Sunday, May 06, 2007

And the war drags on . . .

After recapturing Congress last November the Democrats paid plenty of lip service to "the message from the voters" about getting out of Iraq. Substantively they didn't plan to do much. Then the Democratic leadership discovered that the voters really had sent them a very explicit message and didn't want to be fobbed off with set up some vague, non-binding resolutions about withdrawal deadlines. Candidates like Hilary Clinton are finding that brawny talk about "leaving all options on the table" (i.e., nuke Iran if necessary) isn't at all popular with the solid liberal base they can't afford to offend in the long march to the nomination.
By far the best performance at a recent Democratic candidates' debate organized by MSNBC was by a very distant outsider, Mike Gravel, a 77-year former US senator from Alaska, well known nearly 40 years ago for his opposition to the war in Vietnam. In some electrifying tirades, he flayed Clinton, Obama, Edwards, and the others as two-faced on the absolute imperative of getting out of the war in Iraq and not getting into one in Iran. "They frighten me", Gravel shouted, gesturing at his rivals. "You know what's worse than one US soldier dying in vain in Iraq. It's two soldiers dying in vain. In Vietnam they all died in vain."
So the Democrats are edgy too, though not quite so much as McCain, whose only option is to turn on a dime and come out against the war at the end of the summer. What the Democrats fear is that a very significant number of voters are in a testy mood, ready to punish anyone--Democrat as well as Republican--who doesn't have a clear, simple plan to bring the troops back home. So now they are openly conceding they misunderstood the public mood. But they are also aware that if they seriously tilt towards Gravel's position about the insanity these overseas interventions they will be savaged by the political establishment on every talk show and every piece of political analysis in the mainstream press. So they are caught between the public mood and the imperial imperative and the latter will prevail in their calculations and thus--absent a prodigious orgy of doublespeak -alienate their political base.

The above, noted by Mia, is from Alexander Cockburn's "Trying to Catch Up with the Voters" (CounterPunch). While Dems try to figure out a position on Iraq (suppine is always a favorite for the current leadership), the violence rages on. Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) covered Saturday's violence noting a Baghdad car bombing that killed one person (5 wounded, Al Karkh), a civilian killed by US forces in Bahgad, 3 Baghdad mortar attacks that wounded 6, a Baghdad explosion that wounded 2 police officers, one person shot dead in Baghad with 2 more wounded, a Baghdad explosion that killed one and wounded 5, Baghdad car bombs that killed 9 people and left 13 wounded, 11 corpses discovered in Baghdad, one police officer shot dead in Khalis, 4 male members of a family shot dead in Kanaan, 2 men killed in an assault in Kanaan, 4 people kidnapped in Kanaan, a police officer killed in a Kirkuk explosion (3 people wounded), a police officer "killed accidentally" (apparently by British troops) in the middle of an attack in Basra and a rocket attack in Basra that wounded 5.

For those who watched Bill Moyers' two-hour special two weeks ago, heads up. McClatchy Newspapers has gathered their reporting on the intel leading up to the illegal war in one online folder. No, not everyone was wrong. And no, not every journalist thought taking down dictation passed for reporting. You can read McClatchy Newspapers strong journalism by clicking here.
No word on when the New York Times will create a special folder to highlight the pre-war 'reporting' of Judith Miller and Michael R. Gordon.

Now, via Reuters, let's note some of today's violence: in Baghdad: 24 corpses were discovered, 35 people died in a car bombing (80 others listed as injured), and another car bomb left 2 dead (10 injured); in Samarra 12 police officers are dead and 11 wounded from a car bombing,
in Garma 3 corpses were discovered (police officers), and three people were wounded in a bombing in Kut. That's 77 dead (counting corpses).

So how's that escalation really working out? About as well as anyone with common sense expected -- not very well at all. Yes, Bully Boy's probably sweating it. So are the Democrats who honestly thought minor little economic packages and smoke & mirrors on health care could be just the thing to get the presidential nomination. Mean old reality may result in them having to address Iraq -- something they should have done the second the majorities were sworn in last January, something they should have taken principled stands for when they were in the minority prior, something the 2002 Democratic Senate should have screamed their heads off over before the illegal war started. But they didn't. And the corpses pile up on all sides (including US service members which we're about to get to).

