Friday, October 16, 2009

Tal Afar boming claims at least 12 lives

Jamal al-Badrani, Jack Kimball and Michael Christie (Reuters) report on a Tal Afar suicide bombing at a mosque this morning that has resulted in 11 deaths (the count so far -- 12 when you count the bomber) and sixty-nine injured. Qassim Ahmed is among the wounded and tells Reuters, "I came to the mosque late and when I went to enter, I heard shooting. Seconds later, a big explosion happened." Dropping back to yesterday, Reuters notes a Mosul roadside bombing claimed the life of 1 police officer and left four more injured while, in a different incident, Mosul police attacked an ambulance "killing one civilian inside and wounding two others including a paremedic".

The Christian Science Monitor's latest Talk to the Editor focused on Iraq -- link is video. Pat Murphy acted as host with participants Dan Murphy (he's the youngest participant, if anyone's confused as to who is who since only Pat Murphy introduced himself), John Yemma and Jane Arraf.

John Yemma: Hey, Jane, I thought we could get started with a general view of how things are in Iraq. I read recently that the Baghdad govenment has estimated that over the 5 years of conflict, since the US invasion in 2003, that something like 85,000 Iraqis have been-- have been killed in the conflict. And since you've been coming to Iraq over the years, even well before the US invasion, I wondered if is this a time where things seem to be becoming normalized and I realize it's going to be different in different parts of the country. But maybe give us a sense going from however you want to take it, just on how normal things are there now?

Jane Arraf: Well that really is the key question, John, and that depends really on how you define normal and how Iraqis define normal after three wars in the last decades, after years of trade sanctions that devestated the economy is a little bit different how you and I and a lot of our readers would define that. Having said that, it's dramatically different than it was a year ago, two years ago. And you're absolutely right, at least 85,000 people have died violently according to Iraqi officials and what that means in practical terms is you really cannot find an Iraqi family that has not been touched by tragedy -- whether it's a death of one of their relatives, whether it's being displaced from their homes. It's almost every family here has had at least a close relative or an extended relative die violently in the past few years -- particularly in the last two years before violence started decreasing here a year ago. If you walk through the streets here, though, things look relatively -- again there's that word -- normal. People are out in the evening, they're sending their children to school. But it very much has a feeling that things are on edge. There isn't a real stability here that the Americans certainly are hoping for that will allow them to withdraw the troops. There is a feeling that everyone is waiting. They're waiting for the elections in January, they're waiting for the violence to come down even further, they're kind of waiting for their real lives to begin. And that's kind of how it is now days.

And to correct an error in the above, we'll drop back to Wednesday's snapshot:

Meanwhile Al Jazeera notes, "At least 85,000 people have been killed in Iraq by bombs, murders and fighting from 2004 until 2008, Iraq's human rights ministry says." Really? Because Betty noted Aadel Rashid's "Finding Husbands for Iraq's Widows: As Some Iraqis Embrace the Program, Others Say Efforts to Help Widows Remarry Is Exploitative" (ABC News) last night and, as Betty pointed out, "The article tells us that Women and Child Committee head Samira al Musawi states Iraq saw more than 1 million women become widows since 2005. " Widows. To be a widow, your spouse has to die. So that would mean 1 million men have died since 2005. Which ministry is telling the truth? Or did 925,000 Iraqi males die since 2005 of natural causes? That would be a staggering number in a country's whose population is less than 26 million. Reuters notes the first count here. BBC News adds, "The BBC's Gabriel Gatehouse in Baghdad says the numbers may be staggering but they are relatively conservative."

The 85,000 is a figure for 2004 through 2008 and it was one Iraqi official figure. Another Iraqi official figure is over one million and it's very interesting how it doesn't get cited. Or questioned.
On the issue of the 'planned' (try "intended") January elections, Oliver August (Times of London) notes the draft election law is still in a state of limbo:

President Obama's schedule for withdrawing troops from Iraq was thrown into doubt yesterday when the Iraqi Parliament failed to agree on a new election law.
US troops are committed to staying for up to 60 days after national elections have been held, to ensure a safe transfer of power. The planned election date, January 16, may now have to be pushed back, since MPs missed yesterday's deadline for agreeing balloting rules.
The deadlock on election law concerns whether ballot papers should list only the competing parties or also include candidates' names. Some prominent MPs fear that having their names on display will harm their chances of re-election.

Counter-insurgency is war on a native people. It can be dressed up with pretty phases and a lot of lies (and liars, hello: Monty McFate and Sarah Sewall!) but it's an effort to defeat a people, to colonize them, to kill them. It's vile and it's disgusting and few have bothered to call it out.

Let me correct that, few have bothered to call it out today. We know. We know it's wrong. We knew it was wrong during Vietnam. Back then Peace Queens Joan Baez and Buffy Sainte-Marie regularly called it out. Today they shut their useless mouths and play dumb because Barack's backed by counter-insurgency gurus like Sarah of the Sewer and Problem From Hell Samantha Power. But those of us who are older, we know counter-insurency wrong. We know it's unethical. We know it's illegal. Whether we chose to play dumb or not, we know the reality.

