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.
American-Dutch photographer Peter van Agtmael and English photographer Olivia Arthur are the two newest nominees recently welcomed into Magnum Photos. Agtmael's images of Afghanistan and Iraq are very powerful - he discusses his work in Conscientious. Arthur's recent work has focused on women's experiences in what she calls the Middle Distance. [more inside]
Fables of the Reconstruction. According to a new GAO report [PDF of full report], the surge has resulted in security gains and reduced violence in Iraq, but the political goals the surge was supposed to buy time for mostly haven't happened. [more inside]
[NSFW]"The following program is in living color and has been rated X by the Vietnam academy of maggots. The purpose of this program is to bring vital news, information and hard acid rock to the first termers and non-re-enlistees in the Republic of Vietnam. Radio First Termer operates under no Air Force regulations or manuals. In the event of a vice squad raid this program will automatically self-destruct." Radio First Termer was a pirate radio show broadcast by "Dave Rabbit," an anonymous USAF sergeant, for 63 hours between January 1st and 21st, 1971, out of the back room of a brothel in Saigon, gracing the dial at 69 MHz and 690 AM.>> Fearing reprisal from his superiors, Dave Rabbit then shut Radio First Termer down and, after returning to the States, went back to living a normal life. 34 years later, while helping his son on a homework assignment, Dave came across old recordings of his show. He's since revived his old persona via podcast, and has also brought Radio First Termer back to the warzone--to Baghdad, Iraq. [more inside]
"A venal, dysfunctional government." That is how the San Francisco Chronicle describes the Bush administration's handling of the war in Iraq. Now an investigation by the BBC's respected Panorama TV program estimates that around $23bn (£11.75bn) may have been lost, stolen or just not properly accounted for in Iraq. But they are not allowed to report fully because of US gagging order.
New Allegations Have Surfaced that the US Is Effectively Holding Iraq's Oil Revenues Hostage to Force through a Proposed Long-Term Strategic Alliance, Raising New Questions about the US' Committment to an Independent, Self-Governing Iraq. The Deal, Which in its Current Form is Said to Provide for an Indefinite American Military Presence and Blanket Immunity from Iraqi Law for All American Troops and Civilian Contractors, Is Understandably Not All That Popular with Many Iraqi Citizens. Iraqi Lawmakers Have Also Expressed Doubts about the Deal. (IRAQ WAR/POLITICS FILTER.)
Senate Intelligence Committee Unveils Final Phase II Reports on Prewar Iraq Intelligence. Phase II Report on Public Statements [PDF] and Phase II Report on DoD Policy Office [PDF]. This may come as a shock, but most of what the Bush Administration said about Iraq wasn't true. Republican co-chair Bond, Kit Bond, says the reports are "political theatre." [more inside]
As Close as Any Brother - Ali Hameed, an Iraqi NYT employee, writes about PCs in daily life in Iraq. Once a mortar fell near to our house. Everyone stopped what they were doing, I mean if it was eating, watching TV, sleeping — except Rana. She kept on typing and typing. I yelled at her: "Rana leave the PC and come here, you are sitting near the glass!" She told me, "Just a minute, I want to talk to my friend, she is online and it has been a long time since I connected with her." From NYT's Baghdad Bureau blog.
A war widow at age 20. That is all.
According to an audit released today by the DoD's IG, there has been virtually no oversight of over $8 billion paid by the Defense Department to contractors in Iraq. The report confirms a similar finding back in 2005 that over $9 billion in Iraq war funds were unaccounted for. As a factual and non-polemical matter, this spectacular waste of taxpayer money has undoubtedly lined the pockets of more than a few war profiteers. To say the Iraq war has been plagued with rampant corruption, fraud and fiscal mismanagement is not an editorial position or overstatement: even lawmakers have begun to acknowledge this.
