Making Jihadists by murdering their families
Divide Iraq Along Ethnic Lines
Attacks underreported in Iraq
Iraqi officials say Saudi citizens are giving Sunnis money for arms
It's a Shiite army; so get out of the way
The Realist Manifesto
American hypocrisy in the war on terror
NEWS ARTICLE from The Plain Dealer, 11-5-06, by John Heilprin, Associated Press
[War games showed 400,000 troops were needed in Iraq]
``WASHINGTON -- The U.S. government conducted a series of secret war games in 1999 that anticipated an invasion of Iraq would require 400,000 troops, and even then chaos might ensue.
In its "Desert Crossing" games, 70 military, diplomatic and intelligence officials assumed the high troop levels would be needed to keep order, seal borders and take care of other security needs.
The documents came to light Saturday through a Freedom of Information Act request by the George Washington University's National Security Archive, an independent research institute and library.
"The conventional wisdom is the U.S. mistake in Iraq was not enough troops," said Thomas Blanton, the archive's director. "But the Desert Crossing war game in 1999 suggests we would have ended up with a failed state even with 400,000 troops on the ground."
There are currently [11-06] about 144,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, down from a peak of about 160,000 in January  ...''
NEWS ARTICLE from AlertNert News, 10-21-06, By Deena Beasley
[Making Jihadists by murdering their families]
``LOS ANGELES, Oct 21 (Reuters) - A controversial estimate by public health experts that hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have died because of the March 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq is likely an accurate assessment, researchers said on Saturday ...
The study, published earlier this month by the Lancet medical journal, employed a method known as "cluster sampling" in which data are collected through interviews with randomly selected households ...
Researchers from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and Al Mustansiriya University in Baghdad estimated with 95 percent certainty that the war and its aftermath have resulted in the deaths of between 426,000 and 794,000 Iraqis ...
"I think this is an extremely credible study," said Michael Intriligator, professor of economics at the University of California at Los Angeles.
Intriligator, who said he commonly uses cluster sampling in his own work, noted that the study's most remarkable finding was the death rates in the country have risen from 5.5 per thousand Iraqis per year before the invasion to 13.2 per thousand per year as of the study's July cutoff.
In addition to violence, death rates in Iraq are on the rise because of threats to public health, including poorly equipped hospitals, said activist Dr. Dahlia Wasfi.
"The affects on the civilian population of the war in Iraq have been grossly underestimated," said Jonathan Parfrey, executive director of the Los Angeles chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility.''
[Each Iraqi war death could be an incitement for revenge against the United States.]
NEWS ARTICLE from
The Australian, 10-22-06,
``Take Iraq death toll seriously: doctors
PRIME Minister John Howard should take a study into the Iraqi death toll seriously, according to a group of prominent Australian doctors.
The Lancet medical journal last week published a study estimating that about 655,000 Iraqis have died since conflict began in 2003, with 92 per cent of the deaths attributed to violence.
Mr Howard and US President George W. Bush dismissed the report, saying the findings were not credible or believable.
However, the Medical Association for the Prevention of War said both Governments should reassess their position.
"The study is the most accurate assessment of the Iraqi war dead and Mr Howard is being irresponsible by rejecting it out of hand," spokesman Dr Robert Marr said in a statement today.
The doctors stress the study was undertaken by respected researchers, with sound methodology and its conclusions should be taken seriously.
The research team used surveys to estimate there had been at least 426,000 deaths and as many as 794,000 Iraqis may have died in this conflict.''
NEWS ARTICLE from The BBC, 10-22-06, By Paul Reynolds, World affairs correspondent
``Many Iraqis have lost relatives to violence
The estimate that about 655,000 people have died in Iraq as a result of the 2003 invasion is such a large figure that it has led to two differing interpretations.
Those who had faith in an earlier report from 2004 - also published in the medical journal The Lancet - are now able to say that this larger survey proves their point that Iraqi deaths have been far greater than publicly reported, and have now reached what the report calls "a humanitarian emergency".
Those who thought that the 2004 survey was exaggerated - it estimated 98,000 additional deaths up until September 2004 - think this one is even more wide of the mark.
Les Roberts, one of the report's authors said: "It may not be extremely precise, but it gets us into the ball park."
Professor Gilbert Burnham, another of the report's authors and an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said: "We're very confident with the results."
And other epidemiologists supported that view. Ronald Waldman of Columbia University told the Washington Post that the survey used a method that was "tried and true" and that "this is the best estimate of mortality we have."
Update 19 October: there has been a lot of support for the report's methods among the statistical community. For example, stats.org at George Mason University has an online article by Rebecca Goldin who says: "While the Lancet numbers are shocking, the study's methodology is not. The scientific community is in agreement over the statistical methods used to collect the data and the validity of the conclusions drawn by the researchers conducting the study." ...
First, though, to the report itself. Its strength, its authors argue, is in its tried and trusted method. It took a sample and then extrapolated broad results from that sample. This is a technique used in other areas of conflict, in public opinion polling and in marketing, for example, in assessing television audiences.
In 2004, 33 clusters were chosen across the country with 30 households in each cluster. These households contained 7,868 people. This time, 47 clusters were chosen, with 12,801 people ...
[Using] the Iraqi population of 27,139,584, [there are] an estimated 654,956 "excess" deaths, 2.5 % of the population. Some statistical caveats are entered. The lowest estimate of deaths is put at 392,979 and the highest at 942,636. The lowest figure is still much bigger than the other counts ...''
NEWS ARTICLE from The Plain Dealer, 12-11-06, by Jason Straziuso, Associated Press
``Tearful Afghan president calls deaths of children 'too much'
KABUL, AFGHANISTAN -- A tearful President Hamid Karzai on Sunday lamented that Afghan children are being killed by NATO and U.S. bombs and by terrorists from Pakistan - a portrait of helplessness in the face of spiraling chaos ...
Karzai's spokesman, Khaleeq Ahmed, said the president was saddened over the deaths of a 2-year-old child and two Afghan teachers on Saturday [12-9-06] ...
