Monday, November 17, 2008

Iraq may pass a security pact letting US stay till 2011

Nov. 17: U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, left, and Iraqi FM Hoshyar Zebar shake hands after a signing ceremony for U.S.-Iraq security pact.

BAGHDAD — Iraqi lawmakers Monday began debate over a pact with the United States that will allow U.S. forces to remain for three more years, while an Iranian official close to that country's leadership praised the Iraqi Cabinet for approving the deal.

The comments from Iran's judiciary chief marked the first time that the deal has met with clear-cut approval in neighboring Iran. Meanwhile, Syria, target of a deadly cross-border raid by U.S. forces in recent weeks, criticized the deal as virtual surrender to America.

More than two-thirds of the 275-seat legislature attended Monday's session, raising confidence that parliament will be able to muster a quorum for the Nov. 24 vote. The session ended after the agreement's text was read to lawmakers, the first step to adopt legislation.

Lawmakers are expected to meet again on Tuesday.

The proposed Status of Forces Agreement not only sets a date for American troop withdrawal - 2011 - but also puts new restrictions on US combat operations in Iraq starting on January 1 and requires a military pullback from urban areas by June 30. The pact goes before parliament in a week or so.

For the deal to go as planned, the security situation must keep improving.

The U.S. signed similar security pacts with Germany and Japan after World War II, and South Korea after the conflict there. In each case a sizeable contingent of U.S. troops remains. Today, there are 56,200 U.S. servicemembers in Germany, 33,100 in Japan and 26,300 in South Korea.

Can Obama change what is being done now, when he becomes President?

The pact can be changed if either President-elect Barack Obama, who takes office Jan. 20, or the Iraqis want to alter it. Each side has the right to repeal the agreement after giving one year's notice, a senior Iraqi lawmaker has said.

Obama Vows to Close Guantanamo

In his first television interview since the election, President-elect Barack Obama said Sunday he plans to close the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay and rebuild the nation’s moral stature. His comments came in an interview with Steve Kroft on 60 Minutes.

Steve Kroft: “There are a number of different things that you could do early on pertaining to executive orders.”

Barack Obama: “Right.”

Kroft: “One of them is to shut down Guantanamo Bay. Another is to change interrogation methods that are used by US troops. Are those things that you plan to take early action on?”

Obama: “Yes. I have said repeatedly that I intend to close Guantanamo, and I will follow through on that. I have said repeatedly that America doesn’t torture, and I’m going to make sure that we don’t torture. Those are part and parcel of an effort to regain America’s moral stature in the world.”

Syrian minister criticizes Iraq-U.S. security pact

Syria's information minister says the security pact with the U.S. approved by the Iraqi Cabinet amounts to an "award to the occupiers" of Iraq.

After months of haggling, the Iraqi Cabinet on Sunday approved the pact that would keep U.S. troops in Iraq for three more years. The deal is to go before the Iraqi parliament for final approval later in November.

Syria's information minister, Mohsen Bilal, told the AP on Monday that rather than rewarding the U.S. occupiers with the pact, Iraqis should get an apology from Washington for the damage done to their country.

Iraqi neighbors and U.S. adversaries Iran and Syria have opposed the pact in the past and say an immediate withdrawal of U.S. forces would be the best solution.

Last month, the U.S. launched a cross-border assault against a Syrian village allegedly used to smuggle foreign fighters into Iraq. The deal contains conditions that the U.S. not use Iraqi land to launch attacks against any neighboring country.

The proposed Status of Forces Agreement not only sets a date for American troop withdrawal - 2011 - but also puts new restrictions on US combat operations in Iraq starting on January 1 and requires a military pullback from urban areas by June 30. The pact goes before parliament in a week or so.

Internal Iraqi opposition

The 30-strong Sadrist bloc will move heaven and Earth - including massive nationwide protests - to bloc the pact in the Iraqi National Assembly.

Sadrist spokesman Ahmed al-Masoudi stressed this Sunday thatthe pact "did not mean anything" and "hands Iraq over on a golden platter and for an indefinite period".

Masoudi is right on the money when he says the overwhelming majority of popular opinion is against it and the Sadrists and many Sunni parties insist a popular referendum to approve it is essential.

Shi'ite leader Muqtada al-Sadr's position is and has always been "end the occupation now". That happens to be the same view from Tehran: the pact further extends Iraq's agony as an American colony.

Iran's unusual positive stance

Iranian state TV has been spinning it as a victory for the Maliki government - stressing the US was forced to make concessions (in fact Maliki did not extract all the concessions he wanted in terms of prosecuting US troops for crimes in Iraq . The pact calls for joint panels of U.S. and Iraqi judges to try cases involving serious crimes committed by off-duty U.S. servicemembers in Iraq. So while Iraqi judges would be involved, the U.S. would not cede full jurisdiction to them. Second, it is almost unheard of for a U.S. troop to be off duty and off base in Iraq.).

However, last week, a spokesman for the Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani in Iraq said he would "directly intervene" if he felt the pact was against Iraqi sovereignty.

Will Iran Move in?

"Many Iraqis suspect that Iran wants to annex southern Iraq, which is over 80 percent Shia, has the major Shia holy places and oil fields that would increase Iranian exports by over 50 percent."


Saturday, November 01, 2008

The Syrian Border Crisis

The Syrian Border Crisis


On October 26th 2008 the United States had an air strike on the Syrian border city of Abu Kamal. According to the United States, the attack killed an al-Qaeda leader responsible for smuggling combatants over the border.

Surprise to Syria, especially after talks with Rice

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met in New York with her Syrian counterpart, Walid Moalem, in the highest-level talks between the two nations since 2005. "She sat with us and said the United States wants to engage with Syria, wants to re-evaluate its relationship," Syria's ambassador to Washington, Imad Moustapha, told NEWSWEEK. "And suddenly this raid happens out of the blue."

General Petraeus wanted to talk prior with Syria but White House held him back

A senior military officer told NEWSWEEK that the United States conveyed its message about Abu Ghadiyah to Syria through other countries in the region beginning early this year. Simultaneously, said the officer, who did not want to be named discussing sensitive issues, Petraeus requested permission from the Pentagon to travel to Damascus and meet directly with Syrian leaders. According to the officer, though, "so far the answer has been 'Not yet. Now is not the time'." All three agencies declined requests for comment.
Both Syria and Iraq ( and North Korea) denounced the attacks

Syria condemned the US intervention and demanded an apology from Washington. Damascus also sent extra troops to the border region. Iraq equally condemned the US attack, but it also said Syria should take stronger measures against organizations that aim to harm Iraqis.

North Korea has denounced the United States for its recent deadly raid inside Syria.

The North's Foreign Ministry says the attack was "an unpardonable inhuman criminal act as it is ... state terrorism committed under the pretext of 'anti-terrorism war.'"

The real questions as proposed by
What is the tactical benefit of killing him and maybe taking out this particular safe house—to what extent will the act shock or foil the enemy, or cut down the flow of foreign fighters and arms? On the other hand, what is the strategic cost of violating international law, alienating the regional powers, and impeding a political settlement of the war in Iraq?

