Tuesday, July 22, 2008


4 US soldiers charged by military over deaths of detainees in Iraq last year

The Associated Press
Tuesday, July 22, 2008


BERLIN: Four soldiers have been charged with conspiracy to commit murder in the deaths of detainees in Iraq in 2007, a U.S. military spokesman said Tuesday.

Staff Sgt. Jess Cunningham, Sgt. Charles Quigley, Spc. Stephen Ribordy and Spc. Belmor Ramos of the 172nd Infantry Brigade were charged under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, said Lt. Col. Eric Bloom, spokesman for the Army Joint Multinational Training Command in Grafenwoehr, Germany. The men's hometowns were not given.

Their case now has to be reviewed to determine whether it should be referred to a court-martial, Bloom said. No date has yet been set for a hearing.

In a statement, the Army said the charges "relate to an incident that occurred during April-May 2007 in Baghdad, Iraq."

The statement gave no further details but, in an earlier release, the Army had said the allegations related to "the deaths of several detainees who were captured as part of combat operations last year."

That statement, released in January, said that "preliminary findings indicate the deceased detainees were not persons detained in a detention facility."


NEW: Sen. Barack Obama: Iraq political progress needed to match security success

Obama set to meet with king in Amman, Jordan

Jordan is U.S. ally that has received Iraqi war refugees

Senators stop off in Iraq's Sunni-dominated Anbar province before Jordan

SOURCE: http://tinyurl.com/5hwrcd

(CNN) -- Sen. Barack Obama said Tuesday he was pleased with the reduction of violence in Iraq since the deployment of more U.S. troops, but added it was a result of several factors, not just the "surge."

"We don't know what would have happened if the plan that I preferred in January 2007 -- to put more pressure on the Iraqis to arrive at a political reconciliation, to begin a phased withdrawal -- what would have happened had we pursued that strategy," Obama said after landing in Amman, Jordan.

"I am pleased that as a consequence of great effort by our troops -- but also as a consequence of a shift in allegiances among the Sunni tribal leaders as well as the decision of the Sadr militias to stand down -- that we've seen a quelling of violence," he said.

But, Obama said, a functioning Iraq ultimately will depend on the capacity of the Iraqi people to unify themselves, get beyond sectarian divisions and set up a government that works for the people.

"There is security progress. Now we need a political solution," he said.
Watch Obama describe his plan for Iraq »

Obama's stop in Jordan is the latest on his trip through the Middle East. So far, Obama also has been through Kuwait, Afghanistan and Iraq. The senator from Illinois will visit Israel before embarking on the European leg of his trip, which will take him through Germany, France and the United Kingdom. See the stops on Obama's trip »

Back in the United States, Sen. John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee, has been criticizing Obama for his opposition to the surge, which began in 2007 when President Bush ordered nearly 30,000 additional troops to Iraq as part of a campaign to secure Baghdad and its surrounding provinces.

"He railed against it. He voted against the surge, and he said it would fail," McCain told CBS. "He was wrong there, and there's very little doubt in my mind that he will see for himself that he had a gross misjudgment and he will correct that."

The McCain campaign continued its criticism in a statement released after Obama's news conference in Jordan.


Troop Agreement Misses Deadline

Provincial Law Misses Deadline

Bombings in Mosul, Diyala, Fallujah

SOURCE: http://juancole.com/

First there was going to be a status of forces agreement between the US and Iraq, which would be ratified by the Iraqi parliament and would grant the US long-term bases. Private security guards and US troops would be immune from Iraqi law. US commanders would launch operations at will, would decide who a terrorist was, and would arrest and imprison Iraqis at will.Then al-Maliki went to Iran for consultations. And Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani forbade a giveaway of Iraqi sovereignty.

And the Sadrists began demonstrating every Friday. Then the US launched a unilateral operation in al-Maliki's home town and killed his cousin.So the private contractors won't have legal immunity. And the agreement will be just for a year, not long-term. And it won't be ratified by the Iraqi parliament, so it is just a vague agreement between two executives.

