Friday, June 30, 2006

Romania set to pull troops out of Iraq?

WASHINGTON (AFP) - The United States said it was surprised by reports that Romania planned to withdraw its troops from

State Department deputy spokesman Adam Ereli said Washington had not been informed of any plans to pull out the 890-strong Romanian force, which he said had performed ably and courageously. Earlier, Romanian Prime Minister Calin Tariceanu had said he would ask Romania's Supreme Defence Council (CSAT) to withdraw the soldiers because of the human and financial cost of staying in Iraq.

US investigates new Iraq killings

From BBC Online

The US military has opened a criminal investigation into the alleged killing of an Iraqi family in their home by US soldiers, the US military says. The investigation began on Saturday and follows an initial military inquiry.
An unnamed official told AP news agency one of the four victims, a woman, was raped before being killed, and that five soldiers were under investigation.

The probe is the latest in a series of inquiries into alleged abuse of Iraqis by US troops. The US Army's Criminal Investigation Command was asked to look into the incident, which took place in the area of Mahmudiya, south of Baghdad, after a preliminary military inquiry found reason to open a criminal probe, the military said.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Official statistics show Iraqi deaths at least 20,000 higher than previously admitted

The Los Angeles Times reports that the total of Iraqi deaths due to direct violence in the war is now, officially, in excess of 50,000. The total deaths caused by the US/UK invasion is now, almost certainly, well in excess of 100,000, the figure previously documented in the only representative national survey to date.

"War's Iraqi Death Toll Tops 50,000
Higher than the U.S. estimate, the tally likely is undercounted. Proportionately, it is as if 570,000 Americans were slain in three years.

BAGHDAD — At least 50,000 Iraqis have died violently since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, according to statistics from the Baghdad morgue, the Iraqi Health Ministry and other agencies — a toll 20,000 higher than previously acknowledged by the Bush administration.

Many more Iraqis are believed to have been killed but not counted because of serious lapses in recording deaths in the chaotic first year after the invasion, when there was no functioning Iraqi government, and continued spotty reporting nationwide since."

Monday, June 26, 2006

An evening for Malcolm Kendall-Smith

Writer John Pilger is the latest addition to A NIGHT OF CONSCIENCE on Wednesday 28 June for Flight-Lieutenant Malcolm Kendall-Smith, now serving an eight month sentence in Cheltenham Prison for refusing to fight an illegal war in Iraq.

Tickets are still available for this event which aims to raise funds to help pay the £20,000 legal costs imposed on Malcolm. People are coming from all over the country, so moved have they been Malcolm's refusal to be deployed to Iraq, the first serving officer to do so.

A NIGHT OF CONSCIENCE will be introduced by Tony Benn. Appearing with John Pilger, will be comedians Mark Thomas and Mark Steel, composer Michael Nyman, film director Ken Loach, playwrights David Edgar and Caryl Churchill, actors Simon Callow and Janet Suzman, fashion designer Vivienne Westwood and many others from film, stage, television and politics.

Further details can be found here

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Titanic Express published today

Titanic Express, a book about the search for truth following a brutal murder in Burundi is published today. Written by Richard Wilson, a long time supporter of the Craig Murray campaign and contributor to this web site, it details his personal experinces following the loss of his sister and his quest to track down her killers.

The book has been reviewed in the Times, Telegraph, and (with a hatfull of errors) the Daily Mail.

For information on online ordering go here.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Japan pulls troops out of Iraq

From BBC Online

Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has announced plans to withdraw his country's troops from Iraq. The Japanese troops have been based in the city of Samawa, engaged in work such as repairing buildings and providing medical training. Japanese media reports said the last troops were expected to leave by late July.

No Japanese soldiers have been killed or wounded in Iraq, but Mr Koizumi faced a political crisis in 2004 when three aid workers were taken hostage by Iraqi insurgents, who demanded that Japanese troops withdraw. The three were eventually released unharmed, but another five Japanese citizens have been killed by militants.

Mr Koizumi is due to visit President Bush at the end of this month. He is due to leave office later this year.

Monday, June 19, 2006

The war in Afghanistan: the same sad story on casualty reporting

With reported casualties in the war in Afghanistan mounting on both sides, as well as in the civilian population, it may be worth asking some of the same questions of our government about this war as about Iraq.

Are civilian casualties accounted for?
Are enemy combatant casualties formally reported?
Are our own casualties fully reported?

That, currently will be a no, no and no, despite the limited progress reported in the posting below!
Surprised? Me neither.

