Saturday, July 29, 2006

Running For Help

A youth runs for help carrying his wounded toddler brother after a car bomb attack in Kirk July 29th 2006The car bombing in the al-Wasiti district of Kirkuk killed 4 people and wounded 15 including this child being carried by his elder brother as he runs for help. It was the sixth such bombing in Kirkuk this month. I expect the frequency of attacks in Kirkuk to rise severely over the next few months.


Parnell Square Dublin July 29th 2006

A protester holds up a sign showing a refugee child with the slogan 'Hey Israel! You Missed One' Parnell Square Dublin July 29 2006

Like most Irish people I agree with her completely.


Friday, July 28, 2006

Bellum Omnium Contra Omnes

Here are AP's transcriptions of the Bush Blair News Conference:

Text: Bush, Blair News Conference, Part 1

Text: Bush, Blair News Conference, Part 2

Go read. These two arrogant self-satisfied fools have just made it crystal clear that as far as they're concerned that they're engaged in a global struggle to conquer the world for their ideology and that "the enemy" is similarly motivated. They're openly talking of a war of ideology which may soon become "a war of all against all." The last such war in Europe was called the thirty years war.

Hobbes described it thus:

"Whatsoever therefore is consequent to a time of Warre, where every man is Enemy to every man; the same is consequent to the time, wherein men live without other security, than what their own strength, and their own invention shall furnish them withall. In such condition, there is no place for Industry; because the fruit thereof is uncertain: and consequently no Culture of the Earth; no Navigation, nor use of the commodities that may be imported by Sea; no commodious Building; no Instruments of moving, and removing such things as require much force; no Knowledge of the face of the Earth; no account of Time; no Arts; no Letters; no Society; and which is worst of all, continuall feare, and danger of violent death; And the life of man, solitary, poore, nasty, brutish, and short. … …

To this warre of every man against every man, this also is consequent; that nothing can be Unjust. The notions of Right and Wrong, Justice and Injustice have there no place. Where there is no common Power, there is no Law: where no Law, no Injustice. Force, and Fraud, are in warre, the two Cardinall vertues. Justice, and Injustice are none of the Faculties neither of the Body, nor Mind. If they were, they might be in a man that were alone in the world, as well as his Senses, and Passions. They are Qualities, that relate to men in Society, not in Solitude. It is consequent also to the same condition, that there be no Propriety, no Dominion, no Mine and Thine distinct; but onely that to be every mans, that he can get; and for so long, as he can keep it. … …"


Update: Text: Bush, Blair News Conference, Parts 1 and 2 as released by the White House Press Office

Growing Up In The Shadow Of The Gun

Parenthood often consists of balancing risks. Let me remind you of some of the dangers faced by children in Iraq:

"45. Children remained victims in Iraq in many ways. Although not necessarily targeted, they are killed or maimed in sectarian-motivated attacks and in terrorist and insurgency acts. They are civilian casualties in MNF-I and Iraqi security forces-led raids against insurgents or militias, and suffer the most from other political, social and economic consequences of Iraqi's violent daily reality. The extent of violence in areas other than the Region of Kurdistan is such that likely every child, to some degree, has been exposed to it. Children suffering disabilities have also been unable to access adequate care and education. … … …

Children in Baghdad Play Under The Watchful Eye of Their Father.47. In one case the body of a 12-year-old Osama was reportedly found by the Iraqi Police in a plastic bag after his family paid a ransom of some 30,000 US dollars. The boy had been sexually assaulted by the kidnappers, before being hanged by his own clothing. The police captured members of this gang who confessed of raping and killing many boys and girls before Osama. … … …

53. Additional hardship for families and children is caused by the lack of adequate places to socialize, play and learn as would be necessary for their healthy development. Many Iraqis complain of having to keep their children at home for prolonged periods of time."

or this report of how Hani Saadoun was killed:

"12 years old - hauled off the street whipped with electric cables, violated with an electric drill, shot, body dragged through the streets."

One of the constant themes I hear from friends still living in Iraq is the effect of the constant violence upon their children and their fury at the damage being done to their children. They have to balance between keeping their children locked up lest they fall victim to a bombing, a shooting, or worse, and the need every child has to get out and play. The photograph shows part of an increasingly common solution. These Baghdadi children are playing just outside their front door. The hand holding the gun is that of their father. Iraq is a heavily urbanised society and increasingly an arms-bearing one. A generation of children are growing up with the idea that it is necessary to be armed and to be prepared to kill. A generation of parents are buying guns - and they know who they blame for collapsing their society thereby creating the appallingly dangerous environment in which their children are growing up. They blame the Americans, the people who created that environment. It's a good reason to hate somebody, putting your children in danger, a very good reason.


There May Be A Cabinet Reshuffle (And Trouble) Ahead

Background Information Al-Sabah Al-Jadeed:

Al-Sabah Al-Jadeed ( the name means "The New Morning") Was founded in 2004 the day after the entire Al-Sabah (The Morning) staff walked out of their jobs. Al-Sabah was financed by American company Harris which opposed the paper's independence. Four weeks after the new paper was established there was an unsuccessful attempt to kidnap chief editor Ismael Zayer in which his bodyguard and chauffeur died. Guns are very much in evidence in the paper's offices ever since.

It's a good paper that struggles hard to be independent. They've got very high standards and often get scoops and leaks. It published an exhaustive series of articles during the constitutional process, has a vibrant culture section, and the editorials tend to be pretty good. They have a small English section which you can find here. The current English version has an editorial by Ismael Zayer. Check it out.

On balance I'd be inclined to take this story seriously - if only as a declaration of intent. The timing's interesting. - mfi

There's a very short piece on the front page of Al-Sabah Al-Jadeed [Arabic Language] this morning saying that sources "close to" Nouri al-Maliki have told the paper that a major cabinet reshuffle is planned for next month. The paper says that their sources have told them that the reshuffle will involve 9 ministries including the ministries of Defense and Interior and one key economic ministry.

