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Miliband’s Visit to the Middle East: Further Imperialist Machinations

Workers Daily

During the past week, Foreign Secretary David Miliband has been visiting Israel, occupied Palestine, Syria and Lebanon as part of what the Foreign Office refers to as the Middle East peace process.

It should be noted that the Foreign Secretary visited the area following the terrorist attack on Syria by the United States just a few weeks ago and while the Zionist regime in Israel is attempting to blockade the population of Gaza into submission, depriving them of food, medicine, electricity and other necessities and carrying out other crimes in the occupied territories and elsewhere. However, there are no reports of Miliband condemning these atrocities, nor even commenting on them. His visit can therefore clearly be seen as part of the continuing attacks by the Zionist regime and the Anglo-American alliance on the people of this region. The government’s approach to the so-called Middle East peace process was set out in a speech entitled "Prospects in the Middle East" delivered by Miliband just before his visit to the region when he addressed the Labour Friends of Israel in London on November 4.

What is immediately clear from Miliband’s speech is his recognition that the policy of the Anglo-American alliance has run into the determined opposition of the people of the region. That policy has been to continually support the Zionist regimes of Israel as a cat’s paw in the region and against neighbouring countries; and to attempt to force the Palestinians to relinquish their national rights. It is a policy that has resulted in great crimes being committed against the Palestinian and other peoples of the region and one that has led to instability throughout the Middle East. Nevertheless, it is an approach that Anglo-American imperialism continues to adopt and justify on the most spurious grounds. Despite his best attempts, Miliband failed to find any historical justification for the denial of the rights of the Palestinian people. Rather, he commenced his discourse by stating that the creation of the Israel was a cause for jubilation, that it "was one of the world’s liveliest democracies", and that "a stable Middle East starts with a secure Israel at its heart".

For the government, the principle of the right of self-determination for the people of Palestine and other countries does not exist. In this case, the interests of Anglo-American imperialism, which are based on the existence of a Zionist state of Israel, must prevail. History itself can be distorted to serve these interests, as Miliband demonstrated in his speech when he quoted the findings of the colonial Peel Commission of 1937 to the effect that Palestine should be partitioned. He omitted to mention that this decision was made by a government-appointed body, and only after the British government had encouraged the migration of thousands of Jewish settlers into Palestine, facilitated the purchase and theft of Palestinian land, viciously suppressed major uprisings against its illegal rule in Palestine and committed many other crimes which created a major injustice. These historical injustices in the region remain to be resolved, but Miliband wants to entrench them.

The Foreign Secretary now suggests that what is required to solve the problem of Palestine is a "comprehensive approach", a "new alignment" in the region, involving amongst other things, agreements between Israel and its neighbours Lebanon and particularly Syria. But here what is required by the Anglo-American alliance is that Syria should cease supporting the patriotic forces in Palestine and Iraq, as well as those in Lebanon itself. Miliband’s visit and the attack by the US on Syria can therefore be seen as complementing each other. Anglo-American activity in the region and Miliband’s visit must also be seen in the context of the threats that are continually issued against Iran, which were again made in Miliband’s speech, and the attempts of the alliance to create the conditions for further attacks on Iran. The visit of David Miliband should also be seen as paving the way for further machinations that will undoubtedly follow the inauguration of the new US president in January.

Miliband claims that "to find a way forward, we need first to acknowledge the past", but the British government and its allies show no sign of acknowledging the crimes which it and its predecessors have carried out in regard to Palestine. Rather it continues to pose as an honest broker and the best friend of the peoples of this region, while continually creating the conditions for new crimes and atrocities to take place. It is the duty of the working class and people to empower themselves so as to chart a new course, a modern foreign policy which recognises the right of all peoples to determine their own affairs.

News Items / Millions of Afghans Face Starvation
« on: November 16, 2008, 10:45:51 AM »
Millions of Afghans Face Starvation
Islam Online

By IOL Staff - Fri. Oct. 31, 2008

An estimated 8.4 million Afghans are now suffering from 'chronic and transitory food insecurity. (Google) CAIRO — With a combination of a summer drought, poor irrigation and rising global food prices, a famine is unveiling in Afghanistan with third of Afghans are suffering chronic food insecurity, a British think-tank warned on Friday, October 31.

"While the eyes of the world have focused on violence which is increasingly terrorist in character, an estimated 8.4 million Afghans, perhaps a third of the nation, are now suffering from 'chronic and transitory food insecurity'," Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) analyst Paul Smyth said in a press briefing on its website.

"Whatever the effect of insurgent violence on the UN-mandated mission in Afghanistan, it is widespread hunger and malnutrition that will place a greater obstacle in its progress."

RUSI said that many Afghan have already started migrating from their areas in search of food.

"Some are eating grass and a tiny number have died of starvation."

British charity Oxfam warned earlier this year that around five million Afghans are facing food shortages.

RUSI warned that a famine will blow out when the snowy winter season begins.

"When temperatures plummet and snow cloaks the Hindu Kush, millions of desperate Afghans will look to the UN, ISAF and their own government for help or survival.

"If the international community is found wanting, we can expect increasing frustration and anger from a population which once saw the international intervention in Afghanistan as a source of hope."