Baghdad Zoo and Entertainment Experience - “massive American-style amusement park that will feature a skateboard park, rides, a concert theatre and a museum. It is being designed by the firm that developed Disneyland.” Here's a quick roundup of some commentary. (last link with concept design sketches)
...even after five agonizing years of the Iraq War, a summer blockbuster isn't prepared to say that not only is its action hero is corrupt, he's corrupt because America has become corrupt.
Iron Man, who represents an imperial America, can only win Pyrrhic victories. Spencer Ackerman of Tapped Online has a nice history of the Iron Man comics that reads the character's alcoholism, Civil-War overzealousness, and persistent blundering "into a hell of unintended consequences" as a symbol and subtle critique of American exceptionalism and what Jonathan Schell among others has called "impotent omnipotence".
People can handle the truth about war. Veteran White House correspondent Helen Thomas reflects on how the media's willingness to show the horrors of war has changed since Vietnam.
Bush interview with Politico: "For the first time, Bush revealed a personal way in which he has tried to acknowledge the sacrifice of soldiers and their families: He has given up golf."
The $3 Trillion Shopping Spree. "The occupation of Iraq will cost $3 trillion, America's most expensive conflict since WWII. Can YOU spend that money better? Here's your chance to go on a virtual $3 trillion shopping spree and prove it!" [Via Gristmill.]
Killing by the numbers. "In 2007 elite U.S. snipers executed an unarmed Iraqi prisoner in cold blood. Have the insidious tactics that led to atrocities in Vietnam reemerged in Iraq?"
An extraordinary piece of magazine writing by Chris Jones. Jones tells the story of how the body of Sergeant Joe Montgomery makes its way from a Baghdad suburb to its final resting place in a grave in Indiana. It's one of the finest pieces of journalism that I've read in years. It’s extremely moving without being saccharine or twee. It’s a military story, but utterly without jingoism or indictment. And it’s wonderfully observed. If I taught a first-year creative writing course, I'd make this required reading.
“People like you are not holding up the Constitution ..." Or so said Major Freddy Welborn, Specialist Jeremy Hall's commanding officer in Tikrit. "Last month, Specialist Hall and the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, an advocacy group, filed suit in federal court in Kansas, alleging that Specialist Hall’s right to be free from state endorsement of religion under the First Amendment had been violated and that he had faced retaliation for his views. In November, he was sent home early from Iraq because of threats from fellow soldiers." (NY Times)
Television military analysts are wooed, courted, and privileged by the Pentagon. An in-depth investigative report by the New York Times uncovers logrolling, shilling, touting, back-scratching, and just plain bias on the part of the experts that television networks put on the air to talk about the war. Some of them appear to be as good as owned by the Defense Department. "The effort, which began with the buildup to the Iraq war and continues to this day, has sought to exploit ideological and military allegiances, and also a powerful financial dynamic: Most of the analysts have ties to military contractors vested in the very war policies they are asked to assess on air. Those business relationships are hardly ever disclosed to the viewers, and sometimes not even to the networks themselves."
Riding The Tiger; Muqtada al-Sadr and the American Dilemma in Iraq is the final chapter of Patrick Cockburn's new book. Seymour Hersh has called Cockburn, who writes for the British paper, The Independent, "quite simply, the best Western journalist at work in Iraq today." Meanwhile al - Sadr has called off his million man march for now. Juan Cole asks: What if the US military presence is juvenilizing the Iraqis and prolonging the civil war?
The Makhmalbafs are an Iranian family of filmmakers, although Samira tends to get the most press. [more inside]
“You could almost see their dicks getting hard as they got new ideas." A Vanity Fair reporter investigates the chain of command that tossed out the Geneva Conventions and instituted coercive interrogation techniques -- some might call them torture or even war crimes -- in Bush's Global War on Terror. UC Berkeley law professor John Yoo's now-obsolete 81-page memo to the Pentagon in 2003 [available as PDFs here and here] was crucial, offering a broad range of legal justifications and deniability for disregarding international law in the name of "self-defense." Others say that Yoo was just making "a clear point about the limits of Congress to intrude on the executive branch in its exercise of duties as Commander in Chief." [previously here and here.]