According to the paper the nine ministers are being replaced because they have not performed to "the minimum standard" in their work.

The paper says that the reshuffle will be announced after Maliki finishes his current round of visits to foreign capitals. The paper adds that the first cabinet change under Maliki was the resignation of the Transport minister.


Update: Karbala News cover it in a bit more detail citing Al Sabah Al Jadeed's story

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Oh Dear

Condi in tears
Secretary of State Rice reacts to the news that the Israeli Airforce has just killed the last Lebanese shoe maker.

Feel free to provide your own caption.


Billmon - A Blight Unto the Nations

I read billmon every day I'm horrified, contemptuous, and angry, at this latest bloodbath, billmon expresses it perfectly

"I've felt many emotions about the Israelis before. I've admired them for their accomplishments -- building a flourishing state out of almost nothing. I've hated them for their systematic dispossession of the Palestinians -- even as they smugly congratulated themselves for being the Middle East's only "democracy." I've pitied them for the cruel fate history inflicted on the Jewish diaspora, respected them for their boldness and daring, honored them for their cultural and intellectual achievements. But the one thing I've never felt, at least up until now, is contempt.

But that is what I'm feeling now. The military and political leaders of the Jewish state are doing and saying things that go way beyond the blustering arrogance of a powerful nation at war. Not to put too fine a point on it, but they are behaving like a gang of miltaristic thugs -- whose reply to any criticism or reproach is an expletive deleted and the smash of an iron fist.


And now a proposal to turn all of southern Lebanon into a free fire zone.

This all might be considered normal military behavior for, oh say, a Bosnian Serb militia captain, circa 1991, but when the political and military leaders of an allegedly civilized state start talking this way, something big is going on, and going wrong. The dehumanization of the enemy (much of the Israeli press routinely uses the word "terrorist" to refer to any Hizbullah fighter or Palestinian militant) and the rage and humiliation at not being able to stop the rain of rockets falling on northern Israel, are combining to knock the props out from under whatever remains of Israel's claim to be different from, and morally superior to, its enemies.

The Israeli national persona has always had a macho swagger to it (it's part of the rationale for the state -- that Jews should be able to act like "normal" masculine hyperpatriots everywhere) but what we're seeing now is something different. It has a nasty edge of hysteria to it, a compulsive need to prove to the Arabs, and the world, that Israel still can and will stomp on anyone who gets in its way. The fact that Hizbullah is now demonstrating the limits of Israeli power -- or rather, the limits on how much Jewish blood Israel is willing to spend to exercise that power -- is only making matters worse. The Israeli leadership elite is starting to sound like the semen-crusted violence addicts at Little Green Footballs. Given how much real violence the generals and politicians can inflict, that's a sobering thought, to say the least.

Combine this with an enormous sense of historic grievance ("Serbs will never be beaten again!" "The Versailles Treaty has shamed the Fatherland!") and a gnawing fear of encirclement, and you've got all the ingredients for a catastrophe, of the kind that could leave the Israelis, and their American patrons, up to their necks in blood -- of the innocent and the guilty alike.Combine this with an enormous sense of historic grievance ("Serbs will never be beaten again!" "The Versailles Treaty has shamed the Fatherland!") and a gnawing fear of encirclement, and you've got all the ingredients for a catastrophe, of the kind that could leave the Israelis, and their American patrons, up to their necks in blood -- of the innocent and the guilty alike.


If there's one thing that should be obvious from this God awful tragedy in the making, it's that history has a savage sense of irony -- cruel and pitiless almost beyond belief. That Israel, haven to Holocaust survivors, should find itself in this situation, and respond to it in this way, is enough to make the very walls of Jerusalem weep. As I weep now.

His posting is "A Blight Unto the Nations it's well worth your while reading the whole thing and following his links.

I want to add one technical point. The Israeli artillery are technically superb. I've seen them in action repeatedly. They're good, they're very good, at what they do. They knew precisely where the UN observtion post was and hit it anyway. The excuse that this was a "mistake" simply won't wash. There's a binary solution set either:

  1. The artillery officers committed an act of gross insubordination by firing on a UN post which the Israeli Prime Minister assured Kofi Annan would not be fired upon.

  2. They fired upon it following their orders.

They are simply too good at their job for it to have been "a mistake."


Everyone Wants A Ceasefire?

Screen shot of headlines

Nope the people busy committing warcrimes and their American paymasters don't want the killing to stop. This screenshot of today's headlines on says it all. You don't even need to read the stories.


Yakim Abdula

composite20060727_Karrada_Baghdad_Yakim_aged_2_held_by_her_father_rocket_attack_both_brothers_killed.jpgThis is Yakim Abdula. She's two years old. The man holding her in the first two frames of the image is her father Hassan. They live in Karrada, which as I've said before is a fairly upmarket part of Baghdad with relatively good security. It's controlled by SCIRI whose leader suggested the other day that each neighbourhood form its own protection squads. SCIRI of course is the party that control the Ministry of the Interior. The Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Defense are known to be particularly heavily infiltrated with death squads.

Like all of Baghdad Karrada's coming under increasing attack. This mornings attacks were a combined and coordinated series of;

  • rocket attacks,
  • followed by a mortar barrage,
  • followed by car bombing.

Casualties were very heavy at least 35 people were killed at least 153 were wounded badly enough to need hospitalisation. Amongst the casualties were Yakim's two brothers killed when a rocket hit their apartment. In the third frame of the image. Yakim is being held by her uncle. Hassan has left to go into their apartment to retrieve her two brother's dead bodies.


Baghdad Boiling

Passers by try to help a child injured in one of this morning's bomb attacks in Baghdad

Passers-by try to help a child injured in one of a series of coordinated mortar and bomb attacks in Karrada Baghdad this morning


At What Point Can We Say "Israel Is A Terrorist State?"