Nearly 1,700 Afghans died in the severe winter last year.


RUSI suggests an airlift similar to the Berlin Airlift in the 1940s to prevent the starvation of millions of poor Afghans.

"Exactly sixty years ago, the Berlin Airlift was underway. It brought food to millions and prevented a strategic defeat," it said.

"Today, a much smaller, yet strategically significant operation could have similar effect in Afghanistan."

The UN World Food Program said in August that 25,000 tons of food were urgently needed in Afghanistan before the winter season.

"Ahead of the deterioration in winter weather lays a window of opportunity for the international community to mount an intensive air operation to deliver life-saving aid to Afghanistan," said Smyth.

"To maintain its credibility and moral authority to act in Afghanistan the international community must take timely, concerted and effective action."

Days after the 9/11 attacks, the United States invaded Afghanistan to topple the ruling Taliban.

Despite the deployment of 64,000 foreign troops under US and NATO command, violence has soared over the past years.

A high-profile US intelligence report has concluded earlier this month that Afghanistan is on a "downward spiral" due to rising violence and official corruption.

"Afghanistan may be on the brink of a calamity which has the potential to undermine much of the progress which has been achieved there," said RUSI.

"Help must come from farther afield, swiftly, and to any part of the country. An airlift meets these demands."

The question of the media blackout is a good question. Sometimes they report the anti war movement sometimes they don't. Why? i like to think of it as disinformation because it is trying to say there is no resistance

On February 15th 2003 it was reported on a large scale but the issue there was it could not be ignored but they hadn't killed too may people then.  Today, the stakes are very high more than a 2 million dead or missing as a result to the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan, serious opposition not only from the resistance but also within the ranks of the armed forces for they are on a war footing more and more and you notice they do not cover the resistance in the  countries they occupy let alone here.    The fact is to them we are the resistance and those illusions of winning the possibility of "fair and just society" just by protest are slipping away. 

I think we have to go all out in a big way to prepare to stand anti-war candidates and take up the struggle for peoples empowerment.  Develop our own media. Interestingly, we are communicating with more people now than on February 15th. That was very largely  spontaneous but now the vitality is in ever increasing and better organisation today. Our project for this year to reaffirm the anti-war movement as broad and well organised movement is bearing some fruit.  The media blackout will not save them in the end, on the contrary it is a factor in the people getting organised to get themselves better informed. Have a look at the report on our website!

Next meeting: October 6 at 6.30 in the Muslim Welfare House, 12, North Terrace, Claremont Road.

News Items / U.S. Nuclear Weapons Parts Missing, Pentagon Says
« on: August 06, 2008, 11:17:34 PM »
U.S. Nuclear Weapons Parts Missing, Pentagon Says

The U.S. military cannot locate hundreds of sensitive nuclear missile components, according to several government officials familiar with a Pentagon report on nuclear safeguards. Robert Gates, U.S. defense secretary, recently fired both the U.S. Air Force chief of staff and Air Force secretary after an investigation blamed the Air Force for the “inadvertent” shipment of nuclear missile nose cones to Taiwan (though “inadvertently sent, missiles remain in Taiwan). According to previously undisclosed details, the investigation also concluded that the Air Force could not account for many sensitive components previously included in its nuclear inventory.

One official said the number of missing components was more than 1,000.

The disclosure is the latest embarrassing episode for the Air Force, which last year had to explain how a bomber “mistakenly” carried six nuclear missiles across the U.S. The incidents have raised concerns about U.S. nuclear safeguards as Washington presses other countries to bolster counter-proliferation measures.

In announcing the departure of the top air force officials earlier this month, Mr. Gates said Admiral Kirkland Donald, the officer who led the investigation, concluded that both incidents had a "common origin" which was "the gradual erosion of nuclear standards and a lack of effective oversight by Air Force leadership."

A senior defense official said the report had "identified issues about record keeping" for sensitive nuclear missile components. But he claimed that there was no suggestion that components had ended up in the hands of countries that should not have received them.

But Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association in Washington, said the revelation was "very significant and extremely troubling" because it meant the U.S. could not establish the positive control referred to by Mr. Gates. "It raises a serious question about where else these unaccounted for warhead related parts may have gone," said Mr. Kimball. "I would not be surprised if the recent Taiwan incident is not the only one."

A senior military officer said the military leadership, including Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was "deeply troubled" by the findings of the Donald report. He added that they would be paying close attention to recommendations for improving nuclear safeguards that Mr. Gates has asked James Schlesinger, a former defense secretary, to make.

(Source: London Financial Times)

News Items / US Lawyer Seeks to Sue U.S. Over Iran Threats
« on: August 06, 2008, 11:11:51 PM »
US Lawyer Seeks to Sue U.S. Over Iran Threats

Chris Gelken, Press TV, Tehran

An American lawyer has offered to represent Iran in an international lawsuit against Israel and his own government in an effort to stop Washington and Tel Aviv from initiating further sanctions against Tehran.

Francis A. Boyle says following Washington's latest ultimatum to Tehran to freeze uranium enrichment within two weeks or face further isolation, Iran needs to act quickly. [Boyle is a professor of international law at the University of Illinois College of Law, known for defending rule of law, opposing imprisonment of the Puerto Rican political prisoners, and defending rights internationally.]