The intelligence isn't in yet, but early indications are that the first answer is "Not much" and the second is "Quite a lot."

Shuffling Troops

Iraq sends police to guard Syrian border
Iraq is sending police reinforcements to the border with Syria. The rapid reaction force is aimed at preventing al-Qaeda combatants from penetrating Iraq.

Meanwhile the Syrians are moving away from that border

The Syrian TV station Dunia reported Thursday that the country is reducing its troops and dismantling guard posts on its border with Iraq. The move came in response to a deadly U.S. cross-border raid Sunday that targeted an al-Qaida in Iraq figure who operated a network that smuggled fighters into Iraq. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of Syrians protested the raid Thursday in Damascus, and hundreds of Syrian riot police formed a protective ring around the closed U.S. Embassy. But the flag-waving crowds dispersed peacefully after a couple of hours.

The Syrians are beefing up borders with Lebanon

The Syrian Army has deployed more troops along Lebanon's northern border, according to Lebanese Army sources, amid claims that Damascus is redoubling efforts to "combat smuggling."

Reports that Damascus was beefing up its troop strength along the Lebanese border coincide with unconfirmed reports by the private Syrian Dunia satellite TV network that Syrian border patrol forces were being withdrawn from the notoriously porous border with Iraq. Dunia TV showed pictures of what it claimed were Syrian forces being withdrawn from the Iraqi border.

Iraq was getting along with Syria

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani also told President Bush just last month that Syria was no longer much of a problem.

Syria has asked Iraq for "clarifications" over the recent raid inside Syrian territory.

Deputy Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal al Miqdad indicated, this morning, that Syria has asked Iraq for "clarifications" over the recent raid inside Syrian territory. He says we are going to re-examine what's going on with Iraq in light of the official responses we're getting from the Iraqi side, following our requests to the United Nations for clarifications from Iraq.

Syrians say the Oct. 26 U.S. commando raid across its border targeting a Qaeda smuggler came as a surprise, ruining what appeared to be a thaw in relations between the two countries. Just two months ago, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met in New York with her Syrian counterpart, Walid Moalem, in the highest-level talks between the two nations since 2005. "She sat with us and said the United States wants to engage with Syria, wants to re-evaluate its relationship," Syria's ambassador to Washington, Imad Moustapha, told NEWSWEEK. "And suddenly this raid happens out of the blue."

But government documents and a recent comment by Commander of U.S. Central Command Gen. David Petraeus suggest the United States had been signaling its frustration with Syria over border issues for some time. Counterterrorism sources say troops taking part in the raid killed a senior Qaeda operative known as Abu Ghadiyah, who allegedly helped smuggle scores of fighters into Iraq for suicide attacks and other operations. Three weeks ago at a meeting of the Association of the U.S. Army, Petraeus said the Abu Ghadiyah problem had been raised often with Damascus. "We have communicated that to them through interlocutors," he said, describing Abu Ghadiyah as a "major foreign fighter facilitator" operating in Syria with "varying degrees of freedom at different times."

Syria has ordered the closure of the American School and the US cultural centre in Damascus

Cooperation Hits a Snag
By Dan Ephron and Mark Hosenball | NEWSWEEK

Thursday, October 30, 2008

US may be powerless in Iraq by end of Year

Friday, October 31, 2008

General holds doubts on Iraq deal

Richard Tomkins, Barbara Slavin THE WASHINGTON TIMES


SAMARRA, Iraq | In a blunt assessment, the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, Army Gen. Raymond Odierno, said Thursday that there is a 20 percent to 30 percent chance that the United States and Iraq won't reach a deal to allow U.S. troops to operate in Iraq past Dec. 31.

On a scale of one to 10, "I'm probably a seven or eight that something is going to be worked out," Gen. Odierno told The Washington Times during a visit to the 101st Airborne Division in Samarra, about 120 miles north of Baghdad. "I think it's important for the government of Iraq. I think it's important for security and stability here."

Kurds invite US

Massoud Barzani, the president of the Kurdish Regional Government, told The Times on Wednesday evening that he would be happy to host U.S. troops if the central government in Baghdad refuses to do so.

"The people of Kurdistan highly appreciate the sacrifices American forces have made for our freedom," Mr. Barzani said at a reception in Washington after meetings with President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

A draft U.S.-Iraq accord was reached earlier this month, but Iraqi officials faced domestic opposition after the details were leaked and asked Washington for amendments.

Several Iraqi officials and analysts have said that they doubt that the Iraqi parliament will approve a deal before the end of the year, when a U.N. mandate governing U.S. forces in Iraq expires.

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said Thursday: "I do think it will be hard for Iraq to pass it."

Without a new mandate, all U.S. military activity in Iraq will have to cease or be in violation of international law. Troops could be confined to bases, and vital support operations for Iraqi forces -- training, transportation, communication, air control -- would end.

"We have to have a legal framework to stay here," said Gen. Odierno, who recently replaced Gen. David H. Petraeus as commander of the 152,000 U.S. troops in Iraq.

Gen. Odierno said he sent Iraqi government ministers last week a detailed outline of the operational consequences of failure to obtain a bilateral agreement or an extension of the U.N. mandate: U.S. military projects that employ thousands of Iraqis would shut down; training of Iraqi forces would stop as would joint operations; air traffic control over Iraq would cease; border security would be Iraq's sole concern; and communications and logistics support for Iraqi security forces would end.

"What they were provided was [PowerPoint slides] that showed this is the support we give that we might have to pull back," he said. "We provided that to all the leaders."

The draft accord calls for U.S. forces to leave Iraqi cities by June 30 and combat troops to exit by the end of 2011, unless requested to stay. Sticking points have included provisions for Iraqi legal jurisdiction over U.S. personnel and control over military operations.

{ Note: that since the Democrat running for Congress who wants to pull out of Iraq will not be in control, until January -If he wins ( Senator Barack Obama). The any pull out would fall upon the retiring Bush Administration which would be in political opposition to the incoming Democrat.)

Some factions in the coalition government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki have asked for an ironclad deadline for U.S. withdrawal. Anti-U.S. cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has warned that an "elite" militia is being formed to fight U.S. troops.

Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the country's most respected Shi'ite leader, insists that any agreement be ratified by the Iraqi parliament.

In addition, Iraq's powerful neighbor Iran openly opposes an agreement.

"The bottom line is the government of Iran has their own issues here," Gen. Odierno said. "I think they do not want the government of the United States here in Iraq. They do not want a long-term relationship between Iraq and the United States. And ultimately, I think that's the issue here."

Kenneth Katzman, a specialist in Middle Eastern affairs at the Congressional Research Service, said he doubts an agreement will be finalized, in part because of Iranian opposition. The Iraqi central government is dominated by Shi'ites who are close to Tehran.

"Iran was ambivalent about the U.S. presence" while U.S. forces were fighting Iraqi Sunni Muslims, Mr. Katzman said, adding that now that U.S. forces are working with the Sunnis, "they want us out."

