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, September 27, 2007

UN: No evidence Iran arming Taliban

A top United Nations diplomat is dismissing claims from the Bush administration that Iran is supplying weapons to the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan.

The allegations of Iranian meddling in Afghanistan first surfaced in June, and gained momentum with senior U.S. intelligence and military officials accusing Iran of officially endorsing the shipment of armaments across its eastern border. If true, the implications for Canadian troops in Afghanistan would be serious, Foreign Minister Maxime Bernier said.

Asked whether the UN has seen any evidence of Iranian weaponry reaching the Taliban insurgency, Chris Alexander, the deputy United Nations representative to Kabul, told CanWest News Service: "None. It's the other border across which arms and weapons principally arrive."

Alexander was referring to Pakistan, Afghanistan's eastern neighbour. Link

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Afghanistan: US kills over 120 'Taleban' and civilians

BBC - The US-led coalition force in Afghanistan says that more than 120 Taleban fighters have been killed in separate clashes in the south.

They say that more than 65 insurgents were killed in Uruzgan province on Tuesday night, and at least 60 were killed in neighbouring Helmand.

Villagers say that 12 civilians in the Helmand attack died in air strikes and 50 families fled their homes. Link

Guardian - 165 Insurgents Killed in Afghanistan Link

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

'Brutal regimes' all over

President Bush called on the United Nations to uphold the fight for freedom and decried "brutal regimes" such as Syria and Iran Link

db: Egypt maybe? Saudi Arabia perhaps? Israel ... China ... USA?

Iraq: US snipers target evil and curious people

A Pentagon group has encouraged some U.S. military snipers in Iraq to target suspected insurgents by scattering pieces of "bait," such as detonation cords, plastic explosives and ammunition, and then killing Iraqis who pick up the items, according to military court documents.

The classified program was described in investigative documents related to recently filed murder charges against three snipers who are accused of planting evidence on Iraqis they killed.

"Baiting is putting an object out there that we know they will use, with the intention of destroying the enemy," Capt. Matthew P. Didier, the leader of an elite sniper scout platoon attached to the 1st Battalion of the 501st Infantry Regiment, said in a sworn statement. "Basically, we would put an item out there and watch it. If someone found the item, picked it up and attempted to leave with the item, we would engage the individual as I saw this as a sign they would use the item against U.S. Forces." Link

Brown: I'll not let you down [again]

Gordon may have sent British troops to fight an illegal oil war [see Alan Greenspan comments], but he'll not let us down, again, unless he is asked to do so by the US, again.

Most feel that Gordon is a better 'sort' than Blair, but this does not absolve him from culpability regarding the mess that is Iraq.

Gordon Brown yesterday at last laid out his heartfelt vision of a stronger, fairer Britain, and vowed: "I'll not let you down, I'll always stand up for you." Link

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Labour tries to block new BAE inquiry

From Friday's Guardian

British ministers are refusing to cooperate with the US criminal investigation into allegations of corruption against BAE, Britain's biggest arms company, the Guardian can disclose.

More than two months after an official request for mutual legal assistance (MLA) was received from Washington, the home secretary, Jacqui Smith, has not yet allowed it to be acted upon. The US investigators believe the British are being obstructive.

But legal sources said yesterday that the inquiry team had not been deterred by the UK government's hostile attitude. Some have already begun taking statements from key British witnesses.

Article continues
The formal request for assistance came from the US department of justice earlier in the summer, but Ms Smith has refused to pass it on to the Serious Fraud Office for processing in the normal way.

This is unusual behaviour towards a major ally, with whom legal cooperation is normally automatic. Last night, the Home Office said its failure to pass on the request was "not unprecedented", but could not give any example of similar behaviour.

The SFO possesses important files on BAE gained from its own major inquiry into £1bn of payments to Prince Bandar of Saudi Arabia and other Swiss bank accounts linked to the Saudi royal family. But SFO investigators are not allowed to speak to US authorities until Home Office officials forward the paperwork.

