Wednesday, April 9, 2008


General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker have come and gone and everything is status quo in the Iraq war. And the saddest part of their dog 'n pony show before Congress and anyone who cared to watch the hearings on TV is that NOTHING is going to change in the foreseeable future in Iraq.

The US military will be in Iraq FOREVER unless someone has the guts to pull the plug on this idiotic war and let the Iraqis sort out everything for themselves.

I'm sick to death of hearing how Iraq will turn into a quagmire if we pull out. Iraq is a quagmire NOW and pulling out isn't going to make a particle of difference.

Who is going to be the LAST soldier to die for Bush's horrendous foreign policy blunder? I doubt anyone reading this right now will be around by the time the LAST US soldier is killed in Iraq. McCain wants our troops in Iraq for another 100 or a 1,000 years, but ONLY if they are not getting killed or wounded. Who in their right mind can make that kind of promise about Iraq? It is much too volatile to say nobody is going to be killed or wounded in Iraq.

There have already been 28 US soldiers KILLED in the first nine days of April. What is changing in Iraq that will change that? The answer, of course, is NOTHING is changing. It is only getting worse every single day in Iraq with no light at the end of the tunnel.

On Thursday, President Bush will boast about reducing tours in Iraq from 15 months to 12 months, but here is the HOOKER. This does NOT apply to troops already in IRAQ. The order would only be for fresh troops going to IRAQ and there are NO fresh troops to go to IRAQ. So the troops that are in Iraq NOW will NOT have their tours reduced from 15 months to 12 months. It is another scheme by the Bush administration to pull the wool over the eyes of the American public and at the same time give the shaft to the men and women who are currently in Iraq.

The shelf life of the Petraeus/Crocker hearing was well within the 24-hour news cycle. It died overnight and so did any hopes for ending this debacle in Iraq.

I blame the mainstream media in the United States as much as I blame the Bush administration. The mainstream media have become willing partners in this endless war and nobody cares.

Editorial comment by BILL CORCORAN, editor of CORKSPHERE.

Petraeus's Betrayal

By Robert Scheer, Truthdig
Posted on April 9, 2008, Printed on April 9, 2008

General Betray Us? Of course he has. can hardly be expected to recycle its slogan from last September, when Gen. David Petraeus testified in support of escalating the U.S. war in Iraq, given the hysterical denunciations that worthy group received at the time. But it was right then -- as it would be to repeat the charge now.

By undercutting the widespread support for getting out of Iraq, Petraeus did indeed betray the American public, siding with an enormously unpopular president who wants to stay the course in Iraq for personal and political reasons that run contrary to genuine national security interests. Once again, the president is passing the buck to the uniformed military to justify continuing a ludicrous imperial adventure, and the good general has dutifully performed.

So why are we surprised? Why do we expect the generals to lead us on the path to peace when that is the professional task of statesmen and not warriors? It is an abdication of civilian control of the military, the basic principle of American constitutional governance, to assign a central role to an active-duty general to make the decision to end the war. It betrays the legacy warnings of our two most famous wartime generals, George Washington and Dwight D. Eisenhower.

American history offers no greater heroes, not because of their considerable success in battle but because they gained the wisdom to sound the alarm against unbridled militarism so passionately and effectively. The farewell addresses of both those departing generals-turned-presidents still stand as the essential bookends for what has been written about the limits on military adventure required for democracy's survival. Washington's plea to the nation "to moderate the fury of party spirit, to warn against the mischiefs of foreign intrigue, to guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism" sets the standard for enlightened political discourse.

A close second is Eisenhower's warning, "In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex."

We have had many other examples of retired military officers asserting the need for informed and rational public decision-making as to matters of war and peace. Republican presidential candidate John McCain was one of those voices when, as a senator, he led the fight, along with fellow Vietnam War veteran John Kerry, to normalize relations with the same Communist leadership in Hanoi that had once been our enemy. Does anyone, McCain included, now think we were wrong to bring the troops home from Vietnam -- and just why are the dire consequences that McCain now predicts for a withdrawal from Iraq any more plausible?

Click on link for full story.


