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Posts Tagged ‘Iraq Elections’

Working to Prevent Humanitarian Disaster in Iraq

Posted by Larry Barnes on January 29, 2009

From the memory Jar
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 25, 2003 – While there has been no decision to go to war with Saddam Hussein, the U.S. military has been working to avert a humanitarian crisis in the country should conflict become inevitable.

The Defense Department has been working with international aid organizations, nongovernmental organizations and other federal agencies to ensure that humanitarian aid flows quickly to those who need it, said Joseph J. Collins, deputy assistant defense secretary for stability operations, during a Pentagon press conference today.

DoD’s goals are to minimize the displacement of the Iraqi people, limit damage to infrastructure and avoid the disruption of services wherever possible, he said.

Collins said DoD would support humanitarian relief efforts during a conflict and reconstruction efforts after one. Defense officials have been meeting for more than five months with State Department and Agency for International Development experts in humanitarian relief and reconstruction.

Since the Gulf War, the economy of Iraq has suffered. Hussein’s refusal to disarm, his continued diversion of funds from food to palaces and his attempts at ethnic cleansing have served to keep U.N. sanctions in place. As a result, Iraq’s per capita gross domestic product has dropped from a pre-Gulf War $4,714 per year to $2,475 in 2001. Life expectancy has dropped from 62 years to 56. The infant mortality rate has climbed from 72 deaths per thousand live births to 92 per thousand. Daily caloric intake dropped from 2,932 to 2,232.

Other statistics show Iraq already has a humanitarian crisis of note. U.N. officials estimate 800,000 Iraqis are displaced within the country while another 740,000 have sought refuge in neighboring countries.

There are many uncertainties in fashioning the international community’s response to the need for humanitarian assistance. First, would Hussein employ chemical and biological weapons in the event of war? Collins said combat forces would have to deal with that aftermath and a vastly complicated humanitarian picture.

Iraqi forces set fire to Kuwaiti oil wells as they retreated in the Gulf War. Would they do that to their own wells? What other Iraqi infrastructure might Hussein target?

U.N. personnel who monitor the Oil-for-Food program would be pulled out in the event of war. How do you rebuild a distribution infrastructure?

“In the event of a conflict, the U.S. will devote unprecedented attention to humanitarian relief and the prevention of excessive damage to infrastructure and to unnecessary casualties,” Collins said.

“We will do this by three methods,” he continued. “The Department of Defense is engaged in careful targeting to ensure the minimum amount of damage. Second, we are engaged in what we call ‘humanitarian mapping’ to ensure that our combat forces know where the enemy is and where (nongovernmental) and international facilities that have a humanitarian impact are. Thirdly, we are engaged in detailed cooperation with international organizations and NGOs.”

DoD will not lead a humanitarian effort in Iraq, but rather work with civilian relief agencies that do run them. “They have the expertise,” Collins said. “We will help them where we can, but they are the organizations that do the ‘heavy lifting.'”

DoD’s main push, therefore, is to get the United Nations, international relief agencies and other nongovernmental agencies back in place as soon as possible, he said.

The Agency for International Development’s Disaster Assistance Response Teams will work closely with Civil- Military Operations Centers to ensure that basic human needs are met once combat troops leave an area.

DoD has stockpiled 3 million Humanitarian Daily Rations in undisclosed nearby areas. It also has given grants to the U.N. World Food Program so it can begin to ready other supplies.

Collins said the department will continue to meet with other governmental, international and humanitarian organizations, but the department will follow the lead of the State Department in this important aspect.

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Iraqi, Coalition Forces Arrest Would-be Bombers, Seize Munitions

Posted by Larry Barnes on January 25, 2009

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 25, 2009 – Iraqi soldiers and police, “Sons of Iraq” civilian security group members and U.S. soldiers seized several weapons caches and arrested two suspected roadside bombers during raids conducted throughout the Baghdad area yesterday, military officials reported.