On Sunday, insurgents ambushed NATO troops in southern Zabul province with a roadside bomb and gunfire, wounding two soldiers, said Capt. Andre Salloum, a spokesman for NATO's troops in the south.
A day earlier, a roadside bomb exploded next to an Afghan army vehicle in eastern Paktia province, killing all six soldiers on board, police said Sunday.
NATO, meanwhile, sharply reduced the number of Taliban militants it said were killed in fighting on Dec. 2  in the Musa Qala district of southern Helmand province. NATO officials originally said about 70 to 80 militants were killed, but revised the figure to about seven or eight, saying there could have been an internal reporting error.
The News Hour, 10-24-06
``Plan Floated to Divide Iraq Along Ethnic Lines
As the debate continues over the United States' next steps in Iraq, some proposals have called for sectioning the country along ethnic lines. Former State Department official Peter Galbraith discusses the de-centralization of Iraq in this second of a Newshour series on the future of Iraq.
JIM LEHRER: There were calls today from American officials for Iraqis to take a stronger role running their own country. They came as the issue of Iraq continued to stir the midterm election rhetoric here, as well as propel our conversation series on what to do next in Iraq.
Last night's was on ending the occupation. Tonight, it's decentralizing Iraq along ethnic lines.
Two weeks ago, Iraq's parliament passed a law that would allow the creation of autonomous Kurdish, Sunni and Shiite regions, each controlling their own affairs. A major proponent of this is Peter Galbraith, a former State Department official who's advised Iraqi Kurdish leaders on political issues. He's also author of "The End of Iraq: How American Incompetence Created a War Without End." I talked with him earlier today from London.
Mr. Ambassador, welcome.
PETER GALBRAITH, Former State Department Official: Good to be with you.
JIM LEHRER: You favor a form of decentralized partition for Iraq. Why?
PETER GALBRAITH: The country has already broken up. And actually, I'm opposed to using U.S. resources to try to put it back together again.
Kurdistan in the north is already a de facto independent state. It has its own elected government. It has its own army. It flies its own flag. The Iraqi army is not allowed to go to Kurdistan. The Iraqi flag is banned there.
The Shiite south is governed by the Shiite religious parties who enforce an Iranian-style Islamic law with militias. It's also not governed from Baghdad.
Baghdad itself is the front line of a civil war divided between a Shiite east and a Sunni west, and the Sunni center is a battleground between the coalition and Sunni insurgents.
So the country has already broken up, and this result is actually incorporated into the Iraqi constitution. The constitution creates a virtually powerless center -- it doesn't even have the power to tax -- and very strong regions that are allowed to have their own armies, where regional law is superior to central government law on almost all matters, and where the regions have substantial control of their own oil.
So if that's the result that has been endorsed by the Iraqi people, I don't see why the United States should try to put the country back together ...
Dividing into three nations
JIM LEHRER: So specifically, then, you would divide it into three independent nations?
PETER GALBRAITH: I think eventually Kurdistan will become an independent country. This is the result that is desired by almost all the Kurdish people. They voted in January 2005 in a referendum 98 percent for independence.
But as with regard to whether the Sunnis and Shiites have separate states, both of these groups consider themselves as Iraqi. The trouble is they have very different visions of what Iraq should be, and that's why, if you keep a unified Arab Iraq, it seems to me that that's a formula for endless war.
If you allow each of these entities to have very substantial self-government or, perhaps if they so choose, independence, it seems to me that that is a better way for each of these communities to protect their own interests and a way to minimize conflict.
JIM LEHRER: In other words, they would have no reason to fight anymore?
PETER GALBRAITH: There's going to be fighting over the boundaries, but right now there's a full-scale civil war between the Sunnis and the Shiites over the control of Arab Iraq. Allowing each group to run their own affairs, it's not going to solve the problem, but it provides the best opportunity to minimize it.
It's not realistic to think that Iraqi security forces can end sectarian fighting, because it's a civil war and the Iraqi security forces are themselves partisans in the civil war. They're either Shiite or Sunni.
Unifying a divided people
JIM LEHRER: As you know, the Sunnis have opposed this on the grounds that most of the oil is in Kurdistan and in the south where the Shiites would be in control. Under your plan, how would you deal with that problem?
PETER GALBRAITH: The Iraqi constitution has a formula for the distribution of oil revenues which gives the oil revenues to each of these regions in accordance with population. And I think that that is at least a suitable interim solution.
There probably is oil in the Sunni areas. The problem with Iraq is that most of its territory has not been explored, and there just hasn't been much exploration in the Sunni areas.
JIM LEHRER: Is it your position that the United States and its coalition allies have been trying to impose a unified Iraq on a group of people that do not want to be unified?
PETER GALBRAITH: That's certainly true of the Kurds, who not only don't want to be part of Iraq, but actually they hate Iraq. They see it as the country that committed genocide against them. The Shiites have also chosen a very decentralized form of state, and so there's really no reason to bring them back under the fold of a central government, either.
President Bush says our goal in Iraq is a unified and democratic Iraq. But, in fact, he's not willing to do two things that would be essential to bringing about that result. The first would be to disarm the Shiite militias and the theocratic governments that exist in the south. And the second would be to use U.S. troops as the police to end the civil war in Baghdad and other mixed areas.
It's not realistic to think that Iraqi security forces can end sectarian fighting, because it's a civil war and the Iraqi security forces are themselves partisans in the civil war. They're either Shiite or Sunni.
The role of the United States
JIM LEHRER: Does the United States have a role to play in getting this done if, in fact, the president and the administration should decide to adopt what you're suggesting and carry out what is in the constitution of Iraq? Does the U.S. have a role to play in this or should they just leave?
PETER GALBRAITH: Our ability to influence events in Iraq is extremely limited. I see no purpose for a continued U.S. presence in the Shiite southern half of Iraq.
It is true that, if we withdraw, it will be theocratic. It will not apply the human rights provisions in the Iraqi constitution, and it will be dominated by Iran. But that's the case now, and we aren't going to do anything to change it.
And if we're not going to end the civil war in Baghdad, which would require us to become the police in the city, I see no point in us remaining.
