March 2007 Archives

March 19, 2007

Bush Wants Congress To Continue Funding The Carnage In Iraq

Conditions are getting worse for Iraqis as a result of the U.S. occupation and the Iraq civil war yet U.S. President George W. Bush wants more money to continue a war in which civilians are dying in greater numbers than combatants.

See this White House transcript of his March 17, 2007, radio address. Also see the 38-page ABC News report titled "Iraq: Where Things Stand." It is based on ABC's latest poll in Iraq.

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Can 'Iraq: Where Things Stand' Serve As A Blue Print For War Crimes?

A 38-page ABC News report on Iraq titled Iraq: Where Things Stand "paints a devastating portrait of life in Iraq: Widespread violence, torn lives, displaced families, emotional damage, collapsing services, an ever-starker sectarian chasm – and a draining away of the underlying optimism that once prevailed."

The poll, "the third poll in Iraq sponsored by ABC News and media partners – in this case USA Today, the BBC and ARD German TV," concluded that, "Violence is the cause, its reach vast. Eighty percent of Iraqis report attacks nearby – car bombs, snipers, kidnappings, armed forces fighting each other or abusing civilians. It’s worst by far in the capital, Baghdad, but by no means confined there," the report notes.

" The personal toll is enormous. More than half of Iraqis, 53 percent, have a close friend or relative who’s been hurt or killed in the current violence," the report says, adding: "One in six says someone in their own household has been harmed. Eighty-six percent worry about a loved one being hurt; two-thirds worry deeply. Huge numbers limit their daily activities to minimize risk.
Seven in 10 report multiple signs of traumatic stress."

The report also notes that, "In November 2005, 63 percent of Iraqis felt very safe in their neighborhoods. Today just 26 percent say the same. One in three doesn’t feel safe at all. In Baghdad, home to a fifth of the country’s population, that skyrockets: Eighty-four percent feel entirely unsafe.

The report adds:"IMPACT – The impact is overwhelming: As violence has grown, measures of basic wellbeing have plummeted. In 2005, despite the difficulties in their country, 71 percent of Iraqis said their own lives were going well. Today that’s been all but halved, to 39 percent. In 2005, two-thirds expected their lives to improve over the coming year. Now just 35 percent see better days ahead."

"Again, the sharpest deterioration is in Baghdad, where the number of Iraqis who say their own lives are going well has dropped by 51 points. But it’s also down by 26 points in the rest of Iraq. And even outside of Baghdad, just 32 percent of Iraqis feel “very safe” where they live, compared with 60 percent a year and a half ago."

"In an equally dramatic reversal, majorities now give negative ratings to each of more than a dozen essential aspects of daily life – jobs, schools, power and fuel supply, medical care and many more. In late 2005, for instance, 54 percent said their power supply was inadequate or nonexistent; now that’s swelled to 88 percent. And in 2005 just 30 percent
rated their economic situation negatively. Today that’s more than doubled, to 64 percent."

"As conditions have sharply worsened, so have expectations for improvement – an especially troubling result, since hopes for a better future can be the glue that holds a struggling society together. In 2004 and 2005 alike, for example, three-quarters of Iraqis expected improvements in the coming year in their security, schools, availability of jobs,
medical care, crime protection, clean water and power supply. The poll said, "Today only about 30 to 45 percent still expect any of these to get any better."

MY CONCLUSION: If Iran or Syria had invaded Iraq and created conditions that resulted in the scenario described in the report the United States and Britain would be asking the United Nations Security Counsel to recommend war crimes charges.

But since British Prime Minister Tony Blair and U.S. President George W. Bush are the perpetrators, they will only judged by history. No country will dare put them on trial. The consequences would be too great.

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Buying Time In Iraq: Will It Work?

Professor Juan Cole over at Informed Comment notes in a March 19, 2007, post  that "US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates revealed on Sunday [March 18, 2007] that the surge of US troops into Iraq and the new security plan are designed to give the Iraqi government time to seek national reconciliation."

"That is a worthy goal, but if it is the reason for the escalation in the number of US troops in Iraq, then that lays an especially heavy burden on the al-Maliki government [link added] to accelerate efforts at national reconciliation," Mr. Cole wrote.

"I don't see any particular evidence that it is doing so," Mr. Cole added. "Nor can I see any signs that the government is able to act at faster than a glacial pace."

To read more, please see "Renewed US Anti-War Protests Sunday; Gates: Surge is to Buy Time for Reconciliation; Al-Maliki Cabinet Shuffle Postponed."

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March 18, 2007

Editorial: 'Four Years In Iraq And Counting'

An editorial in the March 18, 2007 edition of Berkshire Eagle.com, the online presence of of the Pittsfield, Massachusetts, USA-based Berkshire, Eagle, observes:

We are two days short of the fourth anniversary of the start of the Iraq War, and it is safe to say that few Americans would have backed this war back in the spring of 2003 had they known what was in store for the country. The war has shaken the nation to its roots, and with the revelation of poor treatment of American wounded at Walter Reed Medical Center, it continues to churn out new horror stories.
The publication said, "Few beyond Bush administration dead-enders support it with enthusiasm, but wars build a terrible momentum of their own, and once begun are infuriatingly difficult to stop."

To read more, please see "Four years in Iraq and counting."

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The U.S. And The Human Rights Crisis In The Philippines

According to Bulatlat.com in Quezon City, Philippines, "the breakthrough in bringing the issue of the human rights crisis in the Philippines to the U.S. Congress this week has sent some mixed signals: That it would increase pressures on the Arroyo government to take a decisive action in stopping the political killings, or that nothing will come out of it."

