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Today in Iraq


Bring 'em on: Insurgents on Wednesday laid siege to the headquarters of a police paramilitary unit near Baghdad, lobbing a volley of mortars that killed at least one senior officer and wounded at least five, Interior Ministry officials said.

In the pre-dawn attack, 14 mortars hit a government center in the town of Salman Pak, 12 miles southeast of Baghdad, housing the 3rd Public Order Brigade, which has a reputation for torture and abuse.

The members of the paramilitary unit fought back Wednesday, killing at least five insurgents, a commander in Baghdad said. By nightfall, the police were holding at least 76 people for questioning. [Updated]


U.S. "contractor" killed in Iraq.

Suicide car bomber detonates at entrance to Interior Ministry Major Crimes unit in Baghdad, killing 10 civilians and 15 policemen employed there. The unit targeted Thursday investigates large-scale crimes and has about 20 suspected insurgents in custody, police Lt. Col. Falah al-Mohammadawi said. He ruled out that the assault was aimed at releasing the prisoners — the goal of previous days' attacks on other police facilities.

Two policemen killed and two wounded when gunmen ambush their convoy in north Baghdad. Police said the attack was an aborted attempt to free detainees being transferred to the northern city of Mosul.

At least three policemen killed and five people wounded in car bomb attack in north of Bahdad A witness says he saw the driver get out of the car, walk over to a small food stall, order something, extract a remote control device from his pocket, set off the bomb and disappear.

Civilian seriously wounded by Iraqi army patrol shooting in the air to clear traffic in the neighborhood of Yarmouk.

Bomb outside Shiite Muslim mosque in the neighborhood of Shurta in southwest Baghdad kills at least six people and wounds 20.

Two policemen and two bystanders killed in roadside blast in Baghdad's neighborhood of Azamiyah. At least seven others - two policemen and five civilians - were wounded.

Bomb in Karradah neighborhood wounds four civilians.

Car bomb targeting police patrol explodes in al-Maghrib street, northern Baghdad, killing three policemen and wounding six civilians.

Two civilians wounded when two mortars land on house in northern Baghdad.

One civilian wounded when bomb explodes at bus station in the New Baghdad district of the capital.

Two civilians gunned down in drive-by shootings in Baghdad.

Three bodies found in Baghdad.

Roadside bomb targeting police patrol explodes in western Baquba, killing four policemen.

Policemen killed and three injured by roadside bomb in Babylon.

In Iskandariyah a roadside bomb kills one policeman and wounds two pedestrians.

One Iraqi army soldier killed and another wounded when roadside bomb detonates near their patrol on a road between Latifiya and Iskandariya.

Mortar round fired into parking lot near Karbala shrine Sunday, no one hurt.

Chief of Iraqi army in Kirkuk escapes roadside bomb attack on a road 45 km southwest of the northern city of Kirkik.

Eight bodies found in Fallujah.

Mortar round fired government installation in Beiji during visit by Ahmed Chalabi who was not harmed and later returned to Baghdad.


Western hostages freed: The Iraqi Interior Ministry said the three captives were rescued northwest of Baghdad between the towns of Mishahda, 20 miles away from Baghdad, and the western suburb of Abu Ghraib, 12 miles away.

The freed hostages were Canadians James Loney, 41, and Harmeet Singh Sooden, 32, and Briton Norman Kember, 74. The men — members of the Chicago-based Christian Peacemaker Teams — were kidnapped Nov. 26 along with their American colleague, Tom Fox. The body of Fox, 54, of Clear Brook, Va., was found earlier this month.

The previously unknown Swords of Righteousness Brigades claimed responsibility for the kidnappings.

The Christian Peacemaker Teams said the activists went to Iraq "motivated by a passion for justice and peace." Group volunteers have been in Iraq since October 2002, investigating allegations of abuse against Iraqi detainees by coalition forces. Its teams promote peaceful solutions in conflict zones. "They knew that their only protection was in the power of the love of God and of their Iraqi and international co-workers," Pritchard said.

He also called for coalition forces to leave the country. "We believe that the illegal occupation of Iraq by Multinational Forces is the root cause of the insecurity which led to this kidnapping and so much pain and suffering in Iraq," Pritchard said.

RAF doctor who refused to serve in Iraq told he must face court martial. Flight Lieutenant Dr Malcolm Kendall-Smith faces five charges of failing to comply with a lawful order after refusing to take part in training and deployment to Basra. The 37-year-old, who has dual British/New Zealand citizenship, had served two tours of duty in Iraq but refused to return last June.

At a pre-trial hearing last week, Flt-Lt Kendall-Smith's defence counsel Philip Sapsford QC said the officer believed that, because Iraq had not attacked the UK or one of its allies, there was no lawful reason to enter Iraq. On that basis, he argued that Flt-Lt Kendall-Smith was entitled to disobey the "unlawful" orders. "The Flight Lieutenant's case is that Iraq was and remains under occupation," Mr Sapsford said.

But Judge Advocate Jack Bayliss ruled at the Aldershot Court Martial Centre that the man should face trial. He ruled that the orders given were lawful.


UN: Death squads operate unchecked in Iraq: A United Nations report Wednesday raised concern about human rights in Iraq, citing suspicions that death squads acting 'within the structures' of the interior ministry had carried out killings in and around Baghdad. The report by the UN mission to Iraq accused Iraqi security forces, particularly police and special forces, of collusion with militias to commit human rights violations.

