Wednesday, 9 April, 2003, 02:24 GMT 03:24 UK
Limbless Iraqi boy offered help
An Iraqi boy who had both arms blown off and was orphaned when a missile hit his Baghdad home has been offered help from around the world.
A former Indian royal Maharani Gayatri Devi from Jaipur said she would pay for a pair of artificial limbs for Ali Ismail Abbas, aged 12.
"I have to find out the whereabouts of the boy and where he can be operated upon. If the facilities are good in Iraq then he can be operated in Iraq or else anywhere in the world," she said.
The British clinic which makes prosthetic limbs for Heather Mills, the wife of the pop star Paul McCartney, has also offered to treat Ali Ismail Abbas.
"This is a humanitarian issue," said David Hills, manager of the Dorset Orthopaedic Company.
"We all feel a certain amount of guilt for what is going in Iraq, even if we know that this war is necessary as a means to an end... it would be an ideal opportunity to help."
Ali Ismail Abbas was fast asleep when a missile obliterated his home killing most of his family.
"Can you help get my arms back? Do you think the doctors can get me another pair of hands? If I don't get a pair of hands I will commit suicide," he told correspondents.
"I wanted to be an army officer when I grow up but not any more. Now I want to be a doctor - but how can I? I don't have hands."
He is presently in a Baghdad hospital, an improvised metal cage over his chest to stop his burned flesh touching the bedclothes.
"It was midnight when the missile fell on us. My father, my mother and my brother died. My mother was five months pregnant."
Seven other members of his family also died in the attack.
Neighbours pulled him out and brought him to the hospital unconscious.
"Our house was just a poor shack. Why did they want to bomb us?"
He did not know the area where he lived was surrounded by military installations.
Florian Westphal, of the International Committee of the Red Cross, said that it would be necessary to decide whether Ali Ismail Abbas' interests would be best served by bringing him to Britain, as moving him from Baghdad could be fraught with difficulty.
"We are heartened by the public interest in this case. If there is an effort under way which is aimed at helping the boy, we would be all in favour of that. Every single bid to help children like him is important."
The United Nations has described the situation in Baghdad's hospitals as "critical", while the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned of a health emergency both in Baghdad and in the country as a whole.
The director of the Red Cross team in the city, Roland Huguenin-Benjamin, said the start of ground operations by US troops in and around the city in recent days had led to a massive increase in doctors' workloads.
This contrasted with the situation during the aerial bombardment of the city in recent weeks, he said, when hospitals had mostly treated casualties with relatively light shrapnel injuries.
"Now when you have military engagement on the ground level, most people, at least the combatants, are hit much more seriously... it's all the more work for the doctors," Mr Huguenin-Benjamin told the BBC.
Story from BBC NEWS:
The New York Times
December 31, 2007
For Iraqi Street Cleaners, Scraps Include Human Flesh
By STEPHEN FARRELL
BAGHDAD — It must be a candidate for the worst job in Iraq.
It falls to Baghdad’s street sweepers to pick up the fingertips and scraps of flesh left behind after the emergency workers haul away the torsos and heads of bombing victims. They do the job without gloves, in all but the coldest weeks of winter.
If the attack comes while they are off duty, they get roughly $8 extra for cleaning up. Despite the grisly work, and the sadness at the deaths, that is a welcome sum when they are each paid about $6 a day. There were many such bomb bonuses paid in 2007, though markedly fewer than in past years.
But on Sunday, at year’s end, two municipal street cleaners, Imad al-Hashemi and Laith Mahdi Latif, said the bonuses would be something they could happily live without in 2008.
They were outside the Faqma ice cream shop in early August, when at least 15 people were killed at one of central Baghdad’s most popular refreshment spots in the Karada district; outside the numerous attempts on the Sayyed Idris shrine nearby; and at the market where more than a dozen people were blown up on Dec. 5. Across town, their colleagues had to clear up Ghazil animal market last month, and Tayaraan Square last Friday, hurling bags of debris into a battered white Scania truck after a car bomber killed eight people.
“Things have got better over the last few months, maybe 70 percent, and God willing, they will be better again next year,” Mr. Hashemi said. “Although we get a 10,000 dinar bonus” — about $8 — “for each bomb, we do not want to see explosions, we don’t want to see this. They are Iraqis, Sunni, Shia or Christian, they are all Iraqis.”
Shrugging, the two cleaners, whose hands look like those of men twice their 40 years or so, concede that it is not much of a job. But it is at least employment in a country where that is scarce.
Each has lost count of the number of bombs they have swept up. At least 10, Mr. Hashemi estimates. Maybe six in the past 18 months, Mr. Latif guesses, although he concedes that all but the worst details fade for the two, both veterans of Saddam Hussein’s military campaigns.
“This is normal for me,” Mr. Hashemi said. “I was a soldier for eight years in Basra and Amara during the Iran war. Sometimes it does make you depressed; I was standing 50 meters away from one car when it blew up, and I saw heads cut off from bodies. It was disgusting.”
As residents of Karada they are on night call when the other cleaners have gone home to Sadr City or elsewhere. As soon as he hears a bomb, Mr. Latif said, he stops everything and waits for the phone call, which inevitably comes. “The worst one was at Al Faqma,” he said. “There was this woman, she was dying and they couldn’t pull her out because the driver’s seat trapped her against the steering wheel.”
Both reiterate that they hope, and expect, things to get better. But then, Mr. Hashemi concedes, he thought the same thing after the Iran-Iraq war. “I thought after we finished that, that there would be no more killing, no wars,” he said. “And after 1991.”
Elsewhere in Iraq, on the first anniversary of Mr. Hussein’s execution, fears of violence proved largely unfounded, amid tight security. Hundreds of supporters, including schoolchildren who were given the day off, gathered at the mausoleum erected over the grave in his hometown, Awja. Many laid flowers while others recited poetry or chanted.
Mr. Hussein was executed on Dec. 30 last year after being convicted of crimes against humanity for the killing of 148 Shiites in Dujail after a failed assassination attempt against him there in 1982.
His hanging caused outrage among Sunni Arabs, who took it as provocation that his sentence was carried out under a Shiite-led government on the day that Sunnis began their celebrations of Id al-Adha. They were further incensed by cellphone camera images that showed him being taunted on the scaffold.
At the grave in Awja, Yasir Ahmad, a relative of Mr. Hussein’s, said: “Saddam didn’t die, he is in our hearts. The conspiracies that happened against him and his comrades and sons was nothing but an American-Iranian conspiracy.”
A year later, the same issues of retribution and reconciliation surround the delayed sentences imposed on three of Mr. Hussein’s lieutenants, including his cousin, Ali Hassan al-Majid, known as Chemical Ali, and the former defense minister, Sultan Hashem Ahmed al-Jabouri al-Tai.
All have been sentenced to death for war crimes. Sunnis have urged mercy for Mr. Hashem, arguing that he was a professional soldier carrying out his orders. But Iraqi government officials have demanded that the Americans hand the men over for execution.
Hassan al-Sneid, a Shiite lawmaker from the Dawa Party, defended Mr. Hussein’s execution, saying it was carried out according to the Constitution.
“The passing of a year may convey the clear impression that there is no way for the political process to be reversed, and it also made it clear that the political process will continue,” he said. “I think that removing the former regime figures is important for the national reconciliation process.”
Reporting was contributed by Mohammed Obaidi, Hosham Hussein and Khalid al-Ansary from Baghdad, and Iraqi employees of The New York Times from Awja.
Always in hiding, an Iraqi interpreter's anguished life
Ann Scott Tyson. Christian Science Monitor. Sep 15, 2004.
It's 100 degrees F. Khalid Ahmed jostles in the back of a US armored vehicle on a combat mission, tightens his flak vest, and pulls on a thick black ski mask. Covering his eyes with wrap-around sunglasses, he obscures the last clues to his Iraqi identity.