I do think that we can do two things: First, we can assist in negotiating the borders of the regions, particularly as between the Arabs and the Kurds, because we have considerable influence in Kurdistan. And, second, in our own interest, we need to be sure that al-Qaida and other Sunni terrorist organizations like it are not able to establish a base in the Sunni area.
The current strategy for trying to do that, which involves using what we call Iraqi troops to fight Sunni insurgents, but which in reality are Shiite troops, obviously is not working. The alternative would be to encourage the Sunnis to form their own region, with their own army, as allowed by Iraq's constitution, and to assist that region and that regional army in fighting the insurgents.
I would add one other part to this piece, which is that we cannot be sure that a Sunni region will be able to defeat the insurgency or will have the will to do it. We know the current strategy won't work, but we can't be sure the alternative will work. And for that reason, as an insurance policy, I would keep a small force in Kurdistan that could intervene against al-Qaida, should it try to establish a base in the Sunni-Arab area.
The civil war is likely to continue for a prolonged period of time, but I believe that the U.S. should extricate itself from parts of the country as quickly as possible because we're not doing any good.
A timeline for changes
JIM LEHRER: Finally, using your plan as a guideline, do you see -- is there an ideal time line-type of scenario that you would see unfolding that could actually resolve this thing peacefully over a period of time?
PETER GALBRAITH: This thing is not going to be resolved peacefully. The civil war is likely to continue for a prolonged period of time, but I believe that the U.S. should extricate itself from parts of the country as quickly as possible because we're not doing any good. We're not doing anything to contain the civil war.
So I would say we could withdraw from the Shiite south immediately, and we could withdraw rapidly from Baghdad. Setting up a Sunni region might take longer, but we should encourage that as quickly as possible. And then we would only be left with a residual force in Kurdistan.
JIM LEHRER: And the central government that now exists under the prime ministership of al-Maliki would just disappear?
PETER GALBRAITH: Well, there might be some nominal central government, but the important point is that the central government right now doesn't govern anything. It doesn't govern the south; it doesn't govern Kurdistan; and it doesn't govern either the center or Baghdad.
One problem with many of the strategies being discussed is that they basically involve an ultimatum to the Iraqi government to get its act together or else we'll withdraw. But the Iraqi government, even if it could get its act together, wouldn't matter, because it has no influence outside of the Green Zone, or only minimal influence.
JIM LEHRER: All right. Mr. Ambassador, thank you very much.
PETER GALBRAITH: Well, good talking to you ...''
The End of Iraq: How American Incompetence Created a War Without End (Hardcover) by Peter W. Galbraith
From Publishers Weekly
Galbraith, a leading commentator on Iraq thanks to his recent articles in the New York Review of Books, presents a clear-eyed and persuasive case against the Bush administration's nation-building project there.
As a former U.S. diplomat with long experience in Iraq, he offers an insider's view of the American occupation's failures?the poor preparation for post-invasion chaos, the cluelessness about Iraqi politics, the incompetence and corruption of the occupation authority, while advancing a deeper critique.
With Saddam's dictatorship and the Baathist party and army that supported it gone, he contends that Iraq is irrevocably splitting into a pro-American Kurdistan in the north, a pro-Iranian Shiite south and an ungovernable Sunni center.
America "cannot put the country back together again and it cannot stop the civil war," he insists. Deeply skeptical of attempts to reunify the Iraqi state, he proposes that the U.S. withdraw from Arab Iraq and "facilitate an amicable divorce" between the fractious sections.
Galbraith advised the Iraqi Kurds during recent constitutional negotiations and is palpably sympathetic to their national aspirations; his argument sometimes feels like a brief for Kurdish separatism. Still, Galbraith's authoritative grasp of the issues and his cogent, forthright call for disengagement ensure that the book will move into the center of the debate over American policy in Iraq. (July 17)
The End of Iraq, definitive, tough-minded, clear-eyed, describes America's failed strategy toward that country and what must be done now.
The United States invaded Iraq with grand ambitions to bring it democracy and thereby transform the Middle East. Instead, Iraq has disintegrated into three constituent components: a pro-western Kurdistan in the north, an Iran-dominated Shiite entity in the south, and a chaotic Sunni Arab region in the center. The country is plagued by insurgency and is in the opening phases of a potentially catastrophic civil war.
George W. Bush broke up Iraq when he ordered its invasion in 2003. The United States not only removed Saddam Hussein, it also smashed and later dissolved the institutions by which Iraq's Sunni Arab minority ruled the country: its army, its security services, and the Baath Party. With these institutions gone and irreplaceable, the basis of an Iraqi state has disappeared.
The End of Iraq describes the administration's strategic miscalculations behind the war as well as the blunders of the American occupation. There was the failure to understand the intensity of the ethnic and religious divisions in Iraq. This was followed by incoherent and inconsistent strategies for governing, the failure to spend money for reconstruction, the misguided effort to create a national army and police, and then the turning over of the country's management to Republican political loyalists rather than qualified professionals.
As a matter of morality, Galbraith writes, the Kurds of Iraq are no less entitled to independence than are Lithuanians, Croatians, or Palestinians. And if the country's majority Shiites want to run their own affairs, or even have their own state, on what democratic principle should they be denied? If the price of a unified Iraq is another dictatorship, Galbraith writes in The End of Iraq, it is too high a price to pay.
The United States must focus now, not on preserving or forging a unified Iraq, but on avoiding a spreading and increasingly dangerous and deadly civil war. It must accept the reality of Iraq's breakup and work with Iraq's Shiites, Kurds, and Sunni Arabs to strengthen the already semi-independent regions. If they are properly constituted, these regions can provide security, though not all will be democratic ...
NEWS ARTICLE from The Plain Dealer, 12-7-06, by The Associated Press
``Attacks underreported in Iraq, study group says
Washington - U.S. military and intelligence officials have systematically underreported the violence in Iraq in order to suit the Bush administration's policy goals, the bipartisan Iraq Study Group said.
In its report on ways to improve the U.S. approach to stabilizing Iraq, the group recommended Wednesday that the director of national intelligence and the secretary of defense make changes in the collection of information about violence to provide a more accurate picture.