This go round, David Price is one of the few who have called it out. And he's done so regularly. One of the earliest to sound the alarms was Tom Hayden but Tom then retired his objections in order to become an athletic supporter of Barack Obama. He couldn't call out Samantha Power -- Barry's Dream Girl -- and pimp for Barry, so Tom-Tom folded his objections. The fumes from Barry's groin may have reawakened Tom because he's written his most useful piece in two years, "Will We Stay 50 Years In Afghanistan?" (link goes to CBS News' reposting):

The counterinsurgency doctrine is promoted as being "population-centric" as opposed to "enemy-centric," leading some to think it means a combination of Peace Corps-style development and community-based policing. Indeed, counterinsurgency differs sharply from "kinetic" war, which is based on conventional use of combat troops and bombardment. This is why Kilcullen disapproved of the ground invasion of Iraq and is critical of the current use of Predator strikes from the air, which alienate the very civilian populations whose hearts and minds must be won.
The central flaw in Kilcullen's model is his belief in the "accidental guerrilla" syndrome. Drawing partly on a public-health analogy, he defines Al Qaeda as a dangerous virus that grows into a contagion when its Muslim hosts face foreign intervention. The real enemy, he thinks, is the global network of hard-core Al Qaeda revolutionaries who want to bring down the West, overthrow Arab regimes and restore a centuries-old Islamic caliphate. Like Obama, Kilcullen hopes to "disrupt, dismantle, and eventually defeat al Qaeda" without provoking the contagion of resistance from the broader Muslim world. The "accidental guerrillas" who fight us, he writes, do so not because they hate the West and seek our overthrow but because we have invaded their space to deal with a small extremist element that has manipulated and exploited local grievances to gain power in their societies. They fight us not because they seek our destruction but because they believe we seek theirs.
But of course, these accidental guerrillas are no accident at all. They inevitably and predictably emerge as a nationalist force against foreign invaders. Their resistance to imperialism stretches back far before Al Qaeda. In fact, Al Qaeda was born with US resources, as a byproduct of resistance to the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan and earlier oppression of hundreds of Islamic radicals in Egyptian prisons.
Kilcullen would like to believe that the "accidental guerrilla" syndrome can be avoided by a surgical counterinsurgency combined with Western liberal reform, as opposed to a ham-fisted, knock-down-the-doors combat approach. But he admits that imposing law and order American-style in Afghanistan is a "temporary" form of neocolonialism that will produce violent popular resistance.
The strategic dilemma is created when this neocolonialism fosters a corrupt regime of warlords, drug lords and landlords, as it has in Kabul. The first priority of Kilcullen's counterinsurgency doctrine is "a political strategy that builds government effectiveness and legitimacy while marginalizing insurgents, winning over their sympathizers, and coopting local allies." Obama's recent surge in Afghanistan, whose purpose was to protect Afghanistan's presidential election process, had the opposite result: sending Americans to fight for an unpopular Kabul machine that committed fraud on a massive scale.

If Tom hasn't completely blown his brains out on Hopium, he can write an even better article, one that addresses the evils of counter-insurgency head on and doesn't feel the need for a 'hook.' That said, he's now tackled the subject in two serious pieces which is more than most on the left can boast.

TV notes. NOW on PBS begins airing tonight on most PBS stations:

By the year 2020, a nationwide shortage of up to 500,000 trained nurses could mean that hundreds of thousands of patients will receive less attention and substandard treatment. Just as alarming, fewer nurses are choosing to teach the next generation of professionals, resulting in tens of thousands of applicants being turned away from the nation's nursing schools.
This week, NOW on PBS takes a hard look at the strains this crisis is placing on the entire medical system, as well as innovative efforts to reverse the trend.
"If there was ever a time in the history of this country when one thought about the match between a profession and the changing needs of people in the country, this is the time," Dr. Mary Naylor of the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing tells NOW on PBS.

That's from October of last year. On Bill Moyers Journal, Bill Moyers sits down with a lot of jabbers and pushes the administration's talking point but we'll note that Maurice Sendak is on and that segment may be worth watching and not scripted by the White House. That begins airing tonight on most PBS stations. Meanwhile Bonnie Erbe will sit down with Melinda Henneberger, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Tara Setmayer and Genevieve Wood to discuss the week's events on PBS' To The Contrary. Check local listings, on many stations, it begins airing tonight. And turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes offers:

Scott Pelley reports on the H1N1 flu - which is increasingly targeting young, healthy people - and how the government plans to fight the flu pandemic.

The Kanzius Machine
John Kanzius fought his leukemia head on, inventing a machine that may someday offer effective treatment for cancers without the debilitating side effects of radiation and chemotherapy. Lesley Stahl reports. | Watch Video

Drew Barrymore
The remarkable former child star, actress and now director is profiled by CNN's Anderson Cooper.

60 Minutes, this Sunday, Oct. 18, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

Drew Barrymore's directoral debut Whip It is currently playing and wowing audiences.

Drew Barrymore

Illustration is by Betty's daughter and Kat.

Today on NPR's The Diane Rehm Show, Diane is joined by panelists Jackie Calmes (New York Times), John Dickerson (Slate and CBS) and David Welna (NPR) to discuss domestic issues for the first hour and for the second hour (international issues), James Kitfield (National Journal), Hisham Melhem (Al-Arabiya TV and An-Nahar) and Nancy A. Youssef (McClatchy). The Diane Rehm Show begins airing at 10:00 a.m. EST on most NPR stations and streaming live online at that time.

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