It's a mask Mr. Ahmed hates intensely, although he knows it could save his life. As an interpreter for a US Army colonel, he faces constant danger on and off the job. In Mosul alone, at least four of his colleagues - including his predecessor - have been assassinated for working with American forces.
Like many of the hundreds of Iraqi interpreters serving the US military, Ahmed leads an anguished life. Hounded by taunts and the threat of death from fellow Iraqis, he is also troubled by the abuses and mistrust of some US soldiers. But his job is as crucial as it is wrenching, especially as US and Iraqi forces increasingly mount joint combat operations to shore up Iraq's new government.
"Sometimes, when I'm alone, I cry," says Ahmed, an English literature graduate of Mosul University. "It's so contradictory because I'm proud of what I'm doing, but I hide my face," he says, withholding his real name. Since he cast his lot with US forces in the first days of their occupation of Mosul in April 2003, Ahmed has faced the extremes of Iraqi popular attitudes toward the American military. Initial euphoria has given way to a grim daily effort to survive, he says.
"Every time I leave the FOB [forward operating base] I'm thinking someone is following me and will try to shoot me," he says in a dim meeting room of the Army base, an old Baath Party headquarters on the banks of the Tigris River. To keep a lower profile, he rules out buying a car, even though for the first time he can afford one. Instead, he hires taxis, concocting a new story for drivers each day about why he's going to the base.
When the war began in March 2003, Ahmed was selling slippers and belts at a roadside stand in Mosul. The stocky, energetic university graduate longed to test his English ability, but lacked the family connections necessary to get a better job under the Saddam Hussein regime.
"In Iraq, we were 'waiting for Godot,' " he says. "So the Americans were Godot."
When Hussein fell and US Marines occupied Mosul, Ahmed got his chance. "My brother came over and said he saw one of my friends riding in a Humvee. I couldn't believe it." Within days, he was hired by the Marines, initially making his family proud. "My mom and dad told everyone their son was an interpreter for the Americans," he says.
Working for the Marines and later the 101st Airborne Division and Stryker brigade, Ahmed was impressed by much of what he learned about American culture. In managing propane distribution, for example, he discovered US soldiers were highly egalitarian.
"Before the war, we had important people and not-important people. But the soldiers were fair to everyone," he says. "I learned a lot from those guys. I learned that you judge each individual by what he does" rather than by his family, tribe, or group, he says.
Still, he says the US occupation also brought chaos because Iraqis lack a sense of ownership for their country. "Saddam psychologically and physically damaged people's patriotic feeling for the country, to the point that it wasn't their country, it was Saddam's country and they lived in it," he says. Just as stuffing oneself after a Ramadan fast can cause a stomachache, he says, "you can't give us all that freedom at once or we will hurt ourselves and behave abnormally and randomly."
Yet Ahmed has also seen ugly sides of the US military. On a handful of raids when 101st soldiers beat Iraqis without justification, he objected and refused to interpret. Earlier this year, when news broke of the prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib, Ahmed and the other interpreters with his Stryker unit threatened to resign en masse.
"When I saw that on TV, I was very upset. All the interpreters were angry," he says, especially over images that play into Iraqi stereotypes of Americans as infidels corrupted by alcohol and pornography. "So I went to the Sergeant Major and said I will give you 30 minutes to apologize or we are leaving," he said. That won an immediate apology, along with a pledge from the military that no such abuses were happening in Mosul. Ahmed stayed.
Today, Ahmed plays an increasingly critical role as an interpreter during US-Iraqi military actions.
"I'm calling you the commander today," Lt. Col. Gordie Flowers of the 2nd Battalion, 3rd infantry Regiment told Ahmed as an operation kicked off earlier this summer. Indeed, virtually all the vital communications between Iraqi and US commanders that day passed through Ahmed and were shaped by his insights.
"I translate emotions, not only words," he says, shuttling between Iraqi officers and smoothing out their conflicts during a large search of a Mosul neighborhood.
Speaking excellent English, peppered with soldiers' vulgarities, Ahmed appears to earn every bit of his $450 monthly wage. Yet his mask betrays his job's huge cost. "I thank God for every moment of my life," he says, adding, "I hope the US military will take care of their good interpreters."
Abu Ghraib torture and prisoner abuse
Taguba's report, April 2004
In January 2004, Sergeant Joseph Darby, a U.S. Army MP, discovered digital images of apparent detainee abuse on a CD-ROM. He reported the pictures to his superiors, prompting coalition commander Lt. General Ricardo Sanchez to order United States Army Major General Antonio Taguba, to investigate. Two further investigations were also launched.
Taguba's 53-page report, classified "Secret" and dated April 4, 2004, concluded that U.S. soldiers had committed "egregious acts and grave breaches of international law" at Abu Ghraib. Taguba found that between October and December 2003 there were numerous instances of "sadistic, blatant, and wanton criminal abuses" of prisoners. In violation of Army regulations, intelligence officers asked military police to "loosen up" inmates before questioning. The report estimates that 60% of the prisoners at the site were "not a threat to society" and that the screening process was so inadequate that innocent civilians were often detained indefinitely. Guards invented their own rules and supervisors approved of their actions. Personnel lost track of prisoners, did not count their prisoners, and kept no records regarding dozens of escapes. The facility held too many inmates and supplied too few guards. Training of those on guard was insufficient, and superiors neglected to visit the facilities in person. Top military personnel disagreed on whether military police or military intelligence should be in charge. Prisoner treatment varied between shifts and between compounds.
Taguba cited numerous organizational and leadership failures at Abu Ghraib. Reservists tasked with guarding the prison population were inadequately trained, and Taguba faulted senior commanders for failing to address these deficiencies. Specifically, intelligence officers and members of one company, the 372nd Military Police Company, based in Cresaptown, Maryland, in charge of security, took part in the documented abuses.
Taguba's report cited numerous examples of inmate abuse, including:
By the time Taguba's report was completed, 17 soldiers and officers, including Brigadier General Janis Karpinski, were removed from duty. Six soldiers face courts martial and possible prison time as a result of their roles in the events. The charges against them included dereliction of duty, maltreatment, aggravated assault and battery.
Taguba said, "'Specifically I suspect that Col. Thomas M. Pappas, Lt. Col. Steve L. Jordan, Mr. Steven Stephanowicz and Mr. John Israel were either directly or indirectly responsible for the abuses at Abu Ghraib and strongly recommend immediate disciplinary actions ..." 
However, the online diary of another CACI interrogator at Abu Ghraib, Joe Ryan, reveals that a "Steve Stevanowicz" was still working at the prison on April 26, 2004, suggesting that Taguba's conclusions were ignored until the prison abuse scandal broke in the media.
A memo from Iraq U.S. Embassy report shows daily hardships, pressing fears of local employees
Washington Post. Jun 23, 2006.
Document URL: http://proquest.umi.com/pqdweb
Hours before President Bush left on a surprise trip to the green zone in Baghdad for an upbeat assessment of the situation there, the U.S. Embassy in Iraq painted a starkly different portrait of increasing danger and hardship faced by its Iraqi employees. This cable, marked "sensitive" and obtained by the Washington Post, outlines in spare prose the daily-worsening conditions for those who live outside the heavily guarded international zone: harassment, threats and the employees' constant fears that their neighbors will discover they work for the U.S. government.
- Al Kamen
The text that follows includes subheads provided by the memo's writer, Dr. Zalmay Khalilzad. U.S. ambassador to Iraq, The abbreviation before many entries, "SBU," refers to "sensitive but unclassified."
From: American Embassy, Baghdad
To: Secretary of State, Washington, D.C.