It pointed to 'many bodies' found since January that bore hallmarks of extrajudicial executions. It said US-led multinational forces in Iraq had arrested 22 special police commandos riding in a van with a man they were going to execute. 'Allegations that death squads operate in the country grew stronger following the discovery by the multinational forces and Iraqi security forces of a suspicious group acting within the structures of the ministry of interior,' noted the report by the UN mission in Iraq.

"Insurgent" doctor killed dozens of wounded soldiers: When policemen, soldiers and officials in Kirkuk who were injured in insurgent attacks arrived in the emergency room of the hospital, they hoped their chances of surviving had gone up as doctors tended their wounds.

In fact, many of the wounded were almost certain to die because one of the doctors at the Republic Hospital was a member of an insurgent cell. Pretending to treat the injured men, he killed 43 of them by secretly administering lethal injections, a police inquiry has revealed.

"He was called Dr Louay and when the terrorists had failed to kill a policeman or a soldier he would finish them off," Colonel Yadgar Shukir Abdullah Jaff, a senior Kirkuk police chief, told The Independent. "He gave them a high dosage of a medicine which increased their bleeding so they died from loss of blood."

Dr Louay carried out his murder campaign over an eight to nine-month period, say police. He appeared to be a hard working assistant doctor who selflessly made himself available for work in any part of the hospital, which is the largest in Kirkuk.

Dr Louay was finally arrested only after the leader of the cell to which he belonged, named Malla Yassin, was captured and confessed. "I was really shocked that a doctor and an educated men should do such a thing," said Col Jaff.

The Iraqi media under occupation: Satellite TV gives many Iraqis uncensored coverage of the mayhem. Unfortunately, American forces attacked a number of media outlets, which reinforces the notion that America is willing to stand in the way of the "free press" to preserve its own interests. Adam Gantz [in his book, How America Lost Iraq ] reported that the US Defense Department also joined the media circle in Iraq, founding a Baghdad TV station al Iraqiya, a newspaper al-Sabah, a pan-Arab radio station, Radyo Sawa, and a news channel for satellite TV, al-Hurra. These media projects came along pushing the American agenda during the same period that Al Jazeera's offices were attacked by US forces and the Baghdad bureau was repeatedly shut down. In November 2005, the UK's Daily Mirror published an article pertaining to a secret memo claiming that George Bush and Tony Blair met in April 2004 and discussed taking "military action" against Al Jazeera in the company's base in Doha, Qatar. Since the article, the British government has put a gag order on discussing the secret memo.

In March of last year the US forces shut down Muqtada Al Sadr's newspaper al-Hawza al Natiq for "inciting violence." This double standard on "free press," and disregard for democracy only reasserts the failure of the US.

In late November, the New York Times disclosed US plans to embark on a multimillion dollar secret project to "plant paid propaganda in the Iraqi news media and pay friendly Iraqi journalists monthly stipends." This last ditch effort to win back the support of the Iraqi people is extremely revealing. The administration cannot even find Iraqis that are willing to support the occupation. Instead they are looking to feed the same "propaganda" to the Iraqi people that is being fed to Americans.

Video: The Aftermath Of A Massacre: Have American troops been killing unarmed civilians in Iraq?

This is the account of a nine year old survivor. "We watched them shoot my grandfather First in the chest then in the head, then they killed my granny."

BBC Newsnight Report - Broadcast March 22, 2006

[Includes shocking statements from a soldier who served in Iraq according to whom U.S. troops were informed they should keep shovels on their trucks, the point being that whenever they’d kill a random Iraqi they’d just throw a shovel near his corpse to make it look like he was an "insurgent" digging a hole for a IED.]

"I really cannot see how these people would fight each other": Despite widespread speculation at home and abroad that Iraq is on the verge of civil war, couples from different backgrounds have been defying the theory by marriage. Young men and women - as was the case before the US-led invasion three years ago - from different ethnic, religious and sectarian backgrounds still flock to the civil courts every morning for marriage contracts.

Sahira Abd al-Karim, a civil lawyer in Baghdad, confirmed to Aljazeera.net that Iraqis from different backgrounds are still marrying each other. "Sectarianism is something shameful among Iraqis, especially the middle class," she said. "As a lawyer in the civil courts in Baghdad I have seen Sunni marrying Shia, Arab marrying a Kurd. I myself am a Sunni Arab but my brother has been married to his Shia Arab wife for more than 40 years, and their eldest son married a Turkmen girl. I really cannot see how these people [Iraqi factions] would fight each other."

A civil judge in Baghdad who preferred not to reveal his identity agreed with Sahira that urban Iraqis regard sectarianism as shameful. "Families of young couples usually get embarrassed when I ask them do they want the marriage to be finalised according to Sunni or Shia Islamic Sharia? They do not want to be labelled as sectarians, and you see each family encourages the other to tell the judge to finalise the marriage according to its sect."

Marwan Muhammad, 26, and Zainab Hussein, 25, were declared husband and wife by the civil judge in al-Karkh Civil Court in Baghdad this month.

Ban Haddad, 35, a neighbour [a Shia Arab], said: " Believe it or not the Sunni and Shia thing is mentioned in our house for sake of humour, you know like I joke with my husband and tell him that Sunni are not good husbands or they are stingy ... Things like that just to laugh, I do not know how they introduced sectarianism to all aspects of life, the situation is awful now," she said.

Some Iraqis say the tribal factor is crucial in pushing away the danger of civil. All Arab countries are tribal societies which value the blood bond more than sect. Tribal leaders dismiss the possibility of civil war between ordinary Iraqis, saying they all belong to tribes that contain Sunni and Shia clans.

