Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Iraq snapshot

Wedensday, November 29, 2006.  Chaos and violence continue in Iraq; a classified US assessment, jotted down in memo form by Stephen Hadley, finds the puppet of the occupation untrustworthy; whack-a-mole continues to be the game of choice for US military heads, and the big meet up in Jordan hits a snag right out of the box.
Starting with the memo:
We returned from Iraq convinced we need to determine if Prime Minister Maliki is both willing and able to rise above the sectarian agendas being promoted by others. Do we and Prime Minister Maliki share the same vision for Iraq? If so, is he able to curb those who seek Shia hegemony or the reassertion of Sunni power? The answers to these questions are key in determining whether we have the right strategy in Iraq.
Maliki reiterated a vision of Shia, Sunni, and Kurdish partnership, and in my one-on-one meeting with him, he impressed me as a leader who wanted to be strong but was having difficulty figuring out how to do so. Maliki pointed to incidents, such as the use of Iraqi forces in Shia Karbala, to demonstrate his even hand. Perhaps because he is frustrated over his limited ability to command Iraqi forces against terrorists and insurgents, Maliki has been trying to show strength by standing up to the coalition. Hence the public spats with us over benchmarks and the Sadr City roadblocks.
Despite Maliki's reassuring words, repeated reports from our commanders on the ground contributed to our concerns about Maliki's government. Reports of nondelivery of services to Sunni areas, intervention by the prime minister's office to stop military action against Shia targets and to encourage them against Sunni ones, removal of Iraq's most effective commanders on a sectarian basis and efforts to ensure Shia majorities in all ministries -- when combined with the escalation of Jaish al-Mahdi's (JAM) [the Arabic name for the Mahdi Army] killings -- all suggest a campaign to consolidate Shia power in Baghdad.
Michael R. Gordon (New York Times) reports that author of the memo is National Securtiy Adviser Stephen J. Hadley and that Hadley wrote the memo November 8, 2006.  The memo was based on conclusions Hadley drew while visiting the Green Zone on October 30th, a visit John F. Burns and David E. Sanger (New York Times) noted was spoken of "only in the vaguest of terms".  The memo's distrust of Nouri al-Maliki and its suggestions fly in the face of what Geroge W. Casey Jr.  was publicly pushing immediately prior to Hadley's visit.  As Amit R. Paley (Washington Post) reported the US' military commander's claims of Iraqi security forces 'success' was doubted by American troops on the ground.
The memo covers a number of topics.  Mainly it attempts to chart how the puppet can be propped up if he agrees to continue to following orders from the US administration (such as "support the renewal of the UN mandate for multinational forces" -- done yesterday -- through the end of 2007 as Sandra Lupien noted on yesterday's  The KPFA Evening News).  If that is the case, US tax dollars can be used to prop up political parties that do not support Moktada al-Sadr and thereby sideline al-Sadr from the process.  ("This bloc would not require a new election, but would rather involve a realignment of political actors within the Parliament.") Mainly the memo's concerned with appearances, ways to make it appear the puppet is independent and strong.  Such as: "Encourage Zal [Zalmay Khalilzad, the American ambassador] to move into the background and let Maliki take more credit for positive developments."  As noted in previous snapshots, Zalmay-Take-Me-Away is on his way out.  His supposed 'success' in Afghanistan began to implode in front of the world shortly after he was shipped to Iraq to create more 'success.'  Reality didn't wait and Zalmay is on the way out.
The memo offers that al-Maliki can appear 'strong' if the US administration will: "Seek ways to strengthen Maliki immediately by giving him additional control over Iraq forces, although we musr tecognize that in the immediate time frame, we would likely be able to give him more authority over existing forces, not more forces"  While pushing appearances, Hadley makes it very clear that al-Maliki is extremely out of touchand that he has one self-presentation "when he talks with Americans" and another at other times.  Hadley writes: "But the reality on the streets of Baghdad suggest Maliki is either ignorant of what is going on, misrepresenting his intentions, or that his capabilities are not yet sufficient to turn his good intentions into action."
The memo reveals the doubts, all the times after, that the US administration still has of their puppet.  Mark Silva (Chicago Tribune) reports that Tony Snow Job issued a statement of Bully Boy's confidence in al-Maliki which should make the puppet shudder if he's aware of "Heck of a job, Brownie."  [Or of November 1st, when Bully Boy was singing Rummy's praises.  As Ron Hutcheson (McClatchy Newspapers) reported:  "Rumsfeld's ouster came a week after Bush told a small group of reporters that he wanted the defense secretary to stay on the job until end of his presidency."]
Silva also speaks with a nameless administration official who states that the memo is about raising questions and it "doesn't mean you're casting judgment" which is either cover up or the nameless hasn't read the memo.  The third step Hadley outlines that al-Maliki "should take" is to "Shake up his cabinet by appointing nonsectarian, capable technocrats in key service (and security) ministries." 