Mr. Barzani said Wednesday that he still hoped a deal could be reached but suggested that Kurdistan could be a fallback.

He touted the relative stability of the Kurdish areas compared with the rest of the country.

"No American soldier has shed a drop of blood, not even in a traffic accident, in our region," he said. "Kurdistan will not be part of the problems of Iraq but part of the solution."

Whether the Kurds could invite U.S. forces to redeploy into their region without an overall agreement is legally questionable.

The Iraqi Embassy in Washington declined to comment on the issue. But Feisal Istrabadi, a former Iraqi ambassador to the United Nations, said the Iraqi Constitution states that foreign and defense policy are under the exclusive control of the central government.

Mr. Barzani "would love to have American troops, but legally he can't" unless Kurdistan secedes, said Mr. Istrabadi, who helped draft Iraq's first post-Saddam Hussein constitution.

( Note Kurdistan has been trying to secede since the first Gulf War. They have thier own oil supply. Thier problem is tha they are in opposition to the rulling party in Turkey. And some miltant members of the Kurds are attacking Turkey- and Turkey has retalieted inside of Kurdistan, which currentlly is a part of Iraq. The Turks want's Kurdistan's indipendencce from Iraq curtailed. If Kuridtans scedes, then an all out war will probally begin between them and Turkey. Note also the Turkey was less than helpful to the US when Bush decided to invade Iraq.)

US officials have long had a close relationship with the Kurds, whose region has enjoyed autonomy since the 1991 Gulf War. Mr. Katzman said Iraqi Kurds have welcomed the idea of U.S. bases, but not previously in the context of a U.S. failure to reach an agreement with the central government in Baghdad.

"If the U.S. has no mandate to stay, redeploying to the north would not be a substitute," Mr. Katzman said. "You couldn't accomplish your security mission in the south from bases in the north."

Gen. Odierno said the capability of Iraqi forces has improved greatly, but they still "need logistics, they need aviation support, they need a little bit of fire" support. "They still need some training with our leaders as well, and partnering is the best way ahead for them."

"I think a bit longer -- a year, 18 months more -- of partnering with these units will make a whole lot of difference for them and a lot of them will be able to stand on their own."

Barbara Slavin reported from Washington.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Iraq War extended for Political Reasons

Maddow: Bush extending Iraq war for political reasons
09/24/2008 @ 9:23 am
Filed by David Edwards and Muriel Kane

The 2008 president campaign has been marked by continuing arguments between the parties over the most appropriate timetable for withdrawing troops from Iraq, but it has never been clear how the Bush administration had established its own proposed schedule.

However, according to MSNBC's Rachel Maddow, "We suddenly have got a lot more clarity about Iraq right now than we've had in a really, really long time."

Maddow cited an interview with Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki, conducted last week by Iraqi state television, during which "he said when he was negotiating with the Bush administration to pick a withdrawal date for our troops to come home, they initially settled on about 15 months from now, the end of 2010. But then ... the Bush administration came back and told the Iraqis they'd actually like our troops to stay in Iraq an extra year, through 2011 ... 'due to political circumstances related to the US domestic situation.'"

"So the prime minister of Iraq says on tape," Maddow summarized, "according to our own government's translation, that the Bush administration wants to prolong the war in Iraq for an extra year because of our domestic politics."

"If you feel like your hair is on fire right now," she added, "you're not alone."

When contacted by the Maddow Show, a White House spokesperson replied with familiar rhetoric, saying, "We do not have anything to announce on that. ... What we're really pleased about is the fact that we're having these discussions. ... Any decisions on troops will be based on the conditions on the ground."

"If you're keeping track at home, you're right," Maddow commented. "They are not directly denying what the Iraqi prime minister said -- which is incredible."

It was reported in early August that "Iraq and the United States are close to reaching a deal under which U.S. combat troops would leave by December 2010 and the rest would leave by the end of 2011, two Iraqi officials said Thursday. ... Two senior U.S. officials said negotiators have made progress and are close to a deal. But they also said that some issues are unresolved and that troop withdrawals would be tied to conditions on the ground."

By the end of August, however, Maliki's demands for a complete US withdrawal by 2011 were being described as "an attempt to extract further concessions from American officials, less than a week after both sides said they had agreed to remove all U.S. combat troops by the end of 2011, if the security situation remained relatively stable, but leave other American forces in place."

Maliki's latest remarks appear to be a referecne to this shift in the timetable. He told Iraqi tv, "They asked for a change (in date) due to political circumstances related to the domestic situation (in the US) so it will not be said to the end of 2010 followed by one year for withdrawal but the end of 2011 as a final date."

"The Republicans are convinced that keeping the war going is good for them politically," continued Maddow. "I think it's a political stinker. I think there's a reason why the tape you've seen over and over and over again of John McCain promising to stay 100 years in Iraq -- that's the tape that turns up in pro-Obama ads, not pro-McCain ads."

"So why are the Republicans invested in our troops staying and staying and staying and staying?" Maddow wondered. She suggested it might be significant that this Monday, for the first time since Iraq kicked out the foreign oil companies in 197, "a Western oil company opened up an office in Iraq. In a sobering reminder of the dangers of doing business in Baghdad, the company is not disclosing the location of its office."

"If you're looking for a mission to proclaim 'accomplished' in Iraq, there you have it," concluded Maddow. "This is the kind of 'accomplishment' that will keep our troops there longer."

This video is from MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show, broadcast September 23, 2008.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The` Fragile State of Iraq' Means Rising Violence

The new U.S. commander in Iraq said Tuesday that security in the country has improved, but is still in a "fragile state."

"As we've said many times, everyone is encouraged by the progress that has been made here in Iraq, but we still have a lot of work to do," said Gen. Ray Odierno, who took command of U.S. forces in Iraq on Tuesday. Video Watch change of command ceremony »

Odierno replaced Gen. David Petraeus, whose tenure saw a reversal in the country's rising violence.

Gen Ordierno is getting a violent welcome

last  Thursday

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Two bombings overnight near major shrines in the holy Shiite city of Karbala left at least three people dead and 15 others wounded, an Iraqi Interior Ministry official said Thursday.

One of the blasts to hit Karbala came close to the Imam Abbas mosque, pictured here in August.

One of the blasts to hit Karbala came close to the Imam Abbas mosque, pictured here in August.

There were no claims of responsibility so far for incidents at the Imam Hussein and Imam Abbas mosques -- two of the holiest shrines for Shiite Muslims -- who regularly make pilgrimages to the sites in the south-central Iraqi city.

The first bomb, which had been placed in a trash bag, detonated shortly after 11 p.m. (4 p.m. ET) Wednesday about 800 meters (875 yards) from the Imam Hussein shrine and 200 meters (218 yards) from an Iraqi security forces checkpoint, the official said. One woman was killed and 12 others, including women and children, were wounded.

About an hour later, an explosive device placed in a car detonated about 500 meters (547 yards) from the Imam Abbas shrine, the official said. The attack killed one civilian and wounded three, and damaged a number of the houses in the area.