Shaikh Muhammad Ahmed al-Mislit, a senior tribal leader, ruled out the possibility of Iraqi clans fighting each other because of different sectarian belief. Al-Mislit belongs to the Arab tribe of al-Jobur which numbers about three million Iraqis and contains Sunni and Shia clans.

"Every member in my tribe sees other members as cousins; I cannot see myself or any one of my tribe fighting his own people and family for political or sectarian beliefs," al-Mislit said. "My evidence for that is both Shia and Sunni Jubor tribesmen go to the same tribal authority to judge between them, they do not go to Sunni or Shia clerics."


al-Sadr Damns Rumsfeld: In a moment of clarity, Muqtada al-Sadr stated, after hearing of Rumsfeld saying that US troops would not intervene in the event of a civil war in Iraq:

"May God damn you," Sadr said of Rumsfeld. "You said in the past that civil war would break out if you were to withdraw, and now you say that in case of civil war you won't interfere." [UPI]
One can only imagine the level of frustrations that are culminating among the Iraqi political parties, militias, and insurgents. The US had spend the past several years insuring that every Sunni Arab in Iraq would be bound to swear a oath of vengeance on all US forces with the incessantly and stupidly indiscriminate attacks on Sunni civilian populations in Fallujah and elsewhere. The Sunni insurgency, as a result, is almost entirely out of American control. Then, they mounted an offensive on the Turkmen minority, which had begun to ally itself with the Sunni Arabs, insuring that the Turkmen were squarely in the corner of the insurgency. Now, simply to try to prop up PR numbers back at home, Rumsfeld has manage to utterly incense the al-Sadr faction of the Shi'ite Arabs.

In the context of a possible ground war with Iran (at this point more possible than probable), this is just bad policy after bad. With just the Sunni insurgency problem of two years ago, it would have been difficult enough to sustain heavy combat operations, given the level of interdiction of supply lines the insurgents have proven capable. There are garrisons in Sunni Arab provinces that are routinely supplied by airlift because truck convoys are unreliable. Now, we are getting very close to open hostilities with the Shia Arabs. Washington is looking calamity in the face and calling it cute.

Dahr Jamail: Operation Swarm of Lies: The stated mission of Operation Swarmer, launched late last week in an area just northeast of Samarra, in Iraq, was to "break up a center of insurgent resistance" and to disrupt "terrorist activity," according to the US military.


Operation Swarm of Lies is part of yet another Cheney administration media blitz to put a happy face on this horrendously failed misadventure in Iraq. All too aware of the plummeting US public support for the war effort, and with approval ratings for the so-called president at an all time low, Bush had been sent out on the campaign trail to apply fresh gloss to the tattered sheen of the US occupation of Iraq. Sticking with their talking points of having Iraqi forces take over security responsibilities, the primary purpose of Operation Swarm of Lies was obviously to send the message to Americans that the US military are allowing Iraqis to "take the fight to the enemy."

But this operation of mass distraction has served other purposes as well.

Operation Swarm of Lies served well in diverting media attention in the US from US/UK covert operations in Iran last Friday.

Even the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reported that Iran's national police chief, Ismail Ahmadi Moghaddamm, accused US and British agents of playing a role in the deaths of 21 people in southeastern Iran. Moghaddamm accused the intelligence services of both the US and UK of encouraging attacks by Iranian rebel groups against civilians.

Operation Swarm of Lies also effectively distracted media attention from the arrest of an American "security contractor" in Tikrit last week. According to the Joint Coordination Center between the US and Iraqi military in Tikrit, "the man is described as a security contractor working for a private company," and he "possessed explosives which were found in his car" when he was arrested last Tuesday.

This incident was also reported on al-Sharqiyah Television on March 14th , where they added that the man was arrested during an imposed curfew, and "he had explosives in his car, noting that contacts are being held between officials in Salah al-Din Governorate and US Army officials regarding the incident."

Antiwar views grow, but war protests don't: The American public's reaction to the Iraq war appears to hold a paradox: As opinion goes increasingly sour, the numbers of people attending protests seem to be declining.

Last weekend marked the three-year anniversary of the war's start, and according to press reports, tens of thousands of people around the world took to the streets to protest. In New York's Times Square, the number was estimated at 1,000. In Chicago, 7,000 people turned out.

It's difficult to get a nationwide total because the protest groups made a conscious decision this year to decentralize the anniversary events - to take the protests into local communities and congressional districts, as the fall elections approach. But, war opponents acknowledge, overall turnout was probably smaller than during the last two anniversaries, at least in the United States. Still, say political scientists and antiwar activists, there is a logic to how polls and protest turnout intersect, and each war has its own trajectory in terms of public opinion.

"It's not as paradoxical as it seems," says war opponent Norman Solomon, author of the book "War Made Easy." "Antiwar sentiment has mainstreamed a lot more quickly [with Iraq] than during the Vietnam War."

With the Iraq war, the numbers of visible protesters were large even before the war. On Feb. 15, 2003, between 375,000 and 500,000 people jammed 40 blocks of Manhattan to protest impending war. With Vietnam, the US had been engaged there for years before the big protests began.

Once the Iraq war started, it took less time for a majority of Americans to turn negative than it did in the two previous major wars the US has fought since World War II: Korea and Vietnam.

Street protests don't necessarily sway public opinion, says John Mueller, an expert on war and public opinion at Ohio State University. What changes minds is what's happening in Iraq, not what protesters are saying. "There weren't many protests on Korea, and public opinion declined on that as well," he says. "I never thought the Vietnam protests were effective in changing public opinion or policy. They may have been counterproductive ... because, unlike protests now, they were associated with tearing down American values."