The caches contained hundreds of rounds small-arms ammunition, rocket-propelled grenades, mortars, boosters, artillery rounds, hand grenades, an anti-aircraft machine gun with ammunition, improvised explosive devices, explosives, timers, AK-47 assault rifles, rockets, fuses, blasting caps, and land mines. The two suspects were caught in the act of emplacing roadside bombs.

In other operations yesterday:

— Iraqi and U.S. soldiers confiscated several AK-47s during operations in Baghdad’s Rashid district.

— Sons of Iraq members found an improvised explosive device during a search in the Ghazaliyah neighborhood of northwest Baghdad.

— Iraqi soldiers discovered several rockets during a combat patrol in the Adl neighborhood in northwestern Baghdad’s Mansour district.

In Jan. 23 operations:

— Iraqi and coalition forces killed a suspected al-Qaida insurgent and captured another during operations in Hawijah, west of Kirkuk.

— Iraqi police and U.S. soldiers found several weapons caches and unexploded ordnance during operations in Baghdad’s Rashid district. The caches contained pistols, homemade bombs, AK-47s, rocket-propelled grenades, artillery and mortar rounds, rockets, anti-tank mines, and propane tanks.

— Sons of Iraq members thwarted a group of suspected al-Qaida operatives from murdering their leader while he played soccer in the Mahmudiyah community. Two of the three attackers were wounded by the Sons of Iraq leader, who pulled out and fired his pistol in self-defense. One of the Sons of Iraq members was wounded in the incident. Some of the attackers fled the scene, and the Sons of Iraq leader emerged unharmed. The incident is under investigation, officials said.

— Iraqi police and U.S. servicemembers teamed up to disarm bombs and seize weapons during operations in Baghdad’s Rashid district.

— U.S. servicemembers and Iraqi police coordinated to disarm a bomb found in Baghdad’s Arab Jabour community.

— Iraqi police and U.S. troops confiscated eight AK-47s and a pistol in the Shurta community.

— Iraqi police and U.S. troops confiscated another AK-47, a bag of machine-gun rounds and an old bayonet during a search in the Saha community.

— Iraqi and U.S. soldiers teamed up to find several weapons caches of munitions, rocket launchers, hand grenades, and other ordnance in the Baghdad area.

In other news, Iraqi police discovered a weapons cache on a rooftop of a building in the New Baghdad district Jan. 22. The cache contained mortar rounds with fuses, some heat-seeking rockets, pistol parts, mortar tubes, and rocket and grenade launchers.

Also, an Iraqi special weapons and tactics squad seized a weapons cache during a Jan. 21 operation conducted north of Tikrit. The cache contained mortar and artillery rounds, fuses, and some mortar tubes.

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Military to Focus on Shorter-term Goals in Afghanistan, Gates Says

Posted by Larry Barnes on January 24, 2009

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 23, 2009 – As part of the Obama administration’s assessment of the strategy being employed in Afghanistan, the U.S. military will focus its efforts on achieving shorter-term goals there, the Defense Department’s top official said here yesterday.

“One of the points where I suspect both administrations come to the same conclusion, is that the goals we did have for Afghanistan are too broad and too far into the future,” Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates told reporters at a Pentagon press conference.

President Barack Obama met with Gates and other National Security Council members at the White House on Jan. 21.

The United States needs to set “more concrete goals” for Afghanistan that “can be achieved realistically within three to five years,” Gates said. For example, he said, efforts should be made to re-establish Afghan government control in the country’s southern and eastern regions, as well boost security and improve the delivery of services to the population.

And, U.S., coalition and Afghan military operations targeting al-Qaida and Taliban insurgents must be maintained in Afghanistan to prevent the re-establishment of terrorism in the region, Gates said.

Obama said yesterday during a State Department visit that increased violence in Afghanistan and Pakistan threatens global security and constitutes “the central front in our enduring struggle against terrorism.” The Afghan government, he said, has been hard-pressed to deliver basic services to its people.

