Sunday, August 15, 2010

And the war drags on . . .

South Korea's Ariang TV reports that Iraq saw another weekend of violence and estimates 17 died from violence. So let's look at the violence. Yesterday 5 were reported dead and five wounded (more if you include Friday's deaths that were only reported on Saturday but we won't include those to stay strictly with Saturday and Sunday's deaths). Today Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad sticky bombing (on a mini-bus) claimed 3 lives and left eleven people injured, 3 Baghdad roadside bombings injured three people, a fourth Baghdad roadside bombing claimed the life of 2 police officers and injuring four people, a fifth Baghdad roadside bombing wounded two Iraqi soldiers, another Baghdad sticky bombing wounded three people, a Mahmudiyah roadside bombing claimed 1 life and left three pepole injured, another Mahmudiyah roadside bombing injured six people, a sticky bombing "near Al Mustansiriyah University injured four people and 2 soldiers were injured in an armed clash in Mosul. Reuters notes a Falluja grenade attack injured three police officers, a Mosul roadside bombing claimed the life of 1 police officer and left three more injured, a second Mosul roadside bombing claimed the life of 1 police officer, 1 corpse was discovered in Mosul and, dropping back to Saturday for the next two events, a Jurf Al-Sakhar attack left 3 people dead and two injured (some, possibly all, killed and wounded were Sahwa) and a Baghdad attack in which 1 police officer was shot dead and two more were injured. The Times of India adds that an attack on a Sunni moqsque resulted in 3 people dead and one injured. Mu Xuequan (Xinhua) reports a Jurf al-Milih attack on Sahwa leader Ismail Jawad in which he and his bodyguard were killed. So that's 18 reported deaths and 49 reported injured today (more reports of deaths from violence on Saturday and Sunday may get filed Monday increasing the totals) and 5 dead and 5 wounded reported the day prior for a two-day total of 23 dead and 54 injured. Anthony Shadid (New York Times) observes, "While insurgents have sought to make dramatic gestures lately -- raising their flag in prominent Baghdad neighborhoods and burning the bodies of policemen they have killed -- more remarkable is the drumbeat of assaults day after day on Iraq's security forces."

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 4414. Tonight? 4414 remains the total.

There is no withdrawal, it's one of the great myths of the Obama administration. Linda J. Bilmes (San Francisco Chronicle) explains the basics (again explains the basics) everyone tries to ignore:

Second, even after the last U.S. troops leave Iraq, we still will have thousands of troops stationed in Kuwait, Bahrain and Qatar and on Navy ships in the region who are not being withdrawn. And while combat troops may go home, an army of contractors will be staying on. The American Embassy in Baghdad - already the biggest in the world - will be supplemented with five additional regional consulates. The State Department will increase its 2,500 private security contractors to 6,000 or 7,000 once the military pullout is complete. Other contractors will be hired to do medical evacuations, fly aircraft, drive armored vehicles, issue ID cards and do all the other functions that the departing military is transferring to the State Department.

In addition, Andrei Fedyashin (Eurasia Review) offers the following:

The withdrawal of troops from Iraq and the reconfiguration of the combat mission into a stabilization campaign may sound impressive, but behind that rhetoric, there seems to be no intention to truly end this war. Major General Stephen Lanza, the top American military spokesman in Iraq, has admitted that not much will change there in practical terms following the pullout. Military operations will continue, albeit with intensive outsourcing and privatization. The number of private contractors working for the U.S. in Iraq in sectors such as security, communications, utilities, and commerce has already reached 100,000. Of these, 10,000 work for private security firms. This number is likely to double once the "combat forces" are gone. This is a good deal for the Obama Administration, obviously. With most security positions filled by non-American contractors rather than American service members, possible terror attacks against the U.S. embassy will not cause as much resonance back home, and, consequently, there is less chance for a dramatic shift in public opinion against Americans' continued presence in Iraq.
How will the withdrawal play out for Iraq itself? The most knowledgeable experts maintain that the term "withdrawal" is a misnomer, as no meaningful withdrawal is actually taking place. They also say that if a new cabinet is formed in Iraq after the holy month of Ramadan, the ministers will rush to petition the U.S. to postpone the withdrawal.

