Thursday, September 20, 2007

And the war drags on . . .

U.S. troops arrested an Iranian man during an early morning raid on a hotel in this northern Iraqi city Thursday and accused him of helping to smuggle a deadly type of roadside bomb into Iraq.
But the Kurdistan Regional Government in a statement called the arrest "illegitimate," said the man was a member of a trade delegation that had been invited to Sulaimaniyah by the local government and demanded that he be released.
"Actions like these serve no one," the statement said.

[. . .]
The Kurdish Regional Government said the man was Aghai Farhadi, a member of an economic and commercial delegation from the Iranian governorate of Karmanshah, which borders Iraq's Sulaimaniyah and Diyala provinces.
Hassan Baqi, the head of the Sulaimaniyah chamber of commerce, said Farhadi had been in Sulaimaniyah for a week for discussions on opening a border crossing near Panjween,68 miles east of Sulaimaniyah, and other trade-related issues.

The above is from Jay Price and Yaseen Taha's "Kurds denounce U.S. detention of Iranian" (McClatchy Newspapers) on the arrest of the Iranian that was supposed to distract us from the realities like the cholera spreading to Baghdad, or the fact that the long promised handover has been postponed until July at the earliest . . . For those who have forgotten, this was supposed to take place, per the White House, by November of this year.

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 Thursday, ICCC's number of US troops killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war was 3776. Tonight? 3792. Just Foreign Policy's total for the number of Iraqis killed since the start of the illegal war stood at 1,042,599. Tonight? 1,060,494. "Progress" is apparently the climbing death toll.

3792, repeating, is eight away from the 3800 mark. As Cindy Sheehan noted during her interview with Matthew Rothschild (The Progressive Radio Show this week), the Democrats bought the illegal war. They now co-own it. But no need to worry about people dying when there's money to be made, right? The Minneapolis Star Tribune notes: "The Kuwaiti company building the U.S. embassy in Baghdad has been accused of agreeing to pay $200,000 in kickbacks in return for two unrelated Army contracts in Iraq. The scheme, outlined in a now-sealed court document, allegedly involved First Kuwaiti General Trading & Contracting and a manager for Kellogg Brown & Root Inc." As long as Dick Cheney's babies clean up, we're all okay, right? That is what the White House is all about: enriching your own pockets, right?

From Naomi Klein's new book The Shock Doctrine: The Rise Of Disaster Capitalism:

Before stepping down as CEO to be George Bush's running mate, Cheney negotiated a retirement package that left him loaded with Halliburton stocks and options. After some uncomfortable press questions, he agreed to sell some of his Halliburton shares, making an impressive $18.5 million profit in the process. But he didn't cash out entirely. According to the Wall Street Journal, Cheney hung on to 189,000 Halliburton shares and 500,000 unvested options even as he entered the vice-presidency.
The fact that Cheney still maintains such a quantity of Halliburton shares means that throughout his term as vice-president, he has collection millions every year in dividends from his stocks and he has also been paid an annual deferred income by Halliburton of $211,000 -- roughly equivalent to his government salary. When he leaves office in 2009 and is able to cash in his Halliburton holdings, Cheney will have the opportunity to profit extravagantly from the stunning improvement in Halliburton's fortunes. The company's stock price rose from $10 before the war in Iraq to $41 three years later -- a 300 percent jump, thanks to a combination of soaring energy prices and Iraq contracts, both of which flow directly from Cheney's steering the country into war with Iraq.

Returning to the death toll for US service members, the 3792 doesn't include Nickolas Lee Hopper. Hopper didn't die in Iraq. He died last week in North Carolina, AP reports, "from wounds he received two years ago in Iraq".

But don't feel down, make like the press corps and get excited. Dave Montgomery (Fort Worth Star-Telegram) reports that the air war is about to get a little 'oomph' as "[t]he first combat squandron of tilt-roter V-22 Ospreys" heads to Iraq "ushering a new form of aerial technology into 21-st century warfare." We're apparently supposed to get the tingles over that -- though the sexual high may require press credentials. There is, however, a cautionary note offered, "But the Osprey's entry into combat will be under intense scrutiny after years of controversy that included delays, steadily rising costs and two fatal crashes in 2000 that nearly led to the program's cancellation. Critics say the tilt-rotor concept is still unproven and could endanger the lives of its crew members in combat. Supporters say it is ideal for combat and will enable Marines to get into hot spots faster and safer." The under-reported air war. The hardware used gets more coverage than the actual use of it in Iraq and certainly more than those who are killed by it.