The agency was forced to halt a criminal investigation earlier this year by the then prime minister Tony Blair, who said it threatened the national interest and was upsetting the Saudi regime.

The Home Office's refusal to cooperate with the US followed a similar attempt earlier this year to conceal the payments to Prince Bandar from the international bribery watchdog, the Paris-based OECD, which says it fears Britain is breaching a worldwide anti-bribery treaty to which it is supposedly a signatory.

Norman Lamb, the Liberal Democrat frontbencher, said last night: "There is no justification for delay. This information should be handed over immediately. Again, one is left with the suspicion that by refusing to cooperate, the government is more interested in securing arms deals than in the pursuit of justice.

"It makes a mockery of the government's assertion that they are robustly tackling corruption."

A fresh front against BAE was opened yesterday, when shareholders in the US launched a multimillion dollar lawsuit against the company's directors accusing them of corruption. A spokesman for BAE, which is 50% owned by US shareholders and holds lucrative contracts with the Pentagon, said : "The company intends to vigorously defend any such proceedings."

Prince Bandar, who is also named as a defendant, has not denied receiving cash and a free gift of an aeroplane, but he says it was for legitimate purposes.

Other defendants named in the US suit include former Conservative defence secretary Michael Portillo, who was given a post on BAE's board after helping negotiate an arms deal with Qatar; Sir Nigel Rudd, who recently joined BAE's board as a non-executive director; and Sir Dick Evans, the original architect of the £43bn al-Yamamah arms deal at the centre of the allegations.

The Washington claim has been made in the name of a small pension fund, the City of Harper Woods employees' retirement system, which only holds the equivalent of 14,000 BAE shares, less than 1% of the company's stock. But it is intended that other US shareholders will join in.

The suit claims that BAE's directors have wrecked the company's reputation and exposed it to heavy fines and penalties, by conniving at "improper and/or illegal bribes, kickbacks and other payments", while claiming all the while in public that BAE was a "highly ethical, law-abiding corporation".

They say these "imprudent and unlawful actions have had an inevitable damaging impact and a very negative one indeed for BAE's long-term future". The San Diego law firm won $7bn (£3.5bn) for investors in Enron after its collapse. Last year, it started a lawsuit against the board of BP, on behalf of shareholders, claiming that executives had been negligent in their handling of safety problems.

Evidence published by the Guardian shows that BAE and its corporate predecessors have been making secret payments to Saudi royals, with covert British government support from both major parties, for arms deals stretching back more than 30 years.

Last week, Saudi Arabia signed a fresh arms deal with Gordon Brown's administration worth up to £20bn for BAE's Typhoon aircraft.

The Saudis had been threatening to withdraw from the contract. King Abdullah has also been invited on a state visit to Britain next month. Link

db: BAE and hangers on must be relieved that this corrupt British culture offers them, even now, protection that sad and powerless British citizens - or rather 'subjects' - don't enjoy. British 'subjects' of Her Majesty have little protection conferred upon them by this status. In fact, the general rule is if the US alleges some kind of crime - without a need for evidence - then British subjects are promptly thrown to the wolves and must face US justice alone on foreign US soil.

Ahmadinejad Hitler KKK terrorist madness NYC

... Israel's Ambassador to the United Nations, Danny Gillerman, also likened the Iranian president to Adolf Hilter, and said that a proposed visit by Ahmadinejad to Ground Zero would be similar to a visit to the site by the Nazi fuehrer. Link

Would Columbia host a Grand Wizard of the KKK who called for African nations to be wiped off the map? Link

“Anyone who supports terror, pledges to destroy a sovereign nation, punishes by death anyone who ‘insults’ religion . . . denies the Holocaust and thumbs his nose at the international community, has no legitimate role to play at a university.” Link

db: I was going to post a whole bunch of this stupid stuff but I lost the will to live. And by the way, if Israel will insist on pushing the Ahmadinejad-is-Hitler bullshit they cannot complain when they are accused of being a totally obnoxious fascist state themselves; certainly in light of their continuing assault upon Palestinian civilians. .

