The U.S. replaces the top General in Afghanistan after he'd held his post for less than a year. General McKiernan is being replaced by Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, who came under some criticism in the past for the treatment of detainees by his Special Operations forces under his command. He is credited with the death of Al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab Zarqawi in 2006, and the Obama administrations hopes he will bring unconventional thinking to the use of force in Afghanistan. He is already working on some new ideas in military civilian collaboration, but does he play poker? Will he embrace the population-centered warfare approach? Will this General, a prominent figure in Bush's war on terror, be an effective tool in the use of Smart Power, or just make matters worse?
What lingering doubts anyone might have about the case for war in Iraq took another body blow today, as the former deputy director of MI6, claimed Britain had been "dragged into" the war. [more inside]
Iraq air raids hit mostly women and children. "Air strikes and artillery barrages have taken a heavy toll among the most vulnerable of the Iraqi people, with children and women forming a disproportionate number of the dead. Analysis carried out for the research group Iraq Body Count (IBC) found that 39 per cent of those killed in air raids by the US-led coalition were children and 46 per cent were women. Fatalities caused by mortars, used by American and Iraqi government forces as well as insurgents, were 42 per cent children and 44 per cent women."
"Get a grip, man. you can't let this wash over you. You have no control over what happens right now. But you can do one thing. Get up on top of the fear. Get above it. " Louis C.K. ( previously ) is writing about his recent experience on a USO tour in the Middle East. It's funny and genuine, and he's a decent photographer. Also, Dino Stamatopoulos was there.
“There’s culture shock, and then there’s the culture shock of moving to a country that started a war in your home.”
"The war has uprooted 4.7 million people from their homes. So where are they?" With the election of Obama and the economic crisis, the topic of Iraq has fallen by the wayside. As hard as things may be right now, Iraqis have been going through far worse for years now. If you're curious about what they have to say, hear them tell it in their own words. Iraqi Refugee Stories. [more inside]
Iraqi shoe-thrower sentenced to three years in jail. Can an internet campaign for his release be far behind?
Iraq: "A woman suspected of recruiting more than 80 female suicide bombers has confessed to organising their rapes so she could later convince them that martyrdom was the only way to escape the shame."
Algeria: "Evil al-Qaeda chiefs are raping young male converts to shame them into becoming suicide bombers, it emerged yesterday. "
Algeria: "Evil al-Qaeda chiefs are raping young male converts to shame them into becoming suicide bombers, it emerged yesterday. "
A Guardian interview with Lynndie England (of Abu Ghraib notoriety).
"...relatives and fans of the shoe-throwing journalist, who has become a national hero, have staged a sit-in in a park adjacent to the Green Zone, and their numbers are growing. Army tanks and helicopters surrounded the 400 protesters and demanded they disband, but authorities were apparently persuaded that Iraq didn't need its own Tiananmen Square massacre, so the protest continues. Indeed, al-Zeidi has become a unifying figure for an Iraq split along a deep sectarian divide, with Sunnis from Samarra reportedly joining the predominantly Shi'ite supporters of the shoe-thrower. At last report, the two groups were sitting side by side eating lamb and vegetables, with the soldiers guarding them joining in." Via [more inside]
The shoe hurled at President George W. Bush has sent sales soaring at the Turkish maker. "Istanbul-based Baydan Ayakkabicilik ...has received orders for 300,000 pairs of the shoes since the attack, more than four times the number his company sold each year since the model was introduced in 1999. The company plans to employ 100 more staff to meet demand, he said..."
Shoes thrown at President Bush in Iraq. As America prepares to give him the boot, President Bush was forced to do some atypical sole searching during a press conference in Iraq when an Iraqi television reporter flung both shoes at him. HuffP has MSNBC video without ads and adds: "In Iraqi culture, throwing shoes at someone is a sign of contempt. Iraqis whacked a statue of Saddam Hussein with their shoes after U.S. marines toppled it to the ground after the 2003 invasion." This is a "gross insult in the Arab world." Value added video.
Is history repeating itself? Note quite 2000 years ago, the Roman hegemony got its first black leader - a former senator whose father was African and mother was white. Septimius Severus inherited a failed military campaign in Iraq and an ailing economy. He first resolves the situation in Iraq, undertakes a number of new building projects, stamps out governmental corruption, raises taxes to pay for wage increases (and kicks British arse a few times). Ultimately though, it all might have only hastened the Empire's decline.
