Professors in Iraq Have Been Killed

I have just heard about a number of professors in Iraq who have been assassinated or otherwise intimidated. This is what was sent to me:

Among the more than 250 college professors who have been killed since 30 April 2003 in Iraq are the following historians:

**Khalid M. al-Janabi, PhD. in Islamic history, faculty member at the College of Art, Babylon University. Date of assassination unknown.

**Essam Sharif Mohammed (also spelled Hissam Sharif), Ph.D in History, assistant professor at the College of Art, Baghdad University. Date of assassination: 25 October 2003.

**Mahfoudh al-Qazzaz, PhD. in Islamic history; faculty member at the College of Art, Mosul University. Killed by a death squad in front of his family at his home in Mosul on 20 December 2004.

**Jamhour Karim Kammas Al Zargani, PhD. in History; department head at the College of Education at Al- Basrah University. Abducted for two days, tortured, and killed. His family found the dead body with broken arms and legs in a nearby street in Basra on 19 August 2005.

**Kemal Nassir, professor of history, lecturer in Mustansiriya and Kufa. Date of assassination: 1 October 2006.

**In addition, Abd-Asalam Ali Hussein, PhD. in Islamic History, was arrested on 22 May 2005.


Encouraging and Dispiriting

The behavior of the Democrats now is both encouraging and dispiriting. They are so indignant, so outraged, so bold in their criticisms of the Bush policy in the Middle East. It’s about time that someone began to ask the obvious questions. So in that sense there is reason for being encouraged.

But where were these folks four years ago, the time when the boondoggle of the Bush administration policy could have been exposed. There was so much to be questioned. Shifting attention from Afghanistan before Osama and his people had been caught and punished: what did they say then? Preemptive war: what did they say then? Phony claims that Saddam was involved in the attack on 911: what did they say then? Removing General Shenseki, who said they would need 200,000 troops to manage Iraq after they had taken over the country: what did they say then? Sending in too few troops, with scarcely any meaningful plan, and with insufficient armament: What did they say then?

One of the most costly features of the Bush decision to invade Iraq was the abandonment of the war in Afghanistan. They had not caught either Osama Bin Laden head of Al Qaeda or Mullah Muhammad Omar, head of the Taliban. And in 2002 the best American military assets were being redeployed elsewhere to prepare for the assault on Iraq. The failure -no, refusal – to catch and try the key figures who had killed nearly 3000 people on American soil was simply a betrayal of the American people and even of the administration’s stated goals. And since then the preoccupation has continued to be elsewhere, Iraq. What that means is that, for all the expense of human life and wealth now wasted in Iraq, the group that attacked the United States in September, 2001, are still at large. They are still heroes to some militants. And their eminence has swelled in the last five and a half years. The original project was abandoned and, even when the fiasco in Iraq is resolved – very likely in humiliation for proud Americans – it still has to be resumed. The Reagan administration requited no cost on those who killed 241 Marines in Lebanon; the Clinton administration reacted ineffectually to the dual bombings of American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania; now, the Bush administration has embarrassed itself in Iraq rather than confronting the aggressive elements that attacked our country in 2001. This is a record that the militants elsewhere have taken careful note of. This is the legacy of the Bush administration.

Some of the experts have already noted that the Bush administration’s new accusations against Iran and Syria will provide the administration with an excuse for failing in Iraq. Let us watch how they deflect attention elsewhere, apparently in hope they won’t be blamed for their unfathomable folly.

Diplomat’s Suppressed Document Lays Bare the Lies Behind Iraq War

The American and British’s governments’ case for going to war in Iraq was “torn apart” by the publication of previously suppressed evidence. In fact, Tony Blair – and no doubt many people in the Bush administration – were pretty sure that Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction. This is only the beginning; we are going to see many more instances of ‘laying bare’ the lies that were told to enable the ‘pre-emptive’ war against Saddam Hussein to start. So many lives lost, so much money spent, so much respect lost – how can the costs of this blunder ever be recovered?

Bush’s Insistence That The Military Stay

I have been so accustomed to being offended, even scandalized, by the policies of President Bush that my first reaction to the report of the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group has been to accept it, and to again see Bush’s refusal to accept all that they recommend as more of his usual ignorant obstinacy. However, after a little reflection I have to say that their recommendation that the U. S. military get out of Iraq by a certain time is a mistake (anyway, it will not happen, as I explain below). Here, at least, I understand George W. Bush’s insistence that the American military should stay long enough to quell the opposition.

