Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Police and Army Getting Sidelined

Inter Press Service
By Ahmed Ali and Dahr Jamail*

BAQUBA, Jan 21 (IPS) - New military operations in Diyala province north of Baghdad have exacerbated a growing conflict between U.S.-backed Sunni fighters on the one hand and Iraqi army and police forces on the other.

The U.S. military commenced a large military operation Jan. 8 in the volatile Diyala province. Seven U.S. battalions led an offensive to push out fighters affiliated with 'Al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia' from the area.

In the current operation, U.S., Iraqi, and local fighters have faced no serious resistance. U.S. military commanders admitted shortly after operations began that anti-occupation fighters were likely tipped off, and fled the area. But the operation has thrown up conflicts within the ranks.

"The military forces comprise the coalition forces, Iraqi police and army, and the popular forces (commonly called Kataib)," political analyst Akram Sabri told IPS in Baquba, capital of Diyala province. "It was found that the local forces are more truculent fighters who can always be relied on. This has made the coalition forces increasingly reliant upon these fighters to the extent that they will one day likely be joined to Iraqi police and army."

The Kataib Sabri speaks of are what the U.S. military calls "concerned local citizens". Most are former resistance fighters, now being paid 300 dollars a month to stop attacking occupation forces and to back them instead.

The groups, which the U.S. military claims are 82 percent Sunni, are viewed as a threat by the government in Baghdad led by U.S.-backed Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. The PM has said these groups will never become part of the government security forces. But while seen with suspicion at many places, these forces are also being welcomed in some.

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Success in Iraq? Not for Iraqi Women Blog posting

Posted by Siun , Firedoglake at 4:22 AM on December 26, 2007.

"Let's make sure all of our candidates know that we are not distracted by the bright shiny surge success chatter. "
Reporters and too many politicians continue claiming that happy days are here again in Iraq. Golly, that surge has been soooo successful - and things are going just swell. In fact, US soldiers have even been told to treat approaching Iraqi civilians as ... civilians!
"Effective immediately, assume all civilian vehicles are friendly," it read.
The order admonished soldiers throughout Iraq to yield to civilian drivers, allow vehicles to pass, and avoid firing their weapons as they escorted convoys of concrete barriers, generators, water and food to U.S. military outposts.

And talk is growing of not only withdrawing the "surge" troops in 2008, but perhaps more:

Gen. George Casey, the Army's chief of staff and the former senior commander in Iraq, has been particularly frank about the state of the Army.
"We're deploying at unsustainable rates," General Casey said three weeks ago during remarks to an audience at the Brookings Institution in Washington. The Army agreed to a buildup of troops a year ago with the understanding that it was temporary, he said. "We can't sustain that. We have to come off of that, and we're working that very hard."

In the rush to distract voters from the real issues of the Iraq occupation, I suspect we will hear more tales of success and improvement in Iraq.

Yet for Iraqis, conditions continue to spiral down.

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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Tomgram: Chalmers Johnson, How to Sink America

posted January 22, 2008 3:27 pm

Within the next month, the Pentagon will submit its 2009 budget to Congress and it's a fair bet that it will be even larger than the staggering 2008 one. Like the Army and the Marines, the Pentagon itself is overstretched and under strain -- and like the two services, which are expected to add 92,000 new troops over the next five years (at an estimated cost of $1.2 billion per 10,000), the Pentagon's response is never to cut back, but always to expand, always to demand more.

After all, there are those disastrous Afghan and Iraqi wars still eating taxpayer dollars as if there were no tomorrow. Then there's what enthusiasts like to call "the next war" to think about, which means all those big-ticket weapons, all those jets, ships, and armored vehicles for the future. And don't forget the still-popular, Rumsfeld-style "netcentric warfare" systems (robots, drones, communications satellites, and the like), not to speak of the killer space toys being developed; and then there's all that ruined equipment out of Iraq and Afghanistan to be massively replaced -- and all those ruined human beings to take care of.

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Covering Up the Coverage - The American Media’s Complicit Failure to Investigate and Report on the Sibel Edmonds Case

Published on Monday, January 21, 2008 by The Brad Blog
by Daniel Ellsberg

For the second time in two weeks, the entire U.S. press has let itself be scooped by Rupert Murdoch’s London Sunday Times on a dynamite story of criminal activities by corrupt U.S. officials promoting nuclear proliferation. But there is a worse journalistic sin than being scooped, and that is participating in a cover-up of information that demands urgent attention from the public, the U.S. Congress and the courts.For the last two weeks — one could say, for years — the major American media have been guilty of ignoring entirely the allegations of the courageous and highly credible source Sibel Edmonds, quoted in the London Times on January 6, 2008 in a front-page story that was front-page news in much of the rest of the world but was not reported in a single American newspaper or network. It is up to readers to demand that this culpable silent treatment end.

Just as important, there must be pressure by the public on Congressional committee chairpersons, in particular Representative Henry Waxman and Senator Patrick Leahy. Both have been sitting for years on classified, sworn testimony by Edmonds — as she revealed in the Times’ new story on Sunday — along with documentation, in their possession, confirming parts of her account. Pressure must be brought for them to hold public hearings to investigate her accusations of widespread criminal activities, over several administrations, that endanger national security. They should call for open testimony under oath by Edmonds — as she has urged for five years — and by other FBI officials she has named to them, as cited anonymously in the first Times’ story.

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Friday, January 18, 2008

Pentagon, Big Pharma: Drug Troops to Numb Them to Horrors of War

By Penny Coleman, AlterNet
Posted on January 10, 2008, Printed on January 10, 2008

In June, the Department of Defense Task Force on Mental Health
acknowledged "daunting and growing" psychological problems among our
troops: Nearly 40 percent of soldiers, a third of Marines and half
of National Guard members are presenting with serious mental health
issues. They also reported "fundamental weaknesses" in the U.S.
military's approach to psychological health. That report was
followed in August by the Army Suicide Event Report (ASER), which
reported that 2006 saw the highest rate of military suicides in 26
years. And last month, CBS News reported that, based on its own
extensive research, over 6,250 American veterans took their own
lives in 2005 alone -- that works out to a little more than 17
suicides every day.

That's all pretty bleak, but there is reason for optimism in the
long-overdue attention being paid to the emotional and psychic cost
of these new wars. The shrill hypocrisy of an administration that
has decked itself in yellow ribbons and mandatory lapel pins while
ignoring a human crisis of monumental proportion is finally being
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