The two shrines are about several hundred meters from each other. Hussein, the grandson of the Prophet Mohammed, is revered by Shiites, while Abbas is Hussein's half-brother. Their tombs are located in the shrines.


BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- At least 30 people were killed and 45 were wounded by a suicide car bomb Friday in the town of Dujail north of Baghdad, the Iraqi Interior Ministry said.

The bomber struck the Dujail police station, but the casualties included only one policeman.

Almost all the casualties were outside the station because it is fortified with concrete barriers and blast walls, the ministry said.

The station is in the commercial center of Dujail, and its markets and shops were crowded with people buying food before Iftar, the Ramadan meal at which people break their fast at sunset.

Multi-National Division North issued a separate news release on the bombing, putting the toll at 31 killed and 40 wounded, and omitting the word "suicide" from its description of the truck. Coalition military casualty counts are often lower than those Two of the wounded were members of Iraqi Security Forces.

The Iraqi Interior Ministry said the bomb was in a "big vehicle" carrying a very large amount of explosives.

The ministry said 15 of the wounded were in critical condition and were moved to a U.S. military medical facility nearby. Others were taken to hospitals in Dujail or nearby Balad, it said.

The attack happened around 6 p.m., shortly before sundown, it said.

Dujail, which is about 40 miles (60 km) north of Baghdad, is a predominantly Shiite town.

In 2006 Saddam Hussein was executed for crimes against humanity his regime committed in this town after a failed assassination attempt against him in 1982.

Dujail is about 40 miles (60 KM) north of Baghdad and is a predominantly a Shiite tow


Bomber strikes in Iraq after drawing crowd to car crash

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- At least six people were killed and 50 wounded when a suicide car bomber apparently staged a traffic accident to draw more victims to the explosion.

Saleh Bayati, 17 , is treated for injuries from Saturday's suicide bombing in Tal Afar.

Saleh Bayati, 17 , is treated for injuries from Saturday's suicide bombing in Tal Afar.

The suicide attack happened around midday Saturday at an outdoor market in Tal Afar in northern Iraq, an Iraqi Interior Ministry official said.

The bomber got into a traffic accident and began arguing with the driver of another car, the official said. He detonated his car bomb as a crowd gathered around the shouting men, he said.

Police said the attack happened in the same market where a car bombing killed more than 24 people last month.

It comes as Muslims observe the holy month of Ramadan, a time when markets are busier than usual with people shopping for food and other items in preparation for the breaking of the daily fast at dusk.

Tal Afar, a largely Turkmen city near the Syrian border, is part of Nineveh province. Iraqi troops, backed by U.S. forces, launched an operation to crack down on al Qaeda and other Sunni insurgents in the province in May.

Also Saturday, the head of security for Iraq's minister of justice was wounded in an explosion in Baghdad. Lt. Safiih al-Zaboun was driving to his home when an explosive device attached to his car detonated, the Interior Ministry official said.

Other developments

• In Baghdad on Sunday, four roadside bombs wounded eight police officers and five civilians.

• North of Baghdad, in Diyala's provincial capital of Baquba, a roadside bomb targeting an Iraqi police patrol killed one policeman Saturday morning.

• South of Baquba, two men and a woman were killed when a roadside bomb struck the car they were traveling in on Saturday


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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- A female suicide bomber detonated explosives Monday evening in Balad Ruz, killing at least 20 people and wounding 30, according to the Interior Ministry and Col. Ragheb al-Omairi, a Diyala military spokesman.

Female Iraqi police recruits line up last week, part of the country's response to female suicide bombers.

Female Iraqi police recruits line up last week, part of the country's response to female suicide bombers.

The bomber struck as Iftar -- the meal that ends Ramadan fasting each day -- was taking place behind the home of a former U.S. detainee. Adnan Shukur had been released from U.S. custody Sunday, and his house lies behind the Balad Ruz police station.

Shukur is a former police official who was detained about a year ago, according to a security official in Diyala province.

Many people, including police officers, were at Shukur's house to congratulate him on his release.

It was not immediately clear if Shukur was among the casualties.

Balad Ruz is 37 miles (60 kilometers) east of Baquba, in Diyala province.


Five roadside bombs struck the Iraqi capital on Wednesday, one of which targeted the head of New Baghdad's district council, the official said. The council leader's driver was killed, while he and his security guard were wounded in the attack.

Another roadside bomb in eastern Baghdad killed an Iraqi policeman and wounded five other people.

Two other roadside bombings in the Iraqi capital wounded nine Iraqi soldiers and civilians.

Elsewhere on Wednesday, an assistant to the governor of Nineveh province was gunned down as he was leaving evening prayers in central Mosul, city police said.

Shamel Younis was walking outside the mosque when gunmen in a car shot and killed him, then fled the scene.


BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- A U.S. military helicopter crashed in southern Iraq early Thursday morning, killing all seven U.S. soldiers on board, the military said.

A U.S. Chinook helicopter, similar to this British Chinook, crashed in Iraq, the U.S. military said.

A U.S. Chinook helicopter, similar to this British Chinook, crashed in Iraq, the U.S. military said.

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Officials have not determined the cause of the crash, but do not suspect hostile activity.

"Based on our initial reports, it is accurate to characterize this as an accident," said Maj. John Hall, a U.S. military spokesman.

The CH-47 Chinook was part of a four-aircraft convoy that was flying from Kuwait to Balad in northern Iraq. The chopper went down about 62 miles (100 km) west of Basra.

The other helicopters in the convoy did not sustain damage, Hall said.

The names of the soldiers were not released pending notification of next of kin.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Looking Back : Bill Clinton's defistating bombing of Iraq in 1999

Why Didn't Saddam Let The Inspectors Inspect?

Answer: Saddam believed that the US was using the inspectors to spy on him. And we were.

As reported in the Washington post:

"For years, two conflicting story lines have battled for world opinion as the Security Council debated the future of Iraqi disarmament. The United States and UNSCOM said their use of increasingly intrusive inspections and sophisticated technology was made necessary by Iraq's resistance to full disclosure of its illegal arms. Iraq maintained that the United States and other unfriendly powers were using UNSCOM's access to the country for espionage.

The new disclosures suggest that both claims were true."

U.S. Spied On Iraqi Military Via U.N
Arms Control Team Had No Knowledge Of Eavesdropping

By Barton Gellman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 2, 1999; Page A1

This happened under President Bill Clinton. The story was published in major papers. It outraged weapon inspectors, as well as Saddam. But the Us contended that it was legal: ..."because the bulk of the U.S. espionage came under cover of the system of "ongoing monitoring and verification" imposed on Iraq by Security Council Resolution 715."

On September 11, 1998, the Editor of the New York Times wrote an editorial entitled:

On My Mind; A Test for Presidents

So he (Saddam) will continue to fight inspection, and stall on calling off the latest in his series of inspection bans.

The what-next responsibility can only be the President's, if he does his duty -- despite his scandal and shame, despite the ever smaller number of people around him who believe in him. The duty he did not perform before is now his hope for redemption in history.