The invasion of Iraq was a blunder of incomparable proportions – it was a blunder to go in under false pretenses (to say nothing of the dishonesty of leading the American people to believe that Saddam was involved in the 9/11 attack), and it was a blunder to start a “pre-emptive war” – but now that we have actually invaded Iraq, what is there to do? Bush claims that we have to finish the job; indeed, I do so wish that the US could overcome the image that its troops normally flee from conflict after a few losses. I grieve for the loss of American military personnel for what was a boondoggle of unforgivable proportions. None of this had to be. But now – now that the mess has been made, the U. S. may create more mayhem if it does not follow through.

The pattern has not been missed on Osama, who has repeatedly pointed out the American practice of avoiding conflict: American troops withdrew after 241 servicemen were killed in Lebanon in 1983; they withdrew after 19 were killed in Mogadishu in 1993; they did nothing much to avenge the deaths of 5 servicemen in Riyadh or 19 killed in Dhahran in 1996; and after 220 people were killed in the bombing of the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, the Clinton administration did no more than fire off some rockets into Afghanistan (most of which missed). If the American servicemen are withdrawn now, after four years of war, the loss of nearly 3,000 lives, and the squandering of scandalous billions of dollars, Osama and the most radical takfiri militarists will, as they suppose, be proven right. The most radical of militants will be emboldened to continue violent causes, if not in the West then least in various countries of the Middle East.

The situation is complicated by multiple mis-readings of each others’ point of view. The Americans think of themselves as liberators who are doing good – even if as it happens they are acting very much in their own self interest (more below). The Iraqi people want the Americans to leave because they see the Americans as invaders like the Ottomans and British. The radical Islamists see themselves as fighting unbelievers in the Middle East and Americans as well as others in the West in order to establish – rather, re-establish – a proper Islamic society under a true Caliphate, the sort that has not existed since, say, the eighth century. What is not being made clear is that even if our troops are “pulled out” they will not be far away and could be sucked into conflict again. Whatever the Americans do or appear to do, there is virtually no chance that they will genuinely “leave” the area: The huge natural wealth of the region will continue to draw American interests, indeed those of the whole world, into the area.
Note this map:

Within this ellipsis is 70% of the world’s known oil resources and about 70% of the world’s known gas resources. This region is destined to be the focus of future struggles for dominance in the world. (BGR, 2006, “Petroleum” Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources (BGR), Hannover. (accessed October 14, 2006)]

No wonder the Americans are building the largest embassy in the world just outside Bagdad – to mention another matter not much reported to the American people. The new embassy will be as big as the Vatican, about 104 acres. It will house a number of high-rise buildings, already being constructed. That the Bagdad embassy will be strategically situated in such fossil-fuel rich area is of course no accident. So it turns out that, whatever the appearances, whatever the Baker-Hamilton report recommends, the United States is not really leaving.


Enough Evidence to Believe There Is No Exit From Iraq

Eurasianet’s Weekly Update provides more than enough evidence to believe that there will be no useful exit for the Americans from Iraq and that the region more generally could easily decay into a broad civil war:
Sunni – Shia with Iran being the main source of funding for the Shia side and Saudi Arabia for the Sunni side. Or am I unusually pessimistic?

Mr. Sheikh, as the Editor in Chief of Al-Jazeera, you are one of the most important opinion-makers in the Arab world. What do you call suicide bombers?
Lunch with Robert Fisk: Video: Robert Fisk talks about his latest posting to Lebanon, shares his intimate understanding of the Middle East and tells us where the region-wide struggles are heading

U.S. made Hezbollah stronger, analysts say: America’s failure to stop Israeli attacks weakened the Lebanese government, critics argue

Taliban ‘Mini-State’ In Pakistan?: Peace deals between Islamic militants and Pakistan’s government have created a virtual Taliban mini-state near Afghanistan, giving militants a “free hand” to recruit, train and arm for cross-border attacks, a think tank reported Monday.

Darfur crisis crosses borders : Both Chad and the Central African Republic have become engulfed in fighting that involves a toxic mix of rebel groups, government forces, armed militias, and civilians.

Britain stops talk of ‘war on terror’:
A Foreign Office spokesman said the government wanted to ‘avoid reinforcing and giving succour to the terrorists’ narrative by using language that, taken out of context, could be counter-productive’. The same message has been sent to British diplomats and official spokespeople around the world.

Sunni and Shiite Resistance Remain Mystery to U.S., Iraq Report Charges :
Nearly four years after the invasion of Iraq, the United States still does not understand the enemy that American troops are fighting, according to last week’s report by the Iraq Study Group.

Prominent Saudi Muslim clerics urge Muslims to support Iraqi Sunnis against Shiites: Over 30 prominent Islamic clerics from Saudi Arabia on Monday called on Sunni Muslims around the Middle East to support their brethren in Iraq against Shiites and praised the insurgency.

History will not treat us kindly By Tim Andersen
We will be remembered as the Americans who insulated themselves from reality and remained self-absorbed, concerned with their own personal comfort and privilege while our government wrecked havoc on the world and destroyed our own culture.