Haim Ramon 'All those now in south Lebanon are terrorists who are related in some way to Hezbollah'Meet Haim Ramon. He's Israel's minister for justice. He used to be in the Israeli Labour Party but ditched them for Kadima when Ariel Sharon, the man the Kahan commission* found to be responsible for the mass murder of civilians at Sabra and Shatila refugee camps the last time Israel invaded Lebanon left Likud and founded Kadima. He's generally reckoned to be very close to Israel's Prime minister Ehud Olmert. Note Ramon's branch of service. Like Donald Rumsfeld he's an Air Force man in Ramon's case he never made it beyond captain. Not a particularly impressive record. This is what he had to say today on Israeli Army Radio:

"We received yesterday in the Rome conference permission, in effect, from the world, part of it gritting its teeth and part of it granting its blessing, to continue the operation, this war, until Hezbollah's presence is erased in Lebanon and it is disarmed," Source

But that's not all he this charming gentleman said, he said much more. He said that Israel had given more than enough warning to the civilians living in South Lebanon to leave and that:

"All those now in south Lebanon are terrorists who are related in some way to Hezbollah," Source

That would of course include all those women, children, and other civilians who can't get out of Southern Lebanon because Israel has bombed all the roads and bridges. As well as bombing refugee convoys and ambulances and UN positions of course. How long do we have to wait before we can openly call this man and his colleagues terrorists bent on mass murder of civilians? At what point does the rest of the world turn round to his American paymasters and tell them that their hands are dripping with the blood of women and children? At what point is it going to occur to the American and Israeli peoples that they are going to reap what this man has just announced they are going to sow?

At what point can we say "Israel Is A Terrorist State?" Now, we can say it now. This man has announced a terrorist campaign. He's the minister for justice. He's close to the prime minister. We can and should say it now.

"Israel is a terrorist state."


Notes: *The Kahan commission was headed by the then President of the Israel's Supreme Court, Yitzhak Kahan. The other two members were Supreme Court Justice Aharon Barak (who announced his resignation from the Supreme court last May) , and a reserve Major-General Yona Erfat. - MFI

July 27th 2006 Mid-Morning

I expect today to be bad. Juan Cole has saved me the trouble of giving a prècis of this article in Al-Zaman [Arabic] really you need to read whole thing, the situation in the south of the country is coming very badly unstuck for the green zone government. In particular this statement by Grand Ayatollah Bashir al-Najafi is ominous:

"We fear the coming of a day when we cannot restrain a revolution of the people, with all its unsavory consequences."

Al-Najafi is often thought to be second most important of the four Grand Ayatollahs living in Najaf with Grand Ayatollah Al-Sistani being "primus inter pares" (the fifth Grand Ayatollah Kazem al-Hairi lives in Iran.) Al-Najafi's office would not under any circumstances have issued that statement unless the Grand Ayatollahs (who act collegially) were of the opinion that their ability to restrain their followers was slipping. Please note the scale of the attacks.

I also expect today to be dire in Baghdad.

Why do I expect today to be dire? Because yesterday night there was heavy fighting on Haifa Street. Why is Haifa Street important? Well if you look at a map of Baghdad it's the big street pointing like a dagger right into the heart of the green zone. It's been "pacified" oh a couple of hundred times by now. At the time of writing (just gone 11 a.m my time) the death toll in Baghdad from what seems to be a particularly well coordinated set of combined mortar/bombing attacks is at least 25 including children and rising. I wonder will the Syrians give al-Maliki political asylum again … … … maybe, if Dubya asks them really nicely. That's if he stumps up their price for extracting his buddy Olmert from Lebanon of course … … … Oh by the way the movement of more American hostages body bag occupants soldiers ordered by the Cheney Bush administration is well underway. The Cheney Bush administration bringing an entire new meaning to the expression "charlie fox."


Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Dear Condi and Ehud

"The role of the international force that will be sent to Lebanon following a cease-fire will be to assist the Lebanese army to deploy in the south, ensure that Hezbollah does not rebuild its positions there and ensure that quiet is maintained along the Israeli-Lebanese border, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert agreed yesterday. "
From Haaretz   [Emphasis mine - mfi ]

Dear Condi and Ehud,

If you want people from civilised countries to risk their lives helping clean up the blood soaked mess that you've created in the Middle East there are two important ideas you need to get into your heads:

  1. You need to ask us first.
  2. We won't do it if it's just to let you get away with your latest batch of war crimes and free you up to prepare the next bloodbath.

The days of the herrenvolk are over — or had you not noticed?

Yours sincerely,


Me too! Matt!! Me Too!!!!

From the comments at "Today in Iraq"

"They're going to combat death squads? What are they going to do, attack the Interior Ministry?"

According to Faiza, Iraqi blogger, the US forces are running the Interior Ministry.

So all they need to do to eliminate the death squads is arrest Negroponte. Sounds like a solution I can live with.
matt | Homepage | 07.26.06 - 9:08 am | #


Damned Shame

Protester being removed from congress during Maliki's speech
Damned shame there aren't more like her.


The "C" Word

Well at last! Somebody has dared used the "C word" to Americans and an American newspaper has dared print it:

Civil war won't end until troops leave Iraq


Civil war is raging across central Iraq. Baghdad, a city whose population is almost the same as London, is splitting into hostile and heavily armed districts. Minorities, be they Sunni or Shiite, are being killed or forced to flee. People dare not even take their furniture in case this might alert their neighbors to their departure and lead to their deaths. Sunni no longer let the mostly Shiite police enter their districts.

"If this isn't civil war," a senior Iraqi official said last weekend, "I don't know what is."

