Tuesday, February 19, 2008


All the talk coming from the Bush White House and FOX NEWS about how troops in Iraq will be drawndown apparently was just a smokescreen.

General David Petraeus, who is in charge of U.S. forces in Iraq, is quoted in the MARINE CORPS TIMES http://www.marinecorpstimes.com/news/2008/02/Army_Petraeus_080218w/ that the withdrawal of U.S. troops will not be as fast as the Bush White House and FOX NEWS said it was going to be.

Violence in Iraq is definitely on the rise.

Also, the Marines and Army have been having difficulty in meeting recruitment goals.

Many of the troops in Iraq are now on their fourth and fifth rotation to the war zone and the National Guard and Reserves are also stretched to the breaking point.

Adding to the confusion the military faces, the Taliban in Afghanistan is showing signs of reconstituting itself. This week alone there were three suicide bombings in Afghanistan that claimed the lives of almost 200 Afghan citizens.

By Bill Corcoran, editor of CORKSPHERE,
http://corksphere.blogspot.com/, the blog that bring readers the latest developments in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Petraeus backs slower drawdown from Iraq

By Sean D. Naylor - Staff WriterPosted : Tuesday Feb 19, 2008 13:40:13 EST


The U.S. military commander in Iraq said today that while “there’s every intent” to continue reducing the size of the U.S. force there after the last of the brigade combat teams that constituted the “surge” returns home this summer, it would be “sensible and prudent” to pause the drawdown once the surge units redeploy.

Gen. David Petraeus said he had discussed the issue with Defense Secretary Robert Gates, U.S. Central Command head Adm. William Fallon, as well as with the chairman and the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Michael Mullen and Marine Gen. James Cartwright.

“The consensus is that when you have withdrawn over one quarter of your combat forces – it’s literally a quarter of our brigade combat teams plus two Marine battalions and the Marine expeditionary unit – that it would be sensible and prudent to have a period of consolidation, perhaps some force adjustments and evaluation before continuing with further reductions,” said Petraeus during a telephone interview.

There is “every intent” to further reduce forces once the departure of the surge forces is complete in July, but the senior leaders agreed that further reductions ought to be based on conditions in Iraq once the surge forces have left, he added.

“So there should be some decision points, once the dust has settled from all those reductions, at which you assess the situation and determine recommendations for additional reductions,” he said. However, he said, U.S. leaders had yet to determine what decision point might be.

“We’re still doing the analysis to lay out how best and when best to make recommendations on further reductions,” he said.

Petraeus listed a series of factors that will influence any decisions on further withdrawals, including how enemy forces react to the departure of the surge units; local and national political developments; local and national economic developments that might “help cement some of the security gains,” as well as the prospect of elections in the early fall.

The general said that any notion that the debate over whether to pause the drawdown after the surge units leave was pitting him against the Joint Chiefs was “a vast oversimplification” of the situation.

“I very much understand the strain and the sacrifice that these long deployments have required, he said, adding that he and his family had “first-hand knowledge” of those sacrifices as he estimated that by the time he next briefs Congress in April he will have been deployed 52 months since 2001.

“We all want to reduce that strain and increase dwell time” for units at home station, he said.


President Bush and Fox News continue to brag about the gains "the surge" has brought to Baghdad, Iraq, but what they don't talk about is the critical nature of life in the capital city.

As we reported earlier, most of the doctors have left Irag and water and electricity are at a premium in Baghdad.

Unemployment is still one of the biggest problems in Iraq and many young Iraqi men are joining the security forces just to earn a paycheck.

Iraq is NOT getting back to normal. Car bombs, suicide bombings and the decapitating of Iraqi citizens is going on everyday in Iraq.

Reported by Bill Corcoran, editor of CORKSPHERE,
http://corksphere.blogspot.com/ a blog dedicated to theTRUTH about Iraq and Afghanistan.

Half of Baghdad Still Without Water
Ahmad Raheema, Azzaman. Posted February 18, 2008.


Despite the talk of progress, Iraq remains a nightmare.

Power failures and maintenance have disrupted running water supplies to almost half of the capital, Baghdad, home to nearly 6 million people.

A Baghdad Municipality source said the project supplying drinking water to Rasafa, the eastern half of Baghdad, was temporarily idle.

The source, refusing to be named, said running water supplies may not resume for a few days.
He attributed the stoppage, which has caused large-scale popular resentment, to blackouts which have recently even affected essential utilities like water.

The stoppage has led to the closure of bakeries and restaurants in Rasafa, aggravating the suffering of Baghdad residents.

Water resumed intermittently and in inadequate quantities through household taps for half a day after a three-stoppage on Thursday.

Then the taps dried once again.


Iraq once had one of the best medical systems in the world, but when the U.S. military invaded Iraq in 2003 many of the top doctors and nurses fled to neighboring countries like Syria, Iran and Jordan.

The "brain drain" has been very hard on the Iraqi people who now suffer through a war without end and no means of getting treatment for themselves or their children.

President Bush and his mouthpiece FOX NEWS can talk until they are blue in the face about the success of "the surge," but the reality of life in Iraq is a far different story.