Bulatlat said, "This development is expected to generate new questions on what other steps need to be done such as making the Arroyo government accountable upon show of evidence that these cases are part of a state policy or that the chief executive has done nothing to arrest the deterioration of the critical human rights situation."

To read more, please see "Crossing the Bridge."

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'Diplomats Are Much Maligned...'

Diplomats are much maligned because the public in general does not have a clear and accurate understanding of the art and acts of diplomacy, and the role of diplomats," contends Datuk Deva M. Ridzam, described by the New Sunday Times online of Malaysia as "a former Malaysian ambassador to the European Union, Belgium and Luxembourg (1999-2005) and Cambodia (1991-1996)."

Ridzam, in a March 18, 2007, article in the New Sunday Times headlined "On being the first line of defence of a nation," said, "Diplomats are somewhat different from people in other vocations. They belong to a tribe of sorts — nomadic or itinerant. Yet, what is often not appreciated is that they are in the first line of defence of a country," he maintains.

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Do Burma-Pakistan Ties Have Implications For India?

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March 5, 2007

BBC News: 'Israel, Iran top 'Negative List'

"A majority of people believe that Israel and Iran have a mainly negative influence in the world, a poll for the BBC World Service suggests," BBC world affairs correspondent Nick Childs reports in a March 6, 2007, post at BBC News.

For more, please see "Israel, Iran top 'negative list.'"

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Syria Comment Looks At Relations Between Saudi Arabia And Syria

Syria Comment.Com has a March 5, 2007 post on relations between Saudi Arabia and Syria. The post makes an attempt to provide some context.

To read it, please see "Saudis and Syrians …Brothers or Rivals?"

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March 3, 2007

Has Bush Administration Decided To Follow Iraq Study Group Report?

Claude Salhani, the Washington, D.C., USA-based "international editor and a political analyst with United Press International (UPI),"  contends that, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announced an important change of U.S. [Middle East] policy earlier this week when she revealed that the United States would participate in a meeting with Iran and Syria over Iraq’s future."

"The "meeting of neighbours,’ as the gathering is being called, heralds an important reversal of policy for the Bush administration," Salhani asserts. "Until now Washington refused to accept the idea that Teheran and Damascus can play important roles in the region. Both Iran and Syria carry enough clout that they can influence developments in Iraq in either a positive or negative manner."

Salhani notes that, "The Bush administration’s view — until now — was that inviting Damascus and Teheran to negotiations would be rewarding them, something the administration refused to do on the ground that Syria and Iran support groups considered by the U.S. to engage in terrorist activities."

"In short," he concludes, "the administration has decided to follow the advice put forward by James Baker and the Iraq Study Group."

To read more, please see a March 4, 2007, article in the Khaleej Times headlined "Meeting of minds, finally?"

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March 2, 2007

Can Iran's Growing Influence In Damascus And Beirut Be Ignored?

Riad Kahwaji, founder and CEO of the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis in Dubai and Middle East Bureau Chief for Virginia, USA-based Defense News, says in a commentary in the March 1, 2007, edition of Middle East Times that:

Syrian leaders have spared no opportunity in the past few months to reiterate their call for the unconditional resumption of peace talks with Israel. In response, Israeli officials have either bluntly rejected the offers, or simply played deaf. Israelis who welcome the invitation blame the United States for their government's negative position. Officials in the administration of President George W. Bush have said that as long as Damascus is aiding radical groups branded by the West as terrorists - such as Hezbollah, Hamas, and Islamic Jihad - and not doing enough to stop the flow of weapons and terrorists into Iraq, the international community should continue to isolate Syria.

"However," Kahwaji added, "the growing influence of Tehran in Damascus and Beirut is a new and important factor that ought to be considered."

To read more of the article, please see "Commentary: Include Lebanon."

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Is Bush Trying To Start A War With Iran To Divert Attention From Iraq?

Pat M. Holt, "former chief-of-staff of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee," notes in a March 1, 2007, article in  The Courier Mail of Queensland, Australia, that:

As troubles for the United States mount in Iraq, the Bush Administration escalates its complaints against Iran: It won't recognise Israel and says it ought to be wiped off the map. Iran won't abandon its nuclear program. It continues to support the Hezbollah insurgents in Lebanon. It is intervening covertly in Iraq. It is co-operating with Al-Qaeda.
Are the complaints a prelude to an attack on Iran? For Holt's perspective, please see "Bush's Iran war plot."
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TIME: 'How The U.S. Ignored Iran's Reformers'

"The Bush administration, despite President Bush's vocal call for democracy in Iran, has failed to grant visas to several prominent Iranian pro-democracy activists," Scott MacLeod, TIMES' Cairo, Egypt bureau chief, charged in a May 1, 2007, post in the blog The Middle East.

He said, "among the Iranians still waiting for a U.S. visa is Abdolkarim Soroush, a philosopher who is widely regarded as the leading intellectual force behind the reformist movement that swept President Mohammed Khatami to power in 1997.

MacLeod, whose has "covered the Middle East and Africa" for TIME for 22 years. said "After being tipped by an Iranian source and looking into the issue, I learned that another important figure whose visa request was rejected outright is Ebrahim Yazdi, head of the Freedom Movement of Iran. Despite being under severe pressure from hard-liners aligned with Khatami's successor, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Soroush and Yazdi sought to visit the U.S. in part to take up speaking invitations at prestigious institutions such as Harvard and Stanford universities.

To read more, please see "How the U.S. Ignored Iran's Reformers."

NOTE: Links added to provide perspective on the personalities mentioned in the above-excerpt from MacLeod's post.

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March 1, 2007

Recommended: 'Failing In Baghdad -- The British Did It First'

Recommended: Toby Dodge's February 25, 2007, article headlined "Failing in Baghdad -- The British Did It First." It's a article worthy of reflection.

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