He is the President. He will have to act on the choice before him. He can tacitly, and denying it all the time, accept Iraq as the military superpower of the Middle East, the germ warfare supplier to terrorists.

Or he can order air attacks on all military and Government installations -- and hope that by missile or revolution, Saddam will be killed.

France won't like it, neither will China. And the new Yeltsin choice for prime minister turns out to be Agent Primakov himself. He is the former high K.G.B. operative -- if there are any ''formers'' among such -- who is Saddam's great supporter abroad.

So, if he is to be taken seriously, President Clinton will have to tell the U.N. that under the U.N. Charter and existing resolutions, the U.S. has the power to do it alone and, if necessary, will.

Presidents Bush and Clinton could have done that before. But the courage and skills of U.N. inspectors, the growth of the danger from Iraqi weapons, from Saddam or his traveling terrorists, eliminate any wiggle-out room for Mr. Clinton.

Dealing with Iraq was still on President's Clinton's mind, and at the to of his task list. (Clinton had previously bombed Iraq in September 1996)

The Bombing of Iraq Dec 16 1999

"When U.S. bombs and missiles fell on Iraq on the evening of Dec. 16, ...the targeting list was stunning in its specificity."

"Thanks to the hard work of the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM), U.S. targeters know a lot more about the Iraqi regime today than they did during the Gulf War in 1991. The United States and Britain now have a diagrammatic understanding of the Iraqi government structure, as well as of the intelligence, security and transport organizations that protect the Iraqi leadership. The same mission folders that UNSCOM put together to inspect specific buildings and offices in its search for concealed Iraqi weapons of mass destruction (WMD) became the basis for the targeting folders that missile launchers and pilots used in December."

William M. Arkin an independent defense analyst, spent two months in Iraq after the Gulf War and has written extensively on Operation Desert Storm wrote of the Clinton attack - code named : Dessert Fox:

" How could a 70-hour bombing campaign possibly generate an outcome that the utter defeat of the Iraqi army and tens of thousand of airstrikes over 43 days failed to deliver? The answer is again in the target list – and in the administration's belief that ever more accurate bombs and unprecedented target data can have far-reaching reverberation."

It was the previous spying efforts with the weapon inspectors that made the difference.

The target list:
Zeroed In

Of the 100 targets on the list for Operation Desert Fox in Iraq, 87 were hit. A breakdown of the seven categories and their key areas is as follows:

COMMAND AND CONTROL: 18 of 20 targets hit

Abu Rajash, Jabul Makhul, Radwaniyah, Republican (Baghdad), Sijood palaces
Ba'ath party headquarters
Iraq Intelligence Service headquarters
Ministry of Defense
Ministry of Industry
Presidential Secretariat Building
State radio and television

WMD INDUSTRY AND PRODUCTION: 12 of 12 targets hit

Biological Research Center (Baghdad University)
Ibn al Haytham missile R&D center
Karama electronics plant
Al Kindi missile R&D facility (Mosul)
Shahiyat liquid engine R&D, T&E facility
Zaafaraniyah fabrication facility (Nidda)

18 of 18 targets hit

Directorate of General Security headquarters
Special Security Organization (SS0) headquarters
Special Republican Guards (SRG) headquarters
SSO Communications/Computer Center
SSO/SRG barracks (Abu Ghraib, Radwinyah, Baghdad, Tikrit)

REPUBLICAN GUARDS: 9 of 9 targets hit

ECONOMIC: 1 of 1 targets hit

Basra refinery distribution manifold

AIRFIELDS: 5 of 6 targets hit

AIR DEFENSES: 24 of 34 targets hit

Sources: U.S. Central Command, Department of Defense

Clinton as Bush. Sr. hoped from an internal change of government, fearful of the cost of an actual overthrow.

When George W. Bush came into office he was facing a considerably weak Iraq. Saddam had held onto power of a country who had one of the largest oil reserves in the world, and didn't like us (or Israel) or President Bush's father, whom Saddam had tried to assassinate in the first moths of Clinton's Presidency. Saddam was at odd with the other Arab countries for not supporting him if the first Gulf War. He stood between George W. Bush's hope of finnaly setteling the Isreali- Palistinian problem.

The George W. Bush administration just needed a reason to go to war, the sooner the better, the quicker the better, the least footprint made, the better

Friday, September 12, 2008

The Bush Doctrine Explained - More complicated then Charles Gibson's definition

What is the Bush Doctrine.

In an interview with Charles Gibson, Republican Vice Presidential hopeful Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin was asked if she agreed with the Bush Doctrine.

To which she responded: "In what respect, Charlie?"

To which she was informed: "... that we have the right of anticipatory self-defense."

Was Gibson's description right in his definition of the Bush Doctrine?

Charles Krauthammer wrote in an op-ed piece in the Washington Post
"There is no single meaning of the Bush Doctrine. In fact, there have been four distinct meanings, each one succeeding another over the eight years"

And Mr. Krauthhammer claims his authority on the subject:

"I know something about the subject because, as the Wikipedia entry on the Bush Doctrine notes, I was the first to use the term. In the cover essay of the June 4, 2001, issue of the Weekly Standard entitled, "The Bush Doctrine: ABM, Kyoto, and the New American Unilateralism," I suggested that the Bush administration policies of unilaterally withdrawing from the ABM treaty and rejecting the Kyoto protocol, together with others, amounted to a radical change in foreign policy that should be called the Bush Doctrine."

Unilateralism ("one+side-ism") is any doctrine or agenda that supports one-sided action. Such action may be in disregard for other parties, or as an expression of a commitment toward a direction which other parties may find agreeable.

And though Bush spoke of forming a multinational military to attack Iraq, his position was not backed by the UN Security Council, and was in divergence to it's rules.

Who defines the Bush Doctrine?

If we leave it to history we will see that in addition to Bush's dropping from treaties, that his doctrin included:

1. The United States had the right to treat countries that harbor or give aid to terrorist groups as terrorists themselves, which was used to justify the invasion of Afghanistan.[1]

2, The policy of preventive war, which held that the United States should depose foreign regimes that represented a supposed threat to the security of the United States, even if that threat was not immediate (used to justify the invasion of Iraq).

3. The belief that terrorist groups could not be treated according to the same rules as ordinary states.

Using an analogy from games theory, he said terrorist groups were not "repetitive players" who had a mutual interest in upholding the acknowledged rules of the international system (as states do); they themselves would not be inhibited in any way by the prohibition on the use of force in international law. Terrorists are more like criminals acting on a global scale, and therefore should be treated according to the "logic of police action". The police can act before a crime has actually taken place; similarly there would be a case for taking action against terrorists who had acquired a dirty bomb, even before there was concrete evidence that they were planning to detonate it imminently.

4. A willingness to pursue U.S. military interests in a unilateral way, inernational concensus is not required - but would be sought.

5. And a policy of supporting democracy around the world, especially in the Middle East. Putting democracy and human rights promotion higher on the U.S. foreign policy agenda.

One political officer at every U.S. embassy in the Middle East has democracy-promotion efforts as part of his or her portfolio. Through vehicles such as the National Democratic Institute and its Republican counterpart, the International Republican Institute, the administration now funds pro-democracy initiatives throughout the Middle East.

