Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Iraq snapshot

Tuesday, October 20, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces another death, still no election law passed in Iraq, Nouri remains in DC, Cindy Sheehan prepares to interview Noam Chomsky, Ryan Crocker tries to talk SOFA (will the press listen) and more.
Today the US military announced: "CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE SPEICHER, TIKRIT, Iraq - A Multi-National Division - North Soldier was killed and two were wounded when an improvised explosive device detonated near their vehicle in Ninawa province, Iraq, Oct. 19. The name of the deceased is being withhled pending notifcation of next of kin and release by the Department of Defense.  The names of service members are announced through the U.S. Department of Defense official website [. . .]. The announcements are made on the Web site no earlier than 24 hours after notification of the service member's primary kin." The announcement brings to 4351 the number of US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war.

Before we go into other violence in Iraq, let's go to the heart of the violence: The continued war.  And some people try to pretend it's over -- when it's not.  And some try to pretend that SOFA means the end of the war -- when it doesn't.  Golly, with even Ryan Crocker, former US Ambassador to Iraq, making it clear, you think the press will try to get it right now?
Gordon Robison (Gulf News) reports on Crocker's speech last week at Harvard's Kennedy School:
Like any international agreement the Sofa can be modified if, at some point in the future, both governments agree there is a need to do so. It is rarely said in Washington, but widely assumed, that this means the actual implementation of the withdrawal agreement is essentially situational: that is, it will go ahead only if conditions on the ground warrant it.           
Despite the fact that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki has emerged as a stronger, and far more savvy, political player than almost anyone expected; and despite the fact that the existing Sofa was only grudgingly approved by the Iraqi parliament, there remains a near universal assumption in Washington that if, come 2011, Washington decides we need to stay longer, then so be it. Last May, the army chief of staff, General George Casey, acknowledged as much, telling a group of journalists and think tank specialists that his planning scenarios envision the presence of US combat troops in Iraq for another decade.          
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, there has been little discussion here in the United States about what 'withdrawal' really means. As Crocker emphasised last week at Harvard, the US policy has always been that it wants no permanent bases in Iraq. Crocker, however, failed to note that government officials and the general public often have starkly different definitions of "permanent base."
[. . .]
Beyond that there is the question of what 'withdrawal' actually means. The military tends to make a distinction between training or advisory troops and combat forces. The American approach to Iraq raises the very real possibility of combat forces heading home while tens of thousands of trainers, advisers and their accompanying support troops remain in place. A military professional might call such a situation 'withdrawal', but a lot of ordinary Americans and Iraqis are likely to think otherwise.            
[. . .]                   
It is time, as Ambassador Crocker says, for a more public, more focused, discussion about what 'getting out' of Iraq really means. Americans and Iraqis alike may well be unhappy with what they hear.
The Iraq War has not ended.  The SOFA does not mean -- and never did -- that the Iraq War ends.  The UN mandate expired yearly.  When the US operated under the UN mandate, the expiration of the mandate never meant the war ended.  It only mean the US had to leave . . . if no other agreement was reached.  Instead of doing the yearly renewal, the SOFA was an agreement allowing for three more years of occupation.  That's all it has to mean (and that's provided neither side decides to kill it -- and killing it can be to replace it). James Circello (Party for Socialism and Liberation) addressed the realites of the illegal war this week:
The fact that dozens of bases will remain in Iraq long after the United States puts the Iraq war "behind it" clearly demonstrates that the U.S. ruling class has no intention of truly relinquishing Iraq. These bases—six of which are so-called "supersize bases" -- will continue to be filled with the boots and rifles of U.S. occupational forces.                
The same NY Times article notes that at least 50,000 troops will be left in Iraq through at least 2011. Soldiers, airmen and marines will continue to kill innocent Iraqis, while simultaneously building the military might of a puppet Iraqi army. The purpose of that reduction in Iraq, according to the senior commander in Iraq, General Ray Odierno, is to free up U.S. soldiers to go to Afghanistan.
[. . .]
This so-called withdrawal is a continuation of using different tactics to achieve the same goal: imperialist domination and exploitation. The U.S. ruling class is invested in maintaining the occupation and due to multiple factors -- most notably the heroic resistance by the Iraqi people against its occupiers -- has now chosen to change its policies and the appearance of the occupation in Iraq.                  