At weekend talks in Geneva, the United States delivered what it describes as a “clear and simple message” that Iran must choose between cooperation or confrontation.

In an email interview with Press TV, Boyle urged Iran to begin drafting lawsuits for presentation to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague before the two-week ultimatum expires.

Q. Precisely what would the charges against the US and Israel be? What are you hoping to achieve?

A. About two years ago Iran contacted me about a proposal I had made to sue the United States, Israel and the European Union (EU)-3 (Britain, France and Germany) at the International Court of Justice in The Hague for their repeated and public threats to launch a military attack upon Iran over its undoubted right under the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) to engage in nuclear reprocessing.

My proposal was that Iran should sue these states immediately, convene an Emergency Hearing by the World Court, and ask the Court to indicate provisional measures of protection on behalf of Iran against the United States, Israel and the EU-3 — basically a temporary restraining order.

I felt that these lawsuits would be able to prevent a military attack against Iran and also prevent the imposition of sanctions against Iran by the United Nations Security Council. In addition, by Iran submitting this entire matter to the World Court, it would make it clear to the entire world who the real culprits are here.

The threat and use of military force clearly violates Article 2(4) of the United Nations Charter. The Charter also mandates the peaceful resolution of international disputes. By filing these lawsuits Iran would prove to the entire world that it intends to resolve this matter peacefully and in accordance with international law.

I notice that just this week Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei publicly stated that he would sue the United States if it attacked Iran. I am proposing that we sue the United States immediately in order to prevent any attack upon or blockade of Iran, which would be an act of war.

Q. Why are you seeing to bring this action in an international court, rather than a domestic US court?

A. This would be a total waste of time. Based upon my prior experience, there is no way a United States court would rule against the United States government on a matter like this.

Q. You are proposing to represent Iran in a court action against the US and Israel - what are you seeking from Tehran - what mandate would they need to give you. Basically, how would this work?

A. Of course if Iran wants me to represent Iran in these lawsuits I would be happy to do so. But given the fact that I am a US national, Iran might prefer to have its own lawyers file these lawsuits. Iran already has a detailed Memorandum of Law from me on these lawsuits. The Iranian lawyers can simply use my Memorandum as they see fit. I would be happy to assist them in whatever way they desire.

Q. The International Criminal Court (ICC) has been in the news recently regarding a prosecution against Sudan's leader, Omar al-Bashir. Explain the difference between the ICJ and the ICC.

A. The International Court of Justice deals with disputes between states, which the nuclear reprocessing dispute is all about. The International Criminal Court deals with the personal criminal responsibility of individuals. It has no authority to rule upon or settle disputes between states, which the ICJ can do.

Q. The US does not recognize the jurisdiction of the ICC - what is its relationship with the ICJ?

A. The ICJ would have jurisdiction to hear lawsuits by Iran against the United States, Israel and the EU-3 irrespective of the ICC.

Q. Israel regularly disregards international court verdicts and UN resolutions (the Separation Wall, settlement expansion etc.) What makes you believe there is value in another court action?

A. Israel has never been sued at the International Court of Justice -- the Wall was only an Advisory Opinion. By suing the United States and Israel together, Iran would make it very clear to the entire world what is really going on here by putting them in cahoots together. As of now the EU-3 are no longer threatening Iran with military force, so I would hold off from suing them at this time. But if they threaten Iran with military force, or support the United States and Israel with their threats, then of course they should be sued too.

Q. Assuming a mandate or commission is given by Tehran for you to represent them, what sort of timeline are we looking at before this goes before a judge, and then a verdict?

A. Based upon my prior experience at the World Court, it would take a few days to put the papers together and file them. We could get an Emergency Hearing by the Court within 2 weeks and an Order of Provisional Measures of Protection on behalf of Iran -- a temporary restraining order against the US and Israel -- within a week thereafter.

I filed the World Court lawsuit for Bosnia against Serbia over genocide on March 19, 1993, had the emergency hearing by the Court on April 1-2, and won the Order for Bosnia on 8 April 1993.

Given the inconclusive results at weekend talks in Geneva and the decision that Iran will be given another two weeks for its final answer, I respectfully submit that Iran should start moving on this process now. The Wall Street Journal has already reported moves for more unilateral, multilateral, and Security Council sanctions against Iran, including a blockade of Iran, which would be an act of war.

At a minimum, Iran should draft the Court documents now, then see what happens after Iran presents its "final offer" in two weeks.

Q. If you achieve positive verdict, how would you expect the verdict to be worded? Are there any sanctions against a state that does not abide by the ruling?

A. I would ask for Iran to be protected from a military attack by the United States and Israel in the most comprehensive language possible, including a blockade of Iran by the United States, a termination of all threats and use of military force, and of all measures of political, diplomatic and economic coercion against Iran.

The Order would go to the Security Council for enforcement.

If the US should exercise its veto, then we could try to take it to the United Nations General Assembly under the Uniting for Peace Resolution, where we would only need a two-thirds vote. In any event, this World Court Order would make it clear to the entire world who is right and who is wrong in this dispute.