Freedom Agenda

The fifth point lsisted above, of the Bush Doctrine has also been called Bush's Freedom Agenda. Some belive that this is the `lasting legacy', that President Bush wishes to be remembered by.

Charles Krauthammer writes:

"..the most sweeping formulation of the Bush approach to foreign policy and the one that most clearly and distinctively defines the Bush years: the idea that the fundamental mission of American foreign policy is to spread democracy throughout the world. It was most dramatically enunciated in Bush's second inaugural address: "The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands. The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world."

This declaration of a sweeping, universal American freedom agenda was consciously meant to echo John Kennedy's pledge in his inaugural address that the United States "shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty." It draws also from the Truman doctrine of March 1947 and from Wilson's 14 points."

The Sad Truth

The sad truth is that the Bush Presidency has left the Unted States trillions of dollars in debt, in two ongoing wars with a military bogged down and needing significant influx of money and soldiers, with a country in economic trouble, a budget debt of 50 Billion, a very low standing in world opinion, and a much less stable middle East then when his term began.

Bush has had his accomplishments - giving tax breaks to the rich and allowing oil companies to reap record profits as gas prices have almost doubled. He has brought a corporation called Haliburton back from financial problems, and has moved towards the use of private military firms such as Blackwater who are above the law, secret prisons around the world, promoted the use of torture and decrease of civil rights not just of non- American's, but of US citizens.

The Freedom Agenda was just rhetorical

For example:

1. At the United Nations lectern this week, President Bush hailed the spread of democracy. "From Beirut to Baghdad," he said, "people are making the choice for freedom." Yet even as he spoke, tanks were rolling through the streets of Bangkok as a military coup toppled the elected leader of Thailand, who at that moment was in New York for the U.N. session.

Bush made no mention of the dramatic events on Tuesday and left New York yesterday without ever seeing the deposed prime minister, much less offering any public support for a onetime strong ally of the United States. The president's spokesman later provided a strikingly mild response only after being asked by a reporter, pronouncing the White House "disappointed" by the coup

2.Bush strongly supported Gen. Pervez Musharraf, the Pakistani president who took power in a military coup.

3.. Bush supporte Kazakhstan's president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, despite the suppression of opposition parties, newspapers and human rights groups in the oil-rich Central Asian republic.

4. The administration has likewise embraced autocratic leaders in such disparate places as Azerbaijan and Ethiopia while generally tempering criticism of anti-democratic policies in Russia and China. Even in the Middle East, Bush has treaded lightly in nudging allies such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia to reform.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Bush spying on Iraq? Administration declines to comment.

BAGHDAD — The Iraqi government reacted with concern and dismay on Friday to allegations that American officials spied on Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, and warned that it could affect negotiations over the continuing American troop presence in the country.

The claims about espionage against senior Iraqi government figures appear in Bob Woodward’s book “The War Within: A Secret White House History, 2006-2008,” The Washington Post reported Friday.

Ali al-Dabbagh, a government spokesman, said Mr. Maliki’s government would seek explanations and assurances about the conduct of the C.I.A. and other intelligence agencies.

“If it is a fact, it reflects that there is no trust and it reflects also that the institutions in the United States are used to spying on their friends and their enemies in the same way,” he said. “If it is true, it casts a shadow on the future relations with such institutions.”

Haidar al-Abadi, a member of Mr. Maliki’s Dawa Party and a senior adviser to the prime minister, said that he preferred to wait until the American government answered the accusation officially. But he added, “If it is true, we will demand guarantees that this will not happen again.”

He also indicated that the concerns may run deep enough for Iraqi negotiators to seek guarantees in the continuing discussions to frame a long-term security agreement governing the continuing presence of American troops in Iraq

U.S. Spied on Iraqi Leaders, Book Says
Woodward Also Reveals That Political Fears Kept War Strategy Review 'Under the Radar'

By Steve Luxenberg
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 5, 2008; A01

The Bush administration has conducted an extensive spying operation on Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, his staff and others in the Iraqi government, according to a new book by Washington Post associate editor Bob Woodward.

"We know everything he says," according to one of multiple sources Woodward cites about the practice in "The War Within: A Secret White House History, 2006-2008," scheduled for release Monday.

Surge not cause of decrease in violence

The book also says that the U.S. troop "surge" of 2007, in which President Bush sent nearly 30,000 additional U.S. combat forces and support troops to Iraq, was not the primary factor behind the steep drop in violence there during the past 16 months.

Rather, Woodward reports, "groundbreaking" new covert techniques enabled U.S. military and intelligence officials to locate, target and kill insurgent leaders and key individuals in extremist groups such as al-Qaeda in Iraq.

Woodward does not disclose the code names of these covert programs or provide much detail about them, saying in the book that White House and other officials cited national security concerns in asking him to withhold specifics.

Overall, Woodward writes, four factors combined to reduce the violence: the covert operations; the influx of troops; the decision by militant cleric Moqtada al-Sadr to rein in his powerful Mahdi Army; and the so-called Anbar Awakening, in which tens of thousands of Sunnis turned against al-Qaeda in Iraq and allied with U.S. forces.

The book is Woodward's fourth to examine the inner debates of the Bush administration and its handling of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. The Washington Post will run a four-part series based on the book beginning Sunday. Fox News published a report about the book on its Web site last night after obtaining a copy ahead of the release date.

The 487-page book concentrates on Bush's leadership and governing style, based on more than 150 interviews with the president's national security team, senior deputies and other key intelligence, diplomatic and military players. Woodward also conducted two on-the-record interviews with Bush in May.

The book portrays an administration riven by dissension, either unwilling or slow to confront the deterioration of its strategy in Iraq during the summer and early fall of 2006. Publicly, Bush maintained that U.S. forces were "winning"; privately, he came to believe that the military's long-term strategy of training Iraq security forces and handing over responsibility to the new Iraqi government was failing. Eventually, Woodward writes, the president lost confidence in the two military commanders overseeing the war at the time: Gen. George W. Casey Jr., then commander of coalition forces in Iraq, and Gen. John P. Abizaid, then head of U.S. Central Command.

Bush's secrecy caused by midterm election fears

In October 2006, the book says, Bush asked Stephen J. Hadley, his national security adviser, to lead a closely guarded review of the Iraq war. That first assessment did not include military participants and proceeded secretly because of White House fears that news coverage of a review might damage Republican chances in the midterm congressional elections.

Rice was against the Surge

"We've got to do it under the radar screen because the electoral season is so hot," Hadley is quoted as telling Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who is described as challenging the president on the wisdom of sending additional troops to Iraq. "You're not getting a clear picture of what's going on on the ground," she told the president, the book says.

The quality and credibility of information about the war's progress became a source of ongoing tension within the administration, according to the book. Rice complained about the Defense Department's "overconfident" briefings during the tenure of Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld. Rather than receiving options on the war, Bush would get "a fable, a story . . . that skirted the real problems," Rice is quoted as saying.