Subject: Snapshots from the Office: Public Affairs Staff Show Strains of Social Discord
1. (SBU) Beginning in March, and picking up in mid-May, Iraqi staff in the Public Affairs section have complained that Islamist and/or militia groups have been negatively affecting their daily routine. Harassment over proper dress and habits has been increasingly pervasive. They also report that power cuts and fuel prices have diminished their quality of life. Conditions vary by neighborhood, but even upscale neighborhoods such as Mansur have visibly deteriorated.
2. (SBU) The Public Affairs Press Office has nine local Iraqi employees. Two of our three female employees report stepped up harassment beginning in mid-May. One, a Shiite who favors Western clothing, was advised by an unknown woman in her upscale Shiite/ Christian Baghdad neighborhood to wear a veil and not to drive her own car. Indeed, she said, some groups are pushing women to cover even their face, a step not taken in Iran even at its most conservative.
3. (SBU) Another, a Sunni, said that people in her middle-class neighborhood are harassing women and telling them to cover up and stop using cell phones (suspected channel to licentious relationships with men). She said that the taxi driver who brings her every day to the green zone checkpoint has told her he cannot let her ride unless she wears a head cover. A female in the PAS cultural section is now wearing a full abaya after receiving direct threats in May. She says her neighborhood, Adhamiya, is no longer permissive if she is not clad so modestly.
4. (SBU) These women say they cannot identify the groups that are pressuring them; many times, the cautions come from other women, sometimes from men who they say could he Sunni or Shiite, but appear conservative. They also tell us that some ministries, notably the Sadrist controlled Ministry of Transportation, have been forcing females to wear the hijab at work.
Dress Code for All?
5. (SBU) Staff members have reported that it is now dangerous for men to wear shorts in public; they no longer allow their children to play outside in shorts. People who wear jeans in public have come under attack from what staff members describe as Wahabis end Sadrists.
6. (SBU) One colleague beseeched us to weigh in to help a neighbor who was uprooted in May from her home of 30 years, on the pretense of application of some long-disused law that allows owners to evict tenants after 14 years. The woman, who is a Fayli Kurd, says she has nowhere to go, no other home, but the courts give them no recourse to this new assertion of power. Such uprootings may be a response by new Shiite government authorities to similar actions against Arabs by Kurds in other parts of Iraq. (NOTE: An Arab newspaper editor told us he is preparing an extensive survey of ethnic cleansing, which he said is taking place in almost every Iraqi province, as political parties and their militias are seemingly engaged in tit-for-tat reprisals all over Iraq. One editor told us that the KDP is now planning to set up tent cities in Irbil, to house Kurds being evicted from Baghdad.)
Power Cuts and Fuel Shortages a Drain on Society
7. Temperatures in Baghdad have already reached 115 degrees. Employees all confirm that by the last week of May, they were getting one hour of power for every six hours without. That was only about four hours of power a day for the city. By early June, the situation had improved slightly. In Hai al Shaab, power has recently improved from one in six to one in three hours. Other staff report similar variances. Central Baghdad neighborhood Bab al Mu'atham has had no city power for over a month. Areas near hospitals, political party headquarters and the green zone have the best supply, in some cases reaching 24 hours. One staff member reported that a friend lives in a building that houses a new minister; within 24 hours of his appointment, her building had city power 24 hours a day.
8. (SBU) All employees supplement city power with service contracted with neighborhood generator hookups that they pay for monthly. One employee pays 7500 ID per ampere to got 10 amperes per month (75,000 ID = USD 50/month). For this, her family gets 6 hours of power per day, with service ending at 2 a.m. Another employee pays 9000 ID per ampere to get 10 amperes per month (90,000 = USD 60). For this, his family gets 8 hours per day, with service running until 5 a.m.
9. (SBU) Fuel lines have also taxed our staff. One employee told us May 29 that he had spent 12 hours on his day off (Saturday) waiting to get gas. Another staff member confirmed that shortages were so dire, prices on the black market in much of Baghdad were now above 1,000 Iraqi dinars per liter (the official, subsidized price is 250 ID).
Kidnappings, and Threats of Worse
10. (SBU) One employee informed us in March that his brother-in- law had been kidnapped. The man was eventually released, but this caused enormous emotional distress to the entire family. One employee, a Sunni Kurd, received an indirect threat on her life in April. She took extended leave, and by May, relocated abroad with her family.
Security Forces Mistrusted
11. (SBU) In April, employees began reporting a change in demeanor of guards at the green zone checkpoints. They seemed to be more militia-like, in some cases seemingly taunting. On employee asked us to explore getting her press credentials because guards had held her embassy badge up and proclaimed loudly to nearby passers- by "Embassy" as she entered. Such information is a death sentence if overheard by the wrong people.
Supervising a Staff at High Risk
12. (SBU) Employees all share a common tale of their lives: Of nine employees in March, only four had family members who knew they worked at the embassy. That makes it difficult for them, and for us. Iraqi colleagues called after hours often speak Arabic as an indication they cannot speak openly in English.
13. (SBU) We cannot call employees in on weekends or holidays without blowing their "cover." Likewise, they have been unavailable during multiple security closures imposed by the government since February. A Sunni Arab female employee tells us that family pressures and the inability to share details of her employment is very tough; she told her family she was in Jordan when we sent her on training to the U.S. in February. Mounting criticisms of the U.S. at home among family members also makes her life difficult. She told us in mid-June that most of her family believes the U.S. - which is widely perceived as fully controlling the country and tolerating the malaise - is punishing populations as Saddam did (but with Sunnis and very poor Shiites now at the bottom of the list). Otherwise, she says, the allocation of power and security would not be so arbitrary.
14. (SBU) Some of our staff do not take home their American cell phones, as this makes them a target. Planning for their own possible abduction, they use code names for friends and colleagues and contacts entered into Iraq cell phones. For at least six months, we have not been able to use any local staff members for translation at on-camera press events.
15 (SBU) More recently, we have begun shredding documents printed out that show local staff surnames. In March, a few staff members approached us to ask what provisions would we make for them if we evacuate.
Sectarian Tensions Within Families
16. Ethnic and sectarian fault lines are also becoming part of the daily media fare in the country. One Shiite employee told us in late May that she can no longer watch news with her mother, who is Sunni, because her mother blamed all government failings on the fact that Shiites are in charge. Many of the employee's immediate family members, including her father, one sister and a brother, left Iraq years ago. This month, another sister is departing for Egypt, as she imagines the future here is too bleak.
Frayed Nerves and Mistrust in the Office
17. (SBU) Against this backdrop of frayed social networks, tension and moodiness have risen. One Shiite made disparaging comments about the Sunni caliph Othman which angered a Kurd. A Sunni Arab female apparently insulted a Shiite female colleague by criticizing her overly liberal dress. One colleague told us he feels "defeated" by circumstances, citing the example of being unable to help his 2-year-old son who has asthma and cannot sleep in stifling heat.
18. (SBU) Another employee tells us that life outside the green zone has become "emotionally draining." He lives in a mostly Shiite area and claims to attend a funeral "every evening." He, like other local employees, is financially responsible for his immediate and extended families. He revealed that "the burden of responsibility; new stress coming from social circles who increasingly disapprove of the coalition presence, and everyday threats weigh heavily." This employee became extremely agitated in late May at Web site reports of an abduction of an Iraqi working with MNFI, whose expired Embassy and MNFI badges were posted on the Web site.
Staying Straight with Neighborhood Governments and the "Alasa"
19. (SBU) Staff members say they daily assess how to move safely in public. Often, if they must travel outside their own neighborhoods, they adopt the clothing, language and traits of the area. In Jadriya, for example, one needs to conform to the SCIRI/ Badr, ethic; in Yusfiya, a strict Sunni conservative dress code has taken hold. Adhamiya and Salihiya, controlled by the secular Ministry of Defense, are not conservative. Moving inconspicuously in Sadr City requires Shiite conservative dress and a particular lingo. Once-upscale Mansur district, near the green zone, according to one employee, by early June was an "unrecognizable ghost town."