Q. You have commented on the levels of rhetoric, what influence could this have on any court action?

A. I fully stand for a peaceful resolution of this dispute by means of diplomacy. But if the United States will not engage in good faith negotiations with Iran, then their and Israel's escalating threat and use of military force against Iran will only make it easier for me to win an Order from the World Court protecting Iran from the United States and Israel and, if necessary, the EU-3

Q. Another timeline question. Assuming this court action is aimed at preventing armed conflict, how urgent is it to commence the proceedings?

A. Apparently, according to CNN today, Iran has two weeks to prepare its final answer. That would be enough time to prepare all these documents. If the talks break down after Iran submits its "final offer," then we could immediately file the lawsuits, ask for an Emergency Hearing by the World Court, and request the Orders protecting Iran.

Back in early 1992, President Bush Sr. had the Sixth Fleet on military maneuvers off the coast of Libya planning for an attack and had US jet fighters penetrating Libyan airspace to provoke an attack over the Lockerbie matter.

We filed similar papers with the World Court on behalf of Libya against the United States and the United Kingdom, asking for an Emergency Hearing by the Court. President Bush Sr. then ordered the Sixth Fleet to stand down. There was no military attack against Libya then or later. Those World Court lawsuits eventually led to a peaceful resolution of the Lockerbie dispute between Libya, the United States and the United Kingdom, which now have normal diplomatic relations. Hopefully the same can be done here by means of these World Court lawsuits.

Q. During an appearance on Press TV's Middle East Today program in April this year you requested backing from Tehran for a court action against Israel on charges of genocide against Israel. Has there been any movement, any response? What is the current status?

A. This proposal is currently pending in the Office of President Ahmadinejad. The suffering of the Palestinians constitutes genocide. I am still willing to file that lawsuit if the President so desires. But given the urgency of the situation, and the threat of a terrible war, it might be best to get these nuclear-related lawsuits against the United States and Israel underway at this time, then act to protect the Palestinians from Israel later. Of course all this is for President Ahmadinejad to decide, not me.

Q. You successfully sued Serbia - but in the political atmosphere at the time, Serbia was widely perceived as the "bad guy" and frankly, the pro-Serbia lobby in the United States is insignificant. These cases are rather different, given popular support for Israel in the US. You will be representing what is widely regarded in the US as an unpopular or even hostile government against your own country and Washington's main ally in the Middle East.

How concerned are you regarding your professional reputation at home? Potentially, how damaging could this be for you - even with a successful outcome?

A. Back in 2004, the FBI/CIA put me on all the US government's so-called "terrorist watch lists" because I refused to become an informant for them on my Arab and Muslim clients, which would have violated their rights under the US Constitution and my ethical obligations as an attorney.

So I am sure there will be further repercussions. But under no circumstance do I want to see a war between Iran and the United States, which could readily degenerate into World War III.

With all due respect to Iran's leaders, they must not underestimate the ruthlessness and cruelty of President Bush and Vice President Cheney, and their Straussian Neo-Conservative advisors when it comes to their willingness to use military force against Iran.

We must do everything in our power to prevent a war and obtain a peaceful resolution of this dispute over nuclear reprocessing that in my opinion can be resolved satisfactorily. These World Court lawsuits will contribute towards a peaceful resolution of this dispute between Iran and the United States, which will then order Israel to stand down.

Latest discussion in the group is around the Forum for the autumn period.    Topics discussed were the roots of war, depriving the government of the power to wage war, not a single youth for war, close experiences on the effects of war on so many families that have loved ones in the armed forces.  There was also an extensive disussion on the criminalisation of people entered into by the whole state apparatus using trial by newspaper.

The military families against the war was  a vital force. The state was trying to become adept at manipualting the tragedieis of the soldiers killed to claim some moral high ground in it indefensible policy to turn so many poor people int its reserve for imperialist aggression.

One question was not just to react to their agenda but to promote ours.  The great strength of the anti-war movement has been to put the government on the defensive to force them to react by placing the opposition of the people to their wars centre stage in the political life of the country.  It could be argued that the most important question facing the people is to have a central strategy to organise to deprive the government of the power to wage these wars.

For the working class and people to achieve their aim of an anti-war government they have to work out how to deprive the government and Parliamentary system of the power to wage war.  At present the government wages war even though it has a sizeable opposition within Parliament.  That sizeable opposition is accomodated with in the pro war agenda.   It has to be remembered Tony Blair carried out his war crimes in invading Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq whilst still claiming to "defend the right of those that oppose him".   Of course as someone said in the disussion Hilter seems a child compared to these modern imperialist politicians in that they are bringing about fascism and war suppressing the people and killing them and destroying their lives all in the name of "British values", "fair play" and "democracy".   

Depriving the government of the power to wage war is a political question of the utmost urgency and importance.  It requires renewal of the political process with anti-war candidates the significant start we have already made. It requires engagement of all the polity but particularly to deny the ruling class it ability to mobilise the working class and people as it reserve army must be paid atttention to.   Not a single youth for imperialist war, not a single worker or intellectual for war production. This is the  fight for an anti-war government.

South Tyneside Stop The War Coalition (STSTWC) meets most Tuesdays from 7.30pm to about 9pm at Trinity House Social Centre or nearby - call in at Social Centre reception for details, or Roger on Phone 07796267722.

