Sunday, May 24, 2009

And the war drags on . . .

Abu Fatma agreed to put his guns aside as part of a deal with the U.S. military last year but the former Sunni Muslim insurgent, once known as a killer with no mercy, is still a fighter. If the Americans don't start keeping the promises they made to his group and him he'll fight again, he said.
"All our arms are from old army caches underground; they will allow us to fight another 20 years," said the Kurd from the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk. "I've told the Americans, 'If you keep alienating the people, all the Iraqis will fight.' "
Iraq's fragile peace already is eroding -- April was the bloodiest month in a year -- and it could unravel completely as the U.S. draws down its forces and prepares to leave Iraq.

The above is from Leila Fadel's "Former Iraqi insurgent contemplates returning to war" (McClatchy Newspapers) and it needs to be pointed out that "April was the bloodiest month in a year" needs "so far" tagged on to it, not only because there's over a half-year to go but also because May's been plenty bloody and it's not over yet. Fadel, of course, was one of the worst about swallowing the treaty as binding and pimped the hell out of the so-called Status Of Forces Agreement. She generally avoids citing it today while continuing to pimp what it supposedly 'demands.' She'd do well to drop the predicting and stick to what actually is . . . especially when Gen Ray Odierno shot down the SOFA as binding and when, today, Adm Mike Mullens made curious statements on US TV that the number of US service members in Iraq after 2011 will not be zero.

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 4287 and tonight? 4300. That's an increase of 13, again, Leila Fadel might want to try using qualifiers in her reporting.

In some of today's reported violence . . .


Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing which injured three people and a Mosul suicide car bombing which left at least forty-five people injured. DPA reports 8 people were killed in the Mosul bombing.


Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 mother and daughter were shot dead in a Mosul home invasion. Reuters notes that home invasion and also that 1 Kurdish woman was shot dead in another Mosul home invasion. DPA adds that 1 Sahwa ("Awakening," "Sons Of Iraq") was shot dead in Hilla ("at a checkpoint he was manning").

Olive notes that Australia's ABC reports on the 2005 death of Lt Paul Pardoel, "The British Ministry of Defence has admitted there was a litany of faults with a military transport plane that crashed in Iraq in 2005, killing 10 servicemen including an Australian navigator. Royal Air Force Flight Lieutenant Paul Pardoel, 35, was flying on the Hercules when it was shot down by insurgents." Olive states she thinks it's ridiculous for Paul Rudd (Prime Minister of Australia) to claim no Australian fatalities in Iraq when there's Jake Kovco (whose death is no clearer after an inquiry than it was before) and Paul Pardoel whose plane was shot down. In today's New York Times, Campbell Robertson and Suadad al-Salhy report that while Iraq's Trade Minister has captured the corruption headlines, the next to be targeted for scrutiny will most likely be the Oil Minister, Hussain al-Shahristani.

Now to the SOFA which is allegedly (to hear the Media Whores tell it) going to mean a full withdrawal by 2011 (something that Barack never promised reporters when he was on the campaign trail -- he promised them something completely different: That a phased draw down, while violence increases, would mean more US troops would be sent into Iraq). George Steph put on his reporter cap. Today Adm Mike Mullens appeared on ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos (link has video option and the transcript is here).