Stephan Hadley was key man

According to Woodward, the president maintained an odd detachment from the reviews of war policy during this period, turning much of the process over to Hadley. "Let's cut to the chase," Bush told Woodward, "Hadley drove a lot of this."

Nor, Woodward reports, did Bush express much urgency for change during the months when sectarian killings and violent attacks against U.S. forces in Iraq began rising, reaching more than 1,400 incidents a week by October 2006 -- an average of more than eight an hour. "This is nothing that you hurry," he told Woodward in one of the interviews, when asked whether he had given his advisers a firm deadline for recommending a revised war strategy.

In response to a question about how the White House settled on a troop surge of five brigades after the military leadership in Washington had reluctantly said it could provide two, Bush said: "Okay, I don't know this. I'm not in these meetings, you'll be happy to hear, because I got other things to do."

The book presents an evolving portrait of the president's decision-making. On the one hand, the book portrays Bush as tentative and slow to react to the escalating violence in Iraq; on the other, once he decides that a surge is required, he is shown acting with focus and determination to move ahead with his plan in the face of strong resistance from his top military advisers at the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Administration considered impact of spying on Maliki

Woodward also depicts the development of a close working relationship between Bush and Maliki, with the president leaning on the Iraqi leader to govern evenhandedly and to take decisive action against sectarianism. "I've worked hard to get in a position where we can relate human being to human being, and where I try to understand his frustrations and his concerns, but also in a place where I am capable of getting him to listen to me," Bush told Woodward.

Given Bush's efforts to earn Maliki's trust, the surveillance of the Iraqi prime minister caused some consternation among several senior U.S. officials, who questioned whether it was worth the risk, Woodward reports. One official knowledgeable about the surveillance "recognized the sensitivity of the issue and then asked, 'Would it be better if we didn't?' "

Commanding General: one big problem with the war was the president himself

Meanwhile, Woodward reports that Casey, the president's commanding general in Iraq from 2004 to 2007, came to believe that Bush did not understand the nature of the Iraq war, that the president focused too much on body counts as a measure of progress.

"Casey had long concluded that one big problem with the war was the president himself," Woodward writes. "He later told a colleague in private that he had the impression that Bush reflected the 'radical wing of the Republican Party that kept saying, "Kill the bastards! Kill the bastards! And you'll succeed." ' "

Asked about his interest in body counts, Bush told Woodward: "I asked that on occasion to find out whether or not we're fighting back. Because the perception is that our guys are dying and they're not. Because we don't put out numbers. We don't have a tally. On the other hand, if I'm sitting here watching the casualties come in, I'd at least like to know whether or not our soldiers are fighting."

The discord between Bush and Casey is one manifestation of the often-debilitating rift that Woodward portrays between the U.S. military and its civilian leadership. The book describes a "near revolt" in late 2006 by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who felt that their advice was not reaching the president. Adm. Michael Mullen, then serving as chief of naval operations, expressed fear that the military would "take the fall" for a failure in Iraq. According to the book, Casey and Abizaid resolutely opposed the large surge that the president ultimately ordered, as did Rumsfeld. Casey went so far as to refer to Baghdad as a "troop sump." Within the administration, only the National Security Council staff strongly supported the surge plan.

Bush changes the team

In the midst of the surge debate, Bush decided to replace Rumsfeld, who had served as defense secretary throughout the war and had long argued that the United States should "take the training wheels off the Iraqi government." Bush chose Rumsfeld's replacement, Robert M. Gates, without consulting Vice President Cheney, Rumsfeld's chief patron, the book reports. Bush informed Cheney of his decision on Nov. 6, 2006, the day before the mid-term elections. "Well, Mr. President, I disagree," Cheney is quoted as saying, "but obviously it's your call."

Woodward's account also includes a portrait of Gen. David H. Petraeus, who replaced Casey in Iraq. In one scene in the Oval Office in January 2007, Bush tells his new commander in Iraq that the surge is his attempt to "double down." According to Woodward, Petraeus replies, "Mr. President, this is not double down. This is all in."

"The War Within" also tells the story of retired Gen. Jack Keane, a former Army vice chief of staff who used his high-level contacts in the White House and the Pentagon to influence war policy and major military personnel moves. A friend and mentor of Petraeus, Keane made regular visits to Iraq to advise the new commanding general and then briefed Cheney about each trip. In turn, Woodward reports, Bush sent a back-channel message to Petraeus through Keane, circumventing the chain of command.

In a critical epilogue assessing the president's performance as commander-in-chief, Woodward concludes that Bush "rarely was the voice of realism on the Iraq war" and "too often failed to lead."

During the interviews with Woodward, the president spoke of the war as part of a recentering of American power in the Middle East. "And it should be," Bush said. "And the reason it should be: It is the place from which a deadly attack emanated. And it is the place where further deadly attacks could emanate."

The president also conceded: "This war has created a lot of really harsh emotion, out of which comes a lot of harsh rhetoric. One of my failures has been to change the tone in Washington."

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Watch for Obama to explain his agenda of global militarism Thursday

As President George w. Bush labeled himself as a War President, so too will his successor be aptly titled when they become the Commander and Chief.

No one doubts Senator McCain when he predicts that we will be in Iraq for a long time, that he, as President, wouldn't act to change that.

But Senator Barack Obama, who ran as the `anti Iraq War candidate' because he didn't vote to allow the President to have `war powers' as his opponent Senator Hillary Clinton did is no dove. His recent comments actually expose his hawkish tendency, as well presented in this article written a week ago.

Expect some tough `military edged' talk from Obama when he gives his speach ath the convention Thursday night.

On eve of Democratic convention, Obama advances agenda of global militarism
By Bill Van Auken
20 August 2008

Speaking before an audience of 3,000 members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Democratic presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama defended his patriotism while attacking his Republican rival for being squeamish about launching unilateral military attacks against Pakistan.

Obama’s speech Tuesday in Orlando, Florida followed an appearance Monday before the same convention by Republican candidate Senator John McCain, who delivered a right-wing diatribe portraying the Democrat as a political opportunist and virtual traitor for his policy on the war in Iraq.

McCain charged Obama with having “tried to prevent funding for the troops who carried out the surge.” He continued: “Not content to merely predict failure in Iraq, my opponent tried to legislate failure.”

In his response, Obama spoke not as an opponent of war, but rather as an advocate of a superior strategy for pursuing US interests by military means.

He chided McCain for “talking tough without acting tough and smart,” while outlining a policy agenda that includes a continuation of the occupation of Iraq—albeit on a reduced basis—an escalation of the war in Afghanistan and its extension across the border into Pakistan. Finally, he put forward a policy of confrontation with Russia in the Caucasus that dovetails fully with the positions taken by the McCain campaign and the Bush administration itself.

Obama began his speech by declaring that America confronted a “defining moment in our history,” a conjuncture that he indicated had been reached owing to a series of events involving the ongoing or potential use of American military force.

“We are in the midst of two wars,” he said. “The terrorists who attacked us on 9/11 are still at large. Russia has invaded the sovereign nation of Georgia. Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons.”