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, ICCC's number of US troops killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war was 3346. Tonight? 3376. 25 for the month thus far, 30 more in one week and what's Congress doing? Playing shell games? Thinking tricking the voters is better than ending the war? Today the US military announced: "Two Marines assigned to Multi National Force-West were killed May 5 while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar Province." And they announced: "A MND-B Soldier was killed and four others were wounded when an improvised explosive device detonated in a western section of the Iraqi capital May 4." And they announced: "A Task Force Lightning Soldier died Sunday in a non-combat relatedincident." And they announced: "While conducting a combat patrol an MND-B Soldier was killed when an improvised explosive device struck the unit's vehicle in a southern section of the Iraqi capital, wounding one other Soldier May 6." And they announced: "An MND-B Soldier was killed and two others were wounded when their vehicle was struck by two improvised explosive devices (IEDs) north of Baghdad May 6. The unit was conducting a clearing operation in the area when the IED attack occurred."
The announcements go on. We'll note that Reuters reports 8 US service members were killed on Sunday. [You can also check out Sudarsan Raghavan and Karin Brulliard's "8 U.S. Troops Killed In Iraq Bomb Attacks" (Washington Post) for more on the 8 deaths today.) Those eight that died Sunday are in addition to the soldier who died on Friday but was announced dead today and the two marines who died Saturday in Al-Anbar Province but whose deaths were announced today. 11 deaths were announced today. You know what didn't get announced today? That Congress has decided on a binding withdrawal date, that Congress had decided to cut off the funds to the illegal war or that Congress was going to do anything more than the usual shell game.

In addition, the UK Defence Ministry announced: "It is with deep sadness that the Ministry of Defence must announce the death of a soldier, who died today, 6 May 2007, as a result of injuries that were sustained in Iraq last week." Before that announcment the count of British troops killed in Iraq was 148 and it still is. Why? Because, as with the US military, they don't always include the deaths if the person is transported out and dies after. [Note: Thank you to Gareth for pointing out that I had inverted numbers in the British fatality count. My apologies.]

Turning to the issue of the Iraqi army, Lloyd noted Karin Brulliard's "For Iraqi Soldiers, A Medical Morass" (Washington Post) this morning:

Muhammad Mizher Massen was a different man on the morning of Feb. 21. His muscles filled out his Iraqi Army uniform. His posture radiated the confidence of a soldier who had helped capture insurgents. And in a few hours, he was going to propose to his girlfriend.
Then the roadside bomb blew up, shredding his left leg.
Now 1st Sgt. Massen, 22, is a one-legged man. He spends his $460 monthly soldier's salary to pay down $3,400 in accrued medical expenses.
As the U.S. military prepares for an eventual handover of security duties to Iraqi forces, more of Iraq's 120,000 soldiers are advancing to the front lines of the war, and more are being wounded. But because there are no Iraqi military hospitals, thousands have been left to the mercy of overtaxed and corrupt civilian hospitals and a military compensation system paralyzed by disorganization.

If you didn't have recruiters, who would sign up? A draft would mitigate the need for recruiters -- and no, that's not an endorsement of the draft. But recruiters are the subject of Lynda's highlight, Missy Comley Beattie's "Lying and Dying" (CounterPunch):

