Sunday, April 09, 2006

Hersch on Iran, Nir Rosen, Iraq Docs, Brain Drain, Baghdad Battle, Desertions

1) This Seymour Hersch article attracted a lot of attention this weekend, as it's indicative of a replay from the Bush Administration concerning invasion mobilization. Will Iran in 2006 follow Iraq in 2002-03? This is why the actions of 2002-03 are still so important -- to innoculate against just such a repeat:

2) Apropos remembering what was said in 2002-03... Here are some examples:

Hans Blix and Perspective
by georgia
10 Mon Apr 03, 2006 at 11:36:21 AM PDT
George W. Bush,
November 12, 2002:

We don't know how close he is today, but a SaddamHussein with a nuclear weapon is a grave, grave threatto America and our friends and allies. link

Donald Rumsfeld, September 19, 2002:
There are a number of terrorist states pursuingweapons of mass destruction -- Iran, Libya, NorthKorea, Syria, just to name a few -- but no terroriststate poses a greater or more immediate threat to thesecurity of our people than the regime of SaddamHussein in Iraq. link

Hans Blix, January 9, 2003:
"We have now been there for some two months and beencovering [Iraq] in ever wider sweeps and we haven'tfound any smoking guns." link

George W. Bush, January 16, 2006:
"Iran armed with a nuclear weapon poses a grave threatto the security of the world." link

George W. Bush, March 16, 2006:
"We may face no greater challenge from a singlecountry than from Iran. link

Hans Blix, April 3, 2006:(AP) Former U.N. chief weapons inspector Hans Blixsaid Monday that Iran is a least five years away fromdeveloping a nuclear bomb, leaving time to peacefullynegotiate a settlement. [...]

"We have time on our side in this case. Iran can'thave a bomb ready in the next five years," Blix wasquoted as saying. link

Condoleeza Rice, March 31, 2006:
"If you're impervious to the lessons you've just comeout of you're brain-dead.'' llink

3) Report from the field in Iraq:

On the Ground in Iraq
The roots of sectarian violence
Nir Rosen

The Americans came for Sabah one Friday night inSeptember. His house in Radwaniya, on the westernoutskirts of Baghdad, stood in a dry, yellow fieldsurrounded by brick walls. Three cars were parked infront the day I came to visit, two weeks afterAmericans had shot him. It was the month of Ramadan,and our mouths were as dry as his yard. The resistancewas active in Radwaniya, and we drove through fieldsand dry canals to avoid any checkpoints that mightreveal to locals that I was a foreigner. Journalistswere targets now too...

4) Here's a great research source, for those able to use it:

Iraqi Documents Are Put on Web, and Search Is On Source:
NYT (3-28-06)

American intelligence agencies and presidentialcommissions long ago concluded that Saddam Hussein hadno unconventional weapons and no substantive ties toAl Qaeda before the 2003 invasion.

But now, an unusual experiment in public access isgiving anyone with a computer a chance to playintelligence analyst and second-guess the government.

Under pressure from Congressional Republicans, thedirector of national intelligence has begun a yearlongprocess of posting on the Web 48,000 boxes ofArabic-language Iraqi documents captured by Americantroops.

Less than two weeks into the project, and with only600 out of possibly a million documents and video andaudio files posted, some conservative bloggers arealready asserting that the material undermines theofficial view.

6) This was fun the other day. Bush's handlers decided about 6 months ago that they'd let their little prince interact with actual citizens -- with predictable results. Interestingly, he's performed better than one might have expected back when all of his appearances were 100% stage managed:

Questioner Sharply Criticizes President Bush at Appearance by Ron Hutcheson and Jim Morrill CHARLOTTE, North Carolina - President Bush isn't used to tongue lashings, but he got a scolding Thursday from a North Carolina man who told the president that he should be ashamed of himself...

7) Iraqi brain drain -- somehow this doesn't seem accidental or coincidental:,,1738575,00.html

The Iraqi brain drain

As hundreds of Iraqi doctors, professors and teachersare being murdered in what some see as a deliberatecampaign, Jonathan Steele meets the ones who managedto escape

Friday March 24, 2006
The Guardian

Still ashen-faced six days after escaping death, DrAli Faraj pulls his hair aside to display a scar abovehis left ear. One of Iraq's top cardiologists, he wasseeing a patient when a group of kidnappers wearingski-masks stormed into his Baghdad clinic, knocked hisreceptionist to the floor and when he emerged toinvestigate the noise, ordered him to come with them.To his surprise, they said they were taking him to theInterior Ministry. "I know the minister so I said Iwould check if it was really necessary. I put out myhand to pick up the phone, but they knocked my armaside and struck me on the head with a pistol butt.They dragged me to the front gate where a car waswaiting," he says, safe now in Jordan.