The panel pointed to one day last July when U.S. officials reported 93 attacks or significant acts of violence. "Yet a careful review of the reports for that single day brought to light 1,100 acts of violence," it said.
"The standard for recording attacks acts as a filter to keep events out of reports and databases." It said, for example, that a murder of an Iraqi is not necessarily counted as an attack, and a roadside bomb or a rocket or mortar attack that doesn't hurt U.S. personnel doesn't count, either.
Also, if the source of a sectarian attack is not determined, that assault is not added to the database of violence incidents ...''
NEWS ARTICLE from The Plain Dealer, 12-8-06, by Salah Nasrawi, Associated Press
``Iraqi officials say Saudi citizens are giving Sunnis money for arms
CAIRO, EGYPT -- Private Saudi citizens are giving millions of dollars to Sunni insurgents in Iraq and much of the money is used to buy weapons, including shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles, according to key Iraqi officials and others familiar with the flow of cash.
Saudi government officials deny that any money from their country is being sent to Iraqis fighting the government and the U.S.-led coalition.
But the U.S. Iraq Study Group report said Saudis are a source of money for Sunni Arab insurgents. Several truck drivers interviewed by the Associated Press described carrying boxes of cash from Saudi Arabia into Iraq, money they said was headed for insurgents.
Two high-ranking Iraqi officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the AP most of the Saudi money comes from private donations, called zakat, collected for Islamic causes and charities.
In one recent case, an Iraqi official said, $25 million in Saudi money went to a top Iraqi Sunni cleric and was used to buy weapons, including Strela, a Russian shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missile. The missiles were purchased from someone in Romania, apparently through the black market, he said ...''
The Mews Hour, 12-7-06
[It's a Shiite army; so get out of the way]
``Politician Urges Faster Iraqi Takeover of Security
Leading Iraqi Shiite politician Abdul Aziz al-Hakim has urged U.S. forces to use a stronger hand against Sunni-led insurgents. Al-Hakim discusses his reaction to the Iraq Study Group report, as well as Iraqis' desire to take control of security forces as soon as possible.
RAY SUAREZ: Abdul Aziz al-Hakim is leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, the biggest party in the Iraqi government. He's one of the country's most important Shiite power brokers. The only Shia leader with whom the administration talks directly, he was in Washington this week and met at the White House with President Bush ...
RAY SUAREZ: A descendant of the Prophet Muhammad, al-Hakim is a fierce rival of a fellow Shiite cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr. Al-Hakim spent more than 20 years in exile in Iran, helping form the Supreme Council to overthrow Saddam Hussein's Sunni-dominated regime.
His ties to Iran were highlighted in the Iraq Study Group report released yesterday. The report also said the military arm of al-Hakim's party, the Badr Corps, has infiltrated the Iraqi police force and has carried out attacks on Sunni-Arab civilians.
I interviewed him in Washington earlier today with the help of two translators.
Eminence, welcome to the program.
ABDUL AZIZ AL-HAKIM (through translator): Thank you for providing this opportunity.
Iraqi people are just like any other nation in the world. They don't want to see foreign troops on their land forever taking responsibility for the security there.
RAY SUAREZ: What is your overall reaction to the report of the Iraq Study Group?
ABDUL AZIZ AL-HAKIM (through translator): There are very important points that the report has mentioned concerning the security in Iraq, the security forces. We agreed to all that was mentioned on these points, but the information that was not included, for example, in the report was the political processes that were occurring in Iraq, like the election process and the reconciliation process. The report had not mentioned the regional support for Iraq.
RAY SUAREZ: So the report doesn't give Iraqis enough credit for all they have accomplished so far?
ABDUL AZIZ AL-HAKIM (through translator): Of course, the report had been written from the U.S. view, and we respect that. But it does not represent our own point of view.
RAY SUAREZ: One of the major suggestions was to begin phasing out combat troops in favor of trainers, in the belief that this would speed up Iraq being able to take care of itself and for the Americans to get out. Do you agree?
ABDUL AZIZ AL-HAKIM (through translator): Iraqi people are just like any other nation in the world. They don't want to see foreign troops on their land forever taking responsibility for the security there.
Iraqis are capable. The government is so strong. It is enjoying a great popular support from millions of Iraqis. We want to accelerate the timings of the transferring for the responsibilities and for the prime minister, because he's the head of the Iraqi armed forces, to have the ability to arm, and equip, and use the Iraqi security forces, and for them to take responsibility of the security.
[In other words, recognize that the Iraqi army is a Shiite army, and get out of the way.
Iraq and the greater Middle East
RAY SUAREZ: One of the major points in the group report is to take a regional approach to solving the problem of Iraq and greater involvement of Syria and Iran. What did you think of this idea?
ABDUL AZIZ AL-HAKIM (through translator): Of course, this is from an American point of view. But regarding to us, as Iraqis, we have made our efforts, our moves towards the regional countries, the neighboring countries. And we are still doing such efforts, getting benefit from all the capabilities and relations that we are having amongst the Iraqi people to stop the blood-shedding and the terrorist activities in Iraq.
RAY SUAREZ: But that approach suggested by the Iraq Study Group goes wider and also says that a solution in the problems between Israel and Palestine is also necessary to help solve Iraq's problems.
ABDUL AZIZ AL-HAKIM (through translator): The Palestinian issue exists in the region, the Islamic and Arabic world as a problem. And there are resolutions and decisions by the United Nations, should deal with that problem. And I don't see any connect with that problem with the problems of Iraq. I want to see all are committed with the political process, with the law, with order.
[Has the Iraq Study Group thrown in the Palestinian problem to give themselves cover when their recommendations fail?] ...
RAY SUAREZ: You say the Badr Corps has disarmed. What about the Mahdi Army? Would you like to see them disarm?
ABDUL AZIZ AL-HAKIM (through translator): I want to see all are committed with the political process, with the law, with order. This is the will of all the Iraqis.
RAY SUAREZ: ... Who's responsible for the conditions in your country today? ...
ABDUL AZIZ AL-HAKIM (through translator): The first responsible side are those real enemies for Iraqi people. Those are the Saddamists and the Takfiris.
RAY SUAREZ: And who are the Takfiris?