It is at this moment that the new Iraqi prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, arrived in London to see Prime Minister Tony Blair and to deny Iraq is sliding into civil war. He spoke confidently about disarming militias. He has now gone to the U.S. to see President Bush, and, if he follows the ignoble and cowardly tradition of Iraqi leaders visiting the U.S. over the past three years, will most likely repeat what he said in London.


Iraqi leaders are not what they seem. They live in the Green Zone, the heavily fortified enclave guarded by U.S. troops, in the heart of Baghdad. Many never leave it except for extensive foreign travel. Eighteen months ago, an Iraqi magazine claimed to have discovered that at one point the entire cabinet was out of the country at the same time.

The government remains reliant on the U.S. One former minister told me: "There is a culture of dependency. Part of the time the Americans treat us as a colony, part of the time as an independent country."

Al-Maliki became prime minister only because the U.S. and Britain were determined to get rid of his predecessor, Ibrahim al-Jaafari. Al-Maliki is inexperienced, personally isolated without his own kitchen cabinet, guarded by U.S. guards and heavily reliant on shadowy U.S. advisers.

The quasi-colonial nature of the Iraqi government may not be obvious to outsiders who see that it has been democratically elected. But its independence has always been a mirage.

For instance, its own intelligence organization should be essential to a government fighting for its life against a violent insurgency. At first sight, Iraq might appear to have one under Maj.-Gen. Mohammed al-Shahwani, but it has no budget because it is funded directly by the CIA, to the tune of $110 million to $160 million a year and, not surprising, it is to the CIA that it first reports. Not surprising, Iraqis will need a lot of convincing that Al-Maliki is not one more U.S. pawn.

In theory he should be in charge of a substantial army force. The number of trained Iraqi soldiers and police has grown from 169,000 in June 2005 to 264,000 this June. But the extra 105,000 armed men have not only made no difference to security in Iraq but that security has markedly deteriorated over the past year. The reason is that the armed forces put their allegiance to their own communities -- Kurd, Sunni or Shiite -- well before their loyalty to the state. Shiites do not believe they will be defended from a pogrom by Sunni units and the Sunni feel the same way about Shiite units.

This is why the militias are growing in strength. [snip].

Not only is Al-Maliki's suggestion that the militiamen might be stood down untrue but also the trend is entirely the other way. The army and police are themselves becoming sectarian and ethnic militias. This makes absurd Bush's and Tony Blair's claim that at some stage the U.S.-trained Iraqi security forces will be strong enough to stand alone.

Al-Maliki's visit to Washington has more to do with the White House's domestic political agenda than with the dire reality of Iraq. The Bush administration wants to have live Iraqis say in the lead-up to mid-term elections in November that progress is being made in Iraq. A frustration of being a journalist in Iraq is that the lethal anarchy there cannot be reported without getting oneself killed in the process.

Can anything be done to lead Iraqi out of this savage civil war even if it is now too late to stop it? Friction among Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds was always likely after the fall of Saddam Hussein. But what has divided the communities most is their differing attitude to foreign occupation. Ending that is essential if this war is to be brought to an end.

Patrick Cockburn writes for The Independent in Britain.

All emphases added by me, please please pretty please go read the whole thing.


Two Pieces of Context

Juan Cole has a good posting today on the Democrat's quite unbelievably dimwitted posturing about al-Maliki and his visit to the US. It's well worth reading but there are two pieces of context that you may find helpful to bear in mind as you read it.

The first has to do with the word "Dawa" it means the "Call" or the "Invitation" and refers to the duty to invite people to Islam. (I doubt there's a single westerner who's behaved even halfway decently in a Muslim country who hasn't experienced a Muslim suggesting to them that perhaps they should consider becoming a Muslim. There's nothing sinister about this it's a compliment. To put it colloquially "Hey you're one of the good guys why not join us?" )

In the present context it has a further meaning. Maliki's party the Islamic Dawa Party is a revivalist party their agenda is to invite their fellow Muslims to return to a properly Islamic way of life and seek to build a truly Islamic society in order to make this invitation valid.

The second point to bear in mind as you read Cole's posting is that to the best of my knowledge and belief Maliki's party is the only one which does not have a militia.


Tribal chiefs in Amara sign 'solidarity pact'

A new deal tribal leaders in the southern city of Amara signed recently is seen as a harbinger of stability and security in southern Iraq.


Iraqi tribal leaders play pivotal roles in their areas but they have rarely shown such a degree of solidarity.

The pact the Amara chiefs have signed comes following reports of an upsurge in violence in the province recently.

Residents say "strange elements" have infiltrated the province and are spreading terror and fear in several areas.

Vehicles and passengers traveling provincial roads and highways are frequently attacked and robbed. Attacks targeting Iraqi police and armed forces have increased.

However, analysts say it is hard to coordinate efforts by Amara tribes who often differ over land and authority. They also have their own inter-tribal disputes and rivalries to handle.

The analysts say they suspect that certain tribal groups might even be involved in the spike of violence in the province.

Al Zamman


Israeli Defense Forces - Checklist for Lebanon

IDF checklist for Lebanon


Tuesday, July 25, 2006

What's At Stake In Lebanon And Gaza?

I have written an article briefly outlining why I expect the sitaution in both Lebanon and Gaza to escalate. It can be found on my markfromireland site. Here's the conclusion:

"The situation therefore has several intertwined strands:

  • An Israeli attempt to bantustanise both Lebanon and Gaza.
  • An Israeli attempt to seize desperately needed water resources.
  • An Israeli attempt to
    comprehensively defeat armed Islamic activism in its neighbourhood once and for all and establish a "pax Israelica."

What can be expected? In summary:

  1. Don't expect anyone to back down soon.
  2. Expect the military conflict to escalate."

You can find the entire posting here.