Greenspan: Would be awful to look like a Muslim

... the “war on terror” he [Alan Greenspan] admits has had unfortunate consequences. As a libertarian, he is troubled by the restrictions on civil liberties that followed the attacks. When I suggest that he must also disapprove of the detention centre at Guantanamo Bay, he replies: “Exactly.”

“This whole period is so unfortunate,” he says. “You can’t open up your society to all sorts of people coming in to destroy you without trying to do something . . . but if I were somebody who looked like a Muslim it would be awful.” Link

President Ahmadinejad NY visit hysteria

... The New York tabloid press has been having a field day expressing just how unwelcome the Iranian leader is, with headlines such as "Just Shove Your Wreath," directed at the "evil Iran prez" it described as a "monster."

President George W. Bush offered support to city officials who opposed the Ground Zero visit, saying: "I can understand why they would not want somebody running a country who is the state sponsor of terror down at the site."

Republican presidential hopeful Rudolph Giuliani, who was New York's mayor at the time of the attacks, had urged city authorities to reject the request.

"This is a man who has made threats against America and Israel, is harboring (Osama) bin Laden's son and other Al-Qaeda leaders, is shipping arms to Iraqi insurgents and is pursuing the development of nuclear weapons," he said.

Ahmadinejad appeared surprised by the storm over the visit, saying in an interview with CBS television: "Why should it be insulting?" He said he would not insist on visiting the site if city officials could not arrange it. Link

Saturday, September 22, 2007

The real story of Baghdad's Bloody Sunday

Six days ago, at least 28 civilians died in a shooting incident involving the US security company Blackwater. But what actually happened? Kim Sengupta reports from the scene of the massacre

The eruption of gunfire was sudden and ferocious, round after round mowing down terrified men women and children, slamming into cars as they collided and overturned with drivers frantically trying to escape. Some vehicles were set alight by exploding petrol tanks. A mother and her infant child died in one of them, trapped in the flames.

The shooting on Sunday, by the guards of the American private security company Blackwater, has sparked one of the most bitter and public disputes between the Iraqi government and its American patrons, and brings into sharp focus the often violent conduct of the Western private armies operating in Iraq since the 2003 invasion, immune from scrutiny or prosecution.

Blackwater's security men are accused of going on an unprovoked killing spree. Hassan Jabar Salman, a lawyer, was shot four times in the back, his car riddled with eight more bullets, as he attempted to get away from their convoy. Yesterday, sitting swathed in bandages at Baghdad's Yarmukh Hospital, he recalled scenes of horror. "I saw women and children jump out of their cars and start to crawl on the road to escape being shot," said Mr Salman. "But still the firing kept coming and many of them were killed. I saw a boy of about 10 leaping in fear from a minibus, he was shot in the head. His mother was crying out for him, she jumped out after him, and she was killed. People were afraid."

At the end of the prolonged hail of bullets Nisoor Square was a scene of carnage with bodies strewn around smouldering wreckage. Ambulances trying to pick up the wounded found their path blocked by crowds fleeing the gunfire.

Yesterday, the death toll from the incident, according to Iraqi authorities, stood at 28. And it could rise higher, say doctors, as some of the injured, hit by high-velocity bullets at close quarter, are unlikely to survive. Read more

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Implausible Afghanistan "news"

Taliban Used Kids As Human Shields

Taliban fighters carrying machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades used children as human shields during a battle in southern Afghanistan on Wednesday, forcing U.S.-led coalition soldiers to hold their fire for a time, the coalition said.

The clash in Uruzgan province began when more than 20 insurgents attacked a joint Afghan and coalition patrol, the coalition said in a statement.

As aircraft prepared to bomb the site, "coalition forces as well as the aircraft identified several insurgents in one compound using children as human shields," the statement said. Ground troops and the aircraft withheld fire to avoid injuring the children, it said.