The president's low job approval and the American public's growing impatience with the war mean that big public protests may be less necessary, at least as a tool to demonstrate the intensity of public feeling to the administration, says Alexander Bloom, a historian at Wheaton College in Massachusetts. "Going into the streets can be a sign that people feel there's no other way to be heard," he says. But in this war, he adds, the polls speak loudly.

Iraqi Civilian Deaths: Time To Know the Truth: My e-mail to the BBC:

Dear David Gritten,

In "Iraqi civilian deaths shrouded in secrecy" (By David Gritten, BBC News website, Wednesday, 22 March 2006), you write:
Recent figures from the campaign group Iraq Body Count put the minimum number of civilians killed in Iraq since the US-led invasion three years ago at between 33,710 and 37,832.
Although the majority of those deaths were caused by insurgent attacks, multi-national forces stationed in Iraq ostensibly to protect the population have been responsible for a significant number.
QUESTION: Who told you that "the majority of those deaths were caused by insurgent attacks" ?

Thank you for your time and I look forward for your comments.

Kind regards,
Gabriele Zamparini


The BBC replies:

Dear Gabriele,

Thank-you for your feedback on my article.

I have changed the second paragraph to read "many of those deaths" rather than "the majority of those deaths".


David Gritten


My reply to the BBC:

Dear David Gritten,

Thank you for your reply and for the changes you have made.

I still don't understand: "the majority of those deaths were caused by insurgent attacks" . What a "slip"!

And what a coincidence that PM Tony Blair yesterday said: "... those who have died, mainly in terrorist acts... ".

Of course, "many of those deaths" could be anything. Let's see then how "many of those deaths" were caused by the US led invasion.
"The researchers found that the majority of deaths were attributed to violence, which were primarily the result of military actions by Coalition forces. Most of those killed by Coalition forces were women and children... Eighty-four percent of the deaths were reported to be caused by the actions of Coalition forces and 95 percent of those deaths were due to air strikes and artillery." ('Iraqi Civilian Deaths Increase Dramatically After Invasion', October 28, 2004)
Oh yes, if you have the chance, please, could you pass the word to Mr. Blair. He must have been ill informed. Thanks.

Kind regards,
Gabriele Zamparini

What's Become of Americans? Imagine knocking on America's door and being told, "Americans don't live here any longer. They have gone away."

But isn't that what we are hearing, that Americans have gone away? Alan Shore told us so on ABC's Boston Legal on March 14:
"When the weapons of mass destruction thing turned out not to be true, I expected the American people to rise up. They didn't.

"Then, when the Abu Ghraib torture thing surfaced and it was revealed that our government participated in rendition, a practice where we kidnap people and turn them over to regimes who specialize in torture, I was sure then the American people would be heard from. We stood mute.

"Then came the news that we jailed thousands of so-called terrorist suspects, locked them up without the right to a trial or even the right to confront their accusers. Certainly, we would never stand for that. We did.

"And now, it's been discovered the executive branch has been conducting massive, illegal, domestic surveillance on its own citizens. You and me. And I at least consoled myself that finally, finally the American people will have had enough. Evidentially, we haven't.

"In fact, if the people of this country have spoken, the message is we're okay with it all. Torture, warrantless search and seizure, illegal wiretappings, prison without a fair trial or any trial, war on false pretenses. We, as a citizenry, are apparently not offended.

"There are no demonstrations on college campuses. In fact, there's no clear indication that young people even seem to notice. ...

"The Secret Service can now declare free speech zones to contain, control and, in effect, criminalize protest. Stop for a second and try to fathom that. At a presidential rally, parade, or appearance, if you have on a supportive T-shirt, you can be there. If you're wearing or carrying something in protest, you can be removed.

"This! In the United States of America."

Now comes a report in the online edition of Time magazine that U.S. Marines went on a rampage in the village of Haditha and deliberately slaughtered 15 unarmed Iraqis in their homes. The Iraqis were still in their bed clothes, and 10 of the 15 were women and children.

The Marines turned in a false report that the civilians were killed by an insurgent bomb. But the evidence of wanton carnage was too powerful. Pressed by Time's collection of evidence, U.S. military officials in Baghdad opened an investigation. Time reports that "according to military officials, the inquiry acknowledged that, contrary to the military's initial report, the 15 civilians killed on Nov. 19 died at the hands of the Marines, not the insurgents. The military announced last week that the matter has been handed over to the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, which will conduct a criminal investigation."

If this story is true, under Donald Rumsfeld and George Bush's leadership, proud and honorable U.S. Marines have degenerated into the Waffen SS. Those of us raised on John Wayne war movies find this very hard to take.

A fish rots from the head. Clearly, deception in the Oval Office is corrupting the U.S. military. One reader reported that on March 19 his local PBS station aired a program that discussed the deaths of two young American soldiers in friendly fire incidents similar to Pat Tillman's death. In each case, he reports, "elements within the military falsified reports and attempted to shift blame to either enemy combatants or allied (Polish) forces."

The neocons have yet to tell us the real reason for their assault on Iraq, which has so far produced 20,000 dead, maimed, and wounded U.S. soldiers, between 30,000 and 180,000 (and rising) Iraqi civilians, and demoralized U.S. Marines to the point that they commit atrocities on women and children.

Would real Americans accept these blows for the sake of an undeclared agenda? Perhaps it is true that Americans don't live here any longer.

Iran, Iraq Crises Converge Despite U.S. Hardliners: The U.S. reactions to the Iranian acceptance of talks on Iraq reveal a sharp contrast in the attitudes of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and other administration officials toward the talks.