STEPHANOPOULOS: OK. Let me move to Iraq then. U.S. combat forces are scheduled to complete their pullout from Iraqi cities by June 30th. But in recent weeks, we've seen an uptick again in the violence. Does that rise in violence mean that the deadline for pulling American forces out of the cities might not be met?
MULLEN: Oh, I think we're still very much on a track in terms of pulling the forces out of the cities, which is the end of next month. We're on track to decrease the number of troops down to 35,000 to 50,000 in August of 2010.
We've had an uptick in violence, but the overall violence levels are at the 2003 levels. It's still fragile. There's an awful lot of political positioning and political debate that's going on right now, and I think that in great part becomes the essence of how Iraq moves forward.
I'm actually positive about what the Iraqi security forces have done, their army and their police in terms of providing for their own security. They've improved dramatically.
So the path, I think, is still the right path. These ticks, upticks in violence are going to occur. We said that going in, even into -- as we talked about coming down in force. So we just have to, we have to constantly keep an eye on that.
Al Qaida is still active. They're not gone. They're very much...
MULLEN: Al Qaida in Iraq is very much diminished, but they still have potential to create these kinds of incidents.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And the president has said that his overall goal is to have all forces out of Iraq by 2011.
OBAMA: Under the status of forces agreement with the Iraqi government, I intend to remove all U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of 2011.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That is pretty unequivocal. Yet I was reading the proceedings of the U.S. Naval Institute. They had an interview with Tom Ricks, the U.S. military historian, where he says he worries that the president is being wildly over-optimistic. He says we may be only halfway through the war. And he talks about a conversation he had with the commanding general in Iraq, General Ray Odierno, who told him he'd like to see 35,000 troops in Iraq in 2015. Is that what you expect, as well?
MULLEN: Well, certainly the direction from the president and the status of forces agreement that we have with Iraq right now is that we will have all troops out of there by the end of 2011. And that's what we're planning on right now.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But can Iraq be safe with all U.S. troops out of Iraq in 2007 (sic)?
MULLEN: Well, we're on a good path now. And we'll have to see. I mean, the next 12 to 18 months are really critical there in that regard, and I think that answering that question will be much clearer given that timeframe.
The other thing is, we have -- this is a long-term relationship we want with Iraq, and Iraq has stated they want with the United States. And part of that is the possibility that forces could remain there longer. But that's up to the Iraqi people and the Iraqi government to initiate discussions along those lines, and that hasn't happened yet.
STEPHANOPOULOS: It's up to the Iraqi people and the Iraqi government. It's up to the president, of course, as well. But from a military perspective, General Odierno says that he would like to see 35,000 troops in 2015. Is that what you all believe is necessary to secure Iraq from a military perspective?
MULLEN: There's no definitive number right now beyond the end of 2011.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But it's not zero?
MULLEN: Well, I mean, when I'm engaged in other countries around the world, I have very small footprints of military personnel in that engagement. You know, and I would hope long-term, that we would have a great military-to-military relationship with Iraq.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That could include U.S. troops there?
MULLEN: Well, I mean, we've got small numbers of troops throughout the world that conduct training activities, exercises, and those kinds of things. So long-term in Iraq, I would look to be able to do something like that.

"It's not zero," George asks. As he should. But it was never zero and it was never a given that ALL US troops would be out of Iraq at the end of 2011 because of the SOFA (did anyone read that treaty?). Mullen's remarks are also perfectly in keeping with what Barack told the press in 2007 and 2008. And we've noted Barry O's weael word before "intend." The Cult of St. Barack does deadly damage and needs to grow the hell up.

Joel Brinkley offers a rare spotlight for women's rights in "Women's rights threatened in Iraq, Afghanistan" (San Francisco Chronicle):

In Iraq, women suffer many of the same injustices -- honor killings, acid attacks, summary executions. In Basra last year, while extremist Shiite militias controlled the city, reporters and human rights workers described grisly scenes of women strangled, tortured, disfigured and beheaded for purported violations of that particular sect's interpretation of Islamic law.
With help from U.S. forces, the Iraqi military now controls Basra, and women are far less threatened - for now.
But the American-mandated promotion of women in government has not taken women very far. Women do sit in the parliament, but they wield little influence.
Meantime, Nawal al-Samarraie, Iraq's minister for women's affairs, quit her job when the central government cut her budget - to $1,500 a month for the entire Ministry of Women's Affairs.

One thing the US could have done -- under the previous administration or the current one -- was make the ambassador to Iraq a woman to force Iraqi thugs in government to deal with a woman and to give a role model for Iraqi women and girls. But that didn't happen. Instead, Chris Hill was installed for some unknown reason. Completely unqualified (many women were qualified for the post -- including the one who did the job after Ryan Crocker resigned and in the weeks and weeks before Hill was confirmed). But Hill stroked Barry's ego in the campaign and his advisors were high on him (Sammy describes Chris as "earthy" -- suggesting that she may have left Ireland in the seventies to come to the US but she never truly left the seventies). And no one notices what a failure Hill already is. Promise: Upon being confirmed he would immediately, that day leave for Iraq. Days after being confirmed, he finally made it to Iraq. Promise: He would hit the ground running. Weeks after arriving, he had still not met the major players. Not referring to tribal chiefs, but to people like President Jalal Talabani, Iraq's two vice presidents and the president of the KRG. Chris Hill, the Pig-Pen of the diplomacy set. Someone's going to have to do a clean up on aisle Baghdad shortly.