The military recruiters ask if prospective enlistees can kill.
Do they ask if they can kill children?
Do they explain that soldiers' lives will be in the hands of a president who was AWOL, missing from Alabama during the war that was supposed to end all wars? Do they tell our young that Poppy Bush arranged the safety of George with a stateside assignment but that they must be prepared to serve wherever their commander-in-chief sends them?
Do the recruiters show them the impressive uniform but avoid mentioning the inadequate body armor?
Do the recruiters talk about the morphing reasons for the invasion of Iraq? Do they explain, "Mr. Bush said there were weapons of mass destruction?" Or this: "Mr. Bush really thought that Saddam Hussein could have been responsible for the events of 9/11." If challenged, would the recruiters admit that the president linked Hussein and 9/11 to inspire patriotism and support for the war? Do the recruiters know that George Bush wanted an excuse to invade Iraq, an incursion he began planning even before taking the oath of office?
Do the recruiters tell our young that Iraq had no connection to the suicide bombers of 9/11, that the president has admitted this but continues to tie Iraq to 9/11 when promoting the continuation of his war? Do the recruiters buy Bush's statement that retreat will mean that the terrorists will follow the troops home?
Do the military recruiters tell potential troops that their president has cut funding for their care if and when they return from battle? Do they know that George and Laura visit the wounded at Walter Reed but that Bush blamed others when reports surfaced about the deplorable conditions at military hospitals? Have the recruiters heard any of the statements made by Iraq war veterans' families about their care at these facilities? One spouse said, "If Iraq don't kill you, Walter Reed will."

While recruiters help fuel the war, the presence of US troops in Iraq breeds the resistance. At this late date, that's not even newsworthy or wouldn't be if so many (including in small media) didn't break their necks spinning to the other side to avoid the very obvious fact. How to end the illegal war? Cindy notes Karen Button's "An Iraqi Blueprint for Peace" (Common Dreams):

"The US talks about withdrawal after bringing Iraqi security forces up to speed, yet has paid militias, allowed mercenaries, and, with few exceptions, ignored the blatant abuses and torture committed by Iraqi forces. They have ignored rampant corruption within all ministries, the most egregious resulting in a medical crisis and a judicial joke. They have also committed their own atrocities, ensuring that the new Iraq is riddled with violence, fear, and contempt for the occupying forces."
Thus starts Planning Iraq's Future: A detailed project to rebuild post-liberation Iraq. The 250-page peace plan was written over the past two years by 108 Iraqis that included Sunni and Shi’a Muslims, Assyrian Christians, Arabs, Kurds, Turkmen, and other minorities, the majority of which are sill in Iraq.
Unlike some other plans, like that put forward in January by Ali Allawi, former Iraqi Defense Minister and current advisor to Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki, none of the Iraqis who worked on this plan have ties to the current government.
That’s important, maintain authors of the initiative, because its backing by occupations forces means it will never hold legitimacy in the eyes of Iraqis. Thus, it will always be a resistance target, says Dr. Khair El-Din Haseeb, Director General of Beirut's Center for Arab Unity Studies, the Arab world's most prominent think-tank, and sponsor of the project.
"This plan proposes a direction for the future of Iraq," explained co-author Dr. Abdul Karim Hani in Damascus. "We've been asked many times what is the political program of the resistance. Well, this is it."
Signatories on the plan represent thousands of Iraqis, the authors say, because many of them speak for larger groups. Hani, for example, is with the Iraqi National Foundation Congress, a broad coalition of political, intellectual, religious, and ethnic forces.
"This occupation came out of13 years of the worst sanctions the world has seen. Now, we have had four years of even worse suffering. These are the conditions under which this document was written," explains Hani, who himself finally fled Iraq for Cairo a year and a half ago.
The imperative for Iraqis to re-gain control of their country is what fueled the broad-based plan.

Pru said her highlight could wait until later in the week. No, it can't. It's a very strong piece from Great Britain's Socialist Worker, Simon Assaf's "Soldiers admit: 'Iraq war is lost'
US veterans of the Iraq war join protests to bring the troops home. There is growing unease among US and British troops