Before flying to Australia, Rice said the talks with Iran on Iraq "could be useful". The following day, however, some administration officials began to denigrate the value of those talks. White House National Security Adviser Stephen J. Hadley said they were "simply a device by the Iranians to try to divert pressure that they are feeling in New York".

The same day a "senior U.S. official", speaking to reporters while demanding anonymity, called the Iranian offer of talks "a stunt" and said Washington would participate only to avoid "criticisms that it did not do all it can do to defuse bloody tensions in Iraq". And a White House official sought out reporters to say the Iranian offer was "almost puffery".

The attacks by those associated with the administration's hard-line policy toward Iran revealed sharp differences over which is more important -- isolating Iran diplomatically, or taking advantage of its influence within the Shi'a political leadership in Iraq to help settle the crisis there.

The Dick Cheney-Donald Rumsfeld group, whose views were expressed by Hadley and the anonymous officials minimising the importance of talks with Iran, clearly care less about what happens in Iraq than they do about maintaining the policy of implicit, if not explicit regime change in Tehran.

Rice and Khalilzad, however, are apparently willing to risk a weakening or breach of the policy of isolating and threatening Iran, because they recognise the desperation of the sectarian-political situation in Iraq and believe Iran could help.

Iran poised to triumph over yet another American administration: Last week we learned about the impending dialogue between the United States and Iran, over Iraq. Months ago, the Bush administration reluctantly gave U.S. ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad the authority to open talks with Iran over the crisis in Iraq. These talks would represent the first time the U.S. has publicly talked with Iran since the 1979 revolution. That the authorization was even granted reflects the utter desperation of the administration.

The Bush administration is stuck in the Iraqi tar baby, unable to exit Iraq without suffering a public and humiliating defeat, without executing an abject retreat, without giving up every single one of its stated objectives in going into Iraq in the first place. That means: no pro-American regime in Baghdad, no U.S. control of Persian Gulf oil, no shining beacon of democracy for the Muslim world, no shock-and-awe blow against the "Islamofascists."

The civil war in Iraq, which was described in detail over the weekend by former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi and Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel, is not just a disaster for many thousands of Iraqis who will die in it. It is also the death knell for the administration's bungling, ill-conceived Middle East policy. There is no face-saving way out of Iraq for the Bush administration. As in Vietnam, the United States has lost the war.

So Khalilzad, months after getting permission to talk to Iran, has finally wrangled Iran's agreement to do so. What does that mean? It means that the Bush administration, which has blustered to the world about Iran being Public Enemy No. 1, which is deep into a half-cocked Regime Change II strategy aimed at Tehran (see "Déjà Vu All Over Iran"), will be seen by the rest of the world as crawling on its hands and knees to Iran, begging the ayatollahs to bail America out.

The entire world knows that Iran has the United States over a barrel in Iraq. Despite the presence of more than 130,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, it's no longer under America's control. Iraq is disintegrating into parts, and Iran has the upper hand. So the question is: What price is the Bush administration willing to pay Iran for help in stabilizing Iraq, if, indeed, it is not already too late? And, more important, what possible motive would Iran have for helping the Bush-Cheney bunglers?

That, too, would be an enormous defeat for U.S. hegemony-minded Project for a New American Century types. In the United States, some so-called realists, including those gathered around the Council on Foreign Relations, seem ready to accept that package deal with Iran. And Iran's own realists, led by the alleged pragmatists in Iran's national security establishment, fervently want it, too.

The Bush administration insists that the talks with Iran are absolutely not about a package deal. They insist that the discussions with Iran, if they occur, will be strictly limited to talking about Iraq. And they've made that talks even more complicated by insisting that Iran is a hidden hand behind the insurgency in Iraq, when most analysts believe that Iran's ties to Iraq's Shiite majority make it highly unlikely that Iran is involved in supporting those in Iraq who are fighting the Shiite bloc.

In any case, it doesn't take a genius to see that Iran has zero incentive to have such limited talks make progress. For Tehran, if the talks lead to a more comprehensive deal, they'll take it. If the talks are limited to bailing out Bush and Cheney before the '06 elections, then no deal. Let them stew.

But with the Bush administration's hard-liners pressing for regime change in Iran, it would be galling beyond belief to climb back down from the confrontationist perch and make a global deal with Iran. For that reason alone, it is very unlikely that the U.S.-Iran talks can produce much. "I don't have a lot of confidence that these will turn out to be productive, but I could be wrong," said Gen. George Casey, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, in a masterpiece of understatement.

More broadly, Iran is forging ahead to consolidate the gains it has made since the U.S. invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, which knocked off two of Iran's deadliest foes-the Taliban and Saddam Hussein. Iran is building economic ties to India and China, strengthening its influence in Lebanon and Syria, talking to Turkey, amassing enormous power in Iraq and reaching out to the Arab world. The Arabs, in particular, are alert to Iran's influence among the Shiites of Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere.

All in all, Iran is emerging as a preeminent force in the Persian Gulf. From the standpoint of the Bush administration, a strong Iran and a U.S.-occupied Iraq is better than a strong Iraq under Saddam Hussein, who was fiercely anti-American, alongside an increasingly powerful Iran. Still, Iran's ascendancy in the Gulf is not the outcome that was desired by Bush and Cheney in 2003.