Editor's Note: Today, Truthout addresses gender issues in Part IV of our coverage of the "Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan" testimonies. I interviewed former National Guard mechanic Jen Hogg, who organized the Winter Soldier panel on gender and sexuality. We've also included the testimonies of three panelists, who shared their stories of harassment, assault and discrimination. -ms/TO

Gender in the Ranks By Maya Schenwar t r u t h o u t Report
Wednesday 09 April 2008


Unlike many of the other panels at Winter Soldier, the one devoted to gender and sexuality in the military featured no gory videos. The testimonies included many secondhand accounts, especially when the subject came around to rape and sexual assault. And though it was the only panel in which none of the speakers divulged personal acts of violence, it was one that, at times, betrayed a raw sense of shame. At one point, a panelist broke from her testimony, biting back tears, and muttered, "I hate to be the girl." Another panelist, Jeff Key, later noted the significance of this: Even within the supportive walls of the peace movement, "this idea that men are beings devoid of feeling and compassion, and that women are weak and just a ball of emotion," pervades.
Tellingly, the gender and sexuality event was also the only panel that took a little struggle to get on the schedule. Panelists mentioned that, when the idea for a gender panel was first suggested, some veterans dismissed it, calling the topic irrelevant.
However, as National Guard veteran Margaret Stevens noted, gender issues pervade every topic discussed at Winter Soldier.
"If you want to talk about rules of engagement, you could talk about the engagement of Iraqi civilian women," she said. "If you want to talk about corporate pillaging and military contractors, you could talk about contracted sexual labor... These issues transcend into the core of the war itself."
Fifteen percent of US military personnel are women. According to a 2003 Department of Defense (DOD) study, almost one-third of female veterans seeking Department of Veterans' Affairs care reported rape or attempted rape during their period of service. Fourteen percent reported being gang raped. Thirty-seven percent of those reporting rape cited more than one incident.
Those numbers may not come as a surprise: They have flashed across network TV broadcasts and the pages of major newspapers over the past few months. Yet, they don't tell the whole truth. Panelists pointed out many military assaults go unreported, and even at Winter Soldier, very few women found the atmosphere conducive to disclosing their own experiences of sexual violence.

Click on link to read the full story.


Tomas Young was 22 when terrorists attacked the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. Two days later, after watching President Bush speak to the country from the ruins of the Twin Towers, he decided to enlist in the Army.
He expected to go Afghanistan. He went to Iraq instead. On April 4, 2004 - five days after arriving - he was on a mission in an overcrowded, unprotected truck when he was shot by a sniper. His spine was severed and he was left paralyzed from the chest down.

"Body of War"

By Camilla A. Herrera Greenwich Time

Documentary spotlights the human cost of Iraq conflict.

See video here:

"For the Iraqis on the top of the roof, it just looked like ... ducks in a barrel," says Young in "Body of War," a documentary by former talk-show host Phil Donahue and documentary filmmaker Ellen Spiro.
"They didn't have to aim."
"Body of War," which premiered Wednesday in Washington, D.C., and opens at the IFC Center in Manhattan this Wednesday, features Young as he copes with paralysis and treatment, deals with depression and juggles his medication and care. We see his marriage struggle and his brother go to Iraq. This all happens while he develops a growing opposition to the war - set against music by Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam.
During a meeting Tuesday, before Young and Donahue flew to Washington for the premiere, the veteran explains he was recuperating at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., when he began suspecting the reasons given for war. He wondered where the connections between Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein existed and questioned the continued military presence in Iraq after weapons of mass destruction had not been found.
These were questions Donahue says he also had considered while the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002 was debated in Congress before the invasion five years ago. He thought of them again after meeting Young at Walter Reed. The vote authorizing war, he says, "is what put Tomas in a wheelchair."
Donahue, who lives in Westport, says he approached Young about filming his story. He told Young his story paints an honest picture of war and others need to see it. Young agreed, and soon Spiro and her cameras were capturing every aspect of Young's life as an injured veteran.
"I saw an opportunity to get the message out," he says. "When people join (the military), they join with the knowledge that they may come home in a body bag. Many don't think they'll come home in a wheelchair. Certainly no man thinks he will come home to find he cannot satisfy his wife or girlfriend.
"They don't hear these stories. No one tells you about the consequences."

Click on link to read the full story.


As General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker windup their testimony on Capitol Hill Wednesday, 4 US soldiers were KILLED in Baghdad as well as 40 Iraqis. There were also 107 Iraqis wounded.

Petraeus and Crocker continue to say the US has to "stay the course" but at the rate US soldiers are getting KILLED IN IRAQ it is only a matter of time until the mainstream media are going to have to wake up to the slaughter of US troops and Iraqi citizens.

Baghdad is in total chaos and violence and death are sweeping across Iraq as this report indicates. The carnage is getting worse by the minute in Baghdad and all across Iraq and still you have LIARS like are seen on FOX NEWS claiming everything is going wonderfully in Iraq and the "surge" is a success.

How long is the American public going to put up with this devastation of young American lives?

