They just got a different tool to use than we do: They kill innocent lives to achieve objectives. That's what they do. And they're good. They get on the TV screens and they get people to ask questions about, well, you know, this, that or the other. I mean, they're able to kind of say to people: Don't come and bother us, because we will kill you. Bush - Joint News Conference with Blair - 28 July '06

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Mahdi Army 'lay down' arms

Juan Cole attempts to figure out why:

In the aftermath of the fighting Tuesday in the holy city of Karbala between the Mahdi Army and the Badr Corps of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, and then attacks on SIIC offices in Baghdad by Mahdi Army fighters, the militia's leader, Muqtada al-Sadr, called Wednesday for it to lay down its arms for 6 months.

My guess is that Muqtada realizes that his men went too far, in trying to take the shrine of Imam Husayn by main force, and in disrupting a major Shiite festival. These actions would be highly unpopular in the Shiite street, and could cost Muqtada some of his otherwise impressive popularity in the South. Aljazeera showed him speaking in Najaf, by the way, putting the lie to Bush administration allegations that he had gone into hiding in Iran (that was just a smear, since he prides himself on his Iraq nationalism).

Al-Hayat reports in Arabic that Muqtada said: "We considered it beneficial to freeze the Mahdi Army without exception, in order to rebuild its structure in such a way as to preserve its doctrinal heading-- for a period of 6 months from the issuing of this decision." He added, "We also announce three days of mourning, and the closing of the offices of the Martyr Sadr throughout Iraq, the wearing of black, the holding of mourning sessions." He urged the public to investigate what had occured in Karbala. Link

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

US killing spree

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

UK good for business

Sarkozy: Remove foreign troops, end civil war

French President Nicolas Sarkozy said the prospect of a U.S. troop pullout from Iraq would help lead to a political settlement among the warring parties there.

"Defining a clear prospect for the withdrawal of foreign troops'' is required for Iraq to move out of civil war, he said in a speech to French ambassadors in Paris today. ``The only possible solution is a political solution.''

France is increasing its diplomatic involvement in Iraq, seeking to ease lingering tensions with the U.S. from then- President Jacques Chirac's opposition to the American-led toppling of Saddam Hussein. ``France was and remains hostile to this war,'' Sarkozy said today. Link

Monday, August 27, 2007

Iraq: British retreat descends into chaos as Shia militia occupy police centre

Shia militia loyal to the firebrand cleric Muqtada al-Sadr have scuppered an attempt by British forces to hand over the Basra joint police command centre to Iraqi police.

Iraqi police reportedly left when the Shia fighters arrived and began emptying the facility. According to witnesses, they made off with generators, computers, furniture and even cars, saying it was war booty - and were still in the centre yesterday evening.

The embarrassing episode, which comes as the British in Basra are preparing to move their remaining soldiers to the city airport as part of a planned withdrawal, once again highlights the strength of the militia in the city.

It further undermines Britain's hopes of a smooth transfer and gives the impression of a rout. Mr Sadr boasted in an interview with The Independent last week that the British had "given up" and were retreating because of the Iraqi resistance.

A small detachment of British soldiers working with the Iraqi police left the central Basra building on Saturday evening.

However, the British military disputed the reports about the Shia militiamen turning up yesterday, saying they had been in contact with the Iraqi general in charge of security in Basra, who denied that Mr Sadr's Mehdi Army was there.

The withdrawal leaves British forces with just two military bases in Iraq, Basra Palace and Basra airport, provoking speculation that the army may be preparing to accelerate its withdrawal to the fringes of the southern capital.

Britain has reduced its military presence to just 5,500 troops in Iraq and intends to pull these remaining forces back to the airport and hand Basra province over to Iraqi control, possibly this autumn. Read more

Iraq: Neocon War Pimp attacks Brits

Frederick Kagan, one of the architects of the surge strategy, warned that the British departure risked creating "bad feeling" among US troops, some of whom may face extended terms of duty as a result.

He spoke out after the deaths of three British soldiers in Afghanistan, killed by bombs dropped from a US aircraft, placed new strains on the alliance in the other main military theatre.

In an outspoken interview, Mr Kagan condemned British politicians for failing to understand how best to tackle Islamic extremists, and for refusing to increase the size of the Armed Forces so they could pull their full weight in Iraq.

Details of the number of US troops required to take over were disclosed by a senior British officer, who asked not to be named. He also revealed that commanders at the Ministry of Defence were "irritated" by the growing criticism from the US of their handling of Basra.