For the past 27 years, perhaps no country has so confounded U.S. policy and politics as Iran. In 1979-1980, Iran toppled the Carter administration by seizing the U.S. embassy, holding Americans hostage, and humiliating the United States. In the mid-1980s, Iran bamboozled the neoconservatives in the Reagan administration into the ill-fated "Iran-contra" deal to supply the ayatollahs with weapons, in the process nearly bringing down Reagan. It bedeviled both the Bush I and Clinton administrations, too. And now, more than a quarter century after the fall of the Shah of Iran, Iran is once again poised to triumph over yet another American administration.

Call it: the revenge of the Axis of Evil.
The Anti-Empire Report:

"Mit der Dummheit kämpfen Götter selbst vergebens."
("With stupidity, even the gods struggle in vain.")

-- Friedrich Schiller

I'm often told by readers of their encounters with Americans who support the outrages of US foreign policy no matter what facts are presented to them, no matter what arguments are made, no matter how much the government's statements are shown to be false. If these Americans have no other defense of the policies they will declare how glad they are that the United States rules and polices the world; better America than someone else. They include amongst their number those who still believe that Iraq had a direct involvement in the events of September 11, that Saddam Hussein had close ties to al Qaeda, and/or that weapons of mass destruction were indeed found in Iraq after the 2003 invasion.

My advice is to forget such people. They would support the outrages even if the government came to their homes, seized their first born, and hauled them away screaming, as long as the government assured them it was essential to fighting terrorism (or communism). My (very) rough guess is that they constitute no more than 15 percent of the population. I suggest that we concentrate on the rest, who are reachable.

Inasmuch as I can not see violent revolution succeeding in the United States (something deep inside tells me that we couldn't quite match the government's firepower, not to mention their viciousness), I can offer no solution to stopping the imperial monster other than increasing the number of those in the opposition until it reaches a critical mass; at which point ... I can't predict the form the explosion will take.

So I'm speaking here of education, and in my writing and in my public talks I like to emphasize certain points which try to deal with the underlying intellectual misconceptions and emotional "hangups" I think Americans have which stand in the way of their seeing through the bullshit; this education can also take the form of demonstrations or acts of civil disobedience, whatever might cause a thaw in a frozen mind. Briefly, here are the main points:

(1) US foreign policy does not "mean well". It's not that American leaders have miscalculated, or blundered, causing great suffering, as in Iraq, while having noble intentions. Rather, while pursuing their imperial goals they simply do not care about the welfare of the foreign peoples who are on the receiving end of the bombing and the torture, and we should not let them get away with claiming such intentions.

(2) The United States is not concerned with this thing called "democracy", no matter how many times George W. uses the word each time he opens his mouth. In the past 60 years, the US has attempted to overthrow literally dozens of democratically-elected governments, sometimes successfully, sometimes not, and grossly interfered in as many democratic elections in every corner of the world. The question is: What do the Busheviks mean by "democracy"? The last thing they have in mind is any kind of economic democracy, the closing of the gap between the desperate poor and those for whom too much is not enough. The first thing they have in mind is making sure the target country has the political, financial and legal mechanisms in place to make it hospitable to globalization.

(3) Anti-American terrorists are not motivated by hatred or envy of freedom or democracy, or by American wealth, secular government, or culture. They are motivated by decades of awful things done to their homelands by US foreign policy. It works the same all over the world. In the period of the 1950s to the 1980s in Latin America, in response to a long string of Washington's dreadful policies, there were countless acts of terrorism against US diplomatic and military targets as well as the offices of US corporations. The US bombing, invasion, occupation and torture in Iraq and Afghanistan have created thousands of new anti-American terrorists. We'll be hearing from them for a terribly long time.

(4) The United States is not actually against terrorism per se, only those terrorists who are not allies of the empire. There is a lengthy and infamous history of support for numerous anti-Castro terrorists, even when their terrorist acts were committed in the United States. At this moment, Luis Posada Carriles remains protected by the US government, though he masterminded the blowing up of a Cuban airplane that killed 73 people and his extradition has been requested by Venezuela. He's but one of hundreds of anti-Castro terrorists who've been given haven in the United States over the years. The United States has also provided close support of terrorists in Kosovo, Bosnia, Iraq and elsewhere, including those with known connections to al Qaeda, to further foreign policy goals more important than fighting terrorism.

(5) Iraq was not any kind of a threat to the United States. Of the never-ending lies concerning Iraq, this is the most insidious, the necessary foundation for all the other lies. This is the supposed justification for the preemptive invasion, for what the Nuremberg Tribunal called a war of aggression. Absent such a threat, it didn't matter if Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, it didn't matter if the intelligence was right or wrong about this or that, or whether the Democrats also believed the lies. All that mattered was the Bush administration's claim that Iraq was an imminent threat to wreak some kind of great havoc upon America. But think about that. What possible reason could Saddam Hussein have had for attacking the United States other than an irresistible desire for mass national suicide?

(6) There was never any such animal as the International Communist Conspiracy. There were, as there still are, people living in misery, rising up in protest against their condition, against an oppressive government, a government usually supported by the United States.

(7) Conservatives, particularly of the neo- kind (far to the right on the political spectrum), and liberals (ever so slightly to the left of center) are not ideological polar opposites. Thus, watching a TV talk show on foreign policy with a conservative and a liberal is not "balanced"; a more appropriate balance to a conservative would be a left-wing radical or progressive. American liberals are typically closer to conservatives on foreign policy than they are to these groupings on the left, and the educational value of such "balanced" media can be more harmful than beneficial as far as seeing through the empire's motives and actions.