ABDUL AZIZ AL-HAKIM: Al-Qaida. (through translator): Those are the al-Qaida terrorists ...''
Source: PWHCE, 12-8-06, by Trevor Stanley
``Takfir - Takfiri
takfir: Excommunication; declaring a person or group of people non-Muslim.
In mainstream Sunni Islam, it is considered wrong to engage in takfir. Sunni Islam has a general reluctance to spread fitna (sow dissension) or 'backbite'. Furthermore, to declare takfir is to pre-empt Allah's judgement. The Muslim who considers another's actions to be wrong may say so, but will stop far short of declaring that person an apostate from the faith. Similarly, there is a reluctance to resist a leader who prays and does not restrict the observance of the faith.
Even qualified mainstream religious scholars are reluctant to declare takfir except in particularly egregious cases. Some radical groups have broken this taboo.
Takfiri: Those who excommunicate mainstream Muslim individuals, societies and leaders.
Although nominally Sunni, takfiris reject major aspects of mainstream Sunni religion. They are also apt to reject components of society, culture and law in Muslim countries, which they consider to have slipped back into a pre-Islamic state of pagan ignorance (jahiliyya). Unsurprisingly, takfiris often support militancy against their regimes ...''
TRANSCRIPY from THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP, 12-15-06
HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN
PANEL: PATRICK BUCHANAN, MSNBC; ELEANOR CLIFT, NEWSWEEK; TONY BLANKLEY, THE WASHINGTON TIMES; MARTIN WALKER, UNITED PRESS INTERNATIONAL
TAPED: FRIDAY, DECEMBER 15, 2006
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: Listen Up ... The November midterm elections, barely 40 days ago, made clear to President Bush that the American people want a new game plan for Iraq ...
MR. BUCHANAN: Here's what Bush is going to do. He's going to go in and he's going to try to knock down the Mahdi Army to get the Shi'a leadership to focus on the other Shi'as, and then he's going to try to get out ...
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: If we stay one more year, 12 months, we'll lose over 1,000 Americans who will die ... The ratio is about eight to 10 per one for wounded, right? Now, do you think that a thousand American lives to stay in through December  is worth it?
MR. WALKER: Absolutely not, except that it's not worth it for Iraq. It could be worth it from what this is now about, which is about Iran. Do we want to live with an Iranian great power, nuclear -- armed, spreading the Shi'ite ...
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. For more from General Odom, go to NiemanWatchdog.org. That's NiemanWatchdog.org. Exit question: Is President Bush timing his Iraq policy speech for next year in order to get added momentum behind the Iraq war funding, thus railroading Congress? ...
MR. BLANKLEY: ... I think he needs more time to make the decision ...
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean, collecting data still?
MR. WALKER: No, it's about ... a really critical choice, and it's the one that Pat identified. It's which of the two Shi'ite factions do you go with? If you try and crush the Mahdi Army, you're supporting the pro-Iranian group of SCIRI. If you support the pro-Iranian group of SCIRI, then you're going to give the entire game to Iran. That's the question.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: In either case, if you support one side in a civil war --
MR. WALKER: You're in trouble.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- you are inflaming the other side because you're helping their opponent.
MR. WALKER: The whole reason why the Sunni insurgency has been as strong as it has is because you've got the Shi'a divided. They're divided between the pro-Iranian SCIRI [Supreme Council of Islamic Revolution In Iraq] and the Iraqi nationalist Mahdi Army. Which one does the U.S. pick? ...
MR. BUCHANAN: He's picked Hakim. He's picked Hakim [SCIRI] already. I think the Mahdi Army is in for a fight with the Americans.
MS. CLIFT: The Sunnis are the majority in that region. We'll have 80 percent of the Muslim community hating us even more than they do today.
MR. BUCHANAN: They're going to pick one of the Shi'a factions ...
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We've got to get out. My view is that he's timing this for the return of Congress. And when the American forces have weakened and they need a fresh budget from Congress, then he will hit them with the request for more money, because they can't say no ...
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: ... Happy Hanukkah. Bye-bye.
NEWS ARTICLE from The Plain Dealer, 12-11-06, by Kim Gamel, Associated Press
``Iraqi president rips Iraq Study Group's report
He objects to boost in GI training role
BAGHDAD, IRAQ -- The Iraqi president on Sunday sharply criticized the bipartisan U.S. report calling for a new approach to the war, saying it contained dangerous recommendations that would undermine his country's sovereignty and were "an insult to the people of Iraq."
President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd and one of the staunchest U.S. supporters within the Iraqi leadership, also said U.S. training of Iraq's army and police had gone "from failure to failure."
He criticized the recommendation by the Iraq Study Group calling for increasing the number of U.S. troops embedded with Iraqi units to train Iraq's forces from 3,000 to 4,000 currently to 10,000 to 20,000.
"It is not respecting the desire of the Iraqi people to control its army and to be able to rearm and train Iraqi forces under the leadership of the Iraqi government," he said during an interview with several reporters in his office in Baghdad ...
Talabani's criticism of U.S. training was directed at a key part of the study group's recommendation, which called for accelerated training of Iraqi forces and the withdrawal of most U.S. combat troops by the first quarter of 2008.
Talabani said the 2008 date was realistic if the Iraqi government is given more responsibility for security. "If we can agree with the U.S. government to give us the right of organizing, training, arming our armed forces, it will be possible in 2008 [for U.S.-led forces] to start to leave Iraq and to go back home," he said.
[In other words, let the Iraqi Arabs kill each other; they are all enemies of the Kurds,]
"If you read this report, one would think that it is written for a young, small colony that they are imposing these conditions on," Talabani said. "We are a sovereign country." ...
Meanwhile, sectarian violence raged on the streets of Baghdad on Sunday [12-10-06], with a fresh outburst of retaliatory attacks and clashes between Shiites and Sunnis. At least 83 people were killed or found dead throughout the country, including 59 bullet-riddled bodies that turned up in Baghdad.''
NEWS ARTICLE from The Washington Post, 12-7-06, By Glenn Kessler and Thomas E. Ricks, Washington Post Staff Writers
[The Realist Manifesto]
The Iraq Study Group report released yesterday might well be titled "The Realist Manifesto."