The soldiers did fight the insurgents when they tried to flee the compound, and more than a dozen suspected militants were killed, the coalition said. Link

db: Betcha the "human shields" were their kids. US Boneheads.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Collective punishment in Gaza

Israel declared Gaza a "hostile entity" on Wednesday and said it would limit supplies to the Hamas-run territory, overshadowing US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's latest peace mission.

The decision by Israel's powerful security cabinet cleared the way for the government to shut off supplies of electricity and fuel to the impoverished territory -- home to 1.5 million Palestinians -- in response to frequent rocket attacks from Gaza. Link

db: On BBC radio tonight Jonathan Marcus reported that "this will be seen by Palestinians as collective punishment".

I don't know what Jonathan Marcus sees it as.

US Middle East policy: havoc

New America Media editor Andrew Lam spoke to Jamal Dajani, director of Middle Eastern Programming at Link TV


Do you think that an attack on Iran is possible given the fact that the United States is already spread too thin?

They aren’t thinking in terms of military attack, but a missile attack and even a nuclear attack. Arab media talks a lot about U.S. bunker busting technology using tactical nuclear bombs. Arab media is concerned about how Iran will retaliate. They will target American interests in the Middle East, which include Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. What will stop Iran from targeting Exxon and Shell in these countries?

It doesn’t help that recently the United States offered a huge arms deal – 20 billion dollars – to Saudi Arabia.

That’s why Petraeus’ report [to Congress] doesn’t make sense. On the one hand, he’s talking about troop withdrawal in 2008. On the other, it’s not over. It seems like they’re trying to split the Middle East between good Arab and bad Arab – with Saudi Arabia and Egypt on one side and Syria and Iran on the other. The region is preparing itself for a larger war. Why arming Saudi Arabia if you are not expecting the worst? If you look toward peace, why are you arming the region to the teeth? Read more

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

El-Baradei on Iran: Remember Iraq

The chief UN nuclear inspector criticised talk of attacking Iran as "hype", saying the use of force should only be considered as a last resort and only if authorised by the UN Security Council.

"I would not talk about any use of force," said Mohamed El-Baradei, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, in an indirect response to French warnings that the world had to be prepared for the possibility of war in the event that Iran obtains atomic weapons.

Saying only the UN Security Council could authorise the use of force, El-Baradei urged the world to remember Iraq before considering any similar action against Iran.Link

Saturday, September 15, 2007

16,000 infected with cholera in northern Iraq

The cholera outbreak in northern Iraq has infected some 16,000 people since late August, of whom at least 10 have died, the World Health Organisation said on Friday.

Since August 23, at least 6,000 people have been reported with diarrhoeal diseases in Sulaymaniyah province, almost 7,000 in Kirkuk province and at least 3,000 in Erbil province, WHO spokeswoman Fadela Chaib told journalists. Link

U.S. Secret Air War Pulverizes Afghanistan and Iraq

According to the residents of Datta Khel, a town in Pakistan's North Waziristan, three missiles streaked out of Afghanistan's Pakitka Province and slammed into a Madrassa, or Islamic school, this past June. When the smoke cleared, the Asia Times reported, 30 people were dead.

The killers were robots, General Atomics MQ-1 Predators. The AGM-114 Hellfire missiles they used in the attack were directed from a base deep in the southern Nevada desert.

It was not the first time Predators had struck. The previous year a CIA Predator took a shot at al-Qaeda's number two man, Ayman al-Zawahiri, but missed. The missile, however, killed 18 people. According to the Asia Times piece, at least one other suspected al-Qaeda member was assassinated by a Predator in Pakistan's northern frontier area, and in 2002 a Predator killed six "suspected al-Qaeda" members in Yemen.

These assaults are part of what may be the best kept secret of the Iraq-Afghanistan conflicts: an enormous intensification of US bombardments in these and other countries in the region, the increasing number of civilian casualties such a strategy entails, and the growing role of pilot-less killers in the conflict.