Editorial comment by BILL CORCORAN, editor of CORKSPHERE

Wednesday: 4 U.S. Soldiers, 40 Iraqis Killed; 107 Iraqis Wounded
Updated at 3:10 p.m. EDT, April 9, 2008

On the fifth anniversary of the fall of Baghdad to U.S. forces, Iraqi authorities placed curfews on the capital and other cities in order to prevent anti-American activities and protests. At least 40 Iraqis were killed and another 107 were wounded in the latest violence. Also, four American soldiers were killed in separate incidents.

An IED attack left one American soldier dead east of Baghdad yesterday. The DOD reported that a GI died in an RPG attack on Monday, and another soldier died in an IED attack on Sunday. Also, an American soldier died from non-combat-related wounded today.

In Baghdad, Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr called off his million-strong march due because of potential violence from Iraqi security personnel against unarmed demonstrators.

A curfew is in effect and visitors are being turned away from Baghdad.

In Sadr City, at least 20 people were killed and 78 were wounded during attacks. Shelling left seven dead, including children, and 27 wounded.

Also in Sadr City, an unmanned U.S. drone killed two gunmen. Another seven killed and 36 were wounded wounded when mortars fell in a nearby residential area. Mortars struck in Ghadeer and the Green Zone as well.

In Mosul, two people were killed and 10 were wounded during a car bombing.

Three gunmen were killed during security operations in Mahmudiya.

Four Iraqi security personnel were killed and 19 were wounded during operation here and in Baghdad.

A woman and her four sons were killed during a mortar attack in Dhuluiya.

Near Kirkuk, police recovered a body bearing gunshot wounds and handcuffs. At least one other dumped body was found, and a civilian was shot to death.

In Fallujah, the Iraqi Islamic Party (IIP) was able to hold a peaceful demonstration against the occupation.
U.S. troops
destroyed a suspected al-Qaeda training camp north of Baghdad and an IED factory in Diyala province.

In al-Ghatoun, mortars killed a woman and two children.

Compiled by Margaret Griffis


"The floor of the hospital is covered with the blood of children," said Dr Qasim al-Mudalla, manager of the Imam Ali hospital in Sadr City, where he said four children and two women were among 11 dead bodies brought in on Wednesday.

Baghdad anniversary clampdown fails to stop violence

By Ahmed Rasheed and Wisam Mohammed 48 minutes ago;_ylt=ApB62nVqoW67zLduot4oiSlX6GMA

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Twenty people were killed in Baghdad's Shi'ite slum of Sadr City on Wednesday, security sources said, despite vehicle bans aimed at preventing unrest from spreading on the fifth anniversary of the fall of Baghdad.

Up to 70 people have died in Sadr City since Sunday in battles between black-masked militia loyal to cleric Moqtada al-Sadr and U.S. and Iraqi troops.

The upsurge in fighting comes as the top U.S. officials in Iraq testified in Washington that they opposed setting a timetable to withdraw troops from the 5-year-old war.


General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker were winding up their status report to the House of Representatives on Wednesday while the following was taking place in Baghdad and across Iraq and in Afghanistan.

Petraeus and Crocker keep telling members of Congress and the American people that things are improving in Iraq and we have to "stay the course," while at the sametime totally ignoring these events that took place on Wednesday in Baghdad, other provinces in Iraq and Afghanistan.

We lead off with a list of the latest casualties from Iraq.

MNF-Iraq is reporting the death of a Multi-National Division - Baghdad soldier in a roadside bombing (in Baghdad?) on Tuesday, April 8th. No other details or location were given.

MNF-Iraq is reporting the death of a Multi-National Division - Baghdad soldier in a non-combat related injuries on Wednesday, April 9th. No other details or location were given.

MNF-Iraq is reporting the death of a Multi-National Division - Center Soldier in a roadside bombing in an eastern neighborhood of Baghdad on Tuesday, April 8th. No other details were released.

Army private Carl “Superman” Reiher has lost part of his left arm as a result of an assault on his humvee, or armored vehicle. He is the second Marshall Islander to be seriously injured since the war started in Iraq in 2003. The firefight involving Reiher’s Army unit occurred last week (4-2007) in an unspecified region of Iraq. Family members said on Wednesday that Reiher’s humvee came under attack, first by what is believed to be an improvised explosive device. As the men piled out of the burning vehicle, they were hit by rifle fire that killed soldiers on either side of Reiher. Reiher was wounded by at least three bullets, a family member said. He was first evacuated to Germany for emergency medical treatment, and then at the weekend flown to the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. for further treatment. He was forced to have his left arm amputated below the elbow as a result of the injuries sustained in the attack, and is receiving skin grafts for burns and other treatment for his multiple wounds. He is in stable condition, the family member said.