From the very first page, in which co-chairmen James A. Baker III and Lee H. Hamilton scold that "our leaders must be candid and forthright with the American people," the bipartisan report is nothing less than a repudiation of the Bush administration's diplomatic and military approach to Iraq and to the whole region. The 10-member Iraq Study Group, led by former secretary of state James A. Baker III and former congressman Lee H. Hamilton (D-Ind.), releasted its report on Dec. 6, 2006, recommending "new and enhanced diplomatic and political efforts ... and a change in the primary mission of U.S. forces." ...
The administration's effort to spread democracy to Arab lands is not mentioned in the report, except to note briefly that most countries in the region are wary of it ...
"The ability of the United States to influence events within Iraq is diminishing," the report warns.
The report is replete with damning details about the administration's inept handling of Iraq. It notes, for instance, that only six people in the 1,000-person embassy in Baghdad can speak Arabic fluently. It recounts how the military counted 93 acts of violence in one day in July, when the group's own reexamination of the data found 1,100 acts of violence. "Good policy is difficult to make when information is systematically collected in a way that minimizes discrepancy with policy goals," the report says ...
The report also urges high-level talks with Iran and Syria without preconditions, although it sets goals for those talks that struck some analysts as unrealistic. Iran and Syria might have been more amenable to serious negotiations several years ago -- the panel noted, for instance, that Iran was helpful in Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban -- but that moment has probably passed, now that Iran and Syria believe the United States is on the ropes.
Baker, who said "you talk to your enemies, not just your friends," suggested that one goal of such talks would be to demonstrate to others in the region that Iran and Syria want Iraq to fail ...
The report's core military recommendation -- that almost all U.S. combat troops be withdrawn by the beginning of 2008, but that a large force be left to train and advise Iraqi forces -- struck some military experts as appropriate, but others called it overly ambitious.
[Leaving embedded American troops to be murdered by vengeful Iraqis is not a good idea.]
Anthony H. Cordesman, a defense expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, criticized the recommendation to quadruple the current number of U.S. advisers and trainers to about 20,000 soldiers, saying: "The U.S. is to rush in more qualified trainer and embeds that it doesn't have, and assign more existing combat forces unqualified for the mission." ...''
[American hypocrisy in the war on terror]
``Moscow slams Chechen's US asylum
Mr. Akhmadov fled to the US two years ago.
Russian officials have condemned a decision by the US to grant asylum to a high-ranking Chechen separatist, who Moscow says is a terrorist.
Ilyas Akhmadov was foreign minister in the separatist Chechen government led by Aslan Maskhadov from 1997 to 1999.
The senior pro-Russian Chechen official in Moscow described the move as a "sign of US double standards" ...
Russia interprets foreign refusals to extradite alleged militants as tolerance of terrorism ...
A senior adviser to President Vladimir Putin suggested the decision would cast a cloud over US-Russian relations.
Mr. Akhmadov is the latest representative of the separatist Chechen leadership to be granted asylum in a foreign country.
Former President Maskhadov's government dispersed and went into hiding following the Russian decision to send troops back into Chechnya in 1999.
Mr. Akhmadov fled to the US two years ago and was granted asylum after security officials dropped objections.
Earlier this year, Mr. Maskhadov's representative, Akhmed Zakayev, was granted asylum in the UK, which also angered Moscow ...''
[We may complain about private Saudi citizens giving millions of dollars to Sunni insurgents in Iraq, but for many years private American citizens have given money to the Irish Republican Army.]
The News Hour, 12-19-06
``Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan warns Iraq has descended into civil war and says the U.S. should set a timetable for withdrawing troops.
MARGARET WARNER: Mr. Prime Minister, welcome. Thank you for joining us.
RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN, Prime Minister of Turkey: Thank you ...
MARGARET WARNER: I guess my question is, if you were giving a recommendation to Washington about what to do with its military forces, would you recommend drawing down American forces in a major way?
RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN: ... I think that the number of troops must be slowly diminished.
I do not see any benefit to increasing the number of troops ...
MARGARET WARNER: Now, under what circumstances would Turkey feel it had to intervene militarily in Iraq?
RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN: At the moment, you mentioned earlier that northern Iraq is peaceful, but it is not, because there is a terrorist organization. And it is there in northern Iraq.
PKK is attacking our country, Turkey, from northern Iraq. It is coming from northern Iraq ...
[The Kurdistan Workers Party (Kurdish: Partiya Karkeren Kurdistan or PKK]
MARGARET WARNER: How much more time will you give ... negotiations between the U.S. and Turkey over the Kurdish rebels that are getting safe haven right now in Iraq?
How much time will you give that process before Turkey has to take matters into its own hands and just go into Iraq itself and try to clean them out?
RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN: The special envoys are working at the moment. And, of course, we do not see that there is a lot of time for that work, because this issue does not have a history of only a few years. This has been around for 30 years, so I have to say very clearly that work has to progress ...''
The ASSOCIATED PRESS, 12-30-06,
This video image released by Iraqi state television shows Saddam Hussein's guards wearing ski masks and placing a noose around the deposed leader's neck moments before his execution Saturday [12-30-06]. In a final moment of defiance, he refused a hood to cover his eyes.
NEWS ARTICLE from Reuters, 12-30-06, By Claudia Parsons
``Incredulity, joy, anger in Iraq at Saddam hanging
BAGHDAD -- Scarcely able to believe the pictures of Saddam Hussein on the gallows, Iraqi Kurds and Shi'ites said he had received a dose of his own medicine when he was hanged on Saturday [12-30-06].
But for many of the former president's fellow Sunni Arabs, it was a sombre day.
"What happened today is unbelievable, it's a great joy that I can't even express," said Mohammad Kadhim, a 30-year-old journalist in the Shi'ite city of Basra in southern Iraq.
"I can't believe what I'm seeing on television -- Saddam led to the gallows where he hanged tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis by the same method," Kadhim said.