For the past two months, Iraqi interpreters working with US forces have been forbidden from wearing masks. This decision was recently overturned. Ostensibly, this was because the security situation had become better. Some believe instead that this rule was instated to prevent asylum claims. Some think that it reflects traditional army FUBAR decision making. Personally, I think they are becoming more cautious because the back up plan is a piece of junk. [more inside]
New friendly fire coverup: Army shreds files on dead soldiers. "Hours after Salon revealed evidence that two Americans were killed by a U.S. tank, not enemy fire, military officials destroyed papers on the men."
Join Devin Friedman at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, a city of broken men. During the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany has blossomed into the hub of one of the most amazing and miraculous wartime medical systems in modern history. Each week sees 14 flights into and out of the medical center, delivering dozens of war wounded from the battlefield and back out to the more specialized care centers back stateside; the rapidity of care and transit from the war fronts to stable medical care has decreased the mortality of serious wartime military injuries to just ten percent, from the high-20s/low-30s of previous wars. This is an incredibly nice look at the Landstuhl system from the perspective of a single planeload of injured soldiers.
Team Lioness is the name given to a group of female soliders, (and the documentary about them) who were some of the first women in modern American warfare to engage in frontline combat — something that is officially forbidden by the military. "The female support soliders were assigned to the 1st Engineer Battalion and they were recruited to accompany Marine units during raids. Originally, the female soldiers were there to search and detain any women they came upon and to guard the unit's Arabic interpreter. Over time, however, as the situation in Ramadi deteriorated, the Marine units transitioned into a more offensive role, baiting insurgents into firefights in order to draw them out. Until officers higher up the chain got spooked over the possibility of a female soldier killed in combat and quietly disbanded the unit, members of Team Lioness were often right in the thick of things, including some of the fiercest urban firefights of the Iraq War."
What killed Sgt. Gray? "He survived the war only to die at home. An exploration of his death and his combat unit's activities reveals what can happen to soldiers who feel the freedom -- or the pressure -- to do things in war they can't live with later." -- An American Radioworks documentary.
Suzanne Opton's haunting soldier portraits, appearing on a billboard near you. (courtesy of Design Observer) [more inside]
"You can not come back to Canada until you have been criminally rehabilitated." Ann Wright, who had 29 years of military and govt service, resigned in protest on the eve of the Iraq War from her position as deputy ambassador to Mongolia. In this hour long talk, she discusses her story and the story of several others from various countries who resigned in protest. Her new book, Dissent: Voices of Conscience, details the story of 24 people who resigned in protest. [more inside]
Fred Kaplan gives President Obama suggestions on foreign policy repair.
The Wassup boys have had a tough eight years, but things are looking up. (SLYT.)
America's Secret War: charming Vanguard correspondent Mariana van Zeller travels to the Iraq-Iran border to investigate claims that the United States is supporting militant groups that are attacking Iran.
It's (semi) official: Washington and Baghdad have reached a final agreement after months of talks on a pact that would require U.S. forces to withdraw from Iraq by 2011, U.S. and Iraqi officials said on Wednesday. Additionally, "Iraq said it had secured the right to prosecute U.S. soldiers for serious crimes under certain circumstances" "Inside their bases, they will be under American law. Iraqi judicial law will be implemented in case these forces commit a serious and deliberate felony outside their military bases and when off duty." [more inside]
President Martti Ahtisaari wins the Nobel Peace Prize. A former Finnish President, an UN envoy, a social democrat, a school teacher and founder of Crisis Management Initiative has negotiated for peace in many troubled areas for three decades. Last fall and last summer CMI (without Ahtisaari's presence) called former Northern Ireland and South African militants to use their experience for finding Iraqi factions a way out of bloodshed. A plan for Kosovo. Negotiations ending 30-year conflict in Aceh, Indonesia. Negotiating Namibia independence. Got conflict? Mr. Ahtisaari is your man.
Ain't this cute: The US State Dept. has outsourced a Private military contractor to investigate Blackwater. There are still some questions in the air for U.S. Investigations Services (USIS) regarding Ted Westhusing. There is Controversy In The Military; Will Anything Change? Remember that Military Rules Don't Apply when Outsourcing Fear. ( Related 1, 2, 3 ).
Is This a 'Victory'? "We hear again and again from Washington that we have turned a corner in Iraq and are on the path to victory. If so, it is a strange victory."
The Wars of John McCain. "John McCain believes the Vietnam War was winnable. Now he argues that an Obama administration would accept defeat in Iraq, with grave costs to American honor and national security. Is McCain’s quest for victory a reflection of an antiquated pre-Vietnam mind-set? Or of a commitment to principles we abandon at our peril? Is there any war McCain thinks can’t be won?"
Baghdad nights: evaluating the US military ‘surge’ using nighttime light signatures (PDF). A team of UCLA geographers using satellite imagery to track the amount of light emitted in Baghdad at night found that electricity use in Sunni neighborhoods fell prior to the surge and never returned, indicating that ethnic cleansing by Shiite militias drove the Sunnis away before the surge began and was largely responsible for the subsequent decrease in violence. [Via Passport]
In Their Boots is a new online "magazine show" about the impact of the wars on US servicemembers and their families. The latest episode features the founder of the American Widow Project, a new documentary and an organization dedicated to helping out other war widows across the country.
Endgame in Iraq - 9/11 release of Sean Smith's latest video. This one, finished this summer, is of candid interviews with soldiers in the 101st Airborne in Baghdad. [more inside]
Iraqi heavy metal? Sure, there's Acrassicauda. They're named after a scorpion. The Guardian has an informative article about them. There's been a movie made about them, which the New York Times has written about. Four members of the group, more recently based in Turkey, were seeking refugee status. Are they any good? I dunno, I guess so, but I''m not all that keen on metal, myself, so I'm not the best person to ask. Just go listen to 'em at their MySpace page.
Bob Woodward has a new book released today titled The War Within: A Secret White House History 2006-2008. The Politico has a lengthy review by Mike Allen. Bloomberg also has an early, less flattering, review. [more inside]
The Surge is working [tm] -- but for gay Iraqis who face a murderous new spate of violence by theocrats and militiamen, notsomuch. "More than 430 gay men have been murdered in Iraq since 2003... [but] many officials say they feel that in a country at war, there are more pressing concerns than gay rights."
Mission Creep: "Bush and Rumsfeld may be history, but America's new global footprint lives on." [more inside]
An Iraqi national with a fascinating background, Ghaith Abdul-Ahad has been documenting the situation in Iraq. His video report is in three parts on YouTube (1, 2, 3). Of particular note is the cemetery on the outskirts of Sadr City (at 2:13 of segment 2), which is disturbing beyond words.
Ret. Col. Andrew Bacevich speaks to Bill Moyers (transcript) about the American empire and his new book "The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism."
“It’s amazing how many people are shooting. This is probably the heaviest shooting we’ve witnessed, and although it’s Memorial Day, you can’t just blame it on the United States. France, Denmark, Ireland, UK, Canada, so it’s not one place – almost global shooting.” [previously]
Leaving Baghdad: Culture Shock in America. Personal reflections on coming to America from Iraqi sculptor and blogger, Ahmad Fadam, who recently took up a visiting fellowship at the University of North Carolina. (Via the NY Times' Baghdad Bureau.) [more inside]
In a new GAO report it's noted that the Iraqi government will have a $79 billion dollar surplus by the end of the year (accumulated from 2005-2008). All of this is on top of the $48 billion dollars that the US has contributed to Iraq since 2005. [more inside]
"The blogger Andrew Sullivan linked to the Blade account and encouraged readers to complain to the Post. “I can see why outing someone who is alive and closeted is unethical,” he wrote. “Inning someone who is dead and was out is a function of utterly misplaced sensitivity, rooted in well-intentioned but incontrovertible homophobia.”" A Soldier's Legacy.
Women Explorers and Travellers of Asia and the Middle East - In an age where women struggled for basic human rights, these individuals were literal trailblazers. Leaving their homelands for varying motivations (but often due to dissatisfaction with their social lot in life), they devoted their lives to "explore these antique lands before they are irretrievably caught up in the cacaphonic whirl of the modern world." [more inside]
A Social History of the Surge by Juan Cole.
Battlemind: Armor for Your Mind is a U.S. Army website designed to help, in part, families deal with deployment, including a series of cartoons and videos intended for children whose parents may be sent to or be returning from warzones. Part of the Army's Behavioral Health program, these give intriguing insight into military culture. [more inside]
The Devastation of Iraq's Past. "Since the looting of the Iraq Museum in Baghdad in April 2003, the international press has accorded considerable space to the country's imperiled ancient heritage. Much of this coverage, however, has been devoted to the museum, the impressive campaign to recover its stolen works, and the continued struggle to reopen its galleries. Only occasional, anecdotal reports—mostly from the first year of the conflict—have borne witness to large-scale plunder of archaeological sites, to which the damage is irreversible."
For the former U.S. marine Michael Elliott the psychological impact of war is the latest and most challenging battle. Private Joseph Dwyer survived rocket-propelled grenades and shocking violence, made his way back to his family and friends, but couldn't escape the “demons” that followed him home. Experts say up to 30% of returning soldiers will require psychiatric help: a number not seen since the end of the Vietnam War. Today 60% of war veterans suffering from PTSD don't receive any help at all.