What's truly ominous about the American empire: In most empires, the military is there, but militarism is so central to ours - militarism not meaning national defense or even the projection of force for political purposes, but as a way of life, as a way of getting rich or getting comfortable. I guarantee you that the first Marine Division lives better in Okinawa than in Oceanside, California, by considerable orders of magnitude. After the Wall came down, the Soviet troops didn't leave East Germany for five years. They didn't want to go home. They were living so much better in Germany than they knew they would be back in poor Russia.

Most empires try to disguise that military aspect of things. Our problem is: For some reason, we love our military. We regard it as a microcosm of our society and as an institution that works. There's nothing more hypocritical, or constantly invoked by our politicians, than "support our boys." After all, those boys and girls aren't necessarily the most admirable human beings that ever came along, certainly not once they get into another society where they are told they are, by definition, doing good. Then the racism that's such a part of our society emerges very rapidly - once they get into societies where they don't understand what's going on, where they shout at some poor Iraqi in English.

Part of empire is the way it's penetrated our society, the way we've become dependent on it. Empires in the past - the Roman Empire, the British Empire, the Japanese Empire - helped to enrich British citizens, Roman citizens, Japanese citizens. In our society, we don't want to admit how deeply the making and selling of weaponry has become our way of life; that we really have no more than four major weapons manufacturers - Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, General Dynamics - but these companies distribute their huge contracts to as many states, as many congressional districts, as possible.

The military budget is starting to bankrupt the country. It's got so much in it that's well beyond any rational military purpose. It equals just less than half of total global military spending. And yet here we are, stymied by two of the smallest, poorest countries on Earth. Iraq before we invaded had a GDP the size of the state of Louisiana and Afghanistan was certainly one of the poorest places on the planet. And yet these two places have stopped us.

Militarily, we've got an incoherent, not very intelligent budget. It becomes less incoherent only when you realize the ways it's being used to fund our industries or that one of the few things we still manufacture reasonably effectively is weapons. It's a huge export business, run not by the companies but by foreign military sales within the Pentagon.

This is not, of course, free enterprise. Four huge manufacturers with only one major customer. This is state socialism and it's keeping the economy running not in the way it's taught in any economics course in any American university. It's closer to what John Maynard Keynes advocated for getting out of the Great Depression - counter-cyclical governmental expenditures to keep people employed.

The country suffers from a collective anxiety neurosis every time we talk about closing bases and it has nothing to do with politics. New England goes just as mad over shutting down the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard as people here in San Diego would if you suggested shutting the Marine Corps Air Station. It's always seen as our base. How dare you take away our base! Our congressmen must get it back!

This illustrates what I consider the most insidious aspect of our militarism and our military empire. We can't get off it any more. It's not that we're hooked in a narcotic sense. It's just that we'd collapse as an economy if we let it go, and we know it. That's the terrifying thing.

What we've done with our economy is very similar to what Adolf Hitler did with his. We turn out airplanes and other weapons systems in huge numbers. This leads us right back to 1991 when the Soviet Union finally collapsed. We couldn't let the Cold War come to an end. We realized it very quickly. In fact, there are many people who believe that the thrust of the Cold War even as it began, especially in the National Security Council's grand strategy document, NSC68, rested on the clear understanding of late middle-aged Americans who had lived through the Great Depression that the American economy could not sustain itself on the basis of capitalist free enterprise. And that's how - my god - in 1966, only a couple of decades after we started down this path, we ended up with some 32,000 nuclear warheads. That was the year of the peak stockpile, which made no sense at all. We still have 9,960 at the present moment.

Now, the 2007 Pentagon budget doesn't make sense either. It's $439.3 billion... not including war! These people have talked us into building a fantastic military apparatus, and then, there was that famous crack [Clinton Secretary of State] Madeleine Albright made to General Colin Powell: "What's the point of having this superb military you're always talking about if we can't use it?" Well, if you want to use it today, they charge you another $120 billion dollars! [He laughs.]

--- Chalmers Johnson is the author of Blowback, The Costs and Consequences of American Empire, published in 2000 to little attention. After 9/11, it became a bestseller, putting the word "blowback," a CIA term for retaliation for U.S. covert actions, into common usage. He has since written The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic. He is just now completing the final volume of his Blowback Trilogy. It will be entitled Nemesis.

The Mission Was Indeed Accomplished: Get off it. All the carping, belly-aching and complaining about George Bush's incompetence in Iraq, from both the Left and now the Right, is just dead wrong.

On the third anniversary of the tanks rolling over Iraq's border, most of the 59 million Homer Simpsons who voted for Bush are beginning to doubt if his mission was accomplished.

But don't kid yourself -- Bush and his co-conspirator, Dick Cheney, accomplished exactly what they set out to do. In case you've forgotten what their real mission was, let me remind you of White House spokesman Ari Fleisher's original announcement, three years ago, launching of what he called,




O.I.L. How droll of them, how cute. Then, Karl Rove made the giggling boys in the White House change it to "OIF" -- Operation Iraqi Freedom. But the 101st Airborne wasn't sent to Basra to get its hands on Iraq's OIF.

"It's about oil," Robert Ebel told me. Who is Ebel? Formerly the CIA's top oil analyst, he was sent by the Pentagon, about a month before the invasion, to a secret confab in London with Saddam's former oil minister to finalize the plans for "liberating" Iraq's oil industry. In London, Bush's emissary Ebel also instructed Ibrahim Bahr al-Ulum, the man the Pentagon would choose as post-OIF oil minister for Iraq, on the correct method of disposing Iraq's crude.

