Provincial and municipal authorities, particularly those in heavily Sunni areas ignored by the Shiite-led Baghdad government, grew dependent on U.S. funds and expertise. They remain so today, even as the money and manpower start to dwindle. Samarra's mayor has no public budget, carries a revolver to work and, albeit graciously, punts more questions than he answers when the subject turns to security, politics and life after the American withdrawal. He's happy, though, to talk about how much the Americans have done for his city.
Other leaders are more blunt. "All those top leaders in power now, they each have an army on standby," said Wasim Hamad Hawas, the self-described founder of the first resistance group that fought the Americans in Samarra, only to eventually make amends and get on the U.S. payroll. "They will fight us as soon as the Americans aren't standing in the middle."
As Whitehurst and some of his men walked around the city shortly before leaving, residents flocked over, clamoring for micro grants, bundles of cash the U.S. military has handed out to thousands of Iraqis in recent years to jump-start local economies.
Even though Whitehurst was with one of his Iraqi Army counterparts, residents turned to him and his captains, identifiable by their rank patches, to air grievances.
Iraqi soldiers and police officers are omnipresent in Samarra these days. They respond buoyantly when asked about their readiness to keep things calm after the Americans leave.
"People don't like seeing American soldiers walking in the cities," said Gen. Rashid Muhammed Zahir, head of the Samarra operations command, who has warm relations with the Americans. "They want to see the Americans just stay in one or two bases."
But some U.S. soldiers express skepticism about how well the Iraqis will do when they're on their own. "They have the tools to protect their country. They have the equipment and the training," said 1st Sgt. Jeremiah Conachan, 33, of Milwaukie, Ore. "I just don't know if they have the heart. . . . The sun comes up; it's 8 in the morning. You can get an hour of work from these guys, and then they're done -- done for the day."
Was it worth it?
I posed that question to several of Whitehurst's men in August during a visit to their outpost near Samarra, which is now closed. Many said it was. Children no longer throw rocks at Americans. Attacks against U.S. troops are as low as they've ever been. They were leaving behind schools and clinics and small businesses that the soldiers hope years from now will be the cornerstone of the American legacy in Iraq.
There were skeptics in the crowd, too.
"We're sitting here in the middle of a little revolution between Iraqis, and we're sitting here being security guards," said Spec. Lorenzo Sanchez, 34, of West Covina, Calif. "We should let them do their thing and get out of their way."
I ran into Sanchez one night as he was emptying sandbags. He was being punished, he explained, because he tacked additional days to his two-week home leave to spend time with his 2-year-old daughter. Having been deployed three times to Iraq, he said, he was leaving "a lost man," with no hope for the country.
"How do you tell someone's parents that their kids died in Iraq?" he asked. "For what purpose? I mean, at the beginning, when we first invaded Iraq, it was for our freedoms, for our rights. . . . Well, here we are a few years later, and is it really for our freedoms and our rights?"
He continued, thinking of what a fallen soldier's mother might be told: " 'Your son died for, well we're not sure, but he fought a good fight.' "
The above is from Ernesto Londono's "Was the Iraq war worth it? A divided city tries to answer." (Washington Post) and there's not a great deal that anyone can point to, is there? Equally true, there's nothing the military can accomplish in Iraq. They've been kept on the ground in Iraq to allow those who ordered this illegal war some effort at saving face.
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 4359. Tonight? 4362.
In other news of violence, Jenan Hussein (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Mosul roadside bombing claimed the life of 1 child and left five people wounded while another Mosul roadside bombing left three people injured.
The big news out of Iraq is the possible blocking of the election law Parliament passed last Sunday. Waleed Ibrahim, Michael Christie and Micheal Roddy (Reuters) reports Iraq's Sunni vice president, Tariq al-Hashimi, has stated the law needs to be changed to allow external Iraqi refugees to participate and to be represented. If the law is not changed (by Tuesday afternoon), he states he will veto it. (The Presidency Council is made up of Iraq's President and two vice presidents. After Parliament passes a law, it goes to the council which decides whether to implement it or not.)