For the millions of families in Iraq and Afghanistan that have seen loved ones die while living under occupation, the nature of the experience doesn't change by simply lowering troop levels from 125,000 to 50,000. Foreign soldiers armed and under the direction of foreign governments in Iraq mean that Iraq is still occupied.
Now to some of today's violence in the continued Iraq War.
Jenan Hussein (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing injured three people, a Baghdad sticky bombing injured three people, a second Baghdad roadside bombing left two people wounded, a third one injured four people, a Falluja car bombing claimed the lives of 4 people with an ten more injured, a Mosul roadside bombing injured 2 Iraqi soldiers, a Mosul sticky bombing which injured two people and, dropping back to Monday, a Mosul mortar attack which left four Iraqi military recruits injured.
Jenan Hussein (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 person shot dead in Mosul and an armed clash in Mosul in which an Iraqi soldier was injured and 1 suspect was shot dead.
Jenan Hussein (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 3 corpses discovered in Mosul.
Last month, Lisa Holland (Sky News via Information Clearing House) reported on the damage being done to Iraqis and future generations due to toxic and deadly weapons foreign forces (which would include the US) have used (and continue to) in Iraq:
An Iraqi doctor has told Sky News the number of babies born with deformities in the heavily-bombed area of Fallujah is still on the increase.       
Fifteen months ago a Sky News investigation revealed growing numbers of children being born with defects in Fallujah.            
Concerns were that the rise in deformities may have been linked to the use of chemical weapons by US forces.                 
We recently returned to find out the current situation and what has happened to some of the children we featured.                 
In May last year we told the story of a three-year-old girl called Fatima Ahmed who was born with two heads.                 
When we filmed her she seemed like a listless bundle - she lay there barely able to breathe and unable to move.                    
Even now and having seen the pictures many times since I still feel shocked and saddened when I look at her.                      
But the prognosis for Fatima never looked good and, as feared, she never made it to her fourth birthday.                     
Her mother Shukriya told us about the night her daughter died.                   
Wiping away her tears, Shukriya said she had put her daughter to bed as normal one night but woke with the dreadful sense that something was wrong.             
She told us she felt it was her daughter's moment to die, but of course that does not make the pain any easier.                 
It's a topic Dave Lindorff has covered many times before -- for example, see 2003's "America's Dirty Bombs" ran at CounterPunch. Today Lindorff revisits the topic at CounterPunch:
While the Pentagon has continued to claim, against all scientific evidence, there is no hazard posed by depleted uranium, US troops in Iraq have reportedly been instructed to avoid any sites where these weapons have been used -- destroyed Iraqi tanks, exploded bunkers, etc.  Suspiciously, international health officials have been prevented from doing medical studies of DU sites.  A series of articles several years ago by the Christian Science Monitor  (http://www.csmonitor.com/2003/0515/p01s02-woiq.html) described how reporters from that newspaper had visited such sites with Geiger-counters and had found them to be extremely "hot" with radioactivity.  The big danger with DU is not as a metal, but after it has exploded and burned, when the particles of uranium oxide, which are just as radioactive as the pure isotopes, can be inhaled or injested. Even the smallest particle of uranium is both deadly poisonous as a chemical, and can cause cancer.                                       
There are reports of a dramatic increase in the incidence of deformed babies being born in the city of Fallujah, where DU weapons were in wide use during the November 2004 assault on that city by US Marines.            
While that goes on, the US-installed thug of the occupation Nouri al-Maliki visits the US.  Yesterday in DC, he met with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and US Vice President Joe Biden. Kenneth R. Bazinet (New York Daily News) reports Nouri met with US President Barack Obama today and quotes al-Maliki stating, "Today Iraq has moved beyond a dictatorship and beyond the destruction, and we are trying to rebuild all our sectors of agriculture, oil sectors, tourism and so forth." Bazinet also notes, "Maliki acknowledged he understands the importance of holding the elections on time."  Joseph Weber (Washington Times) reports Nouri stated, "Our relationship will no longer be confined to security cooperation."
Guerilla war vs. conventional army: Hi, I've wondered when republicans talk about win in Iraq, Afghanistan (or VietNam) what does that mean? What is win in a guerilla war, when anyone with a political, religious, poverty driven dispute can cause havoc? IMO there's no way to defend or win, what do you think?             
Eugene Robinson: I don't know what it means to "win" this kind of conflict, and that's a big problem. We should figure that out, because this is the nature of war these days.