“Violence is up dramatically in Afghanistan,” Obama said. “A deadly insurgency has taken deep root.” And, along Afghanistan’s eastern border with Pakistan, he said, al-Qaida and Taliban fighters “strike from bases embedded in rugged tribal terrain along the Pakistani border.”

About 34,000 U.S. troops are posted in Afghanistan. Commanders there have requested about 30,000 additional U.S. forces to be used to suppress resurgent Taliban fighters and al-Qaida terrorists.

Meanwhile, Obama is studying several Pentagon-provided options for a drawdown of U.S. combat troops from Iraq.

Improved security and reduced violence in Iraq today “clearly permit” a responsible drawdown of U.S. troops from Iraq, said Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who accompanied Gates at yesterday’s news conference. The availability of more troops for Afghanistan, Mullen said, is generally “tied to that [Iraq] drawdown.”

The threat to the United States now “is focused in the Afghan theater,” Gates said, including “both sides” of the Afghan-Pakistani border. Obama, accordingly, “wants to put more emphasis on Afghanistan,” the secretary said.

Therefore, Gates said, the U.S. military is transitioning from the “highest priority that we have given to Iraq over the last several years, and moving that priority to Afghanistan.”

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Leaders Develop Vision for Iraqi Women’s Rights

Posted by Larry Barnes on January 21, 2009

By Army Staff Sgt. Michel Sauret
Special to American Forces Press Service

CAMP VICTORY, Iraq, Jan. 21, 2009 – Coalition and Iraqi leaders discussed programs to improve Iraqi women’s rights and a vision for a more united future during a Women’s Initiative Seminar here.

An interpreter translates a speech for Sameera al-Mosawi, right, board president for the Council of Representative of Women, Family and Children Committee, on programs to benefit women’s rights during the Women’s Initiative Seminar on Camp Victory, Iraq, Jan. 17, 2009.

“I want to bring forward studies on women and human rights to be able to live in peace in the country and bring change to some aspects of our society’s perspective,” Sameera al-Mosawi, board president for the Council of Representative of Women, Family and Children Committee, said at the Jan. 17 seminar. “We want people to believe in this change like America did.”

The seminar provided a forum in which Iraqi government and coalition representatives from all levels could openly discuss the challenges facing Iraqi women and possible solutions to overcome those challenges.

“Increased and honest exchanges of information are vital to the development of any plan of action that addresses this seminal Iraqi societal issue,” Army Lt. Col. Robert Jones, deputy civil affairs officer for Multinational Corps Iraq, said.

Representatives brought forth ideas for future projects. Mosawi suggested establishing research centers to study women’s issues and roles in society. Scientific studies through universities and public agencies would be a powerful tool in uniting people toward a focused vision, she said.

The main hurdle, Mosawi said, is increasing awareness about women’s rights. “Society cannot grow unless women participate in culture, and society must realize this through education courses in all levels, both in rural and urban areas,” she said.

Representatives discussed using the help of nongovernment agencies, such as small businesses and private companies, to improve education.

In Iraq, only 42 kindergartens are open, 20 of them in Baghdad. Mosawi said these schools are not enough to provide care and education to more than 13 million Iraqi children. Additional schools would result in teaching opportunities for women, and enable mothers to work who otherwise would have to remain at home with their children.

A need exists for women to learn craftsmanship and other skills important in their present economic markets, seminar participants said. Ideally, grants and financial aid would be available to the trainers and the women being trained.

“In my personal opinion, an educated woman is distinguished and stands in a better position among her community of women,” Nawal Majid al-Samarrai, minister of state women’s affairs, said. “We only need to assist her [to give her] an opportunity.”

Many of the projects brought to the table went beyond women’s rights. Discussions included opportunities for children, orphans, displaced families and the disabled.

A lack of resources, both human and financial, is a challenge facing future initiatives, participants said.

