Friday, March 21, 2008


Anyone who knows anything about the Middle East knows that it was only a matter of time until the fragile peace the United States has been bragging so much about was going to collapse.

The first signs of the peace collapsing took place on Friday as Shiite militia members battled with the Iraqi military. There were also other incidents of peace unraveling in other parts of Iraq as various warring militias begin to battle with each other again.

Shiite clashes fray truce
By ROBERT H. REID, Associated Press Writer 53 minutes ago;_ylt=AgK0kKosXRuTiLyvg5Uzf1lX6GMA

Iraqi security forces battled Shiite gunmen south of Baghdad on Friday, raising tensions among rival factions of the country's majority religious community and straining a seven-month cease-fire proclaimed by the biggest Shiite militia.

Also Friday, an American soldier was killed and four others were wounded in a rocket or mortar attack south of the capital, the military said. At least 3,993 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the war five years ago, according to an Associated Press count. The statement did not provide more details about the location; the area has a volatile mix of Sunni and Shiite extremists.

The fighting in Kut, 100 miles southeast of Baghdad, broke out Thursday night when factions of the Mahdi Army, led by anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, attacked checkpoints throughout the city, officials and witnesses said.

Two policemen and two gunmen were killed during the clashes in Kut, which ended Friday, according to Interior Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Abdul-Karim Khalaf.

Also Friday, U.S. and Iraqi forces raided neighborhoods of southern Baghdad and Diwaniyah, 80 miles south of the capital, detaining suspected members of the Mahdi Army, Iraqi police said.
Al-Sadr proclaimed a cease-fire last August and extended it indefinitely last month. But the firebrand cleric, who led two uprisings against U.S.-led forces in 2004, has authorized his followers to defend themselves if attacked.

Al-Sadr's supporters have complained that the Shiite-led government has used the cease-fire to accelerate a crackdown against their movement in Baghdad and the Shiite heartland south of the capital.


3993DoD Confirmation List
Latest Coalition Fatality: Mar 21, 2008
03/21/08 MNF: Coalition force Soldiers attacked by IDF (Baghdad)
A Coalition force Soldier was killed from wounds sustained from indirect fire south of Baghdad March 21. Four Soldiers were also wounded in the attack.


The economy may have passed up the Iraq war as the most important topic with older voters, but not on the minds of students at college campuses around the United States. The Associated Press and The Real News Network dispatched reporters to various colleges and universities to take the pulse of what college and university students feel is the most important issue facing voters in the Presidential election this November.

In the video here:
Florida International University students are questioned about the Iraq War and the overwhelming number of students said they know someone who is in the military and is or has been deployed to Iraq.


An investigation carried out by GuardianFilms for Channel 4 uncovers how thousands of Iraqis employed at $10 a day by the US to take on al-Qaida are threatening to go on strike because they say they have been used by the 'Americans to do their dirty work' and haven't been paid.

80,000 Angry Men. Is the US Surge collapsing? Iraqis employed by the US to take on al-Qaida are threatening to strikeFriday March 21st, 2008

To view video of unrest in Iraq click on the link below:

Video courtesy of The Real News Network


This short video was taken just three weeks ago and shows what it is like to be on patrol in Iraq and what happens when a U.S. Army unit comes under fire. Warning: The video contains graphic language. Click on link below to view YouTube video:


WASHINGTON - The U.S. military recorded 2,688 cases of sexual assault involving its staff last year, 60 percent of which were allegations of rape, a Department of Defense report said Friday.
The majority of the cases -- 72 percent -- involved military victims, the report covering the period from October 2006 to September 2007 said.

Investigations resulted in 181 courts martial, while 201 cases resulted in non-judicial punishment and 218 cases led to administrative action or discharges.

Some 1,040 completed probes resulted in no action, either due to insufficient evidence or because those responsible were civilians, foreigners or unidentified.

A total of 112 reports of sexual assault were reported among forces serving in Iraq, and 19 cases among those serving in Afghanistan.

Among complaints by military staff, where the alleged victim agreed to an outside criminal investigation, 868 (57 percent) reported rape, 91 forcible sodomy -- defined as anal or oral sex -- and 551 indecent assault.

Of the 705 cases where victims asked to remain anonymous and for no further action to be taken, 489 (69 percent) involved rape, 39 alleged forcible sodomy and 125 indecent assault.
The report also recorded allegations by civilians against members of the military. Of a total of 574 cases reported last year, 391 involved rape, 33 forcible sodomy and 150 indecent assault.
Direct comparisons cannot be made with last year's figures because the department has since changed the reporting period from the calendar year to the fiscal year. However, the report notes the figures have remained broadly stable.

"The Department of Defense remains committed to eliminating sexual assault from military service," it said, citing a "robust" prevention and response policy, improved reporting procedures, better training and increased care provision.

A Department of Defense survey also released Friday revealed that 34 percent of women on active duty and six percent of men have experienced sexual harrassment, while 6.8 percent of women and 1.8 percent of men experienced unwanted sexual contact.

The problem was more widespread among women serving in the army, as was the problem of sexual discrimination, while unwanted sexual advances among men were more common in the navy, the 2006 gender relations survey reveals.

The majority of respondents who said they had had unwanted sexual contact did not report it, mainly because they felt uncomfortable doing so.

However, the vast majority were aware of complaint procedures and most expected reports of sexual harassment to be taken seriously. Some 93 percent also said they had received training on the subject in the past year.