Security incidents:Baghdad:#1: Witnesses say a rocket or mortar has been fired into the Green Zone in the Iraqi capital. There was no immediate word on casualties or damage. Black smoke could be see rising after a blast from the heavily fortified area. Loudspeakers warned residents to take cover and await further instructions. Helicopters circled overhead.The city's Green Zone, which houses diplomatic missions and much of Iraq's government, also came under renewed attack by rockets or mortars early Wednesday. The U.S. embassy confirmed the shelling, but said there were no immediate reports of casualties.Around 9 a.m. two mortar shells hit the Green Zone.Around 4 p.m. a mortar shell hit the Green Zone.

#2-4: Police said the seven victims in Sadr City _ including three children _ died when projectiles slammed into a house in the sprawling slum, a stronghold of the Mahdi Army militia of anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. Twenty-seven other people were wounded, said a hospital official who asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to speak to the media. Eyewitnesses in the area said the attack was carried out by U.S. helicopters, but police said the blasts were caused by mortar rounds. The U.S. military had no immediate comment.#2: One mortar round struck the rooftop of a house where a family was having breakfast, killing three members of a family, including two children.A few minutes later, a mortar shell hit a house in the same district, killing a woman and her two children.

#3: Another mortar struck a nearby tent set up for a condolence service for a person killed earlier in the week,Mortar shells hit a funeral, killing eight and injuring 27, witnesses told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa.

#4: while a third fell on an empty plot.

#5: At least 15 people were killed and 200 wounded on Tuesday, according to hospitals in the slum, home to 2 million people.

#6: Loud explosions were heard in Sadr City, a stronghold of the Mahdi Army of radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, and US helicopters were striking the area which has been encircled by US and Iraqi troops for nearly two weeks.

#7: Clashes between Iraqi army and Mahdi Army militia in Sadr city, injuring three civilians.

#8: Around 8 a.m. A mortar shell hit Al Ghadeer neighborhood causing damages with no casualties.

Basra:#1: In Basra, at least eight people were killed in a U.S. military raid on the southern city, al-Sumaria reported. Circumstances of the incident were not known.

Dhuluiya:#1: A mortar shell landed on a house in Dhuluiya, 70 km (45 miles) north of Baghdad overnight, killing a woman and wounding her four sons, police said.

Kirkuk:#1: Iraqi police found a body hand-cuffed and riddled with bullets east of the northern city of Kirkuk on Tuesday.

Afghanistan:#1: Taliban militants attacked a police patrol in southern Afghanistan and the ensuing firefight left four insurgents and one police officer dead, police said on Wednesday. The attack happened on Tuesday in Marja district of the volatile southern province of Helmand when the police officers were patrolling the area, Mohammad Hussain Andewal, the provincial police chief, said."The fighting that happened yesterday evening left four Taliban militants dead and one police officer was also killed and another two were wounded," Andewal said.


As Petraeus testifies, Baghdad teeters on edge of erupting

By Leila Fadel, McClatchy NewspapersTue Apr 8, 11:06 AM ET

BAGHDAD — Army Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker were critical of Iran when they testified Tuesday before the Senate , barely giving credit for an Iranian-brokered cease-fire that curbed the killing after a week of Shiite-on-Shiite bloodshed in southern Iraq and Baghdad .
As they spoke, firebrand Shiite cleric Muqtada al Sadr threatened to unleash his Mahdi Army militia against U.S. and Iraqi forces. Once again, it was Iran that stepped into the political vacuum and urged a halt to militia attacks into the heavily fortified Green Zone, where U.S. and Iraqi officials, including Petraeus and Crocker, have their offices.
The Iranian foreign ministry called for "restraint and prudence of various Iraqi groups," an implicit rebuke of Sadr, who is living and studying in Iran .
The violence began two weeks ago when Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki launched an ill-prepared offensive against militias in the southern port city of Basra. It ebbed after a delegation of the Iraqi governing parties traveled to Iran for talks with a top commander of the Qods force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.
This week, it transformed into a conflict largely between the Mahdi Army and U.S. forces. Twelve U.S. troops were killed since Sunday, at least eight of them in the capital, several of them from rocket and mortar attacks into the Green Zone.
Tuesday was the last day of Maliki's ultimatum for militias, mainly the Mahdi Army, to turn in weapons for cash or face a battle. Far from disarming itself and handing its weapons to forces dominated by Shiites in Maliki's Dawa party, Sadr threatened to end the ceasefire he declared in August.
"If it is required to lift the freeze (cease-fire) in order to carry out our goals, objectives, doctrines and religious principles and patriotism, we will do that later and in a separate statement," he said in a statement read by his aide, Salah al Obaidi.
Sadr also postponed his planned million-man march in Baghdad to protest the U.S. occupation on the five-year anniversary of the fall of the capital. The march was expected to bring more violence.
Petraeus acknowledged, though almost in passing, that the clash between the Iraqi government and militias loyal to Sadr and other Shiite leaders— known as "Special Groups"— is one of the biggest threats to Iraqi stability.
"Unchecked, the Special Groups pose the greatest long-term threat to the viability of a democratic Iraq ," he said.
Although he was speaking in the context of the threat Iran posed through its support of militia groups, he did not mention that Iran also backs the Shiite-led government and that the government sanctions a variety of militias.
Nearly every party has its own militia, including Maliki's rival the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq , whose forces were largely absorbed into the ranks of the Iraqi Security Forces but remain loyal to the party. The Kurdish parties also have the peshmerga.
Besides playing down Iran's sometimes positive role in the Iraqi dynamics, Petraeus and Crocker seemed to overplay the political progress in Iraq during the period when "surged" U.S. forces and a new U.S. counter-insurgency strategy had contributed to a drop in overall violence.
One act of progress, according to Crocker, was the passage of a provincial powers law, passed days before Maliki's Basra offensive. But that law, calling for provincial elections in October, may have been a catalyst that led to the offensive.
Many Sadr loyalists viewed the offensive as an attempt by Maliki's Dawa party and the Shiite rivals of the Sadr movement to undercut the much more popular Shiite movement prior to elections in October.