It won't stipulate long-term arrangements, but its interpretive context will be one in which the Iraqi leadership has expressed a desire for US troops to leave in 2010. It isn't clear if US troops will have legal immunity or whether they will have full freedom of action or whether they will be able to arrest and incarcerate Iraqis at will.And now, it won't be signed by the deadline of July 31.You have to wonder whether the Iraqis and the Americans in the end won't have to go back to the UN for a troop mandate again.

The Iraqis want out from under the UN but don't want to recognize that the American presence detracts from their sovereignty. D'oh.No provincial election law again on Monday. Maybe Tuesday. Maybe not.The Iraqi legislative calendar is more like "Waiting for Godot" than it is like . . . a legislative calendar.

John McCain thinks that Iraq and Pakistan have a common border.[Hat tip to Think Progress.]Hey, everybody, ask McCain if he'll pull out US troops by 2010 if that is what the Iraqi government says it wants.McCain keeps boasting about being "right" about the "surge" and saying Obama was "wrong."Look, it is more important that McCain was consistently wrong.

He was wrong about the desirability of going to war against Iraq.

He was wrong about it being a cakewalk.

He was wrong about there being WMD there.

He was wrong about everything.

And he was wrong about the troop escalation making things better.

The casualty figures dropped in al-Anbar, where few extra US troops were ever sent.

They dropped in Basra, from which the British withdrew.

Something happened. Putting it all on 30,000 extra troops seems a stretch. And what about all the ethnic cleansing and displacing of persons that took place under the nose of the "surge?"

McCain has been wrong about everything to do with Iraq. And he is boasting about his wisdom on it!

Guerrillas used a tractor bomb to kill 7 persons and wound 8 others in Diyala Province near Iran, where there is a lively contest for power among Shiites, Sunni Arabs and Kurds.

Reuters reports other recent political violence in Iraq:
' * MOSUL - A suicide car bomber killed two private security contractors serving as bodyguards to members of the Kurdish Democratic Party in an attack on their convoy in Mosul . . . The blast also wounded eight civilians nearby.

MOSUL - Gunmen killed two people when they opened fire on their vehicle in southeastern Mosul, police said.MOSUL - Gunmen killed two brothers and their cousin in a drive-by shooting in northern Mosul on Sunday, police said. . . .

MOSUL - One body was found with gunshot wounds to the head in western Mosul, police said. . .

BAGHDAD - A parked car bomb killed one person and wounded four others on Sunday in Alawi district, central Baghdad, police said.

FALLUJA - Five people were wounded by two roadside bombs exploding within minutes of each other on different streets in central Falluja, 50 km (30 miles) west of Baghdad, police said.


BAGHDAD, July 22 (Reuters) - Iraq's parliament passed a provincial elections bill on Tuesday, but a walkout by Kurdish lawmakers over the disputed oil city of Kirkuk could mean the law may not ratified by the presidency.

Kurds make up one of the three main groups in parliament, and their boycott of the vote over a dispute on how the elections law would deal with Kirkuk means the bill could be sent back to parliament.The law is meant to pave the way for polls seen as vital to reconciling Iraq's Sunni Arabs, who boycotted the last provincial elections in 2005, with its other communities."Today parliament passed the provincial elections law, in the absence of the Kurdish alliance, which walked out," Hanin Qado, a lawmaker from the ruling Shi'ite alliance, told Reuters.Read more: http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/L22936003.htm


New York Times Spares McCain Embarrassment By Spiking Op-Ed

By Jason Linkins

As anyone who hasn't been living under a boulder knows by now, John McCain has always enjoyed an extra-special relationship with the press, who care for the Presidential nominee as one might nurture an orphaned lamb, doing him no end of solids.

For example, even though Barack Obama has consistently led in the polls since clinching the Democratic nomination, we are told that this is Good For McCain, because according to something written on the Ancient and Illuminated Manuscript of Press Corps Conventional Wisdom, Obama should be leading by more, and his waste should smell like Springtime in Vermont.

Also, when McCain visits Europe, it burnishes his Presidential pedigree, but if Obama does so, it makes him look un-American.