The Good News in Iraq (Don’t Count on It)_by Tom Engelhardt

Published on Monday, June 30, 2008 by

On March 19, 2003, as his shock-and-awe campaign against Iraq was being launched, George W. Bush addressed the nation. “My fellow citizens,” he began, “at this hour, American and coalition forces are in the early stages of military operations to disarm Iraq, to free its people and to defend the world from grave danger.” We were entering Iraq, he insisted, “with respect for its citizens, for their great civilization and for the religious faiths they practice. We have no ambition in Iraq, except to remove a threat and restore control of that country to its own people.”

Within weeks, of course, that “great civilization” was being looted, pillaged, and shipped abroad. Saddam Hussein’s Baathist dictatorship was no more and, soon enough, the Iraqi Army of 400,000 had been officially disbanded by L. Paul Bremer, the head of the occupying Coalition Provisional Authority and the President’s viceroy in Baghdad. By then, ministry buildings – except for the oil and interior ministries – were just looted shells. Schools, hospitals, museums, libraries, just about everything that was national or meaningful, had been stripped bare. Meanwhile, in their new offices in Saddam’s former palaces, America’s neoconservative occupiers were already bringing in the administration’s crony corporations – Halliburton and its subsidiary KBR, Bechtel, and others – to finish off the job of looting the country under the rubric of “reconstruction.” Somehow, these “administrators” managed to “spend” $20 billion of Iraq’s oil money, already in the “Development Fund for Iraq,” even before the first year of occupation was over – and to no effect whatsoever. They also managed to create what Ed Harriman in the London Review of Books labeled “the least accountable and least transparent regime in the Middle East.” (No small trick given the competition.)

Before the Sunni insurgency even had a chance to ramp up in 2003, they were already pouring billions of U.S. tax dollars into what would become their massive military mega-bases meant to last a millennium, and, of course, they were dreaming about opening Iraq’s oil industry to the major oil multinationals and to a privatized future as an oil spigot for the West.

On May 1, 2003, six weeks after he had announced his war to the nation and the world, the President landed on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln, an aircraft carrier returning from the Persian Gulf where its planes had just launched 16,500 missions and dropped 1.6 million pounds of ordnance on Iraq. From its flight deck, he spoke triumphantly, against the backdrop of a “Mission Accomplished” banner, assuring Americans that we had “prevailed.” “Today,” he said, “we have the greater power to free a nation by breaking a dangerous and aggressive regime. With new tactics and precision weapons, we can achieve military objectives without directing violence against civilians.” In fact, according to Human Rights Watch, the initial shock-and-awe strikes he had ordered killed only civilians, possibly hundreds of them, without touching a single official of Saddam Hussein’s “regime.”

Who’s Counting Now?

Since that first day of “liberation,” Iraqis have never stopped dying in prodigious numbers. Now, more than five years after the U.S. “prevailed” with such “precision,” a more modest version of the same success story has once again taken the beaches of the mainstream media, if not by storm, then by siege. When it comes to Iraq, the good news is unavoidable. It’s in the air. Not victory exactly, but a slow-motion movement toward a “stable” Iraq, a country with which we might be moderately content.

The President’s surge – those extra 30,000 ground troops sent into Iraq in the first half of 2007 – has, it is claimed, proven the negativity of all the doubters and critics unwarranted. Indeed, it is now agreed, security conditions have improved significantly and in ways “that few thought likely a year ago.”

You already know the story well enough. It turns out that, as in Vietnam many decades ago, the U.S. military is counting like mad. So, for instance, according to the Pentagon, attacks on American and Iraqi troops are down 70% compared to June 2007; IED (roadside bomb) attacks have dropped almost 90% over the same period; in May, for the first time, fewer Americans died in Iraq than in Afghanistan (where the President’s other war, some seven-plus years later, is going poorly indeed); and, above all else, “violence” is down. (”All major indicators of violence in Iraq have dropped by between 40 and 80 percent since February 2007, when President Bush committed an additional 30,000 troops to the war there, the Pentagon reported.”)

Think of this as the equivalent of Vietnam’s infamous “body count,” but in reverse. In a country where the U.S. generally occupies only the land its troops are on, the normal measures of military victory long ago went out the window, so bodies have to stand in. In Vietnam, the question was: How many enemy dead could you tote up? The greater the slaughter, the closer you assumedly were to obliterating the other side (or, at least, its will). As it turned out, by what the grunts dubbed “the Mere Gook Rule” – “If it’s dead and it’s Vietnamese, it’s VC [Vietcong] ” – any body would do in a pinch when it came to the metrics of victory.

In Iraq today, the counting being most widely publicized runs in the opposite direction. Success now can be measured in less deaths; and, by all usual counts, Iraqi deaths have indeed been falling since the height of sectarian violence and ethnic cleansing in the early months of 2007. In part, this has occurred because millions of people have already been driven out of their homes and many neighborhoods, especially in the capital, “cleansed.” At the same time, in Sunni areas, significant numbers of insurgents have joined the Awakening Movement. They have been paid off by the U.S. military to fight al-Qaeda in Iraq, while, assumedly, biding their time until the American presence ebbs to take on “the Persians” – that is, the Shiite (and Kurdish) government embedded in Baghdad’s fortified, American-controlled Green Zone.