20. (SBU) Since Samaria, Baghdadis have honed these survival skills. Vocabulary has shifted to reflect new behavior. Our staff - and our contacts - have become adept in modifying behavior to avoid "Alasas," informants who keep an eye out for "outsiders" in neighborhoods. The blase mentality is becoming entrenched as Iraqi security forces fail to gain public confidence.
21. (SBU) Our staff report that security and services are being rerouted through "local providers" whose affiliations are vague. As noted above, those who are admonishing citizens on their dress are not known to the residents. Neighborhood power providers are not well known either, nor is it clear how they avoid robbery or targeting. Personal safety depends or good relations with the "neighborhood" governments, who barricade streets and ward off outsiders. The central government, our staff says, is not relevant; even local mukhturs have been displaced or co-opted by militias. People no longer trust most neighbors.
22. (SBU) A resident of upscale Shiite/Christian Karrada district told us that "outsiders" have moved in and now control the local mukhturs, one of whom now has cows and goats grazing in the streets. When she expressed her concern at the dereliction, he told her to butt out.
23. (SBU) Although our staff retain a professional demeanor, strains are apparent. We see that their personal fears are reinforcing divisive sectarian or ethnic channels, despite talk of reconciliation by officials. Employees are apprehensive enough that we fear they may exaggerate developments or steer us toward news that comports with their own worldview. Objectivity, civility and logic that make for a functional workplace may falter if social pressures outside the green zone don't abate.
Document URL: http://proquest.umi.com/pqdweb
The Boston Globe
Study cites seeds of terror in Iraq
War radicalized most, probes find
By Bryan Bender, Globe Staff July 17, 2005
WASHINGTON -- New investigations by the Saudi Arabian government and an Israeli think tank -- both of which painstakingly analyzed the backgrounds and motivations of hundreds of foreigners entering Iraq to fight the United States -- have found that the vast majority of these foreign fighters are not former terrorists and became radicalized by the war itself.
The studies, which together constitute the most detailed picture available of foreign fighters, cast serious doubt on President Bush's claim that those responsible for some of the worst violence are terrorists who seized on the opportunity to make Iraq the ''central front" in a battle against the United States.
''The terrorists know that the outcome [in Iraq] will leave them emboldened or defeated," Bush said in his nationally televised address on the war at Fort Bragg in North Carolina last month. ''So they are waging a campaign of murder and destruction." The US military is fighting the terrorists in Iraq, he repeated this month, ''so we do not have to face them here at home."
However, interrogations of nearly 300 Saudis captured while trying to sneak into Iraq and case studies of more than three dozen others who blew themselves up in suicide attacks show that most were heeding the calls from clerics and activists to drive infidels out of Arab land, according to a study by Saudi investigator Nawaf Obaid, a US-trained analyst who was commissioned by the Saudi government and given access to Saudi officials and intelligence.
A separate Israeli analysis of 154 foreign fighters compiled by a leading terrorism researcher found that despite the presence of some senior Al Qaeda operatives who are organizing the volunteers, ''the vast majority of [non-Iraqi] Arabs killed in Iraq have never taken part in any terrorist activity prior to their arrival in Iraq."
''Only a few were involved in past Islamic insurgencies in Afghanistan, Bosnia, or Chechnya," the Israeli study says. Out of the 154 fighters analyzed, only a handful had past associations with terrorism, including six who had fathers who fought the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, said the report, compiled by the Global Research in International Affairs Center in Herzliya, Israel.
American intelligence officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, and terrorism specialists paint a similar portrait of the suicide bombers wreaking havoc in Iraq: Prior to the Iraq war, they were not Islamic extremists seeking to attack the United States, as Al Qaeda did four years ago, but are part of a new generation of terrorists responding to calls to defend their fellow Muslims from ''crusaders" and ''infidels."
''The president is right that Iraq is a main front in the war on terrorism, but this is a front we created," said Peter Bergen, a terrorism specialist at the nonpartisan New America Foundation, a Washington think tank.
Foreign militants make up only a small percentage of the insurgents fighting in Iraq, as little as 10 percent, according to US military and intelligence officials. The top general in Iraq said late last month that about 600 foreign fighters have been captured or killed by coalition forces since the Jan. 30 Iraqi elections. The wider insurgency, numbering in the tens of thousands, is believed to consist of former Iraqi soldiers, Saddam Hussein loyalists, and members of Iraq's Sunni Muslim minority.
But the impact of the foreign fighters has been enormous. They are blamed for the almost daily suicide attacks against US and Iraqi forces and have killed thousands of civilians, mostly members of Iraq's Shia Muslim majority. Their exploits have been responsible for much of the headline-grabbing carnage recently, contributing to the slide in American public support for the war.
There have been nearly 500 car bombings since the US-led coalition handed over sovereignty to an interim Iraqi government one year ago, US military statistics indicate. In the last two months, car bombs and suicide attacks have killed nearly 1,400 people, according to the Associated Press.
Bush has cited foreign fighters as a reason for continued US military operations in Iraq. His argument, repeated often, is that ''the world's terrorists" have chosen to make their stand in Iraq.
''Some may disagree with my decision to remove Saddam Hussein from power, but all of us can agree that the world's terrorists have now made Iraq a central front in the war on terror," Bush said in a radio address last month.
Foreign fighters were found to be like Saud Bin Muhammad Bin Saud Al-Fuhaid, according to Obaid's research, to be published by the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington this summer. Described as in his early 20s, Fuhaid blew himself up March 24, three days after he entered Iraq from Syria, according to newspaper accounts and interviews with his family.
Obaid found little evidence Fuhaid was an extremist before the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Like many of the young men from Saudi Arabia who make up the majority of the foreign fighters, the student at Imam University in western Riyadh was not initially a radical jihadist, according to information gleaned from Saudi newspaper accounts and intelligence operations. In fact, he apparently almost changed his mind.
Fuhaid is believed to have traveled through Syria to fight in Iraq, but once he arrived told his family he would be coming home instead, according to a death notice published in Saudi newspapers and posted on the Internet. ''However, during that time he met some friends of his who were going to Iraq and told him they were going to declare Jihad with their brothers in Iraq," the celebratory announcement said. ''It was at that moment that our martyr changed his mind and told them that he will go back to Iraq with them and called his parents to tell him he won't be going home."
Obaid said in an interview from London that his Saudi study found that ''the largest group is young kids who saw the images [of the war] on TV and are reading the stuff on the Internet. Or they see the name of a cousin on the list or a guy who belongs to their tribe, and they feel a responsibility to go."
Other fighters, who are coming to Iraq from across the Middle East and North Africa, are older, in their late 20s or 30s, and have families, according to the two investigations. ''The vast majority of them had nothing to do with Al Qaeda before Sept. 11th and have nothing to do with Al Qaeda today," said Reuven Paz, author of the Israeli study. ''I am not sure the American public is really aware of the enormous influence of the war in Iraq, not just on Islamists but the entire Arab world."
Case studies of foreign fighters indicated they considered the Iraq war an attack on the Muslim religion and Arab culture, Paz said.
For example, while the unprovoked attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, were largely condemned by clerics as violations of Muslim law, many religious leaders in Saudi Arabia and other Arab nations have promulgated fatwas, or religious edicts, saying that waging jihad in Iraq is justified by the Koran because it is defensive in nature. Last October, 26 clerics in Saudi Arabia said it was the duty of every Muslim to go and fight in Iraq.
''These are people who did not get training in Pakistan or Chechnya, [and they] ended up going to Iraq because they considered defending Iraq a must for every Muslim to go and fight," said Rita Katz, director of the Search for International Terrorist Entities Institute in Washington and an Iraq native.
