Second Week of Fighting in Najaf
The second week of fighting in Najaf has led to what some believe is an escalation of US military activity in Iraq. Islam Online has reported that US warplanes bombed Najaf on August 19, in further attempt to get the defiant Shiite leader Moqtada Al-Sadr to surrender. More importantly, several reporters and analysts are now describing Najaf in terms of larger US objectives for Iraq. Michael Schwartz refers to Iraq as the Twenty First Century Battle Ground State, with the hopes that the Bush administration can create an appearance of pacification in Iraq prior to the Election. Tom Engelhardt, also writing on the battle in Najaf, takes a look at larger, more strategic aspects of the US military campaign, such as Military Bases, Urban Warfare, and Air Power in Iraq.
Beyond the larger analysis, Engelhardt also reports that large numbers of civilians continue to be the victims of this most recent offensive. In Samarra, 500-pound bombs were dropped on two “known enemy locations” killing, according to the American military, a suspiciously well-rounded-off 50 “anti-Iraqi forces” (“But Dr Abdul Hamid al-Samarrai told AFP news agency at the main hospital that most of the casualties were women and children”). In addition to the increased fighting, journalists have been ordered out of the area, which will likely increase the possibility of civilian deaths, as reported by Human Rights Watch. According to writer Mike Whitney, ?Najaf’s police chief issued a warning to the media saying, ?We will kill you if you leave your hotel. I will put four snipers on the roof to shoot anyone who leaves.?”
Contractor Deaths in Iraq
As a sobering statistical reminder of other casualties, the Iraq Coalition Casualties website has posted a new chart that lists exclusively Contractor Deaths in Iraq. Note how many Blackwater Security Consultants are represented on that list. Blackwater, as Media Mouse has reported previously, is run by Betsy DeVos’s brother.
More Critiques of Kerry’s Position on Iraq
The brother of a 9/11 victim, Andrew Rice asks readers on Common Dreams “How much longer do progressives and other rational beings who saw through the charades of the rush to war in 2002-2003 have to keep listening to John Kerry and George W. Bush pander and spin their support for an illegitimate war?” Rice provides a needed assessment of the 2002 vote on Iraq. In addition, liberal columnist for the LA Times Robert Scheer ran a recent piece called Kerry Made a Bush League Error on Iraq: Refusal to Recant War Vote Plays into President’s Hands. Lastly, Helen Thomas, uses an August 18 column to take a jab at the Democratic candidate by saying “Kerry has passed up several chances to distance himself from the Iraqi debacle. But instead he has left himself wide open to Bush’s ridicule. What’s he got left — stem-cell research?”
U.S. Army Medical staff complicit in torture at Abu Ghraib
According to an article in the British journal The Lancet, U.S. military doctors and medics at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison were “complicit” in the torture of Iraqi prisoners. The article, written by University of Minnesota professor Steven Miles, states that U.S. military doctors, nurses and medics grossly violated medical ethics and international law. Among the crimes stated in the article is the faking of death certificates to cover up homicides and “designing and implementing psychologically and physically coercive interrogations”. The report was based on evidence from U.S. congressional hearings, sworn statements of detainees and soldiers, and reports from military investigators, the International Committee of the Red Cross and the media. When asked about the accuracy of the report, a U.S. military spokesperson told the Associated Press the incidents recounted by Miles came primarily from the Pentagon’s own investigation. “Many of these cases remain under investigation, and charges will be brought against any individual where there is evidence of abuse,” said Lt. Col. Barry Johnson.
Corporate Malfeasance in Iraq
It is becoming increasingly evident that the billions of dollars that were supposedly earmarked for the reconstruction of Iraq have been squandered by the corporations that were awarded the contracts. In an article from the Nation, Christian Parenti writes about the sorry state of the Tigris River and Bechtel?s negligence in repairing the rivers infrastructure. Retired Col. David H. Hackworth has a new column in which he describes how the Coalition Provisional Authority wasted 8.8 billion dollars through fraud and negligence. The watchdog organization POGO (the Project on Government Oversight) has issued a statement calling for the banning of Haliburton from government contracts. POGO states that Haliburton has been unable to account for $1.8 billion of the federal dollars given them for providing services in Iraq.
Iraqi soccer team speaks out against Bush
The unexpected success of the Iraqi Olympic soccer team has become fodder for both “inspirational” news articles and Bush re-election campaign ads. An Associated Press article that ran in the, August 19 edition of the Grand Rapids Press calls the Iraqi Soccer team a “Cinderella story and quotes an Iraqi coach saying “Now we have freedom; our chains are broken.” A new ad by the Bush campaign claims that Iraq is one of “two new democracies” participating in the Olympics this year. Unfortunately for Bush, “Iraq as a team does not want Mr. Bush to use us for the presidential campaign,” Iraqi midfielder Salih Sadir told Sports Illustrated through a translator. Iraqi soccer team coach Adnan Hamad said, “My problems are not with the American people, they are with what America has done in Iraq: destroy everything. The American army has killed so many people in Iraq. What is freedom when I go to the [national] stadium and there are shootings on the road?” The harshest comments came from player Ahmed Manajid who said that if he were not playing soccer he would “for sure” be fighting as part of the resistance. “I want to defend my home. If a stranger invades America and the people resist, does that mean they are terrorists?” Manajid says. “Everyone [in Fallujah] has been labeled a terrorist. These are all lies. Fallujah people are some of the best people in Iraq.”