Journey to Baghdad

Baghdad is more divided than ever - A short film courtesy of Guardian Films

On the fifth anniversary of the US/British-led invasion of Iraq, the Guardian's award-winning foreign correspondent Ghaith Abdul-Ahad has teamed up with ITV News to bring us a series of extraordinary films for the ITV News and In these unprecedented films he, as an Iraqi, goes where foreign journalists can no longer go - to the heart of Baghdad's most dangerous sectarian zones. He uncovers Iraq's own killing fields where only the "killers and the killed" can visit; and he reveals the desperate truth of the trafficked children of Iraq.

See this short gripping video by clicking on link below:


In the final instalment of Ghaith Abdul-Ahad's series of films to mark the fifth anniversary of the start of the Iraq war, he travels to an orphanage in Sadr city, where children speak of their hatred of America. A generation of Iraqi children have been radicalised and anti-westernised by the war. Click on link below to watch this gut-wrenching video of the lost generation of Iraqi children brought on the by the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq.


The war is estimated to have already cost Washington more than 400 billion dollars -- making it the most expensive conflict in history. And what have American taxpayer got for their money? Critics say that while the American taxpayer carried the burden of the Iraq war cost, US oil companies (and the American politicians affiliated with them) were the greatest beneficiaries of the invasion (if we exclude the US arms industry).

Brutal war on Iraq enters sixth yearBaghdadis say US invasion brought Iraq types of killings, terrorism country never knew before.

BAGHDAD - The US-led war on Iraq that toppled president Saddam Hussein entered its sixth year on Thursday with millions of Iraqis still battling daily chaos and rampant bloodshed.

On March 20, 2003, US warplanes dropped the first bombs on Baghdad to announce an invasion that would within three weeks topple Saddam's regime and leave US forces in charge of a people resentful and rebellious against their occupation.

Five years on, Iraqis are in a state of civil war and US forces face daily attacks from insurgents.
The war has killed more than 4,000 US and allied soldiers and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians -- between 104,000 and 223,000 died between March 2003 and June 2006 alone, according to the World Health Organisation.

"The war has been an unlimited disaster in terms of US foreign policy, in terms of stability in Iraq and in the Middle East," said Joost Hiltermann, Iraq expert with the International Crisis Group.

"I can only hope the US finds a way to navigate itself out of the mess without allowing Iraq to fall apart."

As the conflict entered its sixth year, US President George W. Bush once again defended his decisions that have already cost the administration more than 400 billion dollars in Iraq.
Bush acknowledged that the war has "come at a high cost in lives and treasure," but defended both the decision to invade and to boost the number of US troops in Iraq last year.
"The answers are clear to me: removing Saddam Hussein from power was the right decision -- and this is a fight America can and must win," he said in a speech at the Pentagon, US military headquarters.

Hours after his speech, Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden, in a video message, expressed determination to fight US in Iraq and Afghanistan.

He said the "savage acts" of the US-led military coalition in Iraq and Afghanistan "haven't ended the war, but rather (have) increased our determination to cling to our right, avenge our people and expel the invaders from our country."

Baghdadis too are not convinced of a possible victory in Iraq.

Abu Fares al-Daraji, a tobacco shop owner in Baghdad said Americans "brought our way things we never knew (before) like terrorism and the killings we see on the streets."

Anti-war activists are also not impressed and launched sit-ins and marches across the United States demanding an immediate withdrawal of US soldiers.

"This war needs to end and it needs to end now," said Leslie Cagan, national coordinator of United for Peace and Justice.

Bush has taken heart from signs that the bloodshed in Iraq has fallen, but even the commander of US troops, General David Petraeus, admits that Baghdad has made insuffienct progress towards national reconciliation.

"Scoring a military victory is easy, but a political victory is more difficult to achieve," said Mustapha Alani, director of security studies at the Dubai-based Gulf Research Centre.
He said Washington had dismantled Saddam's regime and was now "unable to put it back together".

The day-to-day reality on the ground is grim.

The International Committee of the Red Cross, in its latest report, said the plight of millions of Iraqis who still have little or no access to clean water, sanitation or health care was the "most critical in the world".

Insurgents continue to carry out spectacular attacks.

On Tuesday, at a national unity conference -- undermined by a boycott from two key parliamentary blocs -- Shiite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki boasted that Iraq's sectarian civil war was over.

On Wednesday he visited, for the first time since becoming premier, Baghdad's Sunni bastion of Adhamiyah. There he promised the Sunni Arabs jobs as a reward for their fight against Al-Qaeda.

Later Wednesday, Iraq's presidency council approved a law to hold provincial elections, a key demand of Washington to boost national unity.

The economy, the main concern of Iraqis after security, is also a wreck. Unemployment is running at between 25 and 50 percent of the workforce, according to government figures.
Oil exports are the country's main money-earner. Iraqi officials say production is at 2.9 million barrels a day, but oil analysts believe it is really around 2.2 million.

Public services like water and electricity have yet to be fully restored, despite billions of dollars having been spent on often badly managed reconstruction projects.

Iraq's parliament has been paralysed by competition between parties driven by sectarian conflicts, as the US-designed parliament was divided according to sectarian lines.
Last year the US embassy in Baghdad documented a high level of corruption at all levels of government, and questioned the Maliki administration's willingness to crack down on crooked practices.

An unusual charge from Washington which critics say is deeply involved – if not in control – of the corruption in Iraq.