It's Election Season In America

The [Arabic language] account of Nouri al-Maliki's remarks at the Iraqi embassy in London yesterday summarised below would be hilarious if the situation in Iraq weren't so bad. One has to wonder who Maliki's remarks were directed at. When I started to write this posting:

  • Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, had urged the creation of "people's committees." - If you think this sounds suspiciously like "Committee of Public Safety" you'd be right.
  • Operation Forward Together" is acknowledged by politicians "close to" Maliki as having failed.
  • Bloodstained car after roadside bombing of police in Zaynoun (Baghdad) today In one of several attacks today in Baghdad alone A policeman was killed and three wounded when a roadside bomb targetting their patrol in the Zayouna district exploded. Attacks in the capital continued - there was a gun battle on Haifa Street in which six police officers were killed and 30 were wounded.
  • In other attacks seven police and ten civilians were killed and that was attacks during the night on forces loyal to the green zone government in Central Baghdad alone.
  • Today (again in Baghdad) alone three bombs exploded in the city, killing two civilians and a policeman and wounding many others. I haven't been able to get estimates of the casualties.
  • Six other civilians were shot dead two of those were in drive-by shootings.
  • There were mortar attacks.
  • There was the usual crop tortured murder victims found by the roadside.
  • And two US soldiers were killed in al-Anbar.

Compare this with what Maliki said according al Zaman:

According al Zaman's report he said that the talks in the White House will focus on the security situation, building the security apparatus in partnership with the multinational forces and creating the conditions in which an international effort to rebuild Iraq's infrastructure could take place. When questioned Maliki said that the matters that were bringing him to Washington were the forthcoming American electionsissues related to bilateral relations and that discussing a US withdrawal from Iraq with the EmperorAmerican president was necessary to reach an agreement on this all round.

Referring to the security situation in Baghdad Maliki claimed that there had [recently] been very significant blows against those who control the "hotbeds of terrorism" and that because the terrororists could no longer hit the police and the army they had shifted their attacks towards the innocent in schools and markets. According to al Zaman Maliki claimed that the terrorists no longer have the capacity to confront the [Iraqi] police and army and that the priority now was to build an inteligence system to foil the suicide bombers and their backers. He went on to assure his interlocutors that the rehabilitation of the Iraqi police guaranteed the failure of terrorism. Maliki then went on to discuss the militias singling out the Badr brigades, the Mehdi army, and those groups that had infiltrated the petroleum ministry. He condemned their activities as illegal and stressed that it was imperative to reach a solution to the disarmament of militias. He also said that insurgent groups had expressed a willingness to join the poltical process, and that the war torn Iraq on the cusp of civil war portrayed in the media was not the reality.

So to whom were al-Maliki's remarks directed? They weren't directed at his Iraqi compatriots that's for sure.What the article doesn't say (because it's already well-known by it's Iraqi readership) is that Maliki is isolated, and a "lame duck." His American minders, chief amongst them the American Viceroy Governor Ambassador prevent his own aides from having access to him, he's surrounded by about 40 American advisers and they control not only who can see him but the information he gets.

Al Maliki's trip is for American domestic political consumption and for American domestic political consumption alone. It has nothing to do with the realities of the situation in Iraq. Nothing. While I was writing this (as I expected) the cynicism of the Bush administration in organising this trip, was matched by the wanton disregard of the Democrats for the lives of the Iraqi people and American troops in Iraq:

"Your failure to condemn Hezbollah's aggression and recognize Israel's right to defend itself raise serious questions about whether Iraq, under your leadership, can play a constructive role in resolving the current crisis and bringing stability to the Middle East, ………

As you know, the American people have given so much in the name of fighting global terror and helping build a better future for the people of Iraq,……… [emphasis mine - mfi]"

Iraq is boiling in blood, Israel has launched a war of domination against Lebanon and it's election season in America. God save the people of the Middle East.


AL Ahram on the rape of Abeer Qassem Hamza Al-Janab

America's moral abyss
The rape and murder of a young Iraqi girl by US soldiers is exemplar of the fate of the Iraqi nation at the hands of its imperial tormentors, writes Firas Al-Atraqchi

In early 2003, an Arabic-language newspaper ran a cartoon depicting the nation of Iraq as a young girl being raped by a US soldier while several Arabs in traditional garb enthusiastically egged the soldier on. The message was simple: Iraq was about to be plundered of its wealth, stripped of its manpower, its expertise, its middle and educated classes, its infrastructure and its knowledge base. Like a rape victim, the country would be scarred, mutilated and contorted, never again to appear fully sovereign.

This vision became horrific reality in the town of Mahmoudiya in March 2006 when 16-year-old Abeer Qassem Hamza Al-Janabi was raped, shot and burned by a team of US soldiers who allegedly had been planning for a week to perpetrate their crime. Their plan included discarding their military uniforms and donning dark clothes (resembling that of militia or fedayeen ) to avoid identification as US military personnel. Abeer's family were executed in the assault, including her seven-year-old sister, so that none may point a finger of blame at the US military.

In the immediate aftermath, the US military cordoned off the area surrounding Abeer's house, announcing that her family were Shia and were murdered by Sunni "insurgents". We now know neither claim was true. Al-Janabi's neighbours protested that the family were Sunni, and that the girl had complained of harassment by US troops at a nearby checkpoint some time earlier.

Three weeks before the US military announced and opened an internal investigation, the alleged lead perpetrator of the rape of Abeer was discharged from the army on grounds that he was mentally unstable. The undeclared reason, according to some sources, was that the US military was aware of his conduct in Mahmoudiya and sought to avoid further embarrassment to a military plagued by atrocities in Abu Ghraib and Haditha, among dozens of other reports of human rights violations.


Abeer's life as a whole is testament to the suffering of the Iraqi people. Born the year Iraq invaded Kuwait, Abeer lived out her infancy under the punitive sanctions regimen. She grew up different from other girls in the Arab world: an innocent child, yet punished for wrongs she could not begin to understand. By the time she turned 13, Iraq had been invaded and entire cities and villages were soon under siege. In the great war of liberation allegedly waged to stifle terrorism and liberate the Iraqi people from the stranglehold of tyranny, Abeer paid with her life at the hands of the liberator.