The biggest hurdle, Samarrai said, is that offices for women’s initiatives don’t exist in provinces and cities throughout Iraq. They have been limited to inside Baghdad, isolated from the women who need it most in the communities.

Despite the obstacles, Mosawi said, she remains hopeful about the future.

“I’m very optimistic about the vision of Iraq,” she said. “I’m optimistic as well that Iraq will develop for the future, and it will be part of the international community and do good for the Iraqi society as a whole.”

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Bush: 8 Years in 8 Minutes. Olbermann 1/19/09

Posted by Larry Barnes on January 21, 2009

http://www.truthout.org/011… Friday 16 Janu…

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UBERHACK, eight minutes of BDS and lies.

Tripe and lies couched as news. Mindless drivel passing as substance, worse than reducing substance to a sound bite. It is sound bites compiled to simulate substance. I am ashamed that i allowed my self to be lured in by the biggest lie, it was over eight minutes.

The word is petty UBERHACK, it’s in the dictionary. Look it up.

Posted in Afghanistan, Bush, Comedy, Detainees, Gaza, GITMO, Hamas, Harry Reid, Iraq, Israel, Joint Chiefs Of Staff, Obama, Palistine, Pelosi, Pentagon, Sons OF Iraq, Stupid People, United Nations, US Forces | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Sons of Iraq’ Graduation Demonstrates Reconciliation

Posted by Larry Barnes on January 18, 2009

By Ray McNulty
Special to American Forces Press Service

BAGHDAD, Jan. 15, 2009 – Nearly 900 former members of the “Sons of Iraq” civilian security group officially joined the ranks of the Iraqi police at a graduation ceremony here yesterday.

Former “Sons of Iraq” civilian security group members demonstrate tactical movements that they will incorporate in their duties as police officers as part of their graduation ceremony at Al Furat Iraqi Police Training Center in Baghdad, Jan. 14, 2009.

Numbering 894 men and three women, they are the second class drawn from former Sons of Iraq members to graduate from the month-long police academy course at the Al Furat Police Training Center. Last month’s graduating class of 1,031 included 19 female police officers.

“These two graduations are tangible proof that the government of Iraq has kept its promise,” Maj. Gen. Khadim of the provincial directorate of police for Baghdad, said through an interpreter. “It offered Iraqi police jobs and training to former Sons of Iraq in recognition of their service. We will continue to extend a salute of respect and partnership to those who wish to serve with us.”

Registration has begun for the next class of police candidates, who will begin training before the end of January. Early indications point to another history-making class, which is expected to include nearly 500 female recruits, officials said.

“This transition of Sons of Iraq into the Iraqi police is a visible sign of reconciliation,” Army Col. Byron Freeman, commander of 8th Military Police Brigade, said. “Every graduation like today’s is a clear sign of progress. This effectively heals sectarian conflict with a sought-after job.”

Since Oct. 1, the Sons of Iraq program, previously administered by coalition forces, has been the responsibility of the Iraqi government. At that time, the Sons of Iraq rolls numbered nearly 100,000 throughout the country.

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GITMO Part Three

Posted by Larry Barnes on January 17, 2009

    Guantanamo Pair Defiant In Court

Correspondents said the pre-trial hearing was chaotic at times, as two of the men accused of plotting the 9/11 attacks on the US made unrepentant court appearances at pre-trial hearings at Guantanamo Bay.

Ramzi Binalshibh said he was proud of the attacks while Khalid Sheikh Mohammed said he did not fear death and was working “for the cause of God”. These two were among five men appearing at a chaotic hearing at the naval base.

US President-elect Barack Obama is expected to issue an order to close the camp within days of taking office. The day’s hearings were intended to determine whether Mr Binalshibh was mentally competent to represent himself. He and his co-defendants have all said they do not want to be represented by US military lawyers.

“We did what we did and we are proud of this. We are proud of 9/11,” Mr Binalshibh told the courtroom in Arabic as guards removed his shackles.

