Sunday, May 04, 2008

And the war drags on . . .

Inside the Sunday New York Times, Alissa J. Rubin's "U.S. Missiles Wound 28 Near Sadr City" documents Saturday's actions of "at least three 'precision-guided munitions'" which hit "a small mosque," "near a group of children," "damaging the hospital and a number of its ambulances". What's that part in international treaties about not attacking civilian populations? US Col Gerald O'Hara states, "We don't target civilians and regret any casualties," but I'm sure the wounded 'regret' the attack even more than those tossing around empty words.

From the article:

A doctor, who asked that his name not be used, said that nurses and doctors ran screaming as the blasts blew out hospital windows and shook the building.
[. . .]
Haider Abbas, 10, was brought to the hospital with what appeared to be a gaping hole in his back and shrapnel injuries across his stomach. The boy screamed in pain, barely able to answer a doctor's questions.

McClatchy's Shashank Bengali reports the hospital damaged was "[a] major hospital in Baghdad's Sadr City" and that 14 people were killed "in and around Sadry City" in "bloody street battles."

On the front page of the Times, James Risen covers a threat to US service members: contractors. The article's entitled "Despite Alert, Flawed Wiring Still Kills G.I.'s" which explains that "at least a dozen American military personnel have been electrocuted in Iraq" due to faulty wiring (lack of grounding of electrical wires) and the deaths "raise new questions about the oversight of contractors in the war zone". KBR is connected, of course. Their defense, in the article, is that they told the US military that their projects had faulty wiring and blamed it on "poorly trained Iraqis and Afghans paid just a few dollars a day." Which translates as, "We worked on the cheap and the finished product was unsafe, but, hey, not our fault, we gave a warning." Carmen Nolasco Duran's brother Marcos O. Nolasco died of electrocution "in Baiji in May 2004 while showering," states, "I don't feel like they did their job. They hired these contractors and yet they didn't go and double-check that the work was fine." From the article:

In 2006, John McLain was working as a KBR electrician at the United States regional embassy compound in Hilla, south of Baghdad, when he made a disturbing discovery. A KBR quality control inspector had recently cited employees there for failing to file quarterly ground resistance testing logs -- reports on whether the electrical wiring in the newly upgraded embassy building was properly grounded and safe for use.
Mr. McLain soon realized that the testing was not being conducted, because the building had never been grounded, though KBR and at least one Iraqi subcontractor were supposed to install proper safeguards during a renovation the previous year. Mr. McLain said he sent a series of increasingly blunt memos and e-mail warnings about the safety hazards to KBR officials.

Meanwhile Kaleem Omar (Pakistan's The News - International) reports on last week's money grab:

President George W. Bush last week asked Congress to approve $ 70 billion in funding for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars for the US fiscal year 2009, which begins on October 1, 2008. The Iraq war has already cost US taxpayers more than $ 500 billion dollars, and there is still no end in sight to the US's utterly illegal occupation of Iraq. According to congressional analysts, the eventual total cost of the Iraq war and the occupation could be as high as $ 1.5 trillion -- that's $ 1,500 billion.
This cost does not include the cost of rebuilding Iraq's shattered infrastructure, which has been destroyed by a massive US bombing campaign and other military action. Once an oil-rich country with the best educational and medical infrastructure in the Middle East, Iraq has now been reduced to little more than an economic basket case. Even Baghdad, the capital, still gets only a few hours of electricity a day. Thousands of Iraqis continue to die each month as a result of the war and US occupation. According to a survey carried out by Britain's Opinion Research Business, since the beginning of the war in March 2003 up to the end of September 2007, over 1.2 million Iraqis have died violent deaths as a result of the conflict.

The targeting of officials and educators continued over the weekend in Baghdad as did the targeting of "Awakening" Council members, a child found an object on the street and picked it up only to discover it was a bomb, the US military announced more deaths and KBR did their job on the cheap because what's a few electrocutions -- US service members now, Iraqis after the US finally withdraws?

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 hit the 4,052 mark. And tonight? 4071. 19 in 7 days. Today the US military announced (PDF format warning): "Four Multi-National Force - West Marines were killed in action May 2 when their vehicle was attacked by an enemy force with an improvised explosive device in al Anbar Province. " Just Foreign Policy's counter estimates that 1,205,025 Iraqis have been killed due to the Iraq War, up from last Sunday's 1,201,597. In some of the reported violence . . .


India's Economic Times notes a Baghdad bombing targeting the First Lady of Iraq, Hiro Ibrahim Ahmed, which wounded "four of her body guards but . . . [left] her unharmed." She's married to Jalal Talabani, the President of Iraq. BBC reports she "was travelling to a cultural festival at the city's National Theatre at the time. . . . Ms Hiro Ibrahim is a daughter of Ibrahim Ahmed, one of the founders of the Kurdish Democratic Party, and married Mr Talabani in 1970. She owns a media group and is a children's rights activist." Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 4 Baghdad roadside bombings resulted in the death of 1 Iraqi police officer and nine people wounded, a Baghdad car bombing wounded one person, Baghdad mortar attacks wounded two people, a Diyala Province bombing claimed the life of 1 "Awakening" Council member and left another wounded, a Salahuddin bombing claimed the lives of 2 women and a Mosul roadside bombing claimed 1 life. Yesterday McClatchy's Hussein Kadhim reported a Baghdad roadside bombing claimed 1 life and left eight people wounded, a Mosul roadside bombing wounded three people, a Kirkuk roadside bombing wounded three police officers and a flashlight bombing in Diyala Province wounded 7-year-old Mohammed Omran who found it and picked it up.


Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports Dr. Ayaad Jafar ("assistant head of Baghdad University") was shot dead in Baghdad and two of the man's sons were left wounded in the attack, "journalist, lawyer and member of the Mosul Branch of the Independent Electoral Commission in Iraq" Sarwa Abdul Wahab was shot dead outside her home in Mosul and 2 other people were shot dead in Mosul today. On Sarwa Abdul Wahab, Canada's CBC reports she had received threatening text messages demanding she stop reporting and that she was apparently in a taxi and pulled from it in what may have been an attempted kidnapping before "she was shot twice in the head." Yesterday McClatchy's Hussein Kadhim reported amred fighting in Mosul resulted in 1 death.


Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 5 corpses were turned over to Sadr City's Imam Ali Hospital (they also received seventeen wounded) and 3 other corpses were discovered in Baghdad. Reuters notes 1 corpse was discovered in Mosul. Yesterday McClatchy's Hussein Kadhim reported 4 corpses were discovered in Baghdad.

Kat's review of Carly Simon's This Kind Of Love went up this morning as did Isaiah's latest The World Today Just Nuts "Sunset Campaign." New content at The Third Estate Sunday Review:

A note to our readers
Best statement of the week
Editorial: The Unspeakable Barack Obama
TV: The Beauty & The Grump
Bully Boy's Endless Death Machine
The Lies Of Life
Dear Betsy Reed
TV: The candidates quick take
Breaking Barack news

Micah notes Kelly Roberts' "Hillary and John Mellencamp in Indianapolis" ( which is a photo essay.

Pru notes "US presidential elections won't solve rising discontent" (Great Britain's Socialist Worker):

The race for the US presidency reflects a deeper crisis facing the two main parties in the world's most powerful country, writes Abbie Bakan
The US election is scheduled for 4 November. While it is still not decided whether the Democratic Party candidate will be Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton, John McCain was declared to be the Republican candidate early on in the race.
The prospect of a black or female US president has generated an unprecedented level of excitement about the Democratic Party primaries. But when election day arrives, McCain remains a contender.
But who exactly is this guy? Well, he isn't George Bush. In fact, McCain challenged Bush for the Republican presidential nomination in 2000 and 2004.
In 2000 McCain announced his presidential bid promising to "take our government back from the power brokers and special interests, and return it to the people and the noble cause of freedom it was created to serve".
McCain has challenged the Bush administration over the torture of prisoners, not least because McCain survived five and a half years of recurring torture as a captured soldier during the Vietnam War.
In October 2005 McCain led a team of 90 representatives in the US Senate – including 46 Republicans, 43 Democrats and one independent – to pass an amendment to the Defense Appropriations Bill to prohibit the use of "cruel, inhuman or degrading" punishment of anyone being held in custody by the US government.
The amendment signified an ongoing debate between Bush and McCain regarding the rights of political prisoners and the legitimacy of torture on both ethical and pragmatic grounds.
The current election race is marked by a lack of political differentiation among the candidates of the two main parties on a number of issues. There is no debate over the war on Afghanistan, threatened intervention in Iran, or the US backing of Israel.
The one contested issue is Iraq, where the US ruling class is deeply divided over the continuation of the war. And McCain is unambiguously in favour of the prolonged -- even unlimited -- US military intervention.
Right wing pundit Zbigniew Brzezinski expresses the terrain of debate. Writing in the Washington Post, Brzezinski, who backs Barack Obama, bluntly states, "Both Democratic presidential candidates agree that the US should end its combat mission in Iraq within 12-16 months of their possible inauguration.
"The Republican candidate has spoken of continuing the war, even for a hundred years, until 'victory'. The core issue of this campaign is thus a basic disagreement over the merits of the war and the benefits and costs of continuing it."
McCain represents one wing of the US corporate elite. But the apparent uniformity among Republicans behind McCain belies a deeper malaise.
In reality the Republican Party is in some disarray. The coalition led by evangelical social conservatives that seemed unstoppable in the first administration of George Bush is no longer in charge.
The religious right do not trust the McCain style of Republicanism – but know that no other candidate could hold a lead in the primaries.
McCain's election strategy of trading largely on his personal history and distancing himself from the record of Bush's administration and the Republican Party is, to say the least, a high risk strategy.
Both party leadership contests indicate different expressions of more profound changes in public opinion as the 2008 election approaches. The voting population is showing signs of discontent with everything associated with the Bush administration, including the "war on terror" and the decades of neoliberalism.
According to a survey of Trends in Political Values and Core Attitudes from 1987 to 2007 conducted by the Pew Research Centre:
"Increased public support for the social safety net, signs of growing public concern about income inequality, and a diminished appetite for assertive national security policies have improved the political landscape for the Democrats as the 2008 presidential campaign gets underway."
Whatever the outcome in the elections, this sentiment will need to find expression beyond the big party machines, and beyond the White House, to see real and substantive changes in the US.
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