Despite the best efforts of senior officials to categorise Green's actions (and those of his unit cohorts) as aberrations, evidence increasingly emerging from Iraq indicates that similar crimes and human rights abuses are perpetrated on a near daily basis.


Regarding Abu Ghraib, two years on from the scandalous atrocities captured on camera and leaked to the press, thousands of pictures and video footage showing ongoing torture, human rights abuses and, according to New Yorker journalist Seymour Hersh, the rape of minors, remain unpublished.


The media has also reported that gang graffiti has been scrawled on walls in Iraq, including proclamations of loyalty to the Aryan nation -- a statement usually made by white supremacists.

The notion that racist ideology exists among US military servicemen and women serving in Iraq is hardly new. In late 2004, British officers told The Telegraph that they viewed the US use of force as aggressive and disproportionate. They added that it was the belief of many British commanders that certain quarters within the US military viewed Iraqis as untermenschen, or sub-humans.

Perhaps it is such dogma that facilitates the emergence of websites that display pictures of Iraqi dead or allows for songs to be written about the killing of an Iraqi girl and her family (Hadji Girl) by a US marine. Adding insult to injury, such songs are being bought up by radio stations in the US and will be available for download at a premium.

The US military has a serious personnel problem on its hands and has all but lost the hearts and minds campaign it aimed to win among Iraqis. How could it be otherwise when Abeer's savage rape and murder stands as testament to the absence, at the core of the US military, of adherence to even the most fundamental tenets of ethics and human morality?

Full Article in AL-Ahram Here:


LEBANON: Another generation of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, comes under fire

BORJ AL-BARAJNEH, 24 Jul 2006 (IRIN) - Community leaders in Lebanon's largest refugee camp, Borj al-Barajneh in southern Beirut, say thousands of Palestinian families have fled the area around the camp, and sought safety inside it, straining its fragile resources. Terrified families, they say, are now living as many as 16 persons to a room.

"This camp is a disaster area,” says Abu Zaher al-Habet, a member of the Popular Committee that organises the camp. "Ninety percent of the people are unemployed. Sixty percent live below the poverty line. We have no running water normally, only water trucks, and now even those are not making deliveries."

Several generations of Palestinians here have been on the receiving end of Israeli attacks.

Zakia Hamad was just three years old when her mother was killed by the Israeli army in 1948. Forty years later, her husband, daughter and son were killed by the Israeli military during its occupation of southern Lebanon.

Today, the elderly woman sits on the floor of an underground bunker. All of a sudden, a small boy runs in clutching a red-hot piece of shrapnel from Israeli shells exploding metres away outside.

He brings news that Hamad's aunt has been hurt by flying glass. "Oh god," screams Hamad. "What am I to do?"

Across the bunker, Amne Assem huddles with her family - Alia, Tihaj and Jihan. She says her husband is old, tired and weak, and stayed behind in their shanty home on the edge of the Borj camp, now directly in the line of fire.

Tihaj is asked how her children are coping with the Israeli bombardment. "There are tears," she says. "What do you expect?" Community leaders say the noise of shelling is traumatising children in the camp.

The slum of Borj al Barajneh has been cut off from food aid and services since Israel began its attacks on suspected Hizbollah targets in Lebanon, on 12 July. "We are trying to raise awareness of how urgent this situation is," says Olfat Mahmoud, director of a woman's organisation in the camp. “Maybe tomorrow the road access to the camp will be bombed, so we must get badly needed goods to them now."

"This camp is a place of deprivation,” says Abu Badr Merte, another community leader. “Other people live in their country. We live in our country [Palestine] only in our hearts."

Al-Habet from the Popular Committee deals with relief organisations, including the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). The committee drew up a list of things it says people need - including children's milk, grain, meat, bread, candles, fire extinguishers and medical supplies - and submitted it to UNRWA on 20 July.

Richard Cook, Director of UNRWA, says he received the written request on Monday. “We had made our regular distribution of foodstuffs to the camp ahead of this conflict, so we have to assess what additional needs they have and if indeed there are 9,000 extra persons taking refuge there.”

The camp normally houses about 20,000 Palestinians, with around 9,000 more living just outside. According to community leaders, it is this 9,000, or some thousands of them, who have come into the camp since Israeli shelling began.

The plight of the Palestinians in Lebanon is more overlooked now than in the past. Ten years ago, thousands of Palestinians died when the Borj camp was largely destroyed in fighting between Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Liberation Organisation and Syrian-backed Lebanese Amal militia.

But since the early 1990s, community leaders say they have seen money spent by UNRWA on the camp, fall by as much as 70 percent.

“They are partly right about this,” concedes Cook. “It’s been an ongoing grumble as UNRWA has struggled with a chronic funding shortage. We do still provide the same quality of services but whereas camp residents may have had 50 patients to a doctor before, now it might be nearer 100.”


God Bless These Young People With Good Hearts

BAGHDAD, 24 Jul 2006 (IRIN) - Hosts of college students from the west Anbar governorate of Iraq are spending their summer holidays doing volunteer work in hospitals, clinics and camps for displaced persons.

“We can’t just sit back and watch conditions deteriorate without offering some help, especially given the current lack of professionals,” says Othman Bakr, a 24-year-old student of medicine from Ramadi.

The Ministry of Displacement and Migration reported last month that more than 150,000 Iraqis had been displaced countrywide due to sectarian violence. Many NGOs devoted to the relief effort, meanwhile, have complained about a serious lack of supplies and assistance.