"It was about 7pm, already dark. Suddenly we heardshots. I couldn't tell where they were coming from.One of the kidnappers fell to the ground. He had beenhit. Three of them started to lift him up. The fifthman ordered me into the car but I ran back to theclinic in the darkness."

Faraj was not totally unprepared for what has become anormal risk of Baghdad life. "I had a Kalashnikov inthe clinic. My driver took it and started shooting. Ialso had a pistol in my drawer. The kidnappers droveoff."
Bleeding from his head wound, he was taken home bycolleagues. Only the next day did Faraj discover thatthe firing that saved him came from the garden of atribal sheikh who lives opposite: "The man'sbodyguards saw the gunmen going into my clinic, andwere ordered by the sheikh to take cover and shoot ifthey were obviously abducting somebody when they cameout."

Who the kidnappers were remains a mystery. Were theycriminals acting for money or, as they claimed to be,people linked to the police? What is certain is that atrickle of kidnappings and murders which began in thefirst lawless months after US and British forcestoppled Saddam Hussein three years ago has now becomea flood. At least 1,000 people have died in thesectarian tit-for-tat killings that followed thedestruction of one of Iraq's holiest shrines inSamarra last month.

The growing insecurity has set off a massive braindrain, as more and more Iraqis slip away from thecountry, perhaps never to return. While the fall ofSaddam Hussein opened the door for an earliergeneration of Iraqi exiles to go home, now the flow isgoing the other way again. Kidnap survivors are thelucky ones. Hundreds of Iraqi professionals are beingmurdered in what some Iraqis see as a deliberatecampaign to destroy the country's best and brightest.The Ministry of Higher Education and ScientificResearch says that 89 university professors and seniorlecturers have been killed since 2003, and policeinvestigations have led to nothing.
Iraqi academics have compiled a longer list of up to105 names of assassinated colleagues. The most recentwas Professor Ali Muhawesh, the dean of theengineering college at Mustansiriya University, one ofBaghdad's two main campuses. He was shot this week.

The rate of killing is increasing. Some 311 teachershave been murdered in the past four months alone,according to the Ministry of Education. It is not onlyBaghdad that is suffering. The medical college inMosul, a city in northern Iraq, has lost nine seniorstaff.

Even outside Iraq, fear consumes many exiles. InJordan's capital, Amman, the first port of call formost refugees, requests for interviews producedrepeated rejections. Others would only talk if falsenames were used and no mention made of where they workor live. Faraj is one of the few people who have fledwho are willing to speak openly and be photographed.After eluding his would-be kidnappers, he fled toJordan last week. In the chaos and looting whichfollowed the US entry into Baghdad, he had alreadytaken his wife and children to Amman, aiming to waituntil the dust settled. It never did.

His family stayed in Jordan, but he commuted toBaghdad for several weeks at a time. "That's overnow," he says with grim determination. "I will nevergo back to Iraq."

Dr Azzam Kanbar-Agha, a British-educated surgeon,still makes the journey, though he too escaped akidnapping last September. "My whole life has changed.My family is shattered. I'm a sociable person. Ienjoyed sitting in cafes, meeting friends and talkingpolitics, but that's all over now. It's too insecurein Iraq," he says.

In Jordan he earns a third of what he did in Baghdad.So, despite the growing risk, he still goes back onshort visits. His kidnappers did not get as close asthe ones who stormed Faraj's office, but the threatwas equally sudden. At his clinic one day lastSeptember, Kanbar-Agha took a phone call from someonewho announced, "We are the mujahideen" (the resistancefighters). Assuming it was a friend playing the fool,he replied, "Come off it."

"We're serious," the voice countered. "We've beenwatching your clinic and we want you to make adonation to help our cause. We're fighting theAmericans."