Now, however, the McCain camp is angry at their special friend, specifically the New York Times, because the paper of record spiked an op-ed column that McCain had prepared in response to a similar offering from Obama. McCain's surrogates are flush with outrage over this.

But I've now read the piece, and it's pretty clear to me that the Times' decision, if anything, is in keeping with the press' traditional friendly relationship. The Times put bros before prose, and in so doing, spared McCain no end of embarrassment, because the op-ed is rivetingly dumb and laden with inaccuracies. None of which would have come to my attention if the candidate had done the smart thing and kept his mouth shut! But since he wants the attention, let's give it to him.

In January 2007, when General David Petraeus took command in Iraq, he called the situation "hard" but not "hopeless." Today, 18 months later, violence has fallen by up to 80% to the lowest levels in four years, and Sunni and Shiite terrorists are reeling from a string of defeats. The situation now is full of hope, but considerable hard work remains to consolidate our fragile gains.

An inauspicious beginning! Surely the last thing McCain, as an Iraq War advocate, needs to be doing right now is pointing out that four years ago, things were really horrible in Iraq, and after an Olympic season of Surge and sturm and drang, we've only managed to almost get the level of horror back to where it was when it was horrible.

Progress has been due primarily to an increase in the number of troops and a change in their strategy. I was an early advocate of the surge at a time when it had few supporters in Washington. Senator Barack Obama was an equally vocal opponent. "I am not persuaded that 20,000 additional troops in Iraq is going to solve the sectarian violence there," he said on January 10, 2007. "In fact, I think it will do the reverse."

As all "Surge" proponents tend to do, McCain overlooks a situation that was unfolding in Baghdad contemporaneously with the "Surge," namely a massive campaign of sectarian cleansing that expelled people from their homes, hardened neighborhoods, and created a massive internal displacement problem.

Violence dropped as a result of the factions getting what they wanted - the people they were killing out of their neighborhoods.

Also, isn't it time that McCain stopped getting credit for being an "early advocate" of the Surge that President Bush was going to implement anyway? I was an early advocate and a vocal supporter of all of the Washington Redskins Superbowl victories, but you don't see me asking for a ring!

Now Senator Obama has been forced to acknowledge that "our troops have performed brilliantly in lowering the level of violence." But he still denies that any political progress has resulted.

I think that when Obama denies that any political progress has resulted, it's probably because no political progress has resulted. Indeed, the "Surge" was supposed to "create space" for the Iraqi government to reach a level of functionality. What's the impediment? Well, according to a majority of Iraqi legislators, that "space" has been occupied by the occupation.

They said so in the letter they sent to Congress, attesting to this:

Likewise, we wish to inform you that the majority of Iraqi representatives strongly reject any military-security, economic, commercial, agricultural, investment or political agreement with the United States that is not linked to clear mechanisms that obligate the occupying American military forces to fully withdraw from Iraq, in accordance with a declared timetable and without leaving behind any military bases, soldiers or hired fighters.

I don't know...it seems like Obama might be aware of this!

Perhaps he is unaware that the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad has recently certified that, as one news article put it, "Iraq has met all but three of 18 original benchmarks set by Congress last year to measure security, political and economic progress." Even more heartening has been progress that's not measured by the benchmarks. More than 90,000 Iraqis, many of them Sunnis who once fought against the government, have signed up as Sons of Iraq to fight against the terrorists.

Nor do they measure Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki's new-found willingness to crack down on Shiite extremists in Basra and Sadr City--actions that have done much to dispel suspicions of sectarianism.

Wow. That's a mouthful of nonsense to parse. It's not the U.S. Embassy in Iraq who's made such a claim, it's "Surge" architect and editorial-page-welfare recipient Fred Kagan who's contended that the Iraq has had benchmark success. This is a claim that CNN Reporter Michael Ware has already debunked. In truth, on benchmarks, it would be more accurate to say McCain has it precisely backwards.


Fallujah, the second largest city in Iraq and one that the Bush Administration and the U.S. military point to as a model of how "the surge" has worked, is about to explode into massive violence, according to veteran Middle East reporter Dahr Jamail.