Popular reactions were fairly muted as Iraqis woke on the holiest day of the Muslim calendar to begin a week of religious holidays for Eid al-Adha [the gathering in Mecca of Muslim pilgrims]. Unlike at previous times of tension, no curfew was imposed on Baghdad after the execution ...
Jubilant Shi'ites, oppressed under Saddam, danced in the streets of the holy city of Najaf and cars blared their horns in procession through Baghdad's Shi'ite Sadr City slum.
"When I saw the pictures I knew that the era of Saddam was really over," said Mohammad Hussain, a government employee in the Kurdish city of Arbil. "I wanted to see that scene. I wanted to see Saddam's reaction in the moments before his execution." ...
Salwa Alwan, 45, a housewife in Basra, said Saddam had executed three of her brothers and her husband: "It said on the death certificates that they were hanged to death and today I am seeing Saddam hanged. The justice of heaven has been done." ...
A curfew was imposed in Tikrit, Saddam's hometown, and there were reports of sporadic clashes there. Residents in Awja, the impoverished village where he was born, said Saddam was now a martyr in the fight against the U.S.-backed government.
"This is a mercenary court. Iraqi people reject this court. Saddam is the legal president of Iraq. If they execute him we will rise up. We will all become a bomb," one young man told Reuters ...
A few hundred Saddam supporters demonstrated in Ramadi, in Iraq's western Anbar province which is the centre of a Sunni Arab-led insurgency, chanting Saddam-era slogans such as "We will sacrifice our blood and souls for you".
A man from Dujail who testified in Saddam's trial over the deaths of 148 Shi'ite men from the town said he was shown the body at Maliki's office and wept for his dead relatives.
"When I saw the body in the coffin I cried. I remembered my three brothers and my father whom he had killed. I approached the body and told him: 'This is the well-deserved punishment for every tyrant'," Jawad al-Zubaidi told Reuters. "Now for the first time my father and three brothers are happy."
(Reporting by Aref Mohammed in Basra, Shamal Aqrawi in Arbil and Mariam Karouny in Baghdad)
NEWS ARTICLE from The Plain Dealer, 12-30-06, by Salah Nasrawi, Associated Press
``CAIRO, EGYPT -- Saddam Hussein boasted of being the "builder of modern Iraq." ...
Before Saddam led his people into the disastrous 1980-88 war with Iran and the 1990 invasion of Kuwait - which led to the Gulf War - Iraq was the envy of the Arab world.
As deputy chairman of the ruling Revolutionary Command Council, Saddam headed an economic planning council that oversaw the building of vast industrial plants, huge housing projects, eight-lane highways, bridges, airports, universities and communications systems.
His name and the slogan "Builder of modern Iraq" adorned streets across the nation as well as airports and new towns. He even ordered his name inscribed on stones in reconstructed monuments in ancient cities like Babylon, alongside those of kings.
The building spree was paid for with earnings from the country's oil reserves, second largest in the world after Saudi Arabia's. From 1970 to 1974, revenues from oil exports increased from $896 million to $7.6 billion.
"People overlooked their political deprivation and lack of participation, they only saw buildings sprouting here and there," said Iraqi economist Ghanim Hamdoun, who researched Iraq's 1970s economic experiment.
Under Saddam, imprisonment or summary execution of political foes was common. Political parties, unions and civic groups not controlled by Saddam's Baathist party were banned.
Millions of Iraqis, though, were able for the first time in their lives to wear designer clothes and vacation in London, Madrid or Paris. Others started tasting imported foods and driving Japanese, German or French cars - all at government-subsidized prices.
Baghdad was a hub for Arab writers and artists who gathered at annual festivals. An Iraq-based foreign development fund provided economic aid to poor nations in Africa ...
His 1980 invasion of Iran, portrayed as a fight against the Persians on behalf of all Arabs, set off an eight-year war that drained Iraq's economy and killed hundreds of thousands on both sides ... Saddam ... demanded that Kuwait and Saudi Arabia forgive debts incurred in the long war with Iran.
When Kuwait refused, Saddam accused his neighbor of stealing Iraq's oil through wells pumped under the two countries' border. Claiming Kuwait was historically an Iraqi province, he invaded on Aug. 2, 1990.
The invasion brought on the Gulf War, as well as U.N. sanctions that remained in place until the 2003 invasion and further strangled Iraq's economy ...''
Activists from the Socialist Unity Centre of India stand next to a burning poster of U.S. President George Bush during a protest against the execution of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, in the southern Indian city of Bangalore, December 30, 2006. REUTERS/JAGADEESH NV
NEWS ARTICLE from The ASSOCIATED PRESS, 12-30-06, by Associated Press Writer Will Weissert
``Saddam Hussein dies on the gallows, exiting the Iraqi stage after a long, brutal reign
BAGHDAD, IRAQ -- Saddam Hussein struggled briefly after American military guards handed him over to Iraqi executioners before dawn Saturday. But as his final moments approached and masked executioners slipped a black cloth and noose around his neck, he grew calm ...
Saddam Hussein went to the gallows before sunrise Saturday [12-30-06], executed by vengeful countrymen after a quarter-century of remorseless brutality that killed countless thousands.
"Now, he is in the garbage of history," said Jawad Abdul-Aziz, who lost his father, three brothers and 22 cousins in the reprisal killings that followed a botched 1982 assassination attempt against Saddam in the Shiite town of Dujail ...
Earlier, in Baghdad's Shiite enclave of Sadr City, hundreds of people danced in the streets while others fired guns in the air to celebrate. Some hanged an effigy of Saddam ...
The execution took place during the year's deadliest month for U.S. troops, with the toll reaching 109. At least 2,998 members of the U.S. military have been killed since the Iraq war began in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count ...
"The president, the leader Saddam Hussein is a martyr and God will put him along with other martyrs. Do not be sad nor complain because he has died the death of a holy warrior," said Sheik Yahya al-Attawi, a cleric at the Saddam Big Mosque ...
Saddam's half-brother Barzan Ibrahim and Awad Hamed al-Bandar, the former chief justice of the Revolutionary Court, were not hanged along with their former leader as originally planned. Officials wanted to reserve the occasion for Saddam alone ...