To fill the vacuum, US Army chiefs may have to break a promise not to extend operational tours in Iraq beyond the current 15 month maximum, or risk diverting a significant number of the extra soldiers currently in Baghdad for the troop surge.

Mr Kagan, who has just returned from Iraq, said: "The likeliest effect of British withdrawal from Basra is to keep an American unit in country for longer than they would like. I do worry about the short term effects on the relationship between the two countries. It will create bad feeling with American soldiers if they can't go home because the British have left." Link

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Foreign raid kills dozens of Afghans: residents

Residents of a Taliban-controlled town in southern Afghanistan said on Sunday dozens of civilians including women and children had been killed in aerial bombing.

British and American forces confirmed there had been fighting in the area but the British denied any air strikes occurred there late on Saturday, while the U.S. military was making checks.

There was no way of independently verifying the accounts.

The strike late on Saturday hit several villages in the Musa Qala district of Helmand province, a long-time bastion for Taliban guerrillas and the biggest drug-producing region of Afghanistan, the world's leading producer of heroin, residents said.

At least six wounded civilians were brought to a hospital in Lashkar Gah, the provincial capital of Helmand.

They belonged to the family of Ghulam Mohammad and included three men, two women and a child, said Rahmatullah Hanafi, the head of Emergency hospital where the group was treated.

He said all had shrapnel wounds and one of the women was in a critical condition.

Mohammad said eight of his family members, including children, were also killed in the attack, which he said went on for several hours.

"So far between 60 killed and wounded people have been recovered and there are people who are trapped under collapsed houses," Mohammad told Reuters outside the hospital. Link

db: Another 'small' bomb? Dunno.

Afghan opium boom, again

Afghanistan's poppy harvest is expected to top all records this year as the country spirals deeper into a vicious circle of drugs, corruption and insecurity. A United Nations report due on Monday will announce that Afghanistan is now producing nearly 95 percent of the world's opium, up from 92 percent in 2006, officials and diplomats say. Link

September 2006

Afghanistan opium boom

Afghanistan's opium harvest this year has reached the highest levels ever recorded, showing an increase of almost 50 percent from last year, the executive director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Antonio Maria Costa, said Saturday in Kabul. Link

>>18 September 2005 - Afghanistani parliamentary election <<

September 2005
Def Brain
.... 4,519 tons, down 2% from 2004

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Iraq: Democracy not so important

Disillusion with Iraq's elected leaders has forced President George W Bush's senior advisers to contemplate a future without democracy - a goal that was at the heart of the rationale for the US-led invasion.

Frontline generals in Iraq spoke openly yesterday of the need to have a government that could function and guarantee security above all else, including democratic legitimacy.

Brig Gen John Bednarek, who commands forces in Diyala province, told CNN that "democratic institutions are not necessarily the way ahead in the long-term future".

Maj Gen Benjamin Mixon, the commander of Task Force Lightning, which has played a central role in the new "surge" strategy, said: "That is the $50,000 question - what will this government look like? Will it be a democracy? Will it not?" Link

Friday, August 24, 2007

Afghanistan: US boneheads kill three Brits

Three British soldiers have been killed and two others wounded by a bomb dropped by a US plane, the British Defence Ministry said Friday.

The ministry said the incident happened Thursday in the southern province of Helmand. The US plane had apparently dropped a bomb meant for Taliban fighters, but struck the British soldiers instead.

With the latest casualties, it brought to 76 the number of British soldiers killed so far in Afghanistan. Link

db: Were the boneheads using the new 'smaller bomb'?

Manufacturing Consent For War With Iran

Sarbanes what?

... the City's [London's financial centre] relaxed approach to financial regulation has made London attractive for wealthy foreigners and their global businesses. Link
Regulation US style:

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Bush: Learn lessons from Vietnam

US President George Bush has claimed an early withdrawal from Iraq would cause mayhem of the kind that took place in South East Asia after America pulled out of Vietnam.

He made the remarks in a speech to veterans in Kansas.

Bush said lessons needed to be learned from Vietnam. Link

Here's a few quick ones:
  • Don't believe your lying fucking government
  • War is a racket that transfers wealth from the poor to the rich
  • We mostly like to kill brown skinned people
  • Might is right under international law

'Sinn Fein spy killed my dad'

The son of a murdered RUC man has claimed that a senior Sinn Fein figure – who may be named in Parliament – avoided charges related to the killing, by becoming a British spy.
The News Letter cannot name the well-known republican for legal reasons.

