Sunday, January 23, 2011

And the war drags on . . .

Iraq War veteran Danny Fitzsimons remains imprisoned and on trial in Iraq. He served in the British military for eight years and was stationed in Afghanistan and Kosovo as well as Iraq. He returned to Iraq in the fall of 2009 as a British contractor, or mercenary, accused of being the shooter in a Sunday, August 9, 2009 Green Zone incident in which 1 British contractor, Paul McGuigan, and 1 Australian contractor, Darren Hoare, died and one Iraqi, Arkhan Madhi, was injured. BBC News reports that the trial has adjourned until February 20th so that the judges may examine the psychiatric evaluation and that the defense argues the three contractors were drinking, had an altercation, Dany Fitzsimons returned to his lodging and the other two broke in and began attacking him, threatening to kill him leading Danny Fitzsimons to shoot Paul McGuigan dead and then fight over the gun with Darren Hoare. Martin Chulov (Guardian) adds:

The judge, Ali Yousef, questioned Fitzsimons on forensic evidence prepared for a coroner, which said powder burns were absent from Hoare's body, not supporting Fitzsimons's account of a close contact struggle during which fatal shots were fired from a short range.
Fitzsimons said: "I think the evidence was manipulated by the security company. The crime scene was changed."
Salam Abdul Kareem, a lawyer for the victims' families, urged the court to hand down the maximum sentence, which is death by hanging, or life imprisonment. "He did not stop shooting until all 14 bullets were finished," he said.

Steve White (Daily Mirror) quotes
Fitzsimons testifying, "I was seconds away from death." In terms of the trial, my only opinion is that there's been no proof that justice can be found in the Iraqi legal system. But the issue of drinking has always been a part of the narrative from the moment the story broke. Point? Whether or not the two men were entering his residence to kill him, if they did break or burst in and he was drunk (as were they), his own perception of the situation would be influenced by that. As would their poor judgment be influenced by the booze leading them to think 'breaking in would be a great idea.'

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, the number of US military people killed in the Iraq War since the start of the illegal war was 4435. Tonight? PDF format warning, DoD lists the the number of Americans killed serving in Iraq at 4439.

Meanwhile, Mark Brunswick (Minneapolis Star-Tribune) reports, "In its second-largest deployment since World War II, the Minnesota National Guard will send more than 2,400 troops to Iraq and Kuwait later this year." Rupa Shenoy (Minnesota Public Radio) reports with text and audio on the deployment. More US soldiers sent to Iraq and for what? Ahmed Rasheed (Reuters) reports that the easily manipulated court system in Iraq has again bended to Nouri al-Maliki's will in what some are terming a "coup" as independent agencies -- such as the Independent Higher Electoral Commission, the High Commission for Human Rights and the Central Bank of Iraq -- put under the control of Parliament by the country's Constitution are being turned over to Nouri by the Supreme Court. Ned Parker and Salar Jaff (Los Angeles Times) explain:

But some parties were suspicious of Maliki and the high court, remembering how the prime minister requested a ruling last year over who had the right to form the next government after an election that saw Maliki and his secular rival, Iyad Allawi, finish in a dead heat.
The court's ruling that the largest bloc in parliament could form the government after a vote effectively allowed Maliki to create a majority with the other main Shiite bloc in parliament.
Allawi's Iraqiya bloc expressed its alarm over the latest ruling in a statement Saturday.
"The decision of the federal court to connect the independent boards to the council of ministers directly instead of the parliament … is considered as a coup against democracy," the bloc said.

And while Nouri continues to consolidate his strangle-hold on the country, violence continues. Jane Bradley (Scotsman) reports Baghdad experience "a series of car bombs" resulting in 6 deaths and twenty-nine more people left injured. DPA adds, "Iraqi Vice-President Tareq al-Hashemi said Sunday the country should brace itself for an increase in attacks ahead of an Arab League summit scheduled to be held in Baghdad in March" and they quote him stating, "We should anticipate a possible escalation of terrorist attacks as we get closer to the date of the coming Arab summit in Iraq." Reuters adds a Taza roadside bombing injured a Sahwa leader "and three of his guards" and a Taji car bombing claimed 2 lives and left four more people injured.