The war is lost. That's the message coming out of Iraq and Afghanistan by those sent to fight it.
From ordinary soldiers to frontline military commanders the message is bleak for those who dragged us into the "long war".
Lieutenant Colonel Paul Yingling is a senior commander in the 3rd Armoured Cavalry Regiment and has served in two tours of Iraq. He wrote in the May issue of the US Armed Forces Journal:
"For the second time in a generation, the US faces the prospect of defeat at the hands of an insurgency. In April 1975, the US fled the Republic of Vietnam, abandoning our allies to their fate at the hands of North Vietnamese Communists.
"In 2007, Iraq's grave and deteriorating condition offers diminishing hope for an American victory and portends risk of an even wider and more destructive regional war."
The reason for the looming defeat, he wrote, is that the military downplayed the growing resistance to the occupation:
"For reasons that are not yet clear, America's general officer corps underestimated the strength of the enemy, overestimated the capabilities of Iraq's government and security forces, and failed to provide the US Congress with an accurate assessment of security conditions in Iraq."
He said that most senior officers agreed with his analysis.
Yingling's article has sent shock waves through George Bush's administration, which has placed all its hopes for victory on a "surge" of 30,000 US troops.
The mood of despair among those sent to fight in Afghanistan and Iraq was highlighted by a candid interview with a British soldier who just has returned from Basra in southern Iraq.
Paul Barton, a private in the Staffordshire Regiment, told his local paper that far from British troops handing over security to Iraqi soldiers, the British were being driven out of Iraq by an increasingly sophisticated resistance movement.
He said, "The situation has become intolerable. We are meant to be there peacekeeping but there is no peace to keep. There's a civil war going on and we are caught in the middle, and are coming under attack day and night.
"Insurgents are getting access to a lot more weapons, and are becoming stronger and stronger.
"As far as I'm concerned, we're coming into the end game. We're losing around four soldiers a month and it won't get any better."
The retreat from Basra began last year when the British fled their consular building in the city. They then abandoned a military base on the edge of the city and are now holed up at the airport, miles from population centres.
According to Barton, even this has become unsafe:
"They've even started attacking our base at Basra airport, now they've got proper artillery guns. Once that's gone there's nowhere left.
"We're just sitting ducks under constant attack – three or four times a day. Fifteen mortars and three rockets were fired at us in the first hour we were there. It was unbelievable.
"From the end of January to March, there was a siege mentality. We were getting mortared every hour of the day. We didn't sleep for months.
"Every patrol we went on we were either shot at or blown up by roadside bombs. It was crazy. Once, when our tents were attacked, I got out but my mate was hit. He was in bed and had the top of his head blown off. Luckily he survived, but he's got brain damage."
The picture emerging from Afghanistan echoes the sense of failure. The Taliban are now moving into areas that were once considered secure.
Last week insurgents launched attacks in a district that is only 45 miles from the capital, Kabul. They have appeared in areas dominated by ethnic groups that have been hostile to the Taliban in the past.
The resistance has also spread from their heartlands in the south to the west of the country. Demonstrations against bloody military raids and air strikes are also becoming more common.
Over 1,000 Afghans sacked and burned government buildings in a western province on Monday of last week, demanding that occupation troops halt all military operations in the area.
Protesters say that Nato troops are regularly targeting civilians and then claiming they are killing Taliban fighters.
As Nato pours more troops into a bloody "spring offensive", some Western and Afghan officials have admitted that the US-backed government has little support among ordinary people and the occupation faces defeat.
The following should be read alongside this article: »
Lynda Holmes: Military families are speaking out against war
For more on Iraq see Alex Callinicos Democrats play a double edged game over Iraq
© Copyright Socialist Worker (unless otherwise stated). You may republish if you include an active link to the original and leave this notice in place.

Thank you to Pru for offering that her highlight could wait. Apologies to Lloyd who even included the topic of the highlight in his e-mail. Thank you to Ruth for Ruth's Report which went up this morning and was the only thing up forever, to Kat for "Kat's Korner: Patti from the Mount" and Isaiah for "The World Today Just Nuts 'Bully Mama'." Between problems with illustrations and with Blogger/Blogspot (including Google banning log in access to the site), it was a very long edition of The Third Estate Sunday Review. However, this is what's now up:

Truest statement of the week
A Note to Our Readers
Editorial: Don't miss Sir! No Sir! Monday night on... -- that's tomorrow night. Sir! No Sir! on The Sundance Channel. We'll note it tomorrow, I'm too tired to do it tonight. Check your local listings.
TV: Mid-wifing the rebirth of the yuppy
The Bwana of Baghdad
From the desk of Katrina vanden Heuvel
Jaques-cuse still doesn't get it
Screw Google -- this is the message Google repeatedly gave us when we were informed we might be 'robots.' As Jess said, we wish. Robots don't need sleep.
Miss J/O America
Ask Dahr

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