One indication that a heightened degree of Arab solidarity is a leading factor is that they are almost entirely Arabs and not Muslims from other countries, such as those who volunteered to fight in Afghanistan, Bosnia, and Chechnya. Another motivation, the studies and analysts contend, is the centuries-old struggle between the Sunni and Shia branches of Islam. All the foreign fighters are Sunnis, according to the analyses, and many of their targets are Iraq's majority Shia Muslims, who have gained political power in Baghdad for the first time in hundreds of years.
Ali Alyami, director of the Center for Democracy and Human Rights in Saudi Arabia, said he believes the deep-seated Sunni-Shia rift among the world's 1.2 billion Muslims -- about 1 billion of them Sunni -- best explains the foreign-fighter phenomenon. He noted in an interview that US policy makers do not seem to grasp the historic conflicts within Islam that are playing out in the war in Iraq.
''To say we must fight them in Baghdad so we don't have to fight them in Boston implies there is a finite number of people, and if you pen them up in Iraq you can kill them all," said Bergen. ''The truth is we increased the pool by what we did in Iraq."
Intelligence officials worry that some of ''Iraq alumni" will use the relationships they build on the battlefields of Iraq and return to their home countries as hardened Islamic terrorists.
The CIA's National Intelligence Council concluded in a report earlier this year that ''Iraq and other possible conflicts in the future could provide recruitment, training grounds, technical skills, and language proficiency for a new class of terrorists who are 'professionalized' and for whom political violence becomes an end in itself."
The real story of Baghdad's Bloody Sunday
Six days ago, at least 28 civilians died in a shooting incident involving the US security company Blackwater. But what actually happened?
Kim Sengupta reports from the scene of the massacre
Published: 21 September 2007
The eruption of gunfire was sudden and ferocious, round after round mowing down terrified men women and children, slamming into cars as they collided and overturned with drivers frantically trying to escape. Some vehicles were set alight by exploding petrol tanks. A mother and her infant child died in one of them, trapped in the flames.
The shooting on Sunday, by the guards of the American private security company Blackwater, has sparked one of the most bitter and public disputes between the Iraqi government and its American patrons, and brings into sharp focus the often violent conduct of the Western private armies operating in Iraq since the 2003 invasion, immune from scrutiny or prosecution.
Blackwater's security men are accused of going on an unprovoked killing spree. Hassan Jabar Salman, a lawyer, was shot four times in the back, his car riddled with eight more bullets, as he attempted to get away from their convoy. Yesterday, sitting swathed in bandages at Baghdad's Yarmukh Hospital, he recalled scenes of horror. "I saw women and children jump out of their cars and start to crawl on the road to escape being shot," said Mr Salman. "But still the firing kept coming and many of them were killed. I saw a boy of about 10 leaping in fear from a minibus, he was shot in the head. His mother was crying out for him, she jumped out after him, and she was killed. People were afraid."
At the end of the prolonged hail of bullets Nisoor Square was a scene of carnage with bodies strewn around smouldering wreckage. Ambulances trying to pick up the wounded found their path blocked by crowds fleeing the gunfire.
Yesterday, the death toll from the incident, according to Iraqi authorities, stood at 28. And it could rise higher, say doctors, as some of the injured, hit by high-velocity bullets at close quarter, are unlikely to survive.
With public anger among Iraqis showing no sign of abating, the US administration has suspended all land movement by officials outside the heavily fortified Green Zone.
The Iraqi government has revoked Blackwater's licence to operate but it still remains employed by the US government. The Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, has, however, promised a "transparent" inquiry into what happened.
Blackwater and the US State Department maintain that the guards opened fire in self-defence as they reacted to a bomb blast and then sniper fire. Amid continuing accusations and recriminations, The Independent has tried to piece together events on that day.
The reports we got from members of the public, Iraqi security personnel and government officials, as well as our own research, leads to a markedly different scenario than the American version. There was a bomb blast. But it was too far away to pose any danger to the Blackwater guards, and their State Department charges. We have found no Iraqi present at the scene who saw or heard sniper fire.
Witnesses say the first victims of the shootings were a couple with their child, the mother and infant meeting horrific deaths, their bodies fused together by heat after their car caught fire. The contractors, according to this account, also shot Iraqi soldiers and police and Blackwater then called in an attack helicopter from its private air force which inflicted further casualties.
Blackwater disputes most of this. In a statement the company declared that those killed were "armed insurgents and our personnel acted lawfully and appropriately in a war zone protecting American lives".
The day after the killings, Mirenbe Nantongo, a spokeswoman for the US embassy, said the Blackwater team had " reacted to a car bombing". The embassy's information officer, Johann Schmonsees, stressed " the car bomb was in proximity to the place where State Department personnel were meeting, and that was the reason why Blackwater responded to the incident" .
Those on the receiving end tell another story. Mr Salman said he had turned into Nisoor Square behind the Blackwater convoy when the shooting began. He recalled: "There were eight foreigners in four utility vehicles, I heard an explosion in the distance and then the foreigners started shouting and signalling for us to go back. I turned the car around and must have driven about a hundred feet when they started shooting. My car was hit with 12 bullets it turned over. Four bullets hit me in the back and another in the arm. Why they opened fire? I do not know. No one, I repeat no one, had fired at them. The foreigners had asked us to go back and I was going back in my car, so there was no reason for them to shoot."
Muhammed Hussein, whose brother was killed in the shooting, said: "My brother was driving and we saw a black convoy ahead of us. Then I saw my brother suddenly slump in the car. I dragged him out of the car and saw he had been shot in the chest. I tried to hide us both from the firing, but then I realised he was already dead."
Jawad Karim Ali was on his way to pick up his aunt from Yarmukh Hospital when shooting started and the windscreen exploded cutting his face. " Then I was hit on my left shoulder by bullets, two of them another one went past my face. Now my aunt is out of hospital and I am sitting here. There was a big bang further away but no shots before the security people fired, and they just kept firing."
Baghdad's "Bloody Sunday" has become a test of sovereignty between the powers of the Iraqi government and the US. The Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, said: "We will not tolerate the killing of our citizens in cold blood." The shooting was, he said, the seventh of its kind involving Blackwater.
The company, which has its headquarters in North Carolina, is one of the largest beneficiaries of the lucrative occupation dividend, holding the contract to provide security for top-level American officials.
Its reputation in Iraq is particularly controversial. It was the lynching of four of the company's employees in 2004 which led to the bloody confrontation in Fallujah. The men's bodies were set on fire, dragged through the streets and then hung from a bridge. Blackwater personnel are recognisable from their "uniform" of wraparound sunglasses and body armour over dark coloured sweatshirts and helmets. Employees are thought to earn about $600 (£300) per day.
Sunday's shooting happened at Mansour, once one of the most fashionable districts of Baghdad, with roads flanked by shops selling expensive goods, restaurants and art galleries. In the height of the sectarian bloodletting between Shias and Sunnis earlier this year dead bodies would be regularly strewn in the streets. A semblance of safety has returned since, and Mansour was held up as an example of how the US military "surge" was cutting the violence.
We were in Mansour on Sunday when we heard the sound of a deafening explosion just after midday. Black plumes of smoke rose from a half-blasted National Guard (army) post near a mosque. Five or six minutes afterwards there was the sound of prolonged shooting towards the south.
Police Captain Ali Ibrahim, who was on duty near Nisoor Square, said: " We heard the bomb go off, it was very loud, but it wasn't at the square. The police were, in fact, trying to clear the way for the contractors when they became agitated, they opened fire. No one was shooting at them."
Asked about the witness accounts, Ali al-Dabbagh, an Iraqi government spokesman, confirmed: "The traffic policemen were trying to open the road for them. It was a crowded square and one small car did not stop, it was moving very slowly. They started shooting randomly, there was a couple and their child inside the car and they were hit."