If anyone is on doubt about the trend in the war in Afghanistan it is useful to look at the figures for reported US casualties (wounded plus fatalities). These rise steadily from 47 in 2001 to 140 in 2002 , 153 in 2003, 273 in 2004 and 393 in 2005. This last figure includes 129 fatalities. With the handover to UK/NATO troops taking place during 2006 the burden of the war has been transferred and we can, unfortunately, expect the casualty burden to follow.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Ministry of Defence make partial improvements in their Iraq war casualty reporting

As US fatalities in Iraq reach 2,500 and their total casualties approach 21,000, we post an update on the ongoing saga of British failures in casualty reporting.

The UK MOD has now added (PDF) summary tables to their web site for British wounded in operations in Iraq. The tables go some way towards clarifying the statistics but still fall short of providing an easily accessible accounting of the cost of the war on UK forces. For example, it is still not clear whether the tables contain a complete set of data or just represent people treated at the Shaibah Role 3 Facility.

However, it is worth noting that even this level of information is currently not given in the (PDF) tables for operations in Afghanistan.

In both operations the MOD still don't, for some inexplicable reason, use the correct terminology. Casualties is the sum of fatalities plus wounded, whereas, the MOD insist on using the term casualty to refer only to wounded. Overall however, its a step forward and gets a bit closer to mirroring the US system.

Whether these figures are actually accurate is of course a separate issue and one which is still far from being resolved. Efforts to obtain the full facts are continuing. And, last but by no means least, we should never forget that there has still been no official recognition or accounting for the well over 100,000 Iraqis who have died as a result of the Bush and Blair decision to invade.

(links updated: 20.09.2006)

Friday, June 09, 2006

The double edged sword of Zarqawi and US policy in Iraq

So, with an undoubted major war criminal killed by a US bomb all should be looking up for the US/UK forces in Iraq? Well not really. For the US Zarqawi has always played a double role in Iraq, on one hand a brutal terrorist who reduced the chances of a rapid normalisation of security and filled western media screens with images of US/UK failure in their project for Iraq. On the other, a potent symbol of evil that has been used, post-hoc, to justify the extension of the American 'war on terror' into Iraq and who, critically for the US, helped to split the Iraqi resistance movement and played into the 2004 post Falluja 1 divide and rule strategy of Washington and London.

Only a few media sources are commenting on the realistic probable effects for the US/UK. Much as the election of a Shia dominated government in Baghdad was likely to lead to the escalation of attacks against the British in Basra we have witnessed in the last few months, so the death of Zarqawi may lead to a a more unified and effective national resistance movement. Counter-intuitive? Why tolerate the continued occupation of your country by foreign powers when your political objectives have been largely achieved and the main symbol of your hated sectarian rivals has been liquidated? Put another way, large parts of the Shia militia don't need the US/UK anymore and the death of Zarqawi may open the door to the building of alliances against the occupation.

All this could, if key Iraqi players act with much strategic wisdom and restraint, be excellent news for the ending of sectarian terrorism and rebuilding of the shattered sense of national identity. On the other hand the tipping point into irretrievable and deepening civil war may already have been crossed. In either event it is seriously bad news for the US/UKs continued presence and control of Iraq and its assets.

Juan Cole provides comment and translation from an article in Al-Hayat:

"... sources close to the Sunni Arab resistance movements, among the them the(neo-Baathist) Army of Islam and the Brigads of the 1920 Revolution and the Army of Mujahidin said that Zarqawi's organization, which had announced open war on the Shiites of Iraq, had distorted the motives of the Resistance and harmed its potential. They consider him a martyr, but differ with him in their interpretation (ijtihad) of Islam. One big problem for the guerrilla movement has been that it has largely been ethnic Sunni Arabs, and Zarqawi's tactics made pan-Islamic alliances difficult. The resistance movements appear to hope that with him out of the way, a Sunni-Shiite joint resistance to US presence might become more plausible. Al-Hayat says that they pledged "to intensify their operations during the coming phase against the American forces, as a way of demonstrating the true weight of al-Qaeda." (I.e., the indigenous Iraqi movements are saying that Zarqawi's group is not that important, and they will show who has really been doing the fighting.)"

Finally a nod to the BBC for this insightful snippet:

"But the insurgents might also use this as a chance to refocus their campaign, perhaps concentrating their fire on the security forces, and away from the attacks on civilians that Zarqawi pursued so cynically.

That in turn could help the fractured insurgency to work together more effectively, and might also help them win more support from the Iraqi people."

The Spider's Web

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

US officer makes a stand on the legality of the Iraq war

From the Seattle Times

In a rare case of officer dissent, a Fort Lewis