And what did the USA want Iraq to do with Iraq's oil? The answer will surprise many of you: and it is uglier, more twisted, devilish and devious than anything imagined by the most conspiracy-addicted blogger. The answer can be found in a 323-page plan for Iraq's oil secretly drafted by the State Department. Our team got a hold of a copy; how, doesn't matter. The key thing is what's inside this thick Bush diktat: a directive to Iraqis to maintain a state oil company that will "enhance its relationship with OPEC."

Enhance its relationship with OPEC??? How strange: the government of the United States ordering Iraq to support the very OPEC oil cartel which is strangling our nation with outrageously high prices for crude.

Specifically, the system ordered up by the Bush cabal would keep a lid on Iraq's oil production -- limiting Iraq's oil pumping to the tight quota set by Saudi Arabia and the OPEC cartel.

There you have it. Yes, Bush went in for the oil -- not to get more of Iraq's oil, but to prevent Iraq producing too much of it.

You must keep in mind who paid for George's ranch and Dick's bunker: Big Oil. And Big Oil -- and their buck-buddies, the Saudis -- don't make money from pumping more oil, but from pumping less of it. The lower the supply, the higher the price.

It's Economics 101. The oil industry is run by a cartel, OPEC, and what economists call an "oligopoly" -- a tiny handful of operators who make more money when there's less oil, not more of it. So, every time the "insurgents" blow up a pipeline in Basra, every time Mad Mahmoud in Tehran threatens to cut supply, the price of oil leaps. And Dick and George just love it.

Dick and George didn't want more oil from Iraq, they wanted less. I know some of you, no matter what I write, insist that our President and his Veep are on the hunt for more crude so you can cheaply fill your family Hummer; that somehow, these two oil-patch babies are concerned that the price of gas in the USA is bumping up to $3 a gallon.

Not so, gentle souls. Three bucks a gallon in the States (and a quid a litre in Britain) means colossal profits for Big Oil, and that makes Dick's ticker go pitty-pat with joy. The top oily-gopolists, the five largest oil companies, pulled in $113 billion in profit in 2005 -- compared to a piddly $34 billion in 2002 before Operation Iraqi Liberation. In other words, it's been a good war for Big Oil.

As per Plan Bush, Bahr Al-Ulum became Iraq's occupation oil minister; the conquered nation "enhanced its relationship with OPEC;" and the price of oil, from Clinton peace-time to Bush war-time, shot up 317%.

In other words, on the third anniversary of invasion, we can say the attack and occupation is, indeed, a Mission Accomplished. However, it wasn't America's mission, nor the Iraqis'. It was a Mission Accomplished for OPEC and Big Oil.


Your "HOP" Level: In his paper "What Is Your 'HOP' Level?" Nick Levis, who co-coordinates the N.Y. 9/11 Truth meetings with Father Morales and Les Jamieson, categorizes the basic narrative theories about September 11. The options essentially boil down to four.

(A) The Official Story (a.k.a. "The Official Conspiracy Theory"). The received Bushian line: Osama, nineteen freedom-haters with box cutters, etc. As White House press secretary Ari Fleischer said, there was "no warning."

(B) The Incompetence Theory (also the Stupidity, Arrogance, "Reno Wall" Theory). Accepts the Official Story, adds failure by the White House, FBI, CIA, NSA, etc. to heed ample warnings. This line was advanced, with much ass-covering compensation, in The 9/11 Commission Report.

(C) LIHOP (or "Let It Happen on Purpose"). Many variations, but primarily that elements of the U.S. government and the private sector were aware of the hijackers' plans and, recognizing that 9/11 suited their policy goals, did nothing to stop it.

(D) MIHOP ("Made It Happen on Purpose"). The U.S. government or private forces planned and executed the attacks.

Can 49.3 Percent of the People Be Crazy? Late in the summer of 2004, as the Republicans in Madison Square Garden extolled George Bush's staunch protection of the homeland, a Zogby poll asked New Yorkers if they believed that "some of our leaders knew in advance attacks were planned on or around September 11, 2001, and consciously failed to act."

Of city residents, 49.3 percent said yes.

A year and a half later, doubt had increased, at least according to my own informal canvassing. Per Nick Levis's "HOP" paper, I offered four choices: (A) the Official Story; (B) the Official Story plus incompetence; (C) LIHOP; (D) MIHOP.

Of the 56 respondents, 28 said C, 23 picked B, with 4 (including two Muslim cabdrivers) opting for MIHOP.

Almost every white person with a straight job said B. Many disliked Bush but said they couldn't bring themselves to believe the U.S. government would take part in the death of 3,000 of its countrymen.

Typical was the opinion offered by an investment banker at a downtown bar. "I can see them wishing it would happen, secretly happy it did. But on purpose? Look at the way they've managed Iraq. They're boobs. They couldn't have pulled off 9/11 without getting caught. Not possible."
QUOTE OF THE DAY: I didn't really regret it [invading Iraq]. I kind of semi-regretted it. (Laughter.) --- Bush in press conference at White House, March 21, 2006

Note to Readers, Thursday, March 23, 2006.

Today in Iraq is a finalist in the competition for the Koufax Award for Best Single Issue Blog. Voting is open here.

If you think matt, Friendly Fire, Susan, Cervantes, Helena, whisker and zig have provided a valuable resource for you over the past year, please cast a favorable vote.

Over the course of my Army career, I served with some damned dedicated NCOs and officers. But today I’m goddam proud of my fellow bloggers. Every day, without pay or reward, they put their balls to the walls and bring you the news from Iraq.

Sometimes the server at Wampum is busy so you may need to try again. Please vote only once. The election judges are exercising due diligence examining the votes and we shouldn’t waste their time.

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