As General David Petraeus and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker testified to the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday and pitched a story of success in Iraq, a news update flashed on the television screen: Sadr threatens to end cease-fire. Meaning that civil war between the Shiite-dominated government of Baghdad and the Shiite movement led by cleric Moqtada al-Sadr could erupt. But Senator John McCain, the senior Republican member at the hearing, seemed unaware of this development. He asked Petraeus, "What do you make of Sadr's declaration of a cease-fire?"

Dems Miss Opportunity to Challenge Surge
By David Corn, Mother JonesPosted on April 9, 2008, Printed on April 9, 2008

This brief moment underscored a point that war supporters and war critics on the committee kept making throughout the hearing: The ground reality in Iraq is starkly different from how the war is depicted in the United States. Senator Joe Lieberman scoffed at war skeptics for embracing what he called a see-no-progress, hear-no-progress, speak-no-progress view of the war. On the other side, Senator Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) remarked that the testimony from Petraeus and Crocker -- who each claimed there has been significant though fragile progress in Iraq -- "describes one Iraq while we see another."

The main news of the morning -- news that had already leaked -- was that Petraeus has recommended that once the level of the U.S. troops in Iraq is brought down to presurge levels, which is scheduled for July, there be "a 45-day period of consolidation and evaluation" and then "a process of assessment" before any further troop reductions are considered. In other words, 19 months after the so-called surge -- and after all the supposed success of the surge -- U.S. military involvement in Iraq is expected to be what it was at the start of the surge.

Under questioning from Senator Carl Levin (D-Mich.), the committee chairman, Petraeus noted that this process of assessment could take months and that additional reductions would only occur as conditions permit, indicating that the pause in the drawdown could be open-ended.
This was hardly a shocker. Petraeus, in keeping with Bush administration policy, refused to say anything concrete about reducing troops (at any time) to presurge levels. Instead, he and Crocker did what they could to keep alive the White House's favorite meme, that the surge is swell. They cited various indicators of what they consider success. "Weekly security incidents" are down to 2005 levels -- at least until last week. Civilian deaths, according to U.S. military figures, have fallen to early 2006 levels. Bombings are down to mid-2006 levels. The number of Iraqi battalions taking the lead in operations is up 20 percent since January 2007.

The Sunni opposition to Al Qaeda in Iraq within Anbar province remains strong. Several pieces of legislation important to national political reconciliation have moved forward in the Iraqi parliament. A budget was passed with record amounts of capital expenditures. And, as Crocker noted, Iraq's Council of Representatives approved a redesign of the Iraqi flag. Their message: We must stay the course.


The fifth anniversary of the fall of Baghdad has turned into a bloody turmoil as a curfew on all vehicles has been put in place and the streets of Baghdad have been turned into a war zone as US tanks prowl the streets.

One Baghdad shop owner said the sight of US tanks on the streets of Baghdad was viewed as an "enemy occupation."

Meanwhile, General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker and all of the Republican lawmakers in Washington seem to be oblivious to the crisis developing in Baghdad.

Deadly fighting in Baghdad as Iraq marks Saddam's fall
by Jay Deshmukh 23 minutes ago

BAGHDAD(AFP) - Iraq on Wednesday marked the fifth anniversary of the fall of Saddam Hussein's iron-fisted regime with the nation still wracked by deadly violence and the capital under curfew.

Clashes broke out after midnight in Sadr City, the eastern Baghdad bastion of radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, killing six people and wounding at least 15, a medical official said.