According to Associated Press, there has been a five-fold increase in the number of bombs dropped on Iraq during the first six months of 2007 over the same period in 2006. More than 30 tons of those have been cluster weapons, which take an especially heavy toll on civilians. Read more

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Afghanistan: Mass-killing technology

A new 'super-weapon' being supplied to British soldiers in Afghanistan employs technology based on the "thermobaric" principle which uses heat and pressure to kill people targeted across a wide air by sucking the air out of lungs and rupturing internal organs.

The so-called "enhanced blast" weapon uses similar technology used in the US "bunker busting" bombs and the devastating bombs dropped by the Russians to destroy the Chechen capital, Grozny. Link

db: 'We' have powerful technologies. 'They' have unshakable belief. History shows us which is most potent.

Trained to torture, ready for Iraq

US 201st Military Intelligence BattalionI Prepares for Deployment:

"We're ready," Maj. Tomlinson said. "The training has been arduous but also very satisfying.",15240,148879,00.html

Monday, September 10, 2007

Iraq: British troops 'sacrificed' as a favor

Britain was prepared to withdraw its forces from the southern Iraqi city of Basra in April, but held off for five months after the United States asked it to stay, Britain's military commander in Iraq said in an interview published on Monday.

Speaking to The Daily Telegraph, Brigadier James Bashall, commander of 1 Mechanised Brigade, said that he wanted to leave Britain's Basra Palace base in April, something he said would have been "the right thing to do."

"In April we could have come out and done the transition completely and that would have been the right thing to do but politics prevented that," Bashall, 44, told the paper.

"The Americans asked us to stay for longer," he said, adding the decision to stay in the city was a result of "political strategy being played out at highest level." Link

db: You may care to view a timeline of British Iraq death in light of this article [though not quite up to date]

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Afghanistan: Brit describes terror of US bomb

"The shockwave hit the building and everything went dark. The force punched into my chest and pressed me down through the roof. I knew immediately that the bomb had fallen short - and I knew we would have casualties."

Speaking for the first time since a 500lb American bomb exploded among his soldiers, Lt George Seal-Coon has given ... a chilling description of the "friendly fire" incident that left three British soldiers dead.

As the thick desert dust cleared it revealed a scene of "horror and carnage", he said.

Men were lying mortally injured. Clothes had been stripped from bodies by the force of the blast. Cries of "medic, medic" echoed around the compound. Link

db: What level of cooperation will be provided by the US military? Will the cockpit video of the dude responsible be made available without a fight? You'd hope that this time the British government will support the families and demand 100% compliance from the US with the legal process.

The carnage described in this Telegraph piece came about because the troops called in US air support to drop a 500lb bomb on the 'Taliban' enemy; so the Brits must take some resonsibility when the notorious boneheads once more get it wrong The unfortunate fact is that the yanks dropped the bomb on our lads rather than on a family of nine wholly innocent civilians sleeping in their beds - which is the more orthodox US approach and generally causes less fuss.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

New Tory, new cock-up 2,3,4

Cameron keeps on repeating that if this, the latest, Gordon Brown Sun Tzu art of war aggression is a "genuine" attempt at consensus politics then he supports the initiative[s]. Otherwise he condemns the "low" politics.

This is one weak leader. Labour's having a bubble.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Osama bin Laden strikes in the war of ideas

Osama bin Laden's recently acquired video is fascinating on a number of levels - mostly relating to the text - which is available here. The political message is interesting and clearly one would find many of the "al-Qaeda" leader's observations difficult to refute. This is an "evil" man if you like. However, millions would disagree with us on that one, so maybe it's important for our "leaders" to address some of bin Laden's "unfair assertions" .

It's amusing to note - once you have bothered to read the pdf - that the news headlines concerning this "controversy" packed video range from:

Latest video reveals new look for bin Laden
US: No Overt Threats In Osama Video
Osama's latest video appears to be new

Like Gordon Brown might say [as an afterthought, subsequent to approving a failed, disastrous and illegal Iraq war] "it's a war of ideas".

db: Update: Odd ... the video freezes during all references to contemporary events. Possible fake [or rather release of old video tarted up to be 'new'] See more - tx cryptome

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Afghanistan: Two Brits killed by roadside bomb

Two British soldiers have been killed by a roadside bomb in southern Afghanistan.