As a result, cratered Iraq – a land with at least 50% unemployment, still lacking decent electricity, potable water, hospitals with drugs (or even doctors, so many having fled), or courts with judges (40 of them having been assassinated and many more injured since 2003) or lawyers, many of whom joined the more than two million Iraqis who have gone into exile – is, today, modestly quieter. But don’t be fooled. So many years later, Iraqis are still dying in prodigious numbers, and significant numbers of those dying are doing so at the hands of Americans.

It’s not just the family, including possibly four children under the age of 12, who died last week when a U.S. jet blasted their house in Tikrit (after their father, evidently believing thieves were about, fired shots in the air with a U.S. patrol nearby); or the manager and two female employees of a bank at Baghdad International Airport (”three criminals,” according to a U.S. military statement) killed when their car was shot up by soldiers from a U.S. convoy; or the unarmed civilian, a relative of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who died in an early morning American raid in the southern town of Janaja; or the men, woman, and child in a car “which failed to stop at a [U.S.] checkpoint on the outskirts of Mosul because, according to a U.S. military statement, the two men were armed and one man inside the car made ‘threatening movements’”; or, according to the U.N., the estimated 1,000 dead in Baghdad’s vast, heavily populated Shiite slum of Sadr City, mostly civilians, 60% women and children, in fighting in April and May in which U.S. troops and air power played a significant role.

In fact, one great difference between the “liberation” moment of 2003 and the “stabilization” moment of 2008 is simply that what began as “regime change” – missiles and bombs theoretically meant for that Saddamist deck of 55 leadership cards – then developed into a war against a Sunni insurgency, and is now functionally a war against Shiites as well. Particularly targeted of late has been the movement headed by cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, a fierce opponent of the American occupation, who is especially popular among the impoverished Shiite masses in Baghdad and southern Iraq. In Shiite areas, his party, according to a U.S. intelligence estimate, would probably win upwards of 60% of the votes in the upcoming provincial elections, if they were fairly conducted. In recent months, the U.S. military in “support” of its Iraqi allies in the Maliki government has fought fierce battles in both the southern oil city of Basra and Sadr City against Sadr’s militia, with the usual sizeable numbers of civilian casualties.

In other words, despite all the talk about onrushing “stability,” looked at another way, the U.S. faces an ever more complicated and spreading, if intermittent, war. With it has gone another, somewhat less publicized kind of body count. Consider, for instance, a small passage from a recent piece by New York Times correspondent Thom Shanker on inter-service rivalries in Iraq. The U.S. Army, he reports, is now ramping up its own air arm (just as it did in the Vietnam era). In the last year, it has launched Task Force ODIN, the name being an acronym for “observe, detect, identify and neutralize,” but also the über-god of Norse mythology (and perhaps a reminder of the godlike attitudes those in the air can develop towards those being “neutralized” on the ground).

With its headquarters at a base near Tikrit, Saddam Hussein’s old hometown, the unit consists of only “about 300 people and 25 aircraft.” Shanker calls it “a Rube Goldberg collection of surveillance and communications and attack systems, a mash-up of manned and remotely piloted vehicles, commercial aircraft with high-tech infrared sensors strapped to the fuselage, along with attack helicopters and infantry.”

Here’s the money paragraph of his piece with its triumphalist body count:

“The work of the new aviation battalion was initially kept secret, but Army officials involved in its planning say it has been exceptionally active, using remotely piloted surveillance aircraft to call in Apache helicopter strikes with missiles and heavy machine gun fire that have killed more than 3,000 adversaries in the last year and led to the capture of almost 150 insurgent leaders.”

We have no idea how that figure of more than 3,000 dead Iraqis was gathered (given that we’re talking about an air unit), or what percentage of those dead were actually civilians, but certainly some among them died in the recent fighting in heavily populated Sadr City. In any case, consider that number for a moment: One modest-sized Army air unit/one year = 3,000+ dead Iraqis.

Now, consider that the Air Force in Iraq in that same year, according to Shanker, “quadrupled its number of sorties and increased its bombing tenfold.” Consider that significant numbers of those sorties have been over heavily populated cities, or that, according to the Washington Post, between late March and late May, more than 200 powerful Hellfire missiles were fired into Baghdad (mainly, undoubtedly, into the Sadr City area); or that the unmanned aerial vehicles, the Predator (armed with two Hellfire missiles) and the larger, far more deadly Reaper (armed with up to 14 of those missiles), carried out, according to Shanker, 64 and 32 attacks, respectively, in Iraq and Afghanistan between the beginning of March and June.

And we’re not even considering here U.S. military operations on the ground in Basra earlier in the year (special forces units were sent into the city when the Iraqi military and police seemed to be buckling), or in campaigns in Sunni or mixed areas to the north of Baghdad, or simply in ongoing everyday operations. Although individual body counts are now regularly announced for specific operations (not the case in the early years in Iraq), who knows what the overall carnage amounts to. One thing can be said however: The pacification campaign in Iraq really hasn’t flagged since the Sunni insurgency gained strength in late 2003. Reformulated by General David Petraeus in 2007, it’s just the sort of effort that occupying Great Powers have long been known to apply to rebellious possessions.