By daybreak the sprawling district of two million people which has since Sunday been wracked by fighting between Sadr's Mahdi Army militia and US and Iraqi forces in which dozens of people have died scores lie wounded, had calmed, residents said.

Sadr had last week called for a million-strong anti-American demonstration in Baghdad to mark the anniversary of Saddam's ouster by US invading forces but cancelled it on Tuesday "to save Iraqi blood."

Baghdad's streets were empty of cars and trucks after the authorities declared a 5:00 am to midnight (0200 GMT to 2100 GMT) vehicle curfew to prevent car bomb attacks by Sunni insurgents.

Saddam's hometown of Tikrit was also under a day-long curfew, an AFP correspondent said.
It took US invading forces just three weeks to defeat Saddam's forces and topple his regime on April 9, 2003.

On that day, US Marines put a rope around the neck of a giant statue of Saddam in Baghdad's Firdoos Square, pulling it down in an act that symbolised the fall of the dictator's brutal regime.
A jubilant Iraqi crowd "insulted" the fallen statue by smacking its face with their shoes.
But five years later the American military and Baghdad's new Shiite-led regime are still battling to curb the bloodshed that has killed tens of thousands of people and displaced more than four million.

More than 700 people have been killed in a fortnight of clashes between Shiite militiamen and Iraqi and US forces in Baghdad, the southern port city and oil hub of Basra and other Shiite regions.

Fears of an uptick in the violence are running deep after hardline Sadr, angered by attacks on his militiamen, threatened on Tuesday to end the truce his feared Mahdi Army militia has been observing since August.

The top US general in Iraq, David Petraeus, urged in testimony to the US Congress on Tuesday that further troop withdrawals should be held off for at least 45 days after completing the pullout of the "surge" forces by July.

Petraeus said the surge had helped make "significant but uneven" progress in Iraq, while Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker warned that those achievements were "reversible."
For Iraqis, the five years since the ouster of Saddam has been a period of turmoil and bloodletting.

"When I saw the American tanks roll into Baghdad, I was happy and full of dreams... dreams of a prosperous Iraq, a developed Iraq. But since then it has become a nightmare of suffering and destruction," said Sarah Yussef, 25.

The war has killed tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians since the US-led invasion. Between 104,000 and 223,000 people died from March 2003 to June 2006 alone, according to the World Health Organisation.

Iraqis, US and allied forces also face daily attacks from insurgents and Islamist militants, and fighting continues between factions from both sides of Iraq's Sunni-Shiite sectarian divide.
The songs of joy that greeted the American tanks when they reached Baghdad have long since become cries of hatred.

On the streets of Baghdad, fear of Saddam's hated secret police has been replaced by a new terror. In the United States, the war is deeply unpopular and has emerged as one of the key factors in this year's presidential elections.

Majeed Hameed, a gift shop owner in Baghdad's northern Antar Square, said the American tanks rolling on the streets of Baghdad are now seen as "enemy" forces.


The following is a list of major news stories breaking from Iraq on Wednesday. You can click on the part in "BLUE" to read each story in more depth.

New York TimesCrackdown on Militias May Add to Instability in Iraq
A crackdown on the Mahdi Army militia is creating potentially destabilizing political and military tensions in Iraq, pitting a stronger government alliance against the force that has won past showdowns: the street power wielded by the radical cleric Moktada al-Sadr.

New York TimesAttacks in Baghdad Spiked in March, U.S. Data Show
After an overall decline in attacks against civilians and American and Iraqi security forces in Baghdad over the past several months, the number more than doubled in March from the previous month, according to statistics compiled by the American military in Baghdad.
NewsweekSacrificed to the Surge

America's efforts to disengage from Iraq have led to some messy compromises. After years of trying without success to wrest Sunni areas from Qaeda control, U.S. ground commanders appear to have done it at last—but only by granting sweeping powers to sheiks and local leaders who can keep the peace.

News Current Time in Baghdad: 11:55:36 AM
04/08/08 AP: Iraq Bans Vehicles in Baghdad Wednesday
Unauthorized vehicles will be banned in Baghdad from 5 a.m. to midnight on Wednesday, the fifth anniversary of the city's capture by U.S. troops. The decision by the Iraqi military command for Baghdad was announced on Iraqi state TV.

04/08/08 AP: Iraqi Army, Mahdi Militiamen Clash
Iraqi government forces and Shiite militia fighters clashed anew Tuesday despite a government ultimatum to anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr to either disband his Mahdi Army or give up politics.

04/08/08 Reuters: Sadr postpones march, threatens to lift ceasefire
Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr has threatened to lift a ceasefire of his Mehdi Army militia while indefinitely postponing a mass anti-US demonstration. Despite the ceasefire which Sadr called last August, his followers have clashed...