When he asked what figure they had in mind, the voicewhispered softly, "We don't want to force you."
"I told them I wasn't used to this kind of talk. Theysuggested $10,000 (£5,750) and promised that no oneelse would bother me. I would be protected. I askedhow I could be sure they were mujahideen. They mightbe a gang. If we were a gang, the man said, 'We wouldjust kidnap you without a phone call'," he recalls.
Kanbar-Agha was given two days to collect the moneybut a few hours later got a chillingly impatient textmessage: "You're not worth negotiating with. We'regoing to act." Next day he threw away his mobile phoneSim card and fled to Jordan with his wife anddaughter.

Despite the danger, he has been back to Baghdad twice.But now he turns up at his clinic at random times. Hisreceptionist gives patients an appointment but warnsthem there could be a long wait. In the afternoons heworks at a crowded hospital where he feels there issafety in numbers.

One family that has strong evidence that the policeare involved in hostage-taking are the Hilmis. Thefather, mother, and four children in their 20s havehad to swap their capacious home in a prosperousBaghdad suburb for a small flat in Amman. Ahmed, 21,who was in his last year at university, was with oneof his sisters in their father's medical supply storelast autumn in Karrada, a busy Baghdad shopping areanear the river Tigris. His sister had the safe open inthe back room when four men arrived. They displayedofficial IDs from an anti-terrorist squad. They puthandcuffs on Ahmed and marched into the back roomwhere they took $40,000 from the safe. Then theyblindfolded him and bundled him into a vehicle for a15-minute drive.

Ahmed could not identify the place where he was heldbut says it must have been a government building sincethe electricity was never cut. He suspects it was thenotorious Jadriyah detention centre, run by theInterior Ministry, where the Americans discoveredclose to 200 people in December whose bodies showedmultiple signs of torture.

His family was asked to produce 25 daftar, ornotebooks, a slang phrase for a bundle of 100 $100bills - in other words, $250,000. The amount was toomuch, but they managed to raise $40,000. Ahmed waslucky. He was only held for five days. He was notmishandled in detention, and his kidnappers acceptedthe "reduced" amount of $40,000. When the family gotthe money together, he was dumped back on the street.

The next day, the Hilmis fled after quietly movingsuitcases to the homes of relatives. They did not daretell their neighbours they were leaving. Their houseis closed up and their new fear, they say, is that ifthe
Americans hear it is empty, they may smash thedoor and search it, leaving it open to looters oncethey go.
Similar stories can be heard from families in rentedrooms throughout Amman. By some estimates, there are amillion Iraqis in Jordan (compared with 300,000 at thetime of Saddam's overthrow). Thousands of others havemoved to Syria, Egypt, and the Gulf States.

In one flat I found an elderly gynaecologist and herdentist husband, both with post-graduatequalifications gained in Britain. They left Iraq lastyear with their four children, all fluentEnglish-speakers with university degrees. Now they arelost to Iraq. "I love my patients. I didn't want toleave them," says the doctor.

The last straw, says her younger son Ahmed Kamal (nothis real name), was when his mother had severe heartpains one evening and they could not get her tohospital because of the daily curfew which starts at8pm. "There are not enough ambulances. So I tried todrive her myself. We stopped at a police station foran escort because I was afraid we would be shot on theway. The police said they were too busy to help, so wehad to go home," he says.

With their various degrees - in electricalengineering, chemistry and agronomy - one might thinka family like this could be an asset in Jordan andquickly settle in. But every Iraqi complains ofJordan's tough immigration rules, under which theyonly get tourist entry permits for three days or aweek. "They hardly ever give residency permits toIraqis. They're afraid of competition," says Kamal."So we have to take work illegally at a quarter of ourIraq salaries. Employers like it that way."

The Jordanian authorities impose a fine of 1.50 dinars(about £1.25) a day for every foreigner who overstayshis or her permit. When they leave, the border policecount the time since they came in and charge them. Asa result, once in Jordan, many Iraqis say they cannotafford to leave. "We're trapped here. We can't workand we can't leave," says a car mechanic from Najaf.

The new sectarian tensions have added to the pressureto escape from Iraq. Like thousands of other familiesin Baghdad, the Kamals are mixed Sunni and Shia. Inthe past they had no interest in what sect theirfriends were but now, against their better instincts,they find themselves beginning to want to know.Group-think is gaining ground. "Most Sunnis thinkShias are all traitors. Most Shias think Sunnis areall terrorists," says Ahmed.