Along with a shortage of electricity and water, the Iraqi people also are faced with a shortage of medical people to attend to their family health problems.

Commentary by Bill Corcoran, editor of CORKSPHERE,
http://corksphere.blogspot.com/, a blog that brings readers the very latest on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan sans the filter of the Bush White House and FOX NEWS.

Iraqi Medical System Wrecked by War

By LORI HINNANT – 17 hours ago


BAGHDAD (AP) — Already a troubled system, Iraqi medical care has fallen to the brink of collapse since the U.S.-led invasion five years ago.

Scores of doctors have been slain, cancer patients have to hunt down their own drugs — even IV fluid is in short supply. On Tuesday, a former deputy health minister and the head of the ministry's security force will stand trial, a year after they were accused of letting Shiite death squads use ambulances and government hospitals to carry out kidnappings and killings.
Specialists are hard to find. At one point, Baghdad — a city of more than 5 million — had no neurosurgeon, said Dr. Hussein al-Hilli, director of the Ibn Albitar Hospital in Baghdad.

"This was something that was horrible because we had many head injuries, many spinal injuries," al-Hilli said. He described "big shortages of drugs, big shortages of everything" — including IV fluid. "This simple thing, we don't have."

Like so many areas of life in Iraq, the health care crisis is vast and complex, and there is no quick solution to improve conditions for doctors and patients.

According to figures from the Iraqi Health Ministry released earlier this year, 618 medical employees, including 132 doctors, as well as medics and other health care workers, have been killed nationwide since 2003, among the professionals from many fields caught up in Iraq's sectarian violence.

Hundreds, possibly thousands, of other medical personnel are believed to have fled to Iraq's northern semiautonomous Kurdistan region and neighboring countries.

Even with the security gains of the past several months across Iraq, it is still dangerous for doctors and their families if they dare step out of heavily guarded hospital compounds.

Drugs supplies are so low that Iraqis hospitalized for illnesses as serious as cancer are asked to track down their own medicine.

"When we need medicine, we go directly to private pharmacies," said Ahmed Khalil, the 38-year-old owner of an auto repair shop in Fallujah. "We know we're not going to get any from Fallujah hospital."
And when pharmacy shelves are bare, Iraqis turn to the black market.

"Before the invasion, we got our share of medicine through government-owned medicine depots," said a Baghdad pharmacist, who spoke about on condition of anonymity because he feared reprisal. He said hospitals and clinics get some drugs from the medical depots, but it's rarely enough for the number of people in need.

"Sometimes we get medicine stolen by employees who work at the depots or at hospitals," he said.

At worst, the black-market drugs are dubious knockoffs, according to patients, doctors and pharmacists alike.

The war has taken a special toll on hospitals.

Fallujah, site of one of the deadliest battles between U.S. troops and militants west of Baghdad, is slowly rebuilding as violence ebbs, but memories of the danger are acute at the city's main hospital.

"Doctors would concentrate most of the time on treating people wounded in U.S. bombings or clashes between insurgents and U.S. forces. Other patients got little attention," said one doctor at the hospital, who also declined to be identified because he also feared for his safety. "We were beaten by gunmen if we failed to save their wounded fellows."

Jassim Naseef, 52, took his pregnant wife to a private clinic three months ago, paying 20 times what the public hospital would have charged for the birth of their son: $247 compared with $12. The hospital wards, he complained, were dirty and lacked electricity.

"I chose the expensive private clinic in order to ensure that my wife and my son got the best medical care," he said.

The American military and non-governmental organizations such as the Iraqi Red Crescent do a great deal to help, al-Hilli and others said, by bringing in supplies and advisers and helping train medical staff still versed in 1970s-style medicine.

Al-Hilli also has been buoyed by the Iraqi government announcing a plan to build more hospitals. He said no new hospitals had been built since 1986, at the height of the Iran-Iraq war, more than two decades ago.

Yet there are still major problems. Iraq's Health Ministry has been in almost constant flux since the war started. Each minister has stayed "eight months or seven months or 11 months," al-Hilli said.
Then, there are the arrests of former Deputy Health Minister Hakim al-Zamili and Brig. Gen. Hameed al-Shimmari, who was in charge of the ministry's security force. Soldiers stormed their offices last February in separate raids.

U.S. officials had been complaining that radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's followers were transforming hospitals into bases for his Mahdi militia and — were diverting medicine from state clinics to health care facilities run by the cleric's movement.

The clinics helped al-Sadr build a powerful nationwide political movement modeled in part on the Shiite Hezbollah militia in Lebanon.

There was another ominous development earlier this month, when the acting head of al-Rashad psychiatric hospital was arrested by the U.S. military in connection with the possible exploitation of mentally impaired women by al-Qaida in Iraq, presumably the suicide bombers who destroyed two pet markets in Baghdad and killed nearly 100 people.

The U.S. military wouldn't speculate on a motive but noted at the time of the arrest that al-Qaida often uses threats or extortion to get what it wants, which could possibly put the death of the former director, Dr. Ibrahim Mohammed Ajil, in a slightly different light.

He was gunned down on his way home from work in December.