Parts of Fallujah have been walled off and tension is mounting as more and more incidents of violence can be seen each day.

On Monday alone, here is what happened in Fallujah:

Al Anbar Prv:Fallujah:#1: A bomb exploded inside the garden of the house of the father of Falluja police deputy chief Lieutenant Colonel Esa Sayer in al Shurta district in downtown Falluja city west of Baghdad around 6:00 a.m. Five people were injured including a 5 years kid who was seriously injured.

#2: A bomb exploded inside the garden of the house of CPT Asif Ghazi, an officer in Falluja police. The explosion took place in al Mualimeen district in downtown Falluja around 6:00 a.m. the explosion caused damages to the house. No casualties reported. Two other bombs were found near the house and there were detonated under control.

#3: (?) Five people were wounded by two roadside bombs exploding within minutes of each other on different streets in central Falluja, 50 km (30 miles) west of Baghdad, police said

The Third Siege of Fallujah

By Dahr Jamail and Ali Al-Fadhily, IPS News
Posted on July 21, 2008, Printed on July 21, 2008

FALLUJAH, Jul 21 (IPS) -- U.S. and Iraqi forces are preparing another siege of Fallujah under the pretext of combating "terror," residents and officials say.

Located 69 km west of Baghdad, the city that suffered two devastating U.S. attacks in 2004 has watched security degrade over recent months.

"Ruling powers in the city fighting to gain full control seem willing to use the security collapse to accuse each other of either conspiracy (in lawlessness) or incapability of control," Sufian Ahmed, a lawyer and human rights activist in Fallujah told IPS.

"They suddenly changed their tone from saying that the city was the safest in Iraq to claiming that al-Qaeda is a serious threat. Fallujah residents know their so-called leaders are using security threats to terrify them for their own political interests."

In the face of U.S. military claims of improved security, violence has been rising by the day this month. The city has now been placed under tight curfew while U.S. and Iraqi military forces prepare for a new offensive, according to the local Azzaman daily.

Iraqi security forces have established new checkpoints around the city and are forbidding movement of people and traffic. Pick-up trucks are roaming the city warning residents that al-Qaeda has once again infiltrated Fallujah.

Iraqi police officers insist that the situation is under control despite the "occasional incidents that take place all over Iraq."

The indications on the ground belie these claims. "The Americans and their allies transferred our leader, Colonel Fayssal al-Zoba'i from his post because they have bad plans for the city," a major in the Fallujah police force told IPS. "He has all the right to keep his post because he was the one who led us to defeat the insurgency while the Americans failed. They (the U.S. military) seem to have a plan to destroy the city again."

Iraqi police and troops from other areas are being deployed in the city in what police officials say is a build-up for a huge offensive. U.S. occupation forces are on the ready in nearby bases.

The government in Baghdad has made it clear that direct U.S. military involvement is critical for an "imminent offensive" in Fallujah, sources in the Iraqi military have been quoted as saying in Iraqi media.

The two U.S. sieges of the city during 2004 led to the destruction of approximately 75 percent of the city, thousands of civilian deaths, and the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people, according to the Fallujah-based Iraqi NGO Monitoring Net for Human Rights.

Some officers in the Fallujah police believe Iraqi politicians are using the threat of "terror" for election purposes, ahead of provincial elections scheduled for October.

"The resignation of Colonel Fayssal is not yet definite," another police officer, speaking on terms of anonymity, told IPS. "But I agree that the Americans and the Islamic Party are planning something bad for the city before the provincial elections."

The officer added, "We learned that such plans could not be conducted in a quiet atmosphere, so politicians are adding gas to the fire just to make sure they win the elections. We, policemen and citizens, will be the victims as usual." Residents fear parties will use the violence to accuse one another, and perhaps sabotage the election itself.

A police spokesman told IPS that "the media is exaggerating things once more" in speaking of another military operation in the city. The spokesman declined to give his name.

Everyone IPS spoke with in the city expressed fear of an impending attack.

There are meanwhile no signs of improvement of any other kind in Fallujah.

Walls now divide the city into sectarian sections, with poverty, unemployment and suffering on all sides.