Earlier Mr Mohammed, who claims to have been tortured while in the camp and is the alleged mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, had requested the dismissal of all US lawyers on his bench.

“The people who tortured me received their salaries from the American government and the lawyers do too,” he said.

He later told the court he and his co-defendants were not afraid of receiving the death penalty because they were “doing jihad for the cause of God”.

When warned by the judge to stop interrupting the proceedings, he told them: ”This is terrorism, not court, you don’t give us an opportunity to talk.”

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Both defence and prosecution lawyers had asked the military judges to delay proceedings until after Mr Obama’s inauguration, but their request was refused.

The Pentagon last month withdrew and refiled charges in about 20 cases, saying this was merely a procedural step. This has added to the air of uncertainty surrounding the trials, correspondents say.

A Canadian national, Omar Khadr, faces a separate hearing, accused of killing a US soldier in Afghanistan. His lawyers are also arguing for certain statements to be suppressed, saying they were obtained through torture and coercion.

The US military says these were the result of “conversational and non-coercive interviews”.

Mr Khadr, who was 15 years old at the time, is accused of throwing a grenade that killed a US soldier in Afghanistan in 2002. Mr Khadr’s trial is scheduled to begin on 26 January but his lawyer, Navy Lt Cdr Bill Kuebler, says he believes it is unlikely that the military tribunals will go ahead once Mr Obama is in office. “It is simply unimaginable to think that these proceedings would continue when you have an administration that is on the record saying that so clearly,” he said. “What’s very clear… is that they want to take a different course of action on Guantanamo.”

Barack Obama pictured on 12 December during a meeting with Mexican President Felipe Calderon
Mr Obama has said he knows closing the camp will be challenging. Last week, senior advisers confirmed that Mr Obama would issue an executive order within days of entering the White House to close the detention center.

But shutting Guantanamo, where some 245 inmates remain, will not be immediate and Mr Obama himself has signaled that it will be a challenge.

His choice for attorney-general, Eric Holder, told his Senate confirmation hearing that he considered the interrogation technique of water boarding to be torture.

The CIA has admitted using the technique on at least three terrorism suspects, including Mr Mohammed.

The Bush administration set up the Guantanamo Bay camp in 2002 to hold foreign terror suspects captured during the war against the Taleban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan.

The camp once held some 750 inmates, believed to be mostly foreigners detained in Afghanistan on suspicion of being Islamist fighters.

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GITMO Part Two

Posted by Larry Barnes on January 17, 2009

A judge has suspended for 120 days the Guantanamo Bay trials of five men accused over the 9/11 attacks, as requested by US President Barack Obama.

Among the five is alleged mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who had opposed the suspension saying he wanted to confess to his role in the attacks.

The new administration also circulated a draft order to close the Guantanamo Bay prison within a year. Mr Obama had earlier asked for a four-month halt to all tribunals there. The request was one of his first acts as president.

Before the military judge’s ruling in the 9/11 case, four men including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed said they opposed halting the trials. Lawyers for a fifth man supported the proposed suspension.

Earlier a judge in a separate case – that of Omar Khadr, a Canadian man accused of killing an American soldier in Afghanistan in 2002 – suspended that trial. Lt Cmdr William Kuebler, a lawyer for Omar Khadr, said the practical effect of the ruling was “to pronounce this system dead”.

“There will certainly be no more military commissions in Guantanamo Bay,” he said.

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The Obama administration is circulating a draft executive order calling for the closure of the detention centre.

“The detention facilities at Guantanamo for individuals covered by this order shall be closed as soon as practicable, and no later than one year from the date of this order,” the draft read.

It calls for a review of all pending cases, and provides for some prisoners to be released and others to be transferred. It is not known when Mr Obama will issue the order. Mr Obama has repeatedly promised to close the camp, where some 250 inmates accused of having links to terrorism remain and 21 cases are pending.