But the DUP’s David Simpson has said he is prepared to use the legal privilege provided in the House of Commons to reveal the politician’s identity. Read more

Mini biog of Sinn Fein's Francie Molloy here
Cryptome is on it here

Iraq: US Generals and neocons blame Brits for mess

General Jack Keane, a former US army chief who now advises American commanders in Baghdad, told a newspaper yesterday that Britain was failing in the south. "It is disappointing and frustrating to see a situation in Basra that was once working pretty well now coming apart."

There was also criticism from Michael O'Hanlon, of the Brookings Institution [ed:neocons], a Washington think tank. "Basra is a mess and the exit strategy attempted there has failed," he said.

The MoD rejected such criticism, insisting southern Iraq was making progress towards peace and stability.

Privately, some military insiders fear the UK forces are being subjected to a propaganda war from the US looking for a scapegoat to explain the lack of progress in the country. Read more

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Iraq: Bedfordshire police are on their own

Iraqi police in Basra are continuing to engage in sectarian violence in the city, Britain's chief police adviser in Iraq has warned.

Bedfordshire Police assistant chief constable Mike Colbourne said that many officers owed their allegiance to the city's Shia militias and were involved in crimes ranging from kidnap to murder.

However, he insisted that the situation was improving and he promised that British forces would not withdraw until the Iraqis were ready to take on responsibility for security themselves. Link

db: A copper talking shite. You'd never have believed it.

EU saves Palestinians

"In agreement with the Palestinian Authority, the (European) commission will resume Wednesday, on a provisional basis, deliveries of fuel to the Gaza power plant," said an EU statement. Link

db: Clearly it was never necessary to inflict power cuts on the desperate population of Gaza in the first place. The plan is to bring down Hamas.

New Tory, new cock-up

Iraq: False impression of defeat. Blair wins

Major Mike Shearer said al-Sadr wanted to claim victory as British troops took part in a planned withdrawal. "The malign influences in the city, we have always predicted, would raise their game to create the false impression that they were driving us out" Link

db: It is/was a Brit failure of mammoth proportions. The fatal decision by Blair - taken with the full support of his cabinet including the current prime minister - to stand shoulder to shoulder with US neocons in the execution of this folly has cost us dearly in lives, material resources and international influence. The plight of Iraqis is pure horror. One can only console oneself with the realisation that through this very folly Blair has in effect pushed the value of his diaries up from around 2 to 8 million pounds.

Muqtada al-Sadr: The British are retreating

"The British have realised this is not a war they should be fighting or one they can win" Mr Sadr said Read more

Friday, August 17, 2007

Iran: 125,000 'terrorists' - so it's war then?

The Bush administration is preparing to ramp up its confrontation with Iran by declaring part or all of the country's Revolutionary Guard a "global terrorist" organisation and targeting its extensive financial interests.

The move is extremely provocative, given that the 125,000-strong Revolutionary Guard Corps is an integral part of the state rather than a group outside the law. It has its own navy, air force, and ground troops, as well as specialist wings.
"we will pursue nations that provide aid or safe haven to terrorism. Every nation, in every region, now has a decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists. (Applause.) From this day forward, any nation that continues to harbor or support terrorism will be regarded by the United States as a hostile regime." Bush 2001
... The plan is the first concrete illustration of a shift in balance from the "doves" in the Bush administration - Condoleezza Rice, the secretary of state, and Robert Gates, the defence secretary - to the "hawks" around Dick Cheney, the vice-president, who has expressed frustration over a lack of progress by diplomats and supports eventual military action.

... The designation would mean the US regarding the Revolutionary Guard as having "committed" or posing "a significant risk of committing, acts of terrorism that threaten the security of US nationals or the national security, foreign policy, or the economy of the United States". Link

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Palestinian election joke

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas has issued a decree that effectively excludes the rival Hamas movement from elections.

The decree makes changes to electoral law, including requiring candidates in presidential and legislative elections 'to respect the political programme of the PLO,' according to the text of the signed decree seen by AFP. Link

db: Feel dem birth pangs? Me too!!

But what do the Palestinians want? Oh yes ....