04/08/08 Reuters: Roadside bomb wounds 16 people in Tuz Khurmato
A roadside bomb wounded 16 people in a commercial area in Tuz Khurmato, 180 km (110 miles) north of Baghdad, police said.

04/08/08 Reuters: Eight people wounded in clashes in Sadr City
Eight people were wounded in clashes in Sadr City on Tuesday and another seven people were wounded in other districts of eastern Baghdad, police said.

04/08/08 Reuters: Roadside bomb wounds 3 policemen in eastern Baghdad
A roadside bomb wounded three policemen, two traffic policemen and four civilians on Tuesday in the Zayouna district, in eastern Baghdad, police said.

04/08/08 Reuters: Weapons cache found, 10 militants killed
Iraqi security forces, backed by U.S. forces, recovered a weapons cache and killed 10 militants in separate operations on Thursday and Friday in Basra, 550 km (340 miles) southeast of Baghdad, the U.S. military said.

04/08/08 Reuters: Hospitals receive seven dead people
The two main hospitals in Sadr City, eastern Baghdad, received 12 wounded on Tuesday, hospital officials said. On Monday the hospitals received seven dead people and 143 wounded.

04/08/08 KUNA: Explosion kills seven Iraqis in Iraq
Seven Iraqis were killed including five children, and 11 others were injured when an improvised explosive device (IED) detonated in Diyala province on Tuesday targeting a passenger bus at Balad ruz, 60 kilometers north of Baquba...

04/08/08 NPR: Families Caught in Shiite Power Struggle in Iraq
Fighting between Shiite-led government forces and Shiite militia loyal to cleric Muqtada al-Sadr is threatening any gains won by the U.S.-led troop surge in Iraq. Shiite families are caught in the middle of the ongoing intra-Shiite power struggle.


The rebel cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr, is notorious for pulling a head fake and throwing the right wing media in the United States totally off guard when he claims he is going to disband his Mehdi Army or militia.

The right wing press falls for al-Sadr's disclosures every time and the cleric knows he has a ready and gullible right wing press in the United States eager to try and make it look like he is folding up his cards and going home.

Nothing could be further from the truth as Juan Cole, the excellent foreign correspondent, explains in this piece.

Hundreds Flee Baghdad Clashes
Ayatollahs Decline to Ban Militia
By Juan Cole

08/04/08 "ICH" -- -- I am always astounded at the combination of unrealistic optimism and foolish gullibility that marks political discourse on the Right in Washington.

We were being told by Rich Lowry at the National Review that Sadr was on the ropes and on the verge of disbanding the Mahdi Army because the other political factions had turned on him, and that the others had had their militias join the regular security forces.

So let us get this straight. Sayyid Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army fought off thousands of regular Iraqi army troops in Basra and Baghdad, and perhaps thousands of those troops deserted rather than fight. So the Mahdi Army won big and Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki lost.

Also the US military trainers of the Iraqi troops lost face.So the next thing we hear is that al-Maliki is talking big and demanding that the Mahdi Army be dissolved. Usually you get to talk big if you win the military battle, not if you lose.The Sadrists have no intention of dissolving the Mahdi Army, according to this Arabic source, quoting Sadrist spokesman Salah al-Ubaidi. They point out, pace that great Iraq expert Lowry, that there are 28 militias in Iraq.

The Badr Corps of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI) still exists as a stand alone organization. In fact it ran as a political party in the elections and holds both provincial and federal seats. It hasn't been complete merged into the state security forces as Lowry alleged. And anyway, painting a sign on a militia saying 'this one is legitimate because its party won the last election' is not going to convince any real Iraqis.As it happens, the parliamentary representatives of Mosul demanded Monday that the Kurdish Peshmerga be dissolved. (Hint: Hell will freeze over first).

Then the US press went wild for this supposed report that Muqtada al-Sadr said he would dissolve his militia if Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani ordered it. Folks, he always says that when there is a controversy. (He said the same thing in spring, 2004). He says it because he knows it makes him look reasonable to the Shiite public. He says it because he knows that the grand ayatollahs are not going to touch the matter with a ten foot pole. They are not so foolish as to take responsibility for dissolving a militia that they had nothing to do with creating.

And that is probably the real meaning of this CNN report that they 'refused' when asked. I doubt the grand ayatollahs in Najaf actively commanded Muqtada to keep his militia. They just declined to get drawn in.So the idea that, having lost militarily, al-Maliki and his political allies (who are a minority in parliament now) could just a couple of days later jawbone Muqtada into giving up his paramilitary was always absurd.


The Department of Defense has released the names of more American soldiers killed in Iraq.