Iraq as a Surge-athon

To fully assess just what lurks beneath the “good news” from Iraq, including those 3,000 “adversaries” that Task Force ODIN “neutralized,” we would have to do a different kind of counting of which we’re incapable, not because no one’s doing it, but because we have minimal access to the numbers. Let me try, however, to outline briefly some of what can be known – and then you can judge the good news for yourself.

American troop strength in Iraq now stands at about 146,000. That’s perhaps 16,000 more than in January 2007 just before the surge began. It’s also about 16,000 more than in April 2003 when Baghdad was taken. According to Lolita Baldor of the Associated Press, the latest Pentagon plans are to order about 30,000 U.S. troops into Iraq in 2009, which would keep troop levels at or above that 140,000 mark.

In addition, a vast force of private contractors, armed and unarmed, is in the country. There is no way to know how many of these hired hands and hired guns are actually there, but it’s a reasonable guess that they add up to more – possibly substantially more – than the troops on hand.

Since February 2007 in the U.S., only one “surge” has been discussed, almost nonstop – those 30,000 ground troops the President ordered largely into the Baghdad area. A surprising number of other surges have, however, been underway, even if barely noted in the U.S. These add up to a remarkable Bush administration urge to surge that puts American policy in Iraq in quite a different light.

Among these surges, for instance, has been a political surge of U.S. “advisors” and “mentors” to the Iraqi government, police, and military. In another of his superb reports for the New York Review of Books, “Embedded in Iraq,” Michael Massing says that the main elements of this “little known political surge were spelled out in a classified ‘Joint Campaign Plan’ completed in May 2007.” It represented, he writes, a “sharp expansion.”

“Specialists from Treasury and Justice, Commerce and Agriculture were assigned to government ministries to help draw up budgets and weed out sectarian elements. The Agency for International Development and the Army Corps of Engineers set up projects to boost nutrition and reinforce dams. Provincial Reconstruction Teams were stationed in Baghdad and elsewhere to help repair infrastructure, improve water and electrical systems, and stimulate the economy.”

We know as well that American advisers are now deeply involved with local government bodies in contested areas; that American advisers, evidently hired from private contractors, are embedded in the key interior, defense, and oil ministries; that advisers, also hired from private contractors, are helping the Iraqi police and that a new multiyear contract with DynCorp International, which already has 700 civilian police advisers in the country, will raise that number above 800. Their mission: “to advise, train and mentor the Iraqi Police Service, Ministry of Interior, and Department of Border Enforcement.”

In this period, even academics have surged into Iraq as the military has embedded anthropologists, political scientists, and sociologists from the “Human Terrain System” in military units to advise on local customs and “cultural understanding.” One of them, a political scientist completing her Ph.D. at Johns Hopkins University, was recently killed in a bombing in Sadr City.

We know that more than 20,000 Iraqis are now in two U.S. prisons, Camp Bucca in the south of the country and state-of-the-art Camp Cropper on the outskirts of Baghdad. Both of these have been continually upgraded. In this period, though, it seems that a surge in prison building (and assumedly prisoners) has also been underway. The Washington Post’s Walter Pincus reports that a new “Theater Internment Facility Reconciliation Center” – i.e. prison – is being built near Camp Taji, 12 miles north of Baghdad. A “new contract calls for providing food for ‘up to 5,000 detainees’ [there] and will also cover 150 Iraqi nationals, who apparently will work at the facility.” Another “reconciliation center” is to be opened at Ramadi in al-Anbar Province.

All of this is, again, being done through private contractors, including a contract for some company to “guard” the “property” of up to 60,000 Iraqi detainees. (”The contracted personnel will be responsible for the accountability, inventory, and storage of all property.”) This, reports Sharon Weinberger of Wired’s Danger Room blog, is evidently in anticipation of a “surge of approximately 15,000 detainees in the upcoming six months.”

In addition, the Iraqi military, with its embedded American advisors, remains almost totally dependent on the U.S. military. According to a recent Government Accountability Office report, based on “a classified study of Iraqi Army battalions,” just 10% of them “are capable of operating independently in counterinsurgency operations and even then they rely on American support.” For logistics, planning, supplies – almost everything that makes a military function – the Iraqi military relies on the U.S. military and would be helpless without it.

More than five years after Baghdad fell, there still is no real Iraqi air force. The Iraqi military now depends ever more on the quick and constant application of American air power – and U.S. air power in the region has surged in the last year and a half. The use of drones like the Predator and Reaper, whose pilots are stationed at Nellis Air Force Base outside Las Vegas and other distant spots, has also surged, doubling since the beginning of 2007. Meanwhile, new machines, including a “platoon” of 30 of the Army’s experimental Micro Air Vehicles, which can hover “in one place [and] stare down with ‘electro-optical and infrared cameras,’” are being rushed into action in Iraq, which is increasingly a laboratory for the testing of the latest U.S. weaponry.

In addition, for unknown billions of dollars, the upgrading of American bases in that country, especially the mega-bases, continues, while possibly the largest embassy on the planet, a vast citadel inside Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone meant to house 1,000 “diplomats” (and large numbers of guards and support staff of every sort), is nearly finished.