Iraqi state television showed footage of guards in ski masks placing a noose around Saddam's neck. Saddam appeared calm as he stood on the metal framework of the gallows. The footage cuts off just before the execution ...
The execution came 56 days after a court convicted Saddam and sentenced him to death for his role in the killings of 148 Shiite Muslims from Dujail. Iraq's highest court rejected Saddam's appeal Monday and ordered him executed within 30 days.
A U.S. judge on Friday refused to stop Saddam's execution, rejecting a last-minute court challenge.
U.S. troops cheered as news of Saddam's execution appeared on television at the mess hall at Forward Operating Base Loyalty in eastern Baghdad. But some soldiers expressed doubt that Saddam's death would be a significant turning point for Iraq.
"First it was weapons of mass destruction. Then when there were none, it was that we had to find Saddam. We did that, but then it was that we had to put him on trial," said Spc. Thomas Sheck, 25, who is on his second tour in Iraq. "So now, what will be the next story they tell us to keep us over here?" ...''
NEWS ARTICLE from The Dallas Morning News, 1-1-07, By ALEXANDRA ZAVIS, Los Angeles Times
``Hussein execution video stirs outrage
BAGHDAD, IRAQ -- As hundreds of supporters of Saddam Hussein broke curfew Sunday to pay respects at the tomb of the toppled Iraqi president, a widely circulated video of his execution fueled outrage and threatened to deepen the country's sectarian divide.
Hussein was buried before daybreak in Ouja, the small northern town where he was born. At the funeral there, and across the Sunni Muslim world, Hussein's allies expressed outrage at his chaotic final moments, revealed in grainy footage, circulated on the Internet and on television, showing his execution at dawn Saturday [12-30-06].
The video, which appears to have been recorded with a cellphone, showed onlookers taunting Hussein with chants of "Muqtada, Muqtada, Muqtada," a reference to radical Shiite Muslim cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, whose Mahdi militia is accused of hunting down Sunnis and killing them. As the trap door snapped open beneath Hussein, some in attendance cheered: "The tyrant has fallen!"
The spectacle appeared to deepen the deadly sectarian divide between Sunnis and the Shiite majority that now leads Iraq's government.
"Today they proved themselves that the trial and the execution were mere retaliation and not justice," said a mourner from Hussein's hometown of Tikrit, who gave his name only as Abu Mohammed, a customary nickname. "It is clear now against whom we should retaliate."
As the images ricocheted across the Arab world, they drew angry comment in newspapers, on television and on Internet blogs in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt and other heavily Sunni countries that are allies of the United States ...
Many blamed the United States, which had had custody of Hussein, for handing him over to the Iraqi government to be humiliated before his death ...
Others vented their anger against Iran, which has close ties with the Shiite parties that dominate the current Iraqi government ...
"Saddam appears like a hero to the Iraqi people now," Saleh Mutlak, leader of the second-largest Sunni group in Parliament, said by telephone from Dubai. "Even those who hated Saddam love Saddam now."
The timing of the execution, which coincided for Sunnis with the beginning of the holiday of Eid al-Adha that marks the end of the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, was considered particularly offensive. Shiites began celebrating the holiday one day later ...
After the hanging, the body of Hussein, 69, was washed and wrapped in a white shroud according to Islamic tradition and transported in a U.S. military helicopter to Tikrit.
The provincial governor and the head of Hussein's Albu-Nassir clan then loaded the coffin onto the back of a white police pickup truck and drove it to his birthplace in nearby Al Auja ...
It was placed in what was described as a temporary grave prepared in a religious hall about two miles from the cemetery where Hussein's sons, Uday and Qusay, were buried after they died in a gunfight with U.S. forces in Mosul in 2003.
It is not yet known where a permanent grave may be situated. Elders did not want to bury Hussein with his sons in the less-centrally located cemetery for fear that the grave would be desecrated.''
NEWS ARTICLE from The Plain Dealer, 12-30-06, by Brad Foss, Associated Press
``WASHINGTON -- Oil prices settled above $61 a barrel on Friday [12-29-06] to finish 2006 roughly where they began, marking another tough year for energy consumers and another stellar one for the petroleum industry.
It was the fifth straight year in which oil prices were higher than the year before, on average.
Many analysts are looking for crude-oil futures next year to average more than $60 a barrel because of robust demand in Asia and the Middle East, efforts by OPEC to trim supply, and market-rattling instability in energy- rich countries such as Nigeria and Iraq ...
Nymex oil futures peaked at an intraday high of $78.40 on July 14  but averaged $66.25 for the year, compared with $56.70 in 2005 and $41.47 in 2004 ...''
[Why is there no mention that the destruction of Saddam's dictatorship and the Baathist party and army that supported it can be considered another of the many campaigns the U. S. has waged against leftist regimes -- Arbenz in Guatemala, Noriega in Panama, Ortega in Nicaragua, Allende in Chile, and Lumumba in the Congo? One of our major failures in Iraq has been failing to convert a Stalinist command economy to a free market economy, All we have done is let criminals grab the wealth.
Anatol Rapoport, in his edition of "Clausewitz on War," Penguin, 1968, remarks that [p 61] "all social revolutions must be viewed as hostile to the United States ... The asymmetry of the present international system (contrasted with the symmetry of the Clausewitizian system) is well understood by the Neo-Clausewitizians ... the modern disciples [p 413] of Clausewitz ... have not answered what political objectives are served by ... perpetual readiness and willingness ... to wage war ..."
"[p 413] The only wars today  which can be said to be fought for political objectives are the wars of counter - insurgency ... However, counter-insurgency warfare cannot go on forever ... the mounting costs ... will finally overcome the acquiescence of the people to any military adventure their government deems necessary to undertake ... It is becoming clear that war is not a continuation of policy but a failure of policy." It is beyond doubt that we had to take revenge against our enemies in Afghanistan, but what common purpose has been served in Iraq?
In the words of Clausewitz himself [p 404] "That policy may take a false direction, and may promote unfairly ... private interests and the vanity of rulers does not concern us here; for ... we can only look at policy as the representative of the interests generally of the whole community." But the bottom line is that despite the waste of American lives and tax dollars, the owners of oil wells have made a killing.]
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