Slow-motion sectarian "cleansing" is under way asminority groups leave home and move to Baghdaddistricts where their sect is in the majority.Kanbar-Agha, who is a Shia but has a Sunni wife, triesto remain optimistic. He blames politicians forexploiting sectarianism. "It's stronger amongpoliticians than ordinary people. I see it in theireyes. They no longer talk about the Iraqi people. Theyonly talk about their own sect or group", he says.

But sectarianism is also being exploited for financialgain. Kandar-Agha says he has heard that an estateagent in Adamiyah, a mainly Sunni suburb in northBaghdad, was paying teenagers to deliver fliers toShia houses, warning them to leave. He hoped to buytheir property cheap or get it to rent out. Faraj sayshis Shia aunt who lives in Amariya, another heavilySunni area of Baghdad, got a letter saying her16-year-old son would be kidnapped if the family didnot leave. "The boy was immediately sent away toTurkey to stay with his married sister, but my aunt isrefusing to go. 'I'm an old widow. Let them kill me,'she says."

In another Amman flat, I met Muhammad Taha Yahir, theowner of a mini-market in Mosul, who had arrived inJordan the previous day. "I decided to leave Iraq amonth ago. I kept hoping things would improve, but nowit's hopeless. Very few people go to the shops. Theyjust come out for an hour or two in the afternoon," hesays. Mosul has few Shia residents and relationsbetween its main communities, Kurds and Sunni, are notbad, he says. What worries him is the generalinsecurity, bombs, clashes between the Americans andinsurgents, and trigger-happy American reactions. "I'mworried car bombs will go off as my kids travel to andfrom school. Or there could be clashes with theinsurgents, and roadblocks. If an American getskilled, they shoot back in all directions," he says."If an Iraqi policeman comes to my shop to buysomething, I have to apologise and ask him to leave.I'm afraid that I'll be thought to be an informer. I'mcaught between both sides.
We know where theinsurgents live, but we can't say anything."

He has never received any threats, but has two friendswho were killed on successive days last week. They hadbeen kidnapped but their families could not raise theransom. Both happened to be from Mosul's Christiancommunity. One ran a hardware store, another a shopselling electrical appliances. In the last few monthsbefore leaving, Taha Yahir rarely visited his own shopfor fear of being abducted. His staff ran everythingfor him.

His wife and family are still in Mosul, while heorganises a place in Amman for them to stay. In a fewdays he will rejoin them and try to sell his shop andhouse. "It will all have to be done with greatdiscretion and through a bank in Jordan. Otherwise, ifpeople know I am going and think I'm flush with cash,the risk of kidnapping will be even higher," heexplains.

When will it be safe for Iraqi exiles to go back? Theguesses range from gloom to the deepest pessimism. "Isee no chance of improvement for at least 10 years,"says Taha Yahir. "Maybe we won't live to see it getbetter," says Kamal. He is not yet 30.

Muhammad Moher el Din sits in the Central Cafe, afavourite haunt for Iraqi men in the crowded streetsof Old Amman, where hours are spent playing backgammonor smoking hubbly-bubblies. A leading Iraqi artist, hearrived in Jordan last week. "In Baghdad there is athreat to everything civilised. The attacks aretargeting doctors, artists, university people, andeveryone who represents civilisation, as well as allof civilisation's symbols, like the shrines in Samarraand Najaf," he says. Suspicion, mistrust, and fear areeverywhere. "Even our character is being changed. Ifeel it in me," he says.

8) What Bush hath wrought:

Battle for Baghdad 'has already started'
By Patrick Cockburn in Arbil
Published: 25 March 2006

The battle between Sunni and Shia Muslims for control of Baghdad has already started, say Iraqi political leaders who predict fierce street fighting will break out as each community takes over districts in which it is strongest.

"The fighting will only stop when a new balance of power has emerged," Fuad Hussein, the chief of staff of Massoud Barzani, the Kurdish leader, said. "Sunni and Shia will each take control of their own area." He said sectarian cleansing had already begun.

Many Iraqi leaders now believe that civil war is inevitable but it will be confined, at least at first, to the capital and surrounding provinces where the population is mixed. "The real battle will be the battle for Baghdad where the Shia have increasing control," said one senior official who did not want his name published. "The army will disintegrate in the first moments of the war because the soldiers are loyal to the Shia, Sunni or
Kurdish communities and not to the government." He expected the Americans to stay largely on the sidelines.