US troops accused of Haditha cover-up
David Fickling and agencies
Friday August 18, 2006
US soldiers take cover on the streets in Haditha while in search
of insurgents. Photograph: Kevin N McCall/AP
US marines involved in the alleged massacre in the Iraqi town of Haditha last November may have destroyed or covered up evidence relating to the killing of 24 people.
A report in the New York Times this morning claimed that the marine unit's logbook was missing pages from the day of the killings and that videotape taken by an unmanned drone aircraft was withheld from investigators until senior officials intervened.
The paper reported that the defence department report had not been publicly released, and said that officials who believed the information deserved a public airing had leaked details of its findings.
A criminal investigation into the incidents was only ordered in March this year after Time magazine went public with details of the alleged massacre, reportedly carried out by US troops enraged at the death of a comrade in a roadside bombing.
Initial military reports of the incident in the insurgent-held town claimed that 15 civilians were killed in the initial roadside bombing and eight insurgents were shot dead in the ensuing firefight.
But prosecutors and Iraqi human rights groups say that the marine group went on a revenge rampage through the streets of Haditha after the death of their colleague, invading homes and shooting 24 people, including women and children.
Videotape shot by an Iraqi journalism student within hours of the incident showed shrouded bodies lined up in bullet-riddled buildings, and death certificates suggested that many of the dead had been killed execution-style with point-blank shots to the back of the head.
Part of the video showed a child called Safa Younis telling of how she survived by hiding next to the bodies of her mother and siblings and pretending to be dead.
"The Americans knocked at the door. My father went to open it. They shot him dead from behind the door, and then they shot him again after they opened the door," she said.
The New York Times reported today that 10 women and children were among the dead, as well as an old man in a wheelchair.
According to the unreleased report, the logbook which was meant to detail all activities by the marine unit was missing all its pages for the day of the killings. The leader of the marine squad being investigated over the incidents was on duty in the building where the log book was being kept shortly after the November 19 killings.
The report also allegedly contradicted claims that at least one of the shot Iraqis had been brandishing an AK-47 machine gun. No such weapon was recovered at the scene or turned in to headquarters, according to the newspaper.
The incident was one of several that emerged recently in which US troops reportedly killed Iraqi civilians in cold-blooded attacks.
Iraqi investigators are still looking into claims that US troops killed 11 Iraqi civilians and blew up their house in the town of Ishaqi just a week after the alleged Haditha cover-up was exposed in the media. US military investigators have concluded that troops did not act improperly in the incident.
In June reports emerged claiming that US troops had raped and murdered a 14-year-old girl and murdered three members of her family in the village of Mahmudiya, an incident that is alleged to have happened just days after the reports of the supposed Haditha cover-up.
In the same month the US military announced charges against several US soldiers accused of kidnapping and executing an Iraqi in the town of Hamdaniya before attempting to make the death look like an accident brought about as he tried to plant a bomb.
May 29, 2007
Desperate Iraqi Refugees Turn to Sex Trade in Syria
By KATHERINE ZOEPF
MARABA, Syria — Back home in Iraq, Umm Hiba’s daughter was a devout schoolgirl, modest in her dress and serious about her studies. Hiba, who is now 16, wore the hijab, or Islamic head scarf, and rose early each day to say the dawn prayer before classes.
But that was before militias began threatening their Baghdad neighborhood and Umm Hiba and her daughter fled to Syria last spring. There were no jobs, and Umm Hiba’s elderly father developed complications related to his diabetes.
Desperate, Umm Hiba followed the advice of an Iraqi acquaintance and took her daughter to work at a nightclub along a highway known for prostitution. “We Iraqis used to be a proud people,” she said over the frantic blare of the club’s speakers. She pointed out her daughter, dancing among about two dozen other girls on the stage, wearing a pink silk dress with spaghetti straps, her frail shoulders bathed in colored light.
As Umm Hiba watched, a middle-aged man climbed onto the platform and began to dance jerkily, arms flailing, among the girls.
“During the war we lost everything,” she said. “We even lost our honor.” She insisted on being identified by only part of her name — Umm Hiba means mother of Hiba.
For anyone living in Damascus these days, the fact that some Iraqi refugees are selling sex or working in sex clubs is difficult to ignore.
Even in central Damascus, men freely talk of being approached by pimps trawling for customers outside juice shops and shawarma sandwich stalls, and of women walking up to passing men, an act unthinkable in Arab culture, and asking in Iraqi-accented Arabic if the men would like to “have a cup of tea.”
By day the road that leads from Damascus to the historic convent at Saidnaya is often choked with Christian and Muslim pilgrims hoping for one of the miracles attributed to a portrait of the Virgin Mary at the convent. But as any Damascene taxi driver can tell you, the Maraba section of this fabled pilgrim road is fast becoming better known for its brisk trade in Iraqi prostitutes.
Many of these women and girls, including some barely in their teens, are recent refugees. Some are tricked or forced into prostitution, but most say they have no other means of supporting their families. As a group they represent one of the most visible symptoms of an Iraqi refugee crisis that has exploded in Syria in recent months.
According to the United Nations high commissioner for refugees, about 1.2 million Iraqi refugees now live in Syria; the Syrian government puts the figure even higher.
Given the deteriorating economic situation of those refugees, a United Nations report found last year, many girls and women in “severe need” turn to prostitution, in secret or even with the knowledge or involvement of family members. In many cases, the report added, “the head of the family brings clients to the house.”
Aid workers say thousands of Iraqi women work as prostitutes in Syria, and point out that as violence in Iraq has increased, the refugee population has come to include more female-headed households and unaccompanied women.
“So many of the Iraqi women arriving now are living on their own with their children because the men in their families were killed or kidnapped,” said Sister Marie-Claude Naddaf, a Syrian nun at the Good Shepherd convent in Damascus, which helps Iraqi refugees.
She said the convent had surveyed Iraqi refugees living in Masaken Barzeh, on the outskirts of Damascus, and found 119 female-headed households in one small neighborhood. Some of the women, seeking work outside the home for the first time and living in a country with high unemployment, find that their only marketable asset is their bodies.
“I met three sisters-in-law recently who were living together and all prostituting themselves,” Sister Marie-Claude said. “They would go out on alternate nights — each woman took her turn — and then divide the money to feed all the children.”
For more than three years after the American-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, Iraqi prostitution in Syria, like any prostitution, was a forbidden topic for Syria’s government. Like drug abuse, the sex trade tends to be referred to in the local news media as acts against public decency. But Dietrun Günther, an official at the United Nations refugee agency’s Damascus office, said the government was finally breaking its silence.
“We’re especially concerned that there are young girls involved, and that they’re being forced, even smuggled into Syria in some cases,” Ms. Günther said. “We’ve had special talks with the Syrian government about prostitution.” She called the officials’ new openness “a great step.”
Mouna Asaad, a Syrian women’s rights lawyer, said the government had been blindsided by the scale of the arriving Iraqi refugee population. Syria does not require visas for citizens of Arab countries, and its government had pledged to assist needy Iraqis. But this country of 19 million was ill equipped to cope with the sudden arrival of hundreds of thousands of them, Ms. Asaad said.
“Sometimes you see whole families living this way, the girls pimped by the mother or aunt,” she said. “But prostitution isn’t the only problem. Our schools are overcrowded, and the prices of services, food and transportation have all risen. We don’t have the proper infrastructure to deal with this. We don’t have shelters or health centers that these women can go to. And because of the situation in Iraq, Syria is careful not to deport these women.”
Most of the semi-organized prostitution takes place on the outskirts of the capital, in nightclubs known as casinos — a local euphemism, because no gambling occurs.
At Al Rawabi, an expensive nightclub in Al Hami, there is even a floor show with an Iraqi theme. One recent evening, waiters brought out trays of snacks: French fries and grilled chicken hearts wrapped in foil folded into diamond shapes. A 10-piece band warmed up, and an M.C. gave the traditionally overwrought introduction in Arabic: “I give you the honey of all stages, the stealer of all hearts, the most golden throat, the glamorous artist: Maria!”