Here they are: Click on part in "BLUE" for more details

U.S. Deaths Confirmed By The DoD:
Reported U.S. Deaths Pending DoD Confirmation:

DoD Confirmation List
Latest Coalition Fatality: Apr 08, 2008
04/08/08 DoD Identifies Army Casualties (2 of 2)
Col. Stephen K. Scott, 54, of New Market, Ala. He was assigned to the 356th Quartermaster Battalion, Laurel, Miss...died April 6 in Baghdad, of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked their unit with indirect fire.

04/08/08 DoD Identifies Army Casualties (1 of 2)
Maj. Stuart A. Wolfer, 36, of Coral Springs, Fla. He was assigned to the 11th Battalion, 104th Division, Boise, Idaho...died April 6 in Baghdad, of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked their unit with indirect fire.

04/08/08 DoD Identifies Army Casualty
Sgt. Richard A. Vaughn, 22, of San Diego, Calif., died April 7 in Baghdad, Iraq from wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked using a rocket propelled grenade, improvised explosive device and small arms fire...

04/08/08 MNF: MND-B Soldier attacked by IED
A Multi-National Division – Baghdad Soldier was killed as the result of an improvised explosive device attack at approximately 12:30 p.m. in northeast Baghdad April 8.

04/08/08 DoD Identifies Army Casualty
Staff Sgt. Emanuel Pickett, 34, of Teachey, N.C., died April 6 in Baghdad, Iraq, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked with indirect fire. He was assigned to the 1132nd Military Police Company, North Carolina Army National Guard, Rocky Mount, N.C.

04/08/08 MNF: MND-B Soldier attacked by IED
A Multi-National Division – Baghdad Soldier was killed from wounds sustained when an improvised explosive device struck his vehicle at approximately 9:30 p.m. April 7.


Maybe they should have brought in Angelina Jolie to the Senate chamber to give some spice to the otherwise same-o, same-o testimony of General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker on Tuesday about the status of the war in Iraq.

But Jolie was a few miles away appearing befrore a standing room only crowd at the Washington Club where she was on a panel sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations aimed at trying to find a solution for all the Iraqi children refugees.

The Day's Other Iraq Policy Event -- The One With the PaparazziAngelina Jolie Joins Discussion on the Plight of Refugee Children

By Robin WrightWashington Post Staff WriterWednesday, April 9, 2008; A13

Angelina Jolie nearly stole the limelight from Army Gen. David H. Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker yesterday with her own remarks on Iraq at the Council on Foreign Relations, which had to move the standing-room-only event to the ballroom of the Washington Club to accommodate the crowd and television cameras. Paparazzi and gawkers swarmed outside.

The actress's appearance on a panel discussing the plight of more than 1 million Iraqi child refugees was less upbeat than that of the U.S. officials who testified before two Senate committees yesterday.

"This population we're talking about is the future of Iraq," said Jolie, who has traveled twice to Iraq over the past year, as well as to Syria to visit Iraqi refugees. "So to reach them now, to help deal with their trauma and refocus their minds on a possible future should absolutely be one of our top priorities. We need these kids. . . . We need them to rebuild their country, to stabilize their country and eventually lead their country."

Jolie also spoke directly to Petraeus's views on the war.

"Petraeus would agree that a surge does not just mean it works if you get numbers of violence down," she said. "It works if humanitarian aid is starting to increase and changes are able to be made. He knows that this is the time to start making some big changes and some big steps forward for the people."

Jolie gently scolded the Bush administration for its slow follow-through on absorbing Iraqi refugees. The United States took in 374 Iraqis in January, 444 in February and 751 in March -- in a year in which it has pledged to take in 12,000 Iraqi refugees, she noted.

The United States has taken in far fewer than many other countries. Germany has absorbed more than 36,200, Britain more than 22,000, while Syria has increased its population by more than 5 percent and Jordan by more than 10 percent from the influx of Iraqis.

Pressed on the impact of a decision on troop reductions on Iraqi refugees, Jolie joked, "I won't give my troop-withdrawal strategy."

Jolie co-chairs the new Education Partnership for Children of Conflict, along with Gene Sperling, a former Clinton administration economic adviser now at the Council on Foreign Relations. She appeared with Sperling, International Rescue Committee President George Rupp and Safaa el-Kogali of the World Bank. But attendees clearly came for Jolie.

James Gavrilis, who is on the Joint Chiefs staff at the Pentagon, said he would not have come by if not for Jolie. "I want to hear what her perspective is and how it's different from the military and masculine perspective," he said, quickly adding that, as an insider at the Pentagon, he already knew what Petraeus and Crocker would say in their testimony.

Click on link for full story and picture of Angelina Jolie at Washington Club event.