There is no 'win' in Iraq (or Afgahnistan, but this is the "Iraq snapshot") and there is no 'progress.'  Perfect illustration of the latter, the Iraqi Parliament had the deadline of last Thursday to pass their election law and . . . they missed it. Yesterday the Iraqi Parliament decided to put off voting on the election law. Anthony Shadid and Nada Bakri (Washington Post) explain, "Lawmakers resumed negotiations into the evening, as U.N. officials and representatives of the American Embassy lingered on the sidelines. As each hour passed, confidence receded that any quick compromise would cut through a Gordian knot of issues as arcane as the number of seats in a new parliament and the way an election would be organized in Kirkuk, a city in northern Iraq contested by Kurds, Arabs and Turkmens." Liz Sly (Los Angeles Times) adds: "In recent years, thousands of Kurds have moved into the area from Kurdistan, supposedly to reverse the Arabization policies of Saddam Hussein, who expelled Kurds and settled Arabs there."  Oliver August (Times of London) observes, "The Iraqi parliament has failed repeatedly to pass a new election law because of arguments over whether ballot papers should give the names of candidates, or of parties only. MPs are now talking about delaying the election, planned for January 16."
What's going on in Kirkuk besides the above?  US forces are doing patrols.  Gabriel Gatehouse (BBC News -- link is video) reports on it:
It's early morning in the city of Kirkuk. The Americans are back. Sure the Iraqi security forces here are in charge now but they like to have American soldiers along with them -- especially on operations like this one. Together they're conducting what's called a clearing up operation, sweeping through an area of the city searching houses for weapons explosives and insurgents. The Americans are suspicious of this house here because it's got a group of younger men in it and also a car with license plates from out of town. Now they've got a list of around sixty names of people they suspect of belonging to al Qaeda or other insurgent groups.  Three hours of searching produces three arrests.
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports, "Iraq's parliament failed again Tuesday to vote on legislation that would allow Iraqis to cast ballots directly for candidates in parliamentary elections scheduled for January, rather than choosing political party lists that don't name the candidates." Liz Sly reports of today, "There was certainly no sense of urgency in the halls of parliament, where several lawmakers from the Shiite Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council bloc said they believed the election commission needed only two months to prepare for the election, not three." Meanwhile, the Telegraph of London quotes the top US commander Gen Ray Odierno on the developments: "It's clear that al-Qaeda and other groups do not want the elections to occur. What I think they will try to do is discourage peopel from voting by undermining the authority of the government of Iraq with attacks, so that people lose faith in the democratic process. If the parliament doesn't pass the election law and they delay the elections, that violates their own constitution, which says they have to have elections in January."
In other election news, Sami Moubayed (Asia Times) reports that the Sunni Iraqi Accordance Front "is promising its constituency a major breakthrough in the parliamentary elections"; however, many "Iraqis believe that the Accordance Front's days in the sun are over, due to the absence of so many influential players from the Sunni coalition."
As noted earlier, Megan McCloskey (Stars and Stripes) reported on the findings of a [PDF format warning] military investigation into health policy in the wake of a violent incident last May, "The report, released late Friday, was prompted by a shooting at a Baghdad combat stress clinic last May that left four soldiers and a sailor dead."  The incident took place May 11th at 2:00 pm (Iraq time) on Camp Liberty base, five US service members were shot dead. John Russell is the accused. Nishant Dahiya (NPR -- text only) adds, "The findings of the report (pg. 302 onwards) are critical of the operational tools and training aimed at preventing such tragedies as occurred at Camp Liberty. The findings show that policies were unclear; those that existed are improperly implemented; and soldiers were unsure of how to deal with fellow soldiers who have behavioral health problems. The findings highlight lapses in dealing with the situation, on or before the day of the incident, right from the soldier's unit, to the Combat Stress Clinic, to the Military Police." From some of the conclusions (page 303):