Maria, a buxom young woman, climbed onto the stage and began an anguished-sounding ballad. “After Iraq I have no homeland,” she sang. “I’m ready to go crawling on my knees back to Iraq.” Four other women, all wearing variations on leopard print, gyrated on stage, swinging their hair in wild circles. The stage lights had been fitted with colored gel filters that lent the women’s skin a greenish cast.
Al Rawabi’s customers watched Maria calmly, leaning back in their chairs and drinking Johnnie Walker Black. The large room smelled strongly of sweat mingled with the apple tobacco from scores of water pipes. When Maria finished singing, no one clapped.
She picked up the microphone again and began what she called a salute to Iraq, naming many of the Iraqi women in the club and, indicating one of the women in leopard print who had danced with her, “most especially my best friend, Sahar.”
After the dancers filed offstage and scattered around the room to talk to customers, Sahar told a visitor she was from the Dora district of Baghdad but had left “because of the troubles.” Now, she said she would leave the club with him for $200.
Aid workers say $50 to $70 is considered a good night’s wage for an Iraqi prostitute working in Damascus. And some of the Iraqi dancers in the crowded casinos of Damascus suburbs earn much less.
In Maraba, Umm Hiba would not say how much money her daughter took home at the end of a night. Noticing her reluctance, the club’s manager, who introduced himself as Hassan, broke in proudly.
“We make sure that each girl has a minimum of 500 lira at the end of each night, no matter how bad business is,” he said, mentioning a sum of about $10. “We are sympathetic to the situation of the Iraqi people. And we try to give some extra help to the girls whose families are in special difficulties.”
Umm Hiba shook her head. “It’s true that the managers here are good, that they’re helping us and not stealing the girls’ money,” she said. “But I’m so angry.
“Do you think we’re happy that these men from the gulf are seeing our daughters’ naked bodies?”
Most so-called casinos do not appear to directly broker arrangements between prostitutes and their customers. Zafer, a waiter at the club where Hiba works, said that the club earned money through sales of food and alcohol and that the dancers were encouraged to sit with male customers and order drinks to increase revenues.
Zafer, who spoke on condition that only his first name be used, refused to discuss specific women and girls at the club, but said that most of them did sell sexual favors. “They have an hourly rate,” he said. “And they have regular customers.”
Inexpensive Iraqi prostitutes have helped to make Syria a popular destination for sex tourists from wealthier countries in the Middle East. In the club’s parking lot, nearly half of the cars had Saudi license plates.
From Damascus it is only about six hours by car, passing through Jordan, to the Saudi border. Syria, where it is relatively easy to buy alcohol and dance with women, is popular as a low-cost weekend destination for groups of Saudi men.
And though some women of other nationalities, including Russians and Moroccans, still work as prostitutes in Damascus, Abeer, a 23-year-old from Baghdad working at the same club as Hiba, explained that the arriving Iraqis had pushed many of them out of business.
“From what I’ve seen, 70 percent to 80 percent of the girls working this business in Damascus today are Iraqis,” she said. “The rents here in Syria are too expensive for their families. If they go back to Iraq they’ll be slaughtered, and this is the only work available.”
Friday, September 14th, 2007
Study: Iraq Civilian Toll Tops 1.2 Million
And back in Iraq, a new study is suggesting the civilian death toll from the U.S. invasion has topped one point two million. The British agency Opinion Research Business surveyed more than fourteen hundred Iraqi adults. The estimate was based on the number of deaths reported per household and the number of total households in Iraq. One in two households in Baghdad reported losing at least one family member. The one point two million estimate is the highest on civilian deaths so far. A study in the British medical journal the Lancet last year put the number at more than six-hundred fifty thousand. This week the top US commander in Iraq, General David Petraueus, spoke about Iraqi deaths on NPR’s morning edition.
Gen. David Petraeus: "In many respects, this is a thinking man's warfare. You can't kill everyone out there. You're not going to kill yourself out of an insurgency."
Wednesday, 11 October, 2006
By Kirsty Wark
"655,000 Iraqis, or around one in 40 of the Iraqi population, have died as a result of the 2003 invasion."
That shocking statistic is published today, not in some sensation seeking tabloid, but in The Lancet.
This is 10 times as many deaths as have been estimated elsewhere. The US army famously said "we don't do body counts", but the UN does make estimates based on information from the Iraqi Health ministry and the Medico-Legal Institute in Baghdad, and most recently the Ministry of Health said that 50,000 Iraqis had been killed between 2003 and June 2006.
Secret MoD poll: Iraqis support attacks on British troops
By Sean Rayment, Defence Correspondent
Last Updated: 11:59pm BST 22/10/2005
Millions of Iraqis believe that suicide attacks against British troops are justified, a secret military poll commissioned by senior officers has revealed.
The poll, undertaken for the Ministry of Defence and seen by The Sunday Telegraph, shows that up to 65 per cent of Iraqi citizens support attacks and fewer than one per cent think Allied military involvement is helping to improve security in their country.
It demonstrates for the first time the true strength of anti-Western feeling in Iraq after more than two and a half years of bloody occupation.
The nationwide survey also suggests that the coalition has lost the battle to win the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people, which Tony Blair and George W Bush believed was fundamental to creating a safe and secure country.
The results come as it was disclosed yesterday that Lt Col Nick Henderson, the commanding officer of the Coldstream Guards in Basra, in charge of security for the region, has resigned from the Army. He recently voiced concerns over a lack of armoured vehicles for his men, another of whom was killed in a bomb attack in Basra last week.
The secret poll appears to contradict claims made by Gen Sir Mike Jackson, the Chief of the General Staff, who only days ago congratulated British soldiers for "supporting the Iraqi people in building a new and better Iraq".
Andrew Robathan, a former member of the SAS and the Tory shadow defence minister, said last night that the poll clearly showed a complete failure of Government policy.
He said: "This clearly states that the Government's hearts-and-minds policy has been disastrous. The coalition is now part of the problem and not the solution.
"I am not advocating a pull-out but if British soldiers are putting their lives on the line for a cause which is not supported by the Iraqi people then we have to ask the question, 'what are we doing there?' "
The Sunday Telegraph disclosed last month that a plan for an early withdrawal of British troops had been shelved because of the failing security situation, sparking claims that Iraq was rapidly becoming "Britain's own Vietnam".
The survey was conducted by an Iraqi university research team that, for security reasons, was not told the data it compiled would be used by coalition forces. It reveals:
• Forty-five per cent of Iraqis believe attacks against British and American troops are justified - rising to 65 per cent in the British-controlled Maysan province;
• 82 per cent are "strongly opposed" to the presence of coalition troops;
• less than one per cent of the population believes coalition forces are responsible for any improvement in security;
• 67 per cent of Iraqis feel less secure because of the occupation;
• 43 per cent of Iraqis believe conditions for peace and stability have worsened;
• 72 per cent do not have confidence in the multi-national forces.
The opinion poll, carried out in August, also debunks claims by both the US and British governments that the general well-being of the average Iraqi is improving in post-Saddam Iraq.
The findings differ markedly from a survey carried out by the BBC in March 2004 in which the overwhelming consensus among the 2,500 Iraqis questioned was that life was good. More of those questioned supported the war than opposed it.
Under the heading "Justification for Violent Attacks", the new poll shows that 65 per cent of people in Maysan province - one of the four provinces under British control - believe that attacks against coalition forces are justified.
The report states that for Iraq as a whole, 45 per cent of people feel attacks are justified. In Basra, the proportion is reduced to 25 per cent.
The report profiles those likely to carry out attacks against British and American troops as being "less than 26 years of age, more likely to want a job, more likely to have been looking for work in the last four weeks and less likely to have enough money even for their basic needs".