"Withdrawal" is pure spin. Hannah Gurman (Salon) takes on another aspect of the US Spin Machine, 'success' and 'progress':

The U.S. has sought to control the past of the Iraq war by rejecting and effectively erasing it, willfully marginalizing the very act that got this whole story going in the first place. The Bush administration needed to scratch 2003 out in order to minimize its own role in the destruction of Iraq and the suffering of its people. Now, the Obama administration has picked up the eraser in order to convince everyone that this is a "responsible" withdrawal.
No matter how much the U.S government erases the past or predicts the future of Iraq, ordinary Iraqis will continue to face the more messy and complicated realities of the present. I dare Obama and everyone else in the spin machine to go to Iraq and look a child in the eyes. A child who, seven years after the U.S. invasion, still lacks adequate housing, drinking water, sanitation, electricity and education. Now, tell that child that the war in Iraq was a success.

New content at Third:

Isaiah's latest goes up after this. Pru notes Tom Walker's "BP’s disappearing oil act is a trick" (Great Britain's Socialist Worker):

The US government performed an incredible magic trick last week—it made four million barrels of oil “disappear” into the ocean.

It says three quarters of the oil that has leaked into the Gulf of Mexico since the start of the BP oil disaster has been recovered, burned off, skimmed, evaporated, dissolved or dispersed chemically—or “naturally”.

White House energy adviser Carol Browner says the spill has been “taken care of by Mother Nature”, while government boffins claim the ocean is full of microbes that are “eating” the oil.

There’s only one problem—scientist after scientist has said that the report’s figures don’t add up. John Kessler of Texas A&M University says the 75 percent figure is “just not true”.

“The fact is that 50 percent to 75 percent of the material that came out of the well is still in the water… just in a dissolved or dispersed form,” he said.

“There’s some science here, but mostly it’s spin,” said oceanographer Ian MacDonald of Florida State University. “I’m afraid this continues a track record of doubtful information.”

Even the report’s own authors call it “educated guesses”—despite the fact that its figure of 4.1 million barrels spilled will be crucial when it comes to deciding how much to fine BP for the disaster.

It could be fined $1,100 for each barrel of oil in the ocean, the standard rate under US law, or the far higher “negligence rate” of $4,300 per barrel.

But Browner refuses to say if BP will be made to pay the higher rate—which would make the total come to $17.6 billion.

Both BP and the government are more interested in saying that the crisis is over.

The oil disaster started when the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded on 20 April, killing 11 workers and blowing a hole in the ocean floor.

Three months on, people are still finding oil on the beaches. Fishing boats return with contaminated catches that can’t be sold. And official figures say 3,606 dead birds and 508 dead endangered sea turtles have been found.


Even the government’s fiddled estimates would mean the amount of oil remaining is five times larger than in the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster.

Yet it’s not just oil they’ve made “disappear”—it’s also the cleanup workers.

The company says there are now 30,800 people working on the cleanup. Just last month the reported figure was 46,000.

Workers have spoken of mass sackings.

BP is clearly starting to wind down its cleanup operations. It is even removing the boom barriers it was using to try to block the oil from coming onshore.

Leaks say the aim is to get down to a “skeleton crew” by next month.

Meanwhile, two Gulf Coast residents filed a lawsuit against BP last week, alleging that the “toxic” chemicals it is using in the cleanup are causing health problems.

BP has now thrown 1.8 million gallons of its chemical Corexit into the sea—even though its own safety sheet says “no toxicity studies have been conducted on this product”.

The document adds that the substance, which is banned in Britain, “may cause nausea and vomiting [and] can cause chemical pneumonia”.

Scientists at the University of Southern Mississippi found that Corexit has now “probably” entered the food chain, after being absorbed by crabs.

On top of that, a leaked internal BP audit shows that 390 maintenance tasks on the rig were marked as overdue when it exploded.

The task list included repairs to the blowout preventer—the crucial safety device that was supposed to stop oil streaming into the ocean in the event of an accident.

The US government wants to let BP off the hook. But one thing is for sure—the Gulf of Mexico remains an oil-ridden crime scene.

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