For those paying attention months ago, al-Maliki's claimed that was happening.  He began saying it was happening after he finally got a cabinet semi together.  He missed the Constitutional deadline as well as his own appointed deadline.  When he finally had a 'cabinet' it was short three positions.  As soon as those were filled, al-Maliki began making repeated noises about a 'shake up' that has still not taken place.  That was telling when Hadley visited in October, it was telling when Hadley wrote the memo on November 8th and, as November draws to a close, it's even more telling.
As Tony Snow Job tries to spin the memo, the US administration still attempts to deny the reality of the civil war that has been raging in Iraq.  Shatha al-Awsy (McClatchy Newspapers) registers quite clearly what she has seen in the last year in the neighborhood she lived, the neighbors who left as strangers began showing up, the talk of impending attacks, the need to build a secret passage way between her home and her parents, the night when violence was only streets away, her baby crying from the mortar rounds falling and her promise to herself to leave if they made it through tomorrow. 
In the face of such reality, the US administration continues to deny Iraq is in a civil warJames Coomarasamy (BBC) reports that Stephen Hadley, of all people, "has said the Iraqi government does not see it in those terms, while the president himself described the latest attacks as part of an ongoing campaign by al-Qaeda militants."  The same Hadley who wrote "the reality on the streets of Baghdad suggests Maliki is either ignorant of what is going on"?  Meanwhile, Diala Saadeh (Reuters) reports Colin Powell, former US Secretary of State, has stated, "I would call it a civil war. . . I have been using it (civil war) because I like to face the reality."  (Like your blot?)  On CBS' The Early Show, Bob Schieffer (host of Face the Nation) offered, "This is not a memo that was leaked by some Democrat in Congress.  This is something that obviously came from someone within the administration itself.  It shows that the situation in Iraq is the kind of chaos that has been described by others at every level, political and military.  It paints a picture that is unlike what we have been hearing from the administration.  We've been hearing that things are getting better and so on and so forth, that al-Maliki is doing his best.  Now this memo raises questions about those statements."
As CNN reports, ahead of the Jordan meeting with Bully Boy, Nouri al-Maliki has seen "his support erode on two fronts Wednesday as a White House memo questioned his leadership and a powerful political bloc suspended participation in Iraq's government."  The suspension of participation was made quite clear Friday when al-Sadr's bloc stated that if al-Maliki went to Jordan to meet with the puppet, they would be pulling their support for al-Maliki.
Thomas Wagner and Sameer N. Yacoub (AP) report that "the 30 lawmakers and six Cabinet members" in the Sadr bloc "said their boycott was necessary because the meeting" between Bully Boy and al-Maliki "constituted a 'provocation to the feelings of the Iraqi people and a violation of their constitutional rights'."  As Amy Goodman noted on Democracy Now! today, the bloc announced they were boycotting because "Bush is a criminal who killed a lot of Iraqis and we do not want him to interfere in Iraq's affairs" but prefer that the puppet instead do business with the U.N. Security Council.  Deb Riechmann (AP) reports that the meet up in Amman, Jordan that was due to start today (Bully Boy & puppet) has now been put of with the US administration declaring it would take place "on Thuresday."
Meanwhile the city of Baquba is "shutdown" by violence.  "Shutdown"?  The sequel to 'crackdown'?  (Which Baghdad is still under.)  AP reports bombing raids by US aircraft while "the univeristy, public schools and many stores remained closed" and the deaths of five Iraqi police officers.
AP reports a roadside bomb in Bahgdad left three Iraqis dead and 11 more wounded and
"[t]wo mortar rounds also exploded near the Health Ministry, wounding two soliders" in the heavily fortified Green ZoneReuters notes: two car bombs in Iraq (one in central Baghdad, the other in southwestern Baghdad) that left two police officers dead and five Iraqis wounded;
a car bomb in Samarra that killed six police officers; a car bomb in Mosul that left one civilian dead and 23 more injured;   On the car bomb in Samarra, AP notes that it was a coordinated attack using the car bomb and guns and reports that four police officers were killed and four more wounded.
AP reports that the Green Zone in Baghdad was ringed with gunfire "for most of the morning."  AFP reports that four guards of the Pensions Department in central Baghdad were shot dead while on duty.
Reuters notes that the corpse "of a teacher with gunshot wounds" was discovered in Diwaniya today.
Today, the US military announced: "A Task Force Lightning Soldier assigned to 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, was killed when an improvised explosive device exploded near his vehicle while conducting operations in Salah ad Din Province Tuesday. A second Soldier from this unit was wounded and transported to a CoalitionForces' medical treatment facility."; and they also announced: "One Soldier assigned to Regimental Combat Team 7 died today from wounds sustained due to enemy action while operating in Al Anbar Province." Al-Anbar Province?  Before we move on, let's note that the count for US troops who have died in Iraq this month thus far is 65. (Which doesn't include Major Troy L. Gilbert whose plane crashed this week and who is classified as missing by the US military while other press reports report he died in the crash or following the crash.)
We're going to flash back to the August 3rd United States Senate Armed Services Committee hearing when the following exchange took place:

Senator John McCain: So, General Abizaid, we're moving 7,500 troops into Baghdad, is that correct?

General John Abizaid: The number is closer to 3,500.

[. . .]

McCain: And where are these troops coming from?

Abizaid: Uh, the troops, the Styker Brigade, is coming down from Mosul.

McCain: From Mosul? Is the situation under control in Ramadi?

Abizaid: Uh, the situation in Ramadi, is better than it was two months ago.

McCain: Is the situation under control in Ramadi?

Abizaid: I think the situation in Ramadi is workable.

McCain: And the troops from Ramadi came from Falluja, isn't that correct?

Abizaid: I can't say senator, I know that --

McCain: Well that's my information. What I' worry about is we're playing a game of whack-a-mole here. We move troops from -- It flares up, we move troops there. Everybody knows we've got big problems in Ramadi and I said, "Where you gonna get the troops?" 'Well we're going to have to move them from Falluja.' Now we're going to have to move troops into Baghdad from someplace else. It's very disturbing.
Is the situation in Ramadi under control, McCain repeatedly asked?
Ramadi is in Al-Anbar and the entire province is not "under control" (nor could it be).
As Edward Wong (New York Times) reported, "American troops killed five girls, including at least one baby" on Tuesday in Al-Anbar Province. Andrew Buncombe and Nick Paton Walsh (Independent of London) report that in addition to the five dead, "Fighting broke out in the city of Ramadi, considered a stronghold of the anti-US insurgency, after a US patrol discovered a roadside bomb in the Hamaniyah section of the city." 
This comes as Jonathan Karl (ABC News) reports that the "Pentagon officials are considering a major strategic shift in Iraq, to move U.S. forces out of the dangerous Sunni-dominated al-Anbar province and join the fight to secure Baghdad."  Has Al-Anbar Province been 'pacified'?  No (and it won't be).  As the four year anniversary of the illegal war comes ever closer, the US military is still attempting to impose order on Baghdad -- the only area that's ever been 'safe,' the area that's now been under a 'crackdown' (in all its variations) since June.  And nothing's stopped the chaos and violence. 
So the 'answer,' for the US government, is the same 'answer' they always have, what John McCain labeled "whack-a-mole."  Writing in the Guardian of London, Dilip Hiro proposes another answer: "Now, a revived proposal should have the American and British troops withdraw in stages from Iraq and hand over the stabilization task to a combined force of Muslim countries under UN command.  Stationing a Muslim stabilization force in Iraq would dispel the intense alienation that exists now between Iraqis and the Anglo-American troops. The brown-skinned Muslim troops would be seen praying in the same mosques as Iraqis, and they would have an innate understanding of the social and cultural mores of the local people since they come from societies similar to that in Iraq. Unlike the Anglo-American troops, they would not be advancing an agenda like planting a Jeffersonian model of democracy or seeking preference in exploiting Iraqi oil."
Instead, Reuters reports, the 'answer' remains to 'shift' "a couple of battalions" here and there. It hasn't worked, it won't work.  But the US adminstration refuses to face reality.  Which is why CNN reports that "the U.S. military plans to move at least three more battalions of American soldiers into the Iraqi captial".  And which is why the illegal war continues to drag on.
Remember, the Pacifica's Archives is  on day two of  a two-day special: Pacifica Radio Archives Presents Voices For Peace And Non-Violence.  It is airing on all Pacifica stations (KPFA, KFCF, KPFT, WBAI, KPFK, WPFW), many affiliates and online.  The special started today and pulls from the fifty plus years of archives.  (Donations made during this two day period go to preserve the archives.)  Among the voices heard since yesterday MLK, Coretta Scott King, Rosa Parks, Camilo Mejia, Medea Benjamin, Lena Horne, Fannie Lou Hamer, Gloria Steinem, Flo Kennedy, Gore Vidal, Kurt Vonnegut, Jane Fonda, Bette Davis, Ruth Gordon, Malcolm X, Angela Y. Davis, and many others.

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