Immediately after the war the coalition embarked on a campaign of reconstruction in which it hoped to improve the electricity supply and the quality of drinking water.
That appears to have failed, with the poll showing that 71 per cent of people rarely get safe clean water, 47 per cent never have enough electricity, 70 per cent say their sewerage system rarely works and 40 per cent of southern Iraqis are unemployed.
But Iraq's President Jalal Talabani pleaded last night for British troops to stay. "There would be chaos and perhaps civil war," he said. "We are now fighting a world war launched by terrorists against civilisation, against democracy, against progress, against all the values of humanity.
"If British troops withdrew, the terrorists would say, 'Look, we have imposed our will on the most accomplished armed forces in the world and terror is the way to oblige the Europeans to surrender to us'."
Iraq Wants Withdrawal Timetable In U.S. Pact
By Ernesto Londoño and Dan Eggen
Wednesday, July 9, 2008
BAGHDAD, July 8 -- Iraq's national security adviser said Tuesday that his government would not sign an agreement governing the future role of U.S. troops in Iraq unless it includes a timetable for their withdrawal.
The statement was the strongest demand yet by a senior Iraqi official for the two governments to set specific dates for the departure of U.S. forces. Speaking to reporters in the Shiite holy city of Najaf, National Security Adviser Mowaffak al-Rubaie said his government was "impatiently waiting" for the complete withdrawal of U.S. troops.
"There should not be any permanent bases in Iraq unless these bases are under Iraqi control," Rubaie said, referring to negotiations over a bilateral agreement governing the future U.S. military role in Iraq. The agreement, if approved, would go into effect when a U.N. mandate expires in December.
"We would not accept any memorandum of understanding with [the U.S.] side that has no obvious and specific dates for the foreign troops' withdrawal from Iraq," Rubaie said.
U.S. officials said the remarks, along with a similar statement Monday from Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, were aimed at local and regional audiences and do not reflect fundamental disagreements with the Bush administration.
White House spokesman Tony Fratto said specific withdrawal dates are not part of the talks. He added: "We have great confidence that the political leadership in Iraq would not take an action that would destabilize the country."
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said he anticipates continued drawdowns of U.S. troops from Iraq as the country's security forces take charge. But despite pressure from the Iraqi government for a withdrawal timeline, Gates said further troop reductions will depend on conditions on the ground.
"As the Iraqi security forces get stronger and get better, then we will be able to continue drawing down our troops in the future," Gates told reporters Tuesday during a visit to Fort Lewis, Wash. "However long that takes really will depend on the situation on the ground. But things are going very well at this point."
The outcome of the negotiations on the future role of U.S. forces in Iraq is almost certain to have political consequences for Maliki and other Iraqi leaders with close ties to the United States. Many Iraqis are opposed to the presence of U.S. troops in their country, and the debate has become a key wedge issue as Iraqi politicians gear up for provincial elections scheduled to take place in the fall.
Cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, perhaps Maliki's most formidable Shiite opponent, is staunchly opposed to the presence of U.S. troops and has vowed to designate a band of his militia, the Mahdi Army, to attack the Americans.
"If the occupation forces leave today, the situation will improve tomorrow for two reasons," said Nasar al-Rubaie, a senior Sadrist member of parliament. "The first is that the occupation is like a magnet for terrorism." The second, he said, was that the 2003 U.S.-led invasion placed American forces close to Syria and Iran, "and that caused negative reactions that made Iraq pay the price."
The Bush administration has long opposed a firm timetable for the withdrawal of troops from Iraq, arguing that the American military should leave only when Iraq's security forces can secure the country and that setting a pullout date would allow insurgents to lay low until after U.S. troops were gone.
At the same time, Bush has often said he would go along with the Iraqi government's wishes. "It's their government's choice," Bush said in May 2007. "If they were to say, 'Leave,' we would leave."
U.S. officials say the Iraqi army and police have made great strides in recent months. But the forces remain heavily dependent on the U.S. military, which has been providing training, air support and millions of dollars' worth of weapons, vehicles and aircraft.
Shiite parliament member Ali al-Adeeb, a close ally of Maliki, said the Iraqi government is proposing that the withdrawal of U.S. troops be linked to the handover of security responsibility for the provinces, the Associated Press reported.
Iraq has assumed primary responsibility for security in nine of Iraq's 18 provinces, but U.S. troops continue to operate freely throughout the country.
Iraq is proposing that U.S. troops withdraw from all Iraqi cities once the United States has handed over responsibility for security in all provinces, Adeeb told the AP.
Also on Tuesday, a U.S. soldier was killed about 9:30 a.m. west of Baghdad when a roadside bomb struck his vehicle, the military said in a statement.
In northeastern Baghdad, a U.S. soldier and an interpreter were wounded when an explosive device landed in a small outpost shared by U.S. and Iraqi soldiers, the U.S. military said in a statement.
Meanwhile, the military said Tuesday that four contractors were killed and eight were wounded Monday afternoon south of the northern city of Mosul when a roadside bomb struck their convoy. An Iraqi security official said the contractors were Iraqis working for the U.S. government.
Eggen reported from Washington. Staff writer Ann Scott Tyson in Washington and special correspondents Saad Sarhan in Najaf and Zaid Sabah in Baghdad contributed to this report.
Satellite images show ethnic cleanout in Iraq
Fri Sep 19, 2008 4:24pm EDT
By Maggie Fox, Health and Science Editor
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Satellite images taken at night show heavily Sunni Arab neighborhoods of Baghdad began emptying before a U.S. troop surge in 2007, graphic evidence of ethnic cleansing that preceded a drop in violence, according to a report published on Friday.
The images support the view of international refugee organizations and Iraq experts that a major population shift was a key factor in the decline in sectarian violence, particularly in the Iraqi capital, the epicenter of the bloodletting in which hundreds of thousands were killed.
Minority Sunni Arabs were driven out of many neighborhoods by Shi'ite militants enraged by the bombing of the Samarra mosque in February 2006. The bombing, blamed on the Sunni militant group al Qaeda, sparked a wave of sectarian violence.
"By the launch of the surge, many of the targets of conflict had either been killed or fled the country, and they turned off the lights when they left," geography professor John Agnew of the University of California Los Angeles, who led the study, said in a statement.
"Essentially, our interpretation is that violence has declined in Baghdad because of intercommunal violence that reached a climax as the surge was beginning," said Agnew, who studies ethnic conflict.
Some 2 million Iraqis are displaced within Iraq, while 2 million more have sought refuge in neighboring Syria and Jordan. Previously religiously mixed neighborhoods of Baghdad became homogenized Sunni or Shi'ite Muslim enclaves.
The study, published in the journal Environment and Planning A, provides more evidence of ethnic conflict in Iraq, which peaked just before U.S. President George W. Bush ordered the deployment of about 30,000 extra U.S. troops.
The extent to which the troop build-up helped halt Iraq's slide into sectarian civil war has been debated, particularly in the United States, with supporters of the surge saying it was the main contributing factor, and others arguing it was simply one of a number of factors.
"Our findings suggest that the surge has had no observable effect, except insofar as it has helped to provide a seal of approval for a process of ethno-sectarian neighborhood homogenization that is now largely achieved," Agnew's team wrote in their report.
Agnew's team used publicly available infrared night imagery from a weather satellite operated by the U.S. Air Force.
"The overall night light signature of Baghdad since the U.S. invasion appears to have increased between 2003 and 2006 and then declined dramatically from 20 March 2006 through 16 December 2007," their report said.
They said the night lights of Shi'ite-dominated Sadr City remained constant, as did lights in the Green Zone government and diplomatic compound in central Baghdad. Lights increased in the eastern New Baghdad district, another Shi'ite enclave.
Satellite studies have also been used to help document forced relocations in Myanmar and ethnic cleansing in Uganda.