New content at Third:

Isaiah's latest goes up after this. Pru notes this from Great Britain's Socialist Worker:

US and China in a battle for influence

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by Alex Callinicos

China's leaders are busy touring the globe. President Hu Jintao has been visiting the US a week after vice-premier Li Keqiang, whom Hu backs as the next prime minister, did the rounds of the European Union (EU).

Visits by top Chinese officials are a big deal these days. China, now the second biggest economy in the world, has so far weathered the global slump much better than the US or the EU.

But in many ways a more interesting visit was paid to Beijing last week by US defence secretary Robert Gates. His trip was delayed after Hu said last June that Gates wouldn’t be welcome in China.

This incident reflected frictions over US defence sales to Taiwan, which China claims as part of its sovereign territory. But there are more deep-seated military tensions developing.

China’s headlong economic expansion has made it highly dependent on the sea-lanes through which raw materials and components flow in, and manufactured exports flow out. But the US Pacific Fleet has dominated Asia’s coasts since Japan was crushed during the Second World War.

This growing vulnerability is encouraging a shift in Chinese naval doctrine. Until recently, the People’s Liberation Army Navy (Plan) concentrated on the “near seas” round its coasts. As two academics at the US Naval War College put it this is, “the space within and slightly beyond the ‘first island chain’, which extends from Kurile Islands through the main islands of Japan, the Ryukyu Archipelago, Taiwan, and the Philippines to Borneo”.

Now, they suggest the Plan is seeking “to extend its operational range from the near seas to the ‘middle and far seas’, or the space between the first and second island chains, the latter stretching from northern Japan to the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam and farther southward, and beyond”.


This is a direct challenge to the US, which has a network of military bases sprawling from South Korea and Japan eastwards across the Pacific. And the Plan is beginning to acquire the necessary capabilities.

Just before Christmas it emerged that China is planning to build aircraft carriers. A few days later, Admiral Robert Willard, chief of US Pacific Command, announced that China was now deploying land-based anti-ship missiles capable of tracking and targeting aircraft carriers.

This means that the giant aircraft carrier groups that are key instruments of the US’s global power projection are now vulnerable.

Already a few months earlier Gates had expressed his worry: “if the Chinese or somebody else has a highly accurate anti-ship cruise or ballistic missile that can take out a carrier at hundreds of miles of ranges and therefore in Asia puts us back behind the second island chain”.

Just before Gates’s visit to Beijing, the Financial Times pointed to the increasing influence of hawks in the Chinese military: “Colonel Liu Mingfu, a professor at the National Defence University, published a book calling on China to prepare ‘for a fight with the US for global dominance in the 21st century’… Colonel Dai Xu, an air force strategist, accused the US of trying to contain China through encirclement by building closer ties to its neighbours, from South Korea to India.”

The hawks’ influence seemed to be confirmed when, while Gates was in Beijing, China tested a new stealth fighter, the J-20. The New York Times reported: “When Mr Gates asked Mr Hu to discuss the test it was evident to the Americans that the Chinese leader and his top civilian advisers were startled by the query and were unprepared to answer him… ‘The civilian leadership seemed surprised by the test,’ Mr Gates told reporters.”

General Liang Guanglie, the Chinese defence minister, also refused to endorse his proposal for in-depth strategic discussions between Washington and Beijing. None of this means that the US and China are about to go to war. But it is clear that the economic frictions between the two powers over trade and currencies are accompanied by increasing jockeying for geopolitical influence.

Naturally, this is beginning in Asia, but, as China grows stronger, its competition with the American hegemon will be felt globally.

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