Turning to the topic of oil, UPI reports that in a press conference today, Bully Boy declared he was in the dark on the Hunt Oil deal with Iraq's Kurdistan region. Bully Boy is reported to have declared, "I knew nothing about the deal" -- conjuring echoes of his spiritual antacedent's claim, "I am not a crook." UPI notes Hunt Oil's CEO, Ray Hunt, was twice appointed "to the president's Foreign Intellignece Advisory Board" and "has also been a major fundraiser for Bush and held a top Republican Party position." Here's that exchange in full:

Q: You recently spoke just earlier about the importance of oil revenue sharing in Iraq. Recently a company called Hunt Oil, run by one of your long-time supporters, Ray Hunt, signed a deal with a Kurdish regional government to drill for oil up there. That deal has come under intense criticism from the national government in Baghdad. They say it undermines the discussions about oil legislation. What's you're opinion of that kind of deal and how it impacts this long-stalled legislation?
Bully Boy:: Our embassy also expressed concern about it. I knew nothing about the deal. I need to know exactly how it happened. To the extent that it does undermine the ability for the government to come up with an oil revenue sharing plan that unifies the country, obviously if it undermines it I'm concerned.

Tuesday, Press TV reported on the bombing outside Beiji of an oil pipeline "causing huge quanties of crude oil to spill into the Tigris River" which has "caused oil to seep into the Tigris River damaging water stations and triggering their temporary closure in Tikrit". And the Tigris flows. So it's no surprise that AP reports, "City officials urged Baghdad residents Thursday to conserve water and fill up their tanks in case water treatment stations have to be shut down because of an oil spill in the Tigris River."

Seeing any 'progress'?

How about that recommendation that the Iraqi police force be disbanded? (See September 6th snapshot.) Tom Hayden (Huffington Post via Common Dreams) tackles the topic:

The little-noticed new report exposes the lethal nature of the counterinsurgency doctrines promoted by Gen. David Petraeus and the official warfighting manual developed in collaboration between the Army, the Marines and Harvard's Carr Center.
In comparison with past public outcries about "tiger cages" and Operation Phoenix in Vietnam, death squads in El Salvador and Honduras, or ethnic cleansing in the Balkans, there is little or no attention today to the issues raised in the new report. All the major Democratic presidential candidates support maintaining thousands of American trainers embedded with what the new report calls "dysfunctional and sectarian" forces. In short, whether intentional or not, all the major proposals on Iraq are based on a lower-visibility, lower-casualty dirty war reminiscent of Algeria, Central America, South Vietnam and, today, Afghanistan.
Gen. Petraeus was the commander of US transitional forces [MNSTC-I] in 2004-2005, in charge of training, arming and organizing Iraq's military and police forces. A scandal involving tens of thousands of missing weapons on Petraeus’ watch has been pursued by the American Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction since that time. A Petraeus subordinate, Col. Theodore Westhusing, committed apparent suicide on June 5, 2005, leaving a note which said,
"I cannot support a [mission] that leads to corruption, human rights abuses, and liars...I don't know who to trust anymore." [Newsweek, Aug. 20-27]
The new report thoroughly documents the violence, ethnic hatred, and lack of transparency surrounding the Iraq Ministry of Interior, which is responsible for some 300,000 police, national police, and border enforcement services, many of them tied to the Shi'a militias of the Badr Brigade, the paramiitary arm of the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq [SCIRI] which the Americans empowered after the fall of Saddam Hussein.Called "The Report of the Independent Commission on the Security Forces of Iraq", the Sept. 7, 2007 report was issued by Marine Gen. James Jones [ret.] and a panel of some 30 top military experts, many with 30 years' experience. The media noted its primary assessment, that the Iraqi army was progressing but would require another 12 to 18 months before being combat-ready. The explosive sections of the 130-page, single-spaced report were ignored.

Tomorrow is a day that anyone can take part in. United for Peace & Justice (along with others) will begin Iraq Moratorium on September 21st and follow it every third Friday of the month as people across the country are encouraged to wear and distribute black ribbons and armbands, purchase no gas on those Fridays, conduct vigils, pickets, teach-ins and rallies, etc. The e-mail address for this site is

tom hayden