Finally, among the various surges of these last 18 months, there has been a surge in Bush administration demands for an American future in Iraq. In ongoing negotiations for a Status of Forces Agreement, U.S. negotiators have demanded access to nearly 60 bases, control of Iraqi air space to 29,000 feet, the right to arrest Iraqis without explanation or permission, the right to bring troops into and out of the country without permission or notification, the right to launch military operations on the same basis, and immunity from prosecution in Iraqi courts for troops and private contractors.

In other words, wherever you might have looked over the last year or more, a surge-athon was under way. It was meant to solidify the American position in Iraq for the long term as an occupying power. Not withdrawing or drawing down, but ramping up has been the order of the day, no matter what was being debated, discussed, or written about in the United States.

That ramping up makes some sense of the “good news” and “stability” of this moment. Among other things, it’s hardly surprising that weakly armed guerrilla forces (whether Shiite or Sunni), when faced with such a display of power have no desire to take it on frontally.

Given the situation of Iraq more than five years after the invasion, to speak of this urge to surge and its results as “success” or as “good news” is essentially obscene. Think of Iraq instead as a cocked gun. It’s loaded, it’s held to your head, and things are improving only to the extent that, recently, it hasn’t gone off.

Iraq itself is wreckage beyond anything that could have been imagined back in March 2003; liberation is, by now, a black joke; the Bush administration’s “benchmarks” for Iraqi success remain largely unmet, and still we keep “liberating” that land, still we keep killing Iraqis in prodigious numbers. A Vietnam-style body count, once banished by an administration that wanted no reminders of the last disastrous American counterinsurgency war, is now back with a vengeance, even if violence is down. These days, in its statements, the U.S. military is counting scalps almost everywhere there’s fighting in Iraq.

A Great Lie of History

“We have no ambition in Iraq, except to remove a threat and restore control of that country to its own people.” This was one of the great lies of history. And all the while, the price of oil – the one product Iraq has and, in present conditions, can’t get at adequately – continues to soar. There is no “good news” in any of this, unless you happen to be an undertaker, nor is there any end to it in sight.

Of the political surge in Iraq – all those advisers and Provincial Reconstruction Teams pouring into the country – Michael Massing has written bluntly: “t has been an utter failure. ‘Dysfunctional’ is how one visiting adviser described it, citing bitter inter-agency battles, micromanagement from Washington, and an acute mismatch between the skills of the advisers and the needs of the Iraqi government.”

The same could be said – and someday undoubtedly will be – of the rest of the U.S. effort, including the much lauded recent counterinsurgency part of it.

So let me offer this bit of advice. When you read the news, skip the “good” part. The figures demonstrating “improvement” may (or may not) be perfectly real, but they also represent an effort to dominate (as well as divide and conquer) in an essentially colonial fashion; worse yet, it’s an effort barely held together by baling wire and reliant on the destruction of ever more Iraqi neighborhoods.

If you want a prediction, here it is and it couldn’t be simpler: This cannot end well. Not for Washington. Not for the U.S. military. Not for Americans. And, above all, not for Iraqis.

Tom Engelhardt, co-founder of the American Empire Project, runs the Nation Institute’s The World According to TomDispatch: America in the New Age of Empire (Verso, 2008), a collection of some of the best pieces from his site, has just been published. Focusing on what the mainstream media hasn’t covered, it is an alternative history of the mad Bush years. A brief video in which Engelhardt discusses American mega-bases in Iraq can be viewed by clicking here.

[Note for readers: This piece could profitably be read in conjunction with Juan Cole’s recent post, “The Real State of Iraq
,” for a full and thoroughly devastating picture of what American policy has meant in that country.]

Copyright 2008 Tom Engelhardt

General Discussion / Re: Rules of the Forum
« on: July 01, 2008, 10:28:45 PM »
Recently had an interesting dicussion about this. Question of whether you should have rules or not. It is said that there shouldn't be any rules and that it is the ruling circles that make the rules and we are better off as a movement without rules or in this case a forum without rules. I think that this is looking at the question upside down because it is the ruling circles that break all rules - ours and their own that they have been forced to accept.  I would hold that once the content is decided then the rules that protect that content must be fought for. It is interesting to note that in society at large the ruling circles enact laws to break the rules that we have fought for to protect societies civilised values. So , without a modern constitution that protects legal  rights, for example, the ruling class can come along and break that with their laws for incarcerating somone without trial as they are doing breakind hundreds of years of habeus corpus.  Let alone their continuous breaking of the rights of people in a modern society  to a livelihood, to housing etc.  So, the question is fighting to defend and give rise to rules that protect the civilised values of the people is an important part of the struggle  to defeat the activities of the ruling circles to impose their reactionary policies.  They break the rule of law especially those laws that in some way protect the people.  As we have seen war criminals like Bush, Blair and his cabinet colleagues become protected by such law breaking of the state they control. 

So, I think it is important to have rules for our discussion which facilitate a forum like atmosphere where people can elaborate their views without fear or favour on all matters to strenghten the anti-war movement.  Having such rules is a blow to the warmongers.

Newcastle Stop the War / Durham Miners Gala
« on: June 25, 2008, 08:57:21 PM »
Join the Tyneside Stop the War Coalition stall at the Durham Miners Galahttp://:)

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