon, and helped develop the so called "peace with honour" strategy for withdrawing from South Vietnam in the wake of the last military defeat suffered by the US.
So it must have come as a shock to the neocons surrounding George Bush to hear Kissinger admit that exactly the kind of terrible defeat he described is now at hand.
Last weekend, he told the BBC, "If you mean by military victory, an Iraqi government that can be established and whose writ runs across the whole country, that gets the civil war under control and sectarian violence under control in a time period that the political processes of the democracies will support, I don't believe that is possible."
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