Like Bakr, dozens of students have offered their time and experience to help their compatriots, many of whom are in dire need of food, shelter and medical assistance. “I’m assisting at a camp near Ramadi, where most displacements are a result of sectarian violence,” says Mariam Dera’a, who is studying to be a secondary school teacher. “I help them by preparing fresh food and providing the children with some extra education.”

Local relief NGOs express appreciation for the help. “Ten students from different colleges are helping us,” says Fatah Ahmed, spokesman for the Baghdad-based Iraq Aid Association. “They’re going to be doctors, dentists, pharmacists and engineers, and they will definitely garner much experience here.”

Some students have collected food donations from Baghdad and brought them back to displaced families and hospitals in Anbar. “We filled our cars with rice, beans and cooking oil and divided it all between several local families,” says Ayman Razak, a student of engineering from the city of Fallujah. “People were often surprised to see students collecting food to help the displaced.”

For many of the displaced, the experience has proven to be a tremendous morale booster. “When the students come to help us, we feel like we’re respected again,” says Um Omar, a mother of four who fled her home in Ramadi in the wake of sectarian violence. “God bless these young people with good hearts – they are difficult to find in today’s Iraq.”


Monday, July 24, 2006

"The birth pangs of a new Middle East"

Mother and child This woman and her daughter from al-Tiri close to Tyre in southern Lebanon were obeying the Israeli order to flee their home or get bombed. It didn't make much difference. The Israelis carried out air strikes on the refugee convoy anyway. That's a war crime by the way but that's never stopped them before. Did you know that the USA is supplying the weaponry with which Israeli pilots are bombing civilian homes and shooting up refugee convoys, ambulances, clinics … ?

This war crime was carried out with the assistance of the red white and blue. It's just one of the "the birth pangs of a new Middle East" brought to you by the Bush administration and Condoleeza Rice - midwife to hell.


"Geneva's A Town In Switzerland"

الولايات المتحدة الأمريكية: جنودٌ يتحدثون عن الإساءة إلى محتجزين في العراق
السلطات تسمح باستخدام الوسائل المسيئة وتتجاهل شكاوى الجنود

هذه الروايات تدحض ادعاءات الحكومة الأمريكية بأن التعذيب والإساءات في العراق لم
تكن بإيعازٍ من السلطات بل هي حالاتٌ استثنائية. فعلى العكس من ذلك، كانت تلك
الممارسات موضع تغاضٍ، وتستخدم على نطاق واسع.

جون سيفتون، الباحثٌ الرئيسي لقسم الإرهاب ومكافحة الإرهاب

نسخة للطباعة

"He wouldn’t say anything, and they kept screaming at him and screaming at him. And they picked him up and threw him against the wall—and it’s a concrete wall. They threw him up against the wall, they punched him in the neck, punched him in the stomach—you know, gut shot—they threw him down. [At one point,] they actually threw him outside—they had two guys [other detainees] outside watching—threw him outside the building, just threw him outside like that. And then they picked him up, dragged him back, pulling him by the hair and stuff. . . . They hold his arms like this [out behind his back] and then beat him down—enough so they could break it, to give you a little bit of the pain. Same with the kneecaps: kicked him in the kneecaps, you know, really hard, with those boots—combat boots.

They were [usually] very conscious of trying not to leave marks [on the body] most of the time, but with that guy—they really didn’t [i.e., they made no effort to avoid leaving bruises and cuts]. . . . [Later,] they took some of the sani-wipes from the MRE pack [Meals Ready to Eat], you know, clean his face off and stuff like that, but the next day, he was pretty bruised. "


The detainee was beaten and interrogated for about two hours, Nick said. “He was there for a long time, a long time.” Later on, Nick said, the interrogators told guards and other soldiers that the detainee had inflicted the damage on himself: “They blamed it on him—a ‘falling-down-the-stairs’ deal or whatever.”

As it turned out, the detainee who was beaten was Iranian: Nick said he was a middle aged man, probably in his late 40s, and said he was probably a small-time businessman or smuggler who brought electronics to and from Syria and through Kurdish areas in Iran and Iraq. The fact that the man didn’t speak Arabic apparently made the interrogators beat him more severely

The guy didn’t speak Arabic at all; he spoke Farsi. And there was nobody who spoke Farsi on the post and he just kept getting the crap beat out of him because they thought that he was being silent when he only spoke Farsi.

Nick said that one of the Special Forces soldiers on the base—who was not trained as an interrogator or part of a military intelligence unit—was responsible:

The guy who was doing most of the roughing up in that case, I’m pretty sure that he was one of the SF [Special Forces] guys that just rotated through, and was just helping out in the interrogation. But they really thought this guy had a bunch of information, and he never opened his mouth except to scream incoherently, when he was getting hit.


As described earlier, Nick and MPs he worked with were under orders to keep newly arrived detainees awake and standing in the metal container. But Nick ordered the enlisted soldiers working under him not to hit detainees:

[I told them:] this is what I expect, this is how I do things. I don’t care what the other guys do, the rules are “don’t bring a camera,” so don’t bring a camera, you don’t hit the guys. I try to tell them to treat them the way you wanna be treated and stuff like that. . . Geneva Conventions, that’s what I do—I remind them of Geneva Conventions—this is what we do, this is what we don’t do to prisoners.

Nick said that neither he nor any of his troops had training in detention operations, or Geneva Conventions standards on treatment of detainees:

Geneva Conventions—I mean, a lot of people’s knowledge—99 percent of people’s knowledge extends to “hey, there’s a Geneva Conventions Category one in the back of my ID card,” [referring to the classification written on soldiers identification cards]. Or: “Geneva’s a town in Switzerland.” For a lot of people, you know, that’s what it extends to. I knew a little bit more, you know, as far as that goes: Those are rules governing warfare and stuff like that. But I didn’t know a lot of specific information or anything like that. I looked up specific information based on the treatment of POWs, detainees, etc. etc. That’s what I was looking for. And right now, I couldn’t quote you much. . . .