Saturday, July 21, 2007

85% Palestinians want Hamas-Fatah talks

A new poll of Palestinians, funded by the government of Norway, found that 85 percent would like to see negotiations between Fatah and Hamas. Link

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Chris Hedges: Iraq - Beyond Disaster

The war in Iraq is about to get worse—much worse. The Democrats’ decision to let the war run its course, while they frantically wash their hands of responsibility, means that it will sputter and stagger forward until the mission collapses. This will be sudden. The security of the Green Zone, our imperial city, will be increasingly breached. Command and control will disintegrate. And we will back out of Iraq humiliated and defeated. But this will not be the end of the conflict. It will, in fact, signal a phase of the war far deadlier and more dangerous to American interests.

Iraq no longer exists as a unified country. The experiment that was Iraq, the cobbling together of disparate and antagonistic patches of the Ottoman Empire by the victorious powers in the wake of World War I, belongs to the history books. It will never come back. The Kurds have set up a de facto state in the north, the Shiites control most of the south and the center of the country is a battleground. There are 2 million Iraqis who have fled their homes and are internally displaced. Another 2 million have left the country, most to Syria and Jordan, which now has the largest number of refugees per capita of any country on Earth. An Oxfam report estimates that one in three Iraqis are in need of emergency aid, but the chaos and violence is so widespread that assistance is impossible. Iraq is in a state of anarchy. The American occupation forces are one more source of terror tossed into the caldron of suicide bombings, mercenary armies, militias, massive explosions, ambushes, kidnappings and mass executions. But wait until we leave.

It was not supposed to turn out like this. Remember all those visions of a democratic Iraq, visions peddled by the White House and fatuous pundits like Thomas Friedman and the gravel-voiced morons who pollute our airwaves on CNN and Fox News? They assured us that the war would be a cakewalk. We would be greeted as liberators. Democracy would seep out over the borders of Iraq to usher in a new Middle East. Now, struggling to salvage their own credibility, they blame the debacle on poor planning and mismanagement.

There are probably about 10,000 Arabists in the United States—people who have lived for prolonged periods in the Middle East and speak Arabic. At the inception of the war you could not have rounded up more than about a dozen who thought this was a good idea. And I include all the Arabists in the State Department, the Pentagon and the intelligence community. Anyone who had spent significant time in Iraq knew this would not work. The war was not doomed because Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz did not do sufficient planning for the occupation. The war was doomed, period. It never had a chance. And even a cursory knowledge of Iraqi history and politics made this apparent.

This is not to deny the stupidity of the occupation. The disbanding of the Iraqi army; the ham-fisted attempt to install the crook and, it now turns out, Iranian spy Ahmed Chalabi in power; the firing of all Baathist public officials, including university professors, primary school teachers, nurses and doctors; the failure to secure Baghdad and the vast weapons depots from looters; allowing heavily armed American units to blast their way through densely populated neighborhoods, giving the insurgency its most potent recruiting tool—all ensured a swift descent into chaos. But Iraq would not have held together even if we had been spared the gross incompetence of the Bush administration. Saddam Hussein, like the more benign dictator Josip Broz Tito in the former Yugoslavia, understood that the glue that held the country together was the secret police.

Iraq, however, is different from Yugoslavia. Iraq has oil—lots of it. It also has water in a part of the world that is running out of water. And the dismemberment of Iraq will unleash a mad scramble for dwindling resources that will include the involvement of neighboring states. The Kurds, like the Shiites and the Sunnis, know that if they do not get their hands on water resources and oil they cannot survive. But Turkey, Syria and Iran have no intention of allowing the Kurds to create a viable enclave. A functioning Kurdistan in northern Iraq means rebellion by the repressed Kurdish minorities in these countries. The Kurds, orphans of the 20th century who have been repeatedly sold out by every ally they ever had, including the United States, will be crushed. The possibility that Iraq will become a Shiite state, run by clerics allied with Iran, terrifies the Arab world. Turkey, as well as Saudi Arabia, the United States and Israel, would most likely keep the conflict going by arming Sunni militias. This anarchy could end with foreign forces, including Iran and Turkey, carving up the battered carcass of Iraq. No matter what happens, many, many Iraqis are going to die. And it is our fault.

The neoconservatives—and the liberal interventionists, who still serve as the neocons’ useful idiots when it comes to Iran—have learned nothing. They talk about hitting Iran and maybe even Pakistan with airstrikes. Strikes on Iran would ensure a regional conflict. Such an action has the potential of drawing Israel into war—especially if Iran retaliates for any airstrikes by hitting Israel, as I would expect Tehran to do. There are still many in the U.S. who cling to the doctrine of pre-emptive war, a doctrine that the post-World War II Nuremberg laws define as a criminal “war of aggression.”