Obama objected to McCain’s charge that he had shifted his position on Iraq, arguing that he had been consistent from the start. Referring to his initial opposition to the 2003 invasion, the Democratic candidate stressed that he was not opposed to aggressive wars in general, but that he viewed the war in Iraq as a miscalculation. He insisted instead that “our first priority had to be finishing the fight” in Afghanistan.

While suggesting that the “costly strategic errors” involved in the Iraq war had not been erased by the supposed successes of the military “surge” which sent 30,000 additional American troops into the country, Obama nonetheless praised the operation.

Obama Praised the Surge

He hailed General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker, who oversaw the military escalation, as “outstanding Americans,” while attributing the “lowering” of “the level of violence” in Iraq to “the outstanding efforts of our military, the increasing capability of Iraq’s Security Forces, the ceasefire of Shiite militias, and the decision taken by Sunni tribes to take the fight to Al Qaeda.” He concluded, “Those are the facts, and all Americans welcome them.”

There are other “facts,” however, which millions of Americans recognize as both criminal and shameful. The suppression of Iraqi resistance to foreign occupation, which is neither complete nor permanent, has been achieved through the killing of well over a million civilians and the turning of millions more into refugees. The US war and occupation have essentially destroyed Iraq as a functioning society.

Yet for Obama, the catastrophe produced by a war aimed at seizing control of Iraq’s oil reserves is the fault not of Washington, but of the Iraqis themselves.

“We have lost over a thousand American lives and spent hundreds of billions of dollars since the surge began, but Iraq’s leaders still haven’t made hard compromises or substantial investments in rebuilding their country,” declared the Democratic candidate. “And while we pay a heavy price in Iraq—and Americans pay record prices at the pump—Iraq’s government is sitting on a $79 billion dollar budget surplus from windfall oil profits.”

“Iraqi inaction threatens the progress we’ve made and creates an opening for Iran and the ‘special groups’ it supports,” he continued. “It’s time to press the Iraqis to take responsibility for their future. The best way to do that is a responsible redeployment of our combat brigades, carried out in close consultation with commanders on the ground.”

In other words, Obama is not advocating an end to a predatory war, but rather its reconfiguration in a manner designed to pressure the regime in Baghdad into acceding more fully to US demands.

As he spelled out, this “responsible redeployment” will not mean an end to the US occupation. While vowing to remove US “combat brigades” from Iraq over the course of his first year-and-a-half in office—extending their presence well into 2010—Obama made it clear that many other troops would remain.

“After this redeployment, we’ll keep a residual force to target remnants of Al Qaeda, to protect our service members and diplomats, and to train Iraq’s Security Forces if the Iraqis make political progress,” he said. Such a force would inevitably consist of tens of thousands of American soldiers and Marines.

Moreover, he explained, the purpose of this reduction in the American “footprint” in Iraq would not be to curtail the global role of American militarism, but rather to facilitate its exercise elsewhere.

The partial withdrawal from Iraq, he said, would allow Washington to “strengthen our military, and to finish the fight against Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan and the border region of Pakistan.”

Describing Afghanistan as the “central front in the war on terrorism,” Obama continued: “This is a war that we have to win. And as commander-in-chief, I will have no greater priority than taking out these terrorists who threaten America and finishing the job against the Taliban.”

Obama’s attempt to sell the US intervention in Afghanistan as some kind of “good war” being waged against the perpetrators of 9/11is as grotesque a lie as the ones used by the Bush administration to justify the war in Iraq. US and NATO forces are waging a brutal campaign that is claiming an escalating toll of civilian casualties as they fight popular resistance to the US-led occupation from the predominantly Pashtun population on both sides of the porous Afghan-Pakistani border. “Taking out these terrorists who threaten America” means a savage military campaign against this population.

He called for throwing two more US combat brigades into the colonial-style war against the people of Afghanistan.

The Democratic candidate’s call for a shift in the relative weight of US military power from Iraq to Afghanistan has emerged as the consensus position within the predominant layers of the American foreign policy establishment.

A so-called “terrorism index” published Monday by Foreign Policy magazine and the Center for American Progress, based on a survey of “foreign policy experts” (US security officials, intelligence operatives and academics), found that 69 percent support shifting US forces from Iraq to Afghanistan and 80 percent believe that Washington has devoted too much attention to Iraq and not enough to Afghanistan.

Underlying this orientation is a concern not with combating “terrorism,” but rather with US strategic interests. Central Asia, with its extensive oil and natural gas reserves, has emerged as a region of critical importance. In the wake of the Soviet Union’s dissolution, Washington has attempted to assert its hegemony in Central Asia in opposition to both Russia and China. The attacks of September 11 provided the pretext for a military intervention that had been planned long beforehand.

Obama and his threats to Pakistan

Obama went on to attack McCain from the right, accusing him of reticence about “bombing our ally” in Pakistan.

“So for all of his talk about following Osama bin Laden to the Gates of Hell, Senator McCain refused to join my call to take out bin Laden across the Afghan border,” he said. “Instead, he spent years backing a dictator in Pakistan who failed to serve the interests of his own people.”

The McCain campaign issued a statement pointing out that in the Democratic primary debates last year, Obama voiced his own support for US collaboration with Pakistan’s military strongman, Pervez Musharraf, who was forced to resign Monday.

“We have to work with Musharraf, because the biggest threat to American security right now is in the northwest provinces of Pakistan,” Obama said in the debate. He added, “We should continue to give him military aid contingent on him doing something about that.”

On the Russian Front

Finally, on Georgia, Obama stressed his unity with his Republican rival, declaring, “Senator McCain and I both strongly support the people of Georgia.”

The Washington Post reported Monday that “Some Democrats have been pleading with Obama to use McCain’s tough response to the Russian invasion of Georgia to paint him as a trigger-happy interventionist who would risk bringing a war-weary nation into military conflict in regions where the United States has no interest.”

Instead, Obama tried to outdo the Republican candidate in terms of menacing rhetoric. He regurgitated the war propaganda about “Russian atrocities,” while repeating the administration’s mantra that “Georgia’s territorial integrity must be respected,” a euphemism for supporting the attempt by the regime in Tbilisi to militarily conquer the autonomous territories of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. He also voiced his support for Georgia, a former Soviet republic, being “integrated” into the NATO military alliance, a policy that has dramatically heightened US-Russian tensions.

Obama included a tribute to Senator Joseph Biden (Democrat of Delaware)—reportedly a leading contender for the vice-presidential nomination—who had just returned from a trip to Georgia, and went on to cast the conflict in bellicose, Cold War terms.

The candidate concluded by warning Moscow that its actions in the Caucasus would “have consequences.”

With less than a week to go until the Democrats officially nominate Obama at their convention in Denver, and with barely two-and-a-half months until the election, the candidate’s speech underscores a stark political reality confronting the American people. Once again this November, the two-party system will offer no means of expressing the massive popular opposition to war, but rather an empty choice between two big business candidates who are committed to the expanded use of militarism in pursuit of US corporate and financial interests.

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