The militarily organized practice of torture, the sexual abuse, and all other abuses of men and women, clandestine incarcerations and forced disappearances, are not new in the history of the Third World, and of Latin America in particular. It has been instead an historical constant of colonial, neocolonial and neoliberal domination.

Revolution in the air as Lebanon’s rift widens By Robert Fisk

With Fouad Siniora’s cabinet hiding in the Grand Serail behind acres of razor wire and thousands of troops – a veritable “green zone” in the heart of Beirut – the largely Shia Muslim opposition, assisted by their Christian allies, brought up to two million supporters into the centre of the city yesterday to declare the forthcoming creation of a second Lebanese administration.
The Americans don’t see how unwelcome they are, or that Iraq is now beyond
repair By Patrick Cockburn: Manipulation of facts was often very crude. As an example of the systematic distortion, the Iraq Study Group revealed last week that on one day last July US officials reported 93 attacks or significant acts of violence. In reality, it added, “a careful review of the reports … brought to light 1,100 acts of violence”.

Exposing the Truth of Abu Ghraib Wasn’t Easy

Joe Darby is the man who revealed the abuses at Abu Ghraib. For revealing the abuse of other human beings he was rejected by his fellow soldiers and his home community. He feared for his life and even now lives incognito, in fear that someone from his former company or community might do him in.This is America? Even what our leaders say our troops were fighting for was being outraged. Consider the moral values of the American heritage: “The doctrine of blind obedience and unqualified submission to any human power, whether civil or ecclesiastical, is the doctrine of despotism, and ought to have no place among Republicans and Christians.”:
Angelica Grimke – (1805-1879) Anti-Slavery Examiner, September 1836

Why Are So Many Afraid to Call Iraq a Civil War?

Most of us are so pessimistic about the course of affairs in the Middle East and Central Asia that we can’t envision things getting worse. But they keep on getting worse. Yesterday was an example: Once again George W. Bush denied that there is a civil war in Iraq. Then on the Jim Lehrer News Hour there was a serious discussion about whether the fighting in Iraq can be called a civil war. Somehow admitting that it was a civil war seems a threshold; it would mean something new and important if the war can be called a civil war. But Thomas Friedman sees it as even worse than a civil war, “This country is so broken it can’t even have a proper civil war. There are so many people killing so many other people for so many different reasons – religion, crime, politics – that all the proposals for how to settle this problem seem laughable. … [In the Bosnian civil war] leaders . . . could cut a deal and deliver their faction. But Iraq is in so many little pieces now, divided among warlords, foreign terrorists, gangs, militias, parties, the police and the army, that nobody seems able to deliver anybody. Iraq has entered a stage beyond civil war – it’s gone from breaking apart to breaking down. This is not the Arab Yugoslavia anymore. It’s Hobbes’s jungle.” At least in his view, Iraq has descended below a threshold we could scarcely imagine. The nearest analogue to such an image is the convoluted carnage in Darfur, which is being called genocide. The wreckage of decisions made, bridges crossed and burned, continues to compound.

Tribal Militias in Both Pakistan and Iraq?

Curiously, the deals that have just been made in Pakistan and Iraq with their respective tribal elements seem very similar:
Pakistan’s deal is with the Pushtun tribes in its Federally Administered Tribal Areas (but not with its Baluch tribes, as indicated earlier), and Iraq’s is with the Arab Bedawin tribes of al-Anbar province. In both cases, the deal seems to entail the local tribes’ agreeing to control “insurgents” (who are presumed to be outsiders and Arab). And it appears in both cases that the deal represents an admission by the respective governments that they are not getting control of the situation in those tribal areas. I have already expressed doubt that anything much will come of the deal in Pakistan. Juan Cole has similar doubts about the deal in Iraq:“Some tribes may develop feuds with some fundamentalists, but the likelihood of it amounting to much on a province-wide scale strikes me as low” (Informed Comment, 9/18/06).


Iraq Chiefs Vow to Fight al-Qaeda
Published: September 18, 2006 (BBC)

Iraqi tribal chiefs in the so-called Sunni Triangle have agreed to join forces to fight al-Qaeda, and have pleaded for US supplies of arms. One leader said tribes in the city of Ramadi had assembled 20,000 men “ready to purge the city of these infidels”. Ramadi, in Anbar province, is one of the cities at the heart of the Sunni rebellion against US troops and Iraqis.

Pakistan ‘Taleban’ in Peace Deal
Published: September 5, 2006 (BBC)

Pakistan has signed a deal with pro-Taleban militants on the Afghan border aimed at ending years of unrest. The North Waziristan accord calls on tribesmen to expel foreign militants and end cross-border attacks in return for a reduced military presence.