A third soldier and a civilian interpreter were also injured in the incident, which happened just after 9.15am yesterday when a patrol north of Lashkar Gah was targeted.

The dead soldiers, both men, were from the 2nd Battalion The Mercian Regiment (Worcesters and Foresters), part of 12 Mechanised Brigade. Both were pronounced dead at the scene. The third soldier and the interpreter were evacuated by helicopter to Camp Bastion for treatment.

The deaths brought the number of fatalities suffered by 12 Mechanised Brigade to 24 — more than twice that of 3 Commando Brigade, which left Helmand province in May after a six-month tour. A total of 31 soldiers have now been killed in Afghanistan so far his year, compared with 41 in Iraq.Many of the deaths have been caused by roadside bombs. Link

db: As yet there is nothing to suggest that the troops were on a suicide mission via Land Rover 'Snatch' vehicle.

'More than 20 service personnel have died in Snatch Land Rovers, yet the MoD has no plans to take them out of service and replace them.'

Update: The troops were in a WIMIK (Weapons Mounted Installation Kit) jeep - an open topped Land Rover 110 - which offers little protection, from even bullets.

US strikes in Baghdad kill 14 sleeping civilians

US combat helicopters and tanks bombarded a Baghdad neighbourhood in pre-dawn strikes on Thursday, killing 14 sleeping civilians and destroying houses, angry residents and Iraqi officials said.

... raqi defence and interior ministry officials said US helicopters fired on houses in the Al-Washash neighbourhood of Mansour district in west Baghdad between 2.00 am and 3.00 am.

"The attacks on the houses took place while people were sleeping. There were no clashes. The area had been quiet," said an interior ministry official who did not want to be named.

At least 10 people were wounded and were admitted to the nearby Al-Yarmuk hospital.

"Two to five houses were destroyed. Among the wounded are several women," the official said.

Abu Ali Saad, a resident of the mainly Shiite Al-Washash enclave in the middle of the Sunni-majority Mansour neighbourhood, said US military vehicles had arrived in large numbers during the night.

"There were tanks and armoured vehicles and many troops," 35-year-old Saad told AFP while surveying the rubble of his neighbour's house.

"The tanks started firing then the helicopters came. Missiles were fired from the air. Houses were destroyed. A family of five were killed in this house," he said, referring to his neighbours.

"We are a peaceful neighbourhood. There are no militia here. There were no exchanges of fire. We were all sleeping."

An AFP photographer on the scene said three houses were destroyed and two damaged.

Amid the rubble of one house was a mattress covered in blood with human body parts scattered around. Neighbours said a family of six had been killed in the house, including a 12-year-old girl.

Bloodstains could also be seen amid the wreckage of the other houses, where angry residents gathered to denounce the US military.

"They prevented me from trying to get two of my wounded neighbours to hospital," said Ammar Assem. "They fired on my car when I tried to leave the area. I had to go back."

A US military statement said Iraqi and US forces had engaged Shiite extremists militants who were part of a "terrorist cell" operating in Al-Washash. Link

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Brown's useful Tory idiots

Does anyone really believe that Mr Brown cares what Patrick Mercer, a man sacked by the Tory leader for what Labour MPs described as racist remarks, thinks about national security? Of course he doesn't.

The big clunking fist has not turned into an outstretched palm. The Conservative MPs recruited by the Labour leader are like Lenin's "useful idiots" - they are political puppets, summoned into the Government of all the talents, not to illuminate Mr Brown but to destabilise Mr Cameron. Link

db: Including the toad John Bercow! The man who paid homage to Blair just about every time he stood up in the House of Commons - despite Blair once describing him as "nasty and ineffectual in equal quantity".