In his inaugural address on Tuesday, he emphasized the idea of respect for justice and the rights of the individual, rejecting “as false the choice between our safety and our ideals”.

A two-page document issued late the same day and ordered jointly by Mr Obama and the US Department of Defense, sought a 120-day suspension of trials. The delay would “permit the newly inaugurated president and his administration time to review the military commission process”, the document said.

The legal process has been widely criticised because the US military acts as jailer, judge and jury, the BBC’s Jonathan Beale reports from Guantanamo. Closing Guantanamo Bay will not be easy. Questions remain over where those charged will be tried and where those freed can be safely sent.

Our correspondent reports that the written ruling to suspend the 9/11 cases brought anger and frustration among representatives from five families of victims of the attacks, with one accusing Mr Obama of political posturing.

But there was a sense of relief among defense lawyers, who had criticized the cases as “show trials”.

Michele Cercone, a spokesman for the EU Justice and Home Affairs Commission, said the Commission was “very pleased that one of the first actions of Mr Obama has been to turn the page on this sad episode of Guantanamo”.

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Division Commander in Iraq Voices Concern over Election Meddling

Posted by Larry Barnes on January 14, 2009

Division Commander in Iraq Voices Concern over Election Meddling
By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 14, 2009 – With violence levels greatly reduced, meddling from outside influences is a concern surrounding upcoming Iraqi elections, a U.S. commander in Iraq said today.

Army Maj. Gen. Michael Oates, commander of Multinational Division Center, said Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has pledged that Baghdad will do all it can to prevent defrauding of the Jan. 31 provincial elections by internal and external forces.

“We agree with [Maliki] that everybody should let Iraqis make their own decisions in this election,” he told reporters at a news conference in Baghdad. “What’s important to Iraq is that elections be seen as credible, and my only concern is that outside influences may interfere.”

Oates described such meddling as everything from “soft-power” tactics such as a foreign entity endorsing a candidate through political posters, leaflets and information campaigns to outright violence up to election day.

U.S. forces around the country are preparing to support Iraqi security forces in the event of possible violence surrounding the balloting. Army Col. Burt Thompson, commander of the 25th Infantry Division’s 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, discussed potential election saboteurs in a Jan. 12 media briefing. “It’s pretty clear what they’d be going after,” he said. “It’s to sway the hearts and the minds — to intimidate those civilians from going and voting.”

In today’s news conference, Oates said Multinational Division Center troops are prepared to work with Iraqi security forces, which have taken the lead to ensure the elections occur safely and smoothly. The most likely security threat facing the electorate in his area of operations, the general said, comes from splinter groups of militia members who are disobeying a ceasefire order from the Iranian-influenced Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.

The general said a small number of such groups are responsible for much of the region’s violence. He added that the fact that attacks aimed at coalition forces are decreasing while violence aimed at Iraqi forces rises indicates the groups’ intention of fomenting internal chaos.

Meanwhile, Oates said, al-Qaida’s role has become “severely degraded” in the southern part of his jurisdiction, despite the terror organization’s attempts over the past months to regenerate. But he cautioned that al-Qaida still is capable of launching “spectacular attacks.” In large part, though, members of Jaysh al-Mahdi, Sadr’s armed constituency, are complying with their leader’s order to lay down arms, he added.

Oates expressed some concern that some of Iran’s influence in Iraq takes the form of humanitarian aid. Helping Iraq’s Shiite poor and supporting hospitals works to provide “significant influence in terms of soft power” for Iraq’s neighbor to the east among Iraqis. But extremist Iranian elements might be motivated to ramp up “lethal activity” as elections near, he added.

Still, Oates predicted a safe election, and said that the challenge afterward will be ensuring a smooth transition of power.

Posted in Bush, Harry Reid, Iraq, Joint Chiefs Of Staff, New, Obama, Pelosi, Pentagon, United Nations, US Forces | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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