New content at Third:

Truest statement of the week
A note to our readers
Editorial: Destructive and Deadly
TV: The weird week that was
Little Matthew Rothschild steps out of the closet
The Nation attacks history again
Jim's World
The Iraq War Crimes coverage (or lack of)
The digital divide
The People Need To Sue AP
Truth Talker of the Month
Box Office Poison
Rights Lawyers File Motion for Activists Indicted ...

Isaiah's doing a comic for either Monday or Tuesday. He's not sure which yet. Kat has done two music reviews and would like to do three. She spent the bulk of tonight writing the two. One will go up after this and another on Monday. If she does a third it will go up Tuesday. Pru notes Alex Callinicos' "Obama is marching into the graveyard of empires" (Great Britian's Socialist Worker):

Two events last week underlined the fact that Barack Obama is not kidding when he says he intends to escalate the war in Afghanistan.
The first was mainly symbolic. Obama reneged on his earlier promise to publish photos of US soldiers abusing Iraqi detainees. According to the White House, the U-turn was motivated solely by concern for the safety of US troops. But apparently it followed pressure from senior figures in the military.
The episode reinforced the impression left by Obama’s hesitations over whether or not to prosecute ex-officials who, under George Bush, had written memoranda authorising the torture of suspected terrorists.
Obama is under pressure from the people who elected him, who want an end to the global state of exception proclaimed by Bush after 9/11. But he needs the national security apparatus that served Bush to continue fighting the US’s imperial wars.
So, before releasing the torture memoranda, Obama went to the headquarters of the Central Intelligence Agency in Langley, Virginia, to reassure the assembled spooks that they were still loved and wanted.
The second event showed the direction Obama is heading in Afghanistan. On Monday of last week US defence secretary Robert Gates announced he was sacking General David McKiernan, the US commander in Afghanistan, after only 11 months in the job. Asked if McKiernan’s career was over, Gates brutally replied, “Probably.”
McKiernan is being replaced by Lieutenant General Stanley McChrystal. McChrystal used to head the Joint Special Operations Command, a section of the US military that received additional resources and clout while Donald Rumsfeld ran the Pentagon for Bush.
General David Petraeus is almost certainly behind this reshuffle. The architect of the “surge” in Iraq in 2007-8, he is now chief of US Central Command, which sprawls imperially from the Horn of Africa through the Middle East to Afghanistan.
Obama has ordered a surge in Afghanistan. The US has 45,000 troops in Afghanistan. This is expected to rise to 68,000 later this year.
The alternative strategy now being put in place is explained by Washington Post columnist David Ignatius. To understand Petraeus’s basic approach, try to imagine a horizontal line that charts the level of militancy of insurgent groups.
On the left are the hard-core “irreconcilables” who could never be co-opted by the US. But as you move right along the line, the groups become more pliable and join the “reconcilable” camp.
In Iraq Petraeus transformed hard-core insurgents into members of tribal militias on the US payroll. The remaining fanatics became targets for Special Forces “capture or kill” operations, which were overseen by McChrystal. It was a hard and soft strategy – using firepower to clear an area, and then gentler counter-insurgency tools to hold it and build through economic development.
Petraeus’s plan in Afghanistan is to hit the enemy very hard this year with the additional 21,000 troops Obama has approved – and then see if the Taliban coalition begins to crack.
Much greater violence is ahead initially, as the US attacks Taliban sanctuaries in the south. But if the strategy succeeds, the “chameleon insurgents”, as Petraeus calls them, will begin to peel away.
As so often with the counter-insurgency strategies of imperial powers, this leaves out politics. Also writing in the Washington Post, Celeste Dean, who worked in the Pentagon under Bush, points out the crucial role the decision of different political forces to stop fighting “and start deal-making” played in bringing limited stability to Iraq.
I doubt the Taliban will be interested in doing this. Their influence has been spreading and they have the confidence born of the historical memory of past victories, not just of their radical Islamist ideology. As Ignatius puts it, Obama is marching his presidency into the “graveyard of empires”.
© Socialist Worker (unless otherwise stated). You may republish if you include an active link to the original.
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the new york times

suadad al-salhy

the socialist worker
alex callinicos