The occupation of Iraq, along with the Afghanistan occupation, has only furthered the spread of failed states and increased authoritarianism, savage violence, instability and anarchy. It has swelled the ranks of our real enemies—the Islamic terrorists—and opened up voids of lawlessness where they can operate and plot against us. It has scuttled the art of diplomacy. It has left us an outlaw state intent on creating more outlaw states. It has empowered Iran, as well as Russia and China, which sit on the sidelines gleefully watching our self-immolation. This is what George W. Bush and all those “reluctant hawks” who supported him have bequeathed us.

What is terrifying is not that the architects and numerous apologists of the Iraq war have learned nothing, but that they may not yet be finished. Link

Chris Hedges, the former Middle East bureau chief for The New York Times, spent seven years in the Middle East. He was part of the paper’s team of reporters who won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of global terrorism. He is the author of “War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning.” His latest book is “American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America.”

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Iraq: US airstrikes on Sadr City

The US military says 30 "terrorists" were killed in the strike on Sadr City, but families complained that women and children were among the dead, and angry mourners gathered to bury simple wooden caskets. Helicopters and war planes were called in after Iraqi and US ground troops arrested 12 members of a cell that American commanders believe brought weapons and explosives from Iran, and sent militants to Iran for training."The assault force and the overhead aerial support observed a vehicle and large group of armed men on foot attempting an assault on the ground forces," the military said in a statement. "Responding appropriately to the threat of the organised terrorist force, close air support was called and engaged the terrorist vehicle and organised terrorist force, killing an estimated 30 terrorists," it added. Link

BBC: In pictures: Anger at Sadr City raid

Monday, August 06, 2007

Bush: Iran has "proclaimed its desire" for nukes

Karzai/Bush press conference

"This is a government [Iran] that has proclaimed its desire to build a nuclear weapon" Link [CNN video for limited time]

db: Bush said it. It's untrue. Matter? Guess not.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Darfur: colonised by ‘peacekeepers’


The UN’s latest peacekeeping plan for Darfur is designed to quell the strife that erupted in the province in 2003, when local rebels took up arms against the central government in Khartoum. The conflict is complex, with a variety of interlocking factions and ethnic groups whose political antagonisms and struggle with the central government gird longstanding rivalries over the region’s depleted resources (2). But it is not only regional politics and economics that represent a barrier to peace – the international community’s involvement in the conflict has served to prolong and escalate the bloodshed.

Evading the bloody involution of the American crusade to liberate Iraq, a swathe of Western politicians, human rights groups and liberal intellectuals have tried collectively to regroup around Darfur (3). Dictated by a desire to cohere the agenda of international interventionism, these groups have systematically portrayed the conflict in Darfur as a genocide launched by racist, fanatical ‘Arabs’ against victimised ‘Africans’ (4). For the incoming governments of Gordon Brown and Nicolas Sarkozy in Britain and France, a joint focus on Darfur – complete with a promise to visit the refugee camps – has helped to dissociate them from the disaster of Iraq, while simultaneously affirming their moral authority to dictate affairs around the globe (5). Link

db: Nothing can possibly go wrong ... indeed one would hope that the UN force will leave the area without firing a single shot ... thankfully if things do become 'fruity' there is the option of a Chapter 7 authorised killing spree, which always works out well - for the 'enemy'.

Those with memories longer than a week may feel justified in being sceptical of this latest humanitarian intervention.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Super Gordon can't undo what's done

Labour pollster Philip Gould told Mr Brown, before he became leader, that he needed to be "a powerful, muscular modernisation politician". Link

db: Power and muscles won't help. He signed up to the illegal Iraq war, nuf said.

John Bolton goose-steps towards Iran war

Bolton: If Mr. Bush decides that the only way to stop Iran is to use military force, where will Mr. Brown come down? Supporting the U.S. or allowing Iran to goose-step towards nuclear weapons?

I will wait for answers to these and other questions before I draw conclusions about "the special relationship" under Mr. Brown. But not forever. Link

db: We don't want your neocon war.

US foreign correspondents gone

President John F. Kennedy once said he got "far more out of the New York Times than the CIA." Those were the days when major U.S. newspapers and the three networks maintained foreign bureaus staffed by prize-winning foreign correspondents all over the world.

In those halcyon days, Open Source Intelligence, or OSINT in the espionage vernacular, could be culled from highly knowledgeable foreign correspondents, many of them scholars who had written books about the history and culture of their wide-ranging beats. No more. At the end of World War II, there were 2,500 U.S. foreign correspondents; today, less than 250. Link