After abruptly leaving his session with (b)(3)(b)(6) and asking the MPs to take him in, (b)(3)(b)(60 tossed a knife to the ground. The 54th EN BN has no template for setting a unit watch, and neither did any of the unit leaders we interviewed in the course of this investigation. There is no standard for escorts, how many, how senior, and what type of escort should be assigned to a troubled Soldier, a suicidal Soldier or a homicidal Soldier. Additionally, at the unit level, there is no real conception of when to Command refer Soldiers for assistance. (b)(3)(b)(6) unit encouraged him to self-refer for 3 appointments within 3 days. Access to care is not an issue. On the fourth day, the Behavioral Health clinic asked the 54th, to make it a "Command referral." Granted our Commands want to reduce the stigma associated with ill health, but there is a lack of emphasis upon Command involvement and responsibility for behavioral problems. There is no message, SITREP, or verbal notification required for Soldiers with suicidal ideations. The Commander, 54th EN BN, was never notified that his subordinates had removed (b)(3)(b)(6) bolt from his weapon. Correspondingly, when his bolt was removed, (b)(3)(b)(6) was not put on buddy or unit watch. Unit Commanding Officers at the 03-05 level need more than awareness training, they require precise instruction in effective suicide and behavioral problem remediation measures to effectively support our Behavioral Health professionals.
Rod Nordland (New York Times) notes the investigation found "a lack of any guidelines for how to handle his case allowed it to get out of control".
Cindy Sheehan notes that her show this Sunday features Noam Chomsky and she's requesting that you e-mail the questions you would like to ask Chomsky:

This upcoming Sunday (October 25, 2PM Pacific on the website or 3PM Central at 1360am Rational Radio, Dallas, Tx), Professor Noam Chomsky will be on the Soapbox.

This is your chance to ask the author of Venezuela's President, Hugo Chavez' favorite book,

Hegemony or Survival (I like it too!)

the question you've always wanted to ask the good Professor.

Please submit your questions (with your name and city) to:

I will do my best to ask Professor Chomsky as many of your questions as I can!

The Bills for the Soapbox are coming due soon! (Studio, engineer, asst. producer)

Please make a donation to support this fantastic progressive radio show that is totally listener supported!

And we'll close with this from Sherwood Ross' "AN APPEAL: TIME TO OPPOSE MILITARY RECRUITING" (Grant Lawrence):

From every appearance, President Obama intends to step up the war in Afghanistan. Even though the American people voted for peace last November and would prefer to devote themselves to the ways of peace -- working a full-time job if they can find one, educating their children, providing essential services in their communities, etc., Obama plans to remain in Afghanistan, squandering billions more on a war that the latest poll shows 57% of the American people oppose. Obama also has given no signal that he will withdraw the remaining U.S. troops from Iraq and is providing the Pakistanis with the money, means, and encouragement to expand President Bush's criminal wars' into yet a third nation.
We need to ask ourselves: who is better off for all these wars? Are Americans better off today than nine years ago? What of our 30,000 wounded? What of our 5,000 dead? (Contractors are human beings, too, so I count them.) What of the 1-million slaughtered Iraqis? What of the millions of Iraqi civilians wounded and/or driven from their homes? What of the ruined Iraq infrastructure and economy? What of millions of motorists and homeowners world-wide who have seen oil prices escalate? What of the homeless and malnourished Iraqi children? The only ones who appear to be better off from the Bush-Obama wars are the arms manufacturers and various public officials vegetating on the government payrolls in Washington. From steel mills to banks and from airlines to automobiles, the rest of American industry is suffering.                        
Long ago, Count Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy (1828-1910), the author of "War and Peace," wrote these harsh words about Russia: "The truth is that the state is a conspiracy designed not only to exploit, but above all to corrupt its citizens." It takes little imagination to divine what the good Count would have said about America today and its serial wars of aggression centered upon the Middle East oil fields and the proposed pipeline access routes to and from them. Face it: USA today is corrupting its people, turning its children into killers, and sending them out to fight and die in wrong wars half way around the world.                    
"Only one thing remains," Count Tolstoy wrote: "to fight the government with weapons of thought, word and way of life, not making any concessions to it, not joining its ranks, not increasing its powers oneself. That's the one thing needful and it will probably be successful. And this is what God wants and this is what Christ taught."                                 
What was true of Russia under the tsars---of a state that corrupted its children---unfortunately happens to be true of America in 2009. America's No. 1 cash crop today is armaments and our military-industrial complex is making big bucks peddling 68% of total arms' sold! Fifty-two cents out of every tax dollar is being chewed up by the Pentagon, busy night-and-day turning out ever more horrific killing machines to destroy people. The Pentagon has covered the globe with 1,000 military bases for "defense" and is busy devising ingenious ways to attack the earth from space, develop germ warfare and threaten and control any and every other country with its 11 mobile nuclear navies.