Throughout the capital, communities, both Sunni and Shia, are on the move, fleeing districts where they are in a minority and feel under threat. Sometimes they fight back. In the mixed but majority Shia al-Amel district, Sunni householders recently received envelopes containing a Kalashnikov bullet and a letter telling them to get out at once. In this case they contacted the insurgents who killed several Shia neighbours suspected of sending the letters.

"The Sunni will fight for Baghdad," said Mr Hussein. "The Baath party already controls al-Dohra and other Sunni groups dominate Ghazaliyah and Abu Ghraib [districts in south and west Baghdad]."

The Iraqi army is likely to fall apart once inter-communal fighting begins. According to Peter Galbraith, former US diplomat and expert on Iraq, the Iraqi army last summer contained 60 Shia battalions, 45 Sunni battalions, nine Kurdish battalions and one mixed battalion.

The police are even more divided and in Baghdad are largely controlled by the Mehdi Army of the radical nationalist cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and the Badr Organisation that has largely been in control of the interior ministry since last May. Sunni Arabs in Baghdad regard the ministry's paramilitary police commanders as Shia death squads.

Mr Hussein gave another reason why the army is weak. "Where you have 3,000 soldiers there will in fact be only 2,000 men [because of ghost soldiers who do not exist and whose salaries are taken by senior officers]," he said. "When it comes to fighting only 500 of those men will turn up."

Iraqi officials and ministers are increasingly in despair at the failure to put together an effective administration in Baghdad. A senior Arab minister, who asked not to be named, said: "The government could end up being only a few buildings in the Green Zone."

The mood among Iraqi leaders, both Arabs and Kurds, is far gloomier in private than the public declarations of the US and British governments. The US President George W Bush called this week for a national unity government in Iraq but Iraqi observers do not expect this to be any more effective than the present government of Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari. One said this week: "The real problem is that the Shia and Sunni hate each other and not that we haven't been able to form a government."

The Shia and Kurds will have the advantage in the coming conflict because they have leaders and organisations. The Sunni are divided and only about 30 per cent of the population of the capital. Nevertheless they should be able to hold on to their stronghold in west Baghdad and the Adhamiyah district east of the Tigris. The Shia do not have the strength and probably do not wish to take over the Sunni towns and villages north and west of Baghdad.

Though the Kurds have long sought autonomy close to quasi-independence, their leaders are worried that civil war will increase Iranian and Turkish involvement in Iraq. Mr Hussein said he feared that civil war in Baghdad could spread north to Mosul and Kirkuk where the division is between Kurd and Arab rather than Sunni and Shia.

Already Baghdad resembles Beirut at the start of the Lebanese civil war in 1975, when Christians and Muslims fought each other for control of the city.

9) Sudden increase in tracking down Vietnam deserters appears tied to Iraq war:

03/22/06 05:00 PM

Patriot Daily has a good analysis of the current trend of the U.S. military to track down Vietnam war deserters in what the authors call "an effort to set an example to deter the growing number of Iraq War military resisters who are fleeing to Canada." Since the war in Iraq began, at least 8,000 soldiers have deserted, a number which represents a decrease in desertions since September 11, 2001. The U.S. military denies that it has stepped up its campaign to find deserters, but there is some evidence to the contrary.

At least one Marine official has acknowledged that his office was being more aggressive in tracking down Vietnam war deserters. Chief Warrant Officer James Averhart said that he had ordered cold cases reopened, and that in his first year on the job, his sqad had brought in 27 deserters.

One case of particular interest is that of U.S. Marin Allen Abney, who lives in Canada but who has crossed the border "hundreds of times" to shop to take other trips. Just this month, he crossed the border and was arrested and transferred to military custody. Abney's case received publicity in both the American and Canadian press, and perhaps coincidentally, he will probably be released soon. Abney, like many soldiers, did not apply for amnesty under either the Ford clemency plan or the Carter amnesty plan. Though the Carter plan was much less punitive than the Ford plan, it gave unconditional amnesty to draft evaders only.
- Diane E. Dees

Read the MoJo Blog online for more:

@2006 The Foundation for National Progress

10) Send an anti-war message with your tax return, on real stamps:

So you can still join in the movement to send and anti-war message with your tax return this month (and with every letter you mail).

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