That’s pretty much how it went. That’s the prevailing thought [process] and it was mentioned that, “Oh, that’s an antiquated set of rules.”

“You can’t get information out of people these days without breaking them”—that kind of thing. That was the prevalent attitude. That was voiced by the E6. That was the quote: “You cannot get information out of them without breaking that stuff.”

From Nick’s perspective, the interrogators did not appear professional. He believed that much of the abuse stemmed from racist attitudes toward detainees. Many of the guards and interrogators called Iraqi’s “Hajis,” and would often mock or taunt them. Nick also said he didn’t believe that abusive interrogation tactics worked:

"No Blood, No Foul" Soldiers’ Accounts of Detainee Abuse in Iraq - Human Rights Watch [WEB]

"No Blood, No Foul" Soldiers’ Accounts of Detainee Abuse in Iraq - Human Rights Watch [PDF]


The ambulanceman gave Ali the job of keeping his mother alive

Blasted by a missile on the road to safety
Family ordered to flee were targeted because they were driving minivan

The ambulanceman gave Ali the job of keeping his mother alive. The 12-year-old did what he could. "Mama, mama, don't go to sleep," he sobbed, gently patting her face beneath her chin. Behind her black veil, her eyelids were slowly sinking. "I'm going to die," she sighed. "Don't say that, mama," Ali begged, and then slid to the ground in tears. … … …

Go read the whole thing

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Why Israel's Campaign Will Likely Fail

From Michael Cresswell some "required reading."


Jameelah market (Sadr City) Bombing In Context

There are times when I despair. The leaflet shown in the photo below reads; 'there is a new face of courage, terrorism has no shelter!' It was Leaflet handed out to residents in Sadr city after raid leaflet readshanded out after a raid by U.S. and Iraqi troops loyal to the green zone government troops in Sadr City after a raid in al-Shula that freed two hostages. The residents don't seem impressed. As I said in my posting on the Al-Ula market bombing;

"As might be expected from the name Sadr City it's a stronghold of Mehdi Army militiamen loyal to Muqtada al-Sadr and as such has often been targeted for bomb attacks. "

and then again on my posting on the Kufa bombing:

"As one might expect the local reaction was the same as the July 2nd al-Ula market bombing in Sadr city and for much the same reasons. Al-Sadr's movement is particularly popular amongst poor and disenfranchised Shia who believe that only he has an agenda to alleviate their economic and social plight. As at al-Ula residents vented their fury at the local police and demanded that the Mehdi militia take over security. The crowd stoned local police screaming at them that they were "traitors," "American agents" and "useless" police fired into the air to disperse the crowd. This attack is one of many aimed at al-Sadr the goal is to undermine his position. I sincerely hope that this campaign fails, despite what you may read in the western media al-Sadr has had considerable success in restraining his followers. Should that restraint weaken or fail the ensuing bloodletting will dwarf that seen so far."

Sure enough hot on the heels of the raid on al-Shula came another car bombing attack on Sadr city. The Jameelah market was bombed and by mid-morning the toll was 32 dead and 63 sufficiently seriously wounded to require hospitalisation [Arabic language link.] The bomb was at the entrance to the market place and police estimate that the payload was in the region of 200kg of plastic explosive. The green zone government and the American occupation have just launched a reconciliation process. Nobody, least of all me is going to deny that there is a serious problem with sectarian militias and death squads. But there's a problem - here's how AP are reporting the bombing and the preceding raid:

"Key to ending the reprisal attacks is to rein in sectarian militias and death squads that U.S. officials say are a greater threat to Iraq than the Sunni insurgents who have been fighting the coalition since 2003. The Mahdi Army is believed to be the biggest Shiite militia.

Before dawn Sunday, Iraqi troops and U.S. advisers raided Sadr City and the mostly Shiite district of Shula, U.S. and Iraqi officials said. The sounds of explosions and bursts of automatic fire echoed through the heart of the capital" [Emphasis mine - mfi]

Both in Baghdad and in the South the US led occupation of Iraq has been gunning for al-Sadr for years, so have their local allies such as SCIRI and western reporting particularly from the wire services reflects that.

I have no doubt that armed militiamen loyal to al-Sadr's movement are engaged in some very unsavoury activities but I very much doubt that the Mahdi army is the biggest Shiite militia, and I very much doubt that they're the ones running the death squads of people in Ministry of the Interior and Ministry of Defence. But what I, or any other westerner, think is irrelevant. What's relevant is how the vast majority of al-Sadr's constituency see things. And how they see the situation is:

  • Al-Sadr's movement is led by people who didn't flee Iraq but who stayed and resisted Saddam.
  • Al-Sadr has consistently resisted attempts to split up Iraq.
  • Al-Sadr is consistently critical of Iranian efforts to increase their influence in the country.
  • Sadr city Shiite clergyman visiiting young bombing victim in hospital July 23rd 2006Al-Sadr has flown in the face of the price rises in fuel, food, clothing, and the ration reductions imposed by the green zone government at the behest of the American led occupation.
  • They see and hear the green zone government talking of dividing up Baghdad.
  • They see Nouri al Maliki going to Washington to be feted by the very people whose racist and brutal occupation has unleashed a tide of blood upon their homeland (and are now trying to pin the blame upon them.)
  • They see their hero, and his followers:
    • Visiting the wounded in hospital.
    • Providing comfort to the afflicted.
    • Seeing to it that the families get some food and money to tide them over.
    • Doing their best to protect them and their homes and children.
  • They see that al-Sadr and his followers are doing the things that citizens expect a real government to do in an emergency.

If you lived in Sadr city or the South who would you believe? Would you believe a pack of murderous foreigners and their puppets or would you believe what you see with your own eyes day in day out?


In Which The Gorilla Says "Told You So"

"Told You So"