Refugees are also in the news via AP which interviews professional liar Eric Schwartz who is a joke and also the Asst Sec of Population, Refugees and Migration at the US State Dept. He's apparently conveying the message that the US government has now washed its hands of Iraq and is instead focusing on forced returns for Iraqi refugees.
Despite the fact that various humanitarian organizations have issued studies this year pointing out how little the Baghdad government or 'government' has done for refugees, Eric's declaring 'strides have been made'. And the 'answer' is for Iraqi refugees to return to Iraq.
Eric's so busy tasting his own ass that he forgets the UN and the Red Cross have both noted it is not safe for Iraqi refugees to return. In addition, any study of the refugee population in Jordan or Syria finds that the bulk of refugees (especially true of Sunni Iraqis) do not want to return. Not next week, not next year. They are done. They saw fathers, husbands, brothers, sisters, wives, mothers, children wounded and killed. They're not planning a return, they're only attempting to find a place (outside of Iraq) to live.
Eric's so busy lying and flapping his jowls and fat rolls to the AP that he forgets (and they never knew) that he promised 20,000 Iraqi refugees would be admitted in FY2009 -- FY2009 ended October 1st and, no, they didn't reach that number.
Instead of addressing that, instead of addressing US failures when it comes to the refugee population, Eric wants to push the problem off on Iraq where, restating, most external refugees are not planning to return to.
But he needs to wipe his hands clean and pretend they're not soaked with the blood of the Iraqi people. It's amazing that Barack Obama and his administration get away with all that they do until you grasp that Eric's little p.r. effort is based on the belief that people would rather accept a lie than address reality with bad news. So Eric gets out there and spins and hopes a weary public will just nod along in order to, as the administration wants, just be 'done with it.'
New content at Third:
Truest statement of the week
Truest statement of the week II
A note to our readers
Editorial: The silence said a great deal
TV: The nightly talk shows
Comics and the wars
The Nation endorses and amplifies sexism
Bitches for Barack (Ava and C.I.)
The Bronze Boob goes to . . .
ETAN calls for dialogue
Isaiah's latest goes up after this. Pru notes this from Great Britain's Socialist Worker:
Millions more turn against Gordon Brown's war
As Gordon Brown's Afghan strategy lies in tatters, millions more people want the troops brought home now, writes Siân Ruddick
Something has changed in British politics. Gordon Brown and Labour ministers now appear almost entirely isolated in their support for the brutal war in Afghanistan.
A growing number of military families are adding their voices to the anti-war movement and casualties are continuing to rise.
Brown’s strategy appears more threadbare than ever. Some 232 British soldiers have now been killed in Afghanistan, 95 this year alone. Public support for the war is at an all-time low.
The war has brought death, destruction and misery to Afghans and led to greater destabilisation in the region.
People are not convinced that the war is worth the blood of British forces or the Afghan people.
A recent BBC poll showed that 63 percent of British people want the troops brought home as quickly as possible.
And more and more people within the military are raising their doubts too. The chief of defence staff, Sir Jock Stirrup, described the situation in Afghanistan as “painful, slow and halting” last week.
Gordon Brown is desperately trying to argue that we need more troops and more years of bloody war to turn the situation around.
But since 2001 the war has lurched from one disaster to another. Meanwhile the stated aims of the war—to fight the “war on terror” and bring “democracy” to Afghanistan—have been lies.
On Tuesday of this week the bodies of five British soldiers killed by an Afghan police officer were flown home. The killings have added to the sense of chaos and lawlessness in Afghanistan.
Brown should listen to the majority of people in Britain and bring all the troops home now before more British and Afghan people die in this endless and futile conflict.
The following should be read alongside this article: » Eyewitness from Kabul—disillusionment is growing» Army arrests anti-war soldier Joe Glenton» Protest called at arrest of Joe Glenton, the soldier who has spoken out against Afghan war
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and the war drags on
the washington post
the socialist worker
the third estate sunday review
the world today just nuts