Monday, September 03, 2007

Patrick Cockburn: Ignominious end to futile exercise that cost the UK 168 lives

The withdrawal of British forces from Basra Palace, ahead of an expected full withdrawal from the city as early as next month, marks the beginning of the end of one of the most futile campaigns ever fought by the British Army.

Ostensibly, the British will be handing over control of Basra to Iraqi security forces. In reality, British soldiers control very little in Basra, and the Iraqi security forces are largely run by the Shia militias.

The British failure is almost total after four years of effort and the death of 168 personnel. "Basra's residents and militiamen view this not as an orderly withdrawal but rather as an ignominious defeat," says a report by the Brussels-based International Crisis Group. "Today, the city is controlled by militias, seemingly more powerful and unconstrained than before."

The British military presence has been very limited since April this year, when Operation Sinbad, vaunted by the Ministry of Defence as a comparative success, ended. In the last four months the escalating attacks on British forces have shown the operation failed in its aim to curb the power of the militias.

The pullout will be a jolt for the US because it undermines its claim that it is at last making progress in establishing order in Iraq because Sunni tribes have turned against al-Qa'ida and because of its employment of more sophisticated tactics. In practice, the US controls very little of the nine Shia provinces south of Baghdad.

The British Army was never likely to be successful in southern Iraq in terms of establishing law and order under the control of the government in Baghdad. Claims that the British military could draw on counter-insurgency experience built up in Northern Ireland never made sense.

In Northern Ireland it had the support of the majority Protestant population. In Basra and the other three provinces where it was in command in southern Iraq the British forces had no reliable local allies.

The criticism of the lack of American preparation for the occupation by Sir Mike Jackson, the former head of the British Army, and Maj Gen Tim Ross, the most senior British officer in post-war planning, rather misses the point. Most Iraqis were glad to get rid of Saddam Hussein, but the majority opposed a post-war occupation. If the Americans and British had withdrawn immediately in April 2003 then there would have been no guerrilla war.

The US has held most power while officially supporting the Iraqi government because it did not want Saddam Hussein replaced by Shia religious parties with close ties to Iran. Given that Shia are 60 per cent of the Iraqi population this is probably inevitable.

Soon after the British arrival, on 24 June 2003, British troops learnt a bloody lesson about the limits of their authority when six military policemen were trapped in a police headquarters between Basra and al-Amara. I visited the grim little building where they had died a day later. Armed men were still milling around outside. A tribesman working for a leader who was supposedly on the British side, said: "We are just waiting for our religious leaders to issue a fatwa against the occupation and then we will fight. If we give up our weapons how can we fight them?"

The British line was that there were "rogue" policemen and, once they were eliminated, the Iraqi security forces would take command. In fact, the political parties and their mafia-like militias always controlled the institutions. When a young American reporter living in Basra bravely pointed this out in a comment article he was promptly murdered by the police. One militia leader was quoted as saying: "80 per cent of assassinations in 2006 were committed by individuals wearing police uniforms, carrying police guns and using police cars."

Could any of this have been avoided? At an early stage, when the British had a large measure of control, there was a plan to discipline the militias by putting them in uniform. This idea of turning poachers into gamekeepers simply corrupted the police.

The violence in Basra is not primarily against the occupation or over sectarian differences (the small Sunni minority has largely been driven out). The fighting has been and will be over local resources.

The fragile balance of power is dominated by three groups: Fadhila, which controls the Oil Protection Force; the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, which dominates the intelligence service and police commando units, and The Mehdi Army, which runs much of the local police force, port authority and the Facilities Protection Force. One Iraqi truck driver said he had to bribe three different militia units stationed within a few kilometres of each other in order to proceed.

In terms of establishing an orderly government in Basra and a decent life for its people the British failure has been absolute. Link

British troops leave Basra city

The last British soldier was expected to have withdrawn from their barracks in Basra city by dawn today in a major operation involving thousands of troops.

In great secrecy, military commanders gave the go-ahead yesterday for the final withdrawal of the 500 remaining soldiers at Basra Palace who have handed over the base to the Iraq army.

The move is a highly significant event in the bloody four-year mission in Iraq, as it could pave the way for the withdrawal of the main British force from Iraq next year. The withdrawal from the centre of Basra is part of the preparations for the eventual handover of Basra province to Iraqi control.

Despite some strong criticism from American commentators last month that the military had lost control of Basra, the US commander in Iraq, Gen David Petraeus "signed off" the withdrawal last night. Link

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Afghanistan: Smaller US bombs kill civilians good

Four Afghan civilians were killed and five wounded in a US-led force air raid that pounded Taliban insurgents in mountainous eastern Afghanistan, police said Sunday.

The incident was in the province of Kunar on Saturday, a day after about 10 civilians were killed when rockets fired by the Taliban at a US base landed on their homes.

The US-led coalition confirmed the military had dropped a precision-guided bomb on militants who had fired mortars on an outpost in the same area and at the same time.

"Four civilians, including women and children, were killed and five others were injured in a US-led air strike which was targeted at Taliban," deputy provincial police chief Abdul Sabour Allahyar told AFP. Link

db: Killed by the new 'smaller bomb'?

A short-lived victory over the Taliban

Over the past six weeks, the Taliban have driven government forces out of roughly half of a strategic area in southern Afghanistan that U.S. and NATO officials declared a success story last fall in their campaign to clear out insurgents and make way for development programs, Afghan officials say.

A year after Canadian and U.S. forces drove hundreds of Taliban fighters from the area, the Panjwai and Zhare districts southwest of Kandahar, the rebels are back and have adopted new tactics. Carrying out guerrilla attacks after NATO troops partly withdrew in July, they overran isolated police posts and are now operating in areas where they can mount attacks on Kandahar, the largest city in the south. Read more

UK troops pulling out of Basra base

British troops are pulling out of a base at a palace in the southern Iraqi city of Basra on Sunday, a Ministry of Defence source said.

"The troops are coming out," the source said. Some 500 of Britain's 5,500 soldiers in Iraq are stationed at the Basra palace and are expected to be pulled back to an airport on the city's outskirts. Link

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Grow you bastard

Scientists have discovered that plants have 'ears':
Two particular genes, rbcS and Ald, became more active when exposed to sounds at 125 and 250 hertz, and less active at 50 hertz. Link

General backed over US attack

Politicians and military figures have thrown their weight behind General Sir Mike Jackson after he launched a scathing attack on the US for mishandling the aftermath of the Iraq war.

Sir Mike, head of the army during the 2003 invasion, lambasted Washington's post-war policy as "intellectually bankrupt".

In an interview with the Daily Telegraph, he also singled out ex-US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld for criticism, describing his claim that US forces "don't do nation-building" as "nonsensical".

Sir Mike's autobiography brands the US's approach to fighting global terrorism as "inadequate" - insisting it relies too much on military power over diplomacy and nation-building.

He lays the blame for the chaos engulfing Iraq firmly at the door of Mr Rumsfeld, saying he was "one of the most responsible for the current situation".

The Ministry of Defence insisted that Sir Mike, who is retired, was now a "private individual" and entitled to air his views.

Liberal Democrat leader Menzies Campbell said: "What General Jackson has said is absolutely correct. It goes to the very heart of the lack of real planning for post-war Iraq."

Former Tory defence secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind also backed Sir Mike's intervention. He told the BBC: "I think one of the most fundamental criticisms is not just that Rumsfeld was incompetent - which he was - but it was actually his boss, George Bush, who actually made the extraordinary decision to put the Pentagon and Rumsfeld in control of political nation-building after the actual war ended."

Major General Patrick Cordingley, who commanded the Desert Rats during the 1991 Gulf War, said Sir Mike's analysis was "absolutely spot on".

"The frustration, of course, is that one wonders why he and others could not persuade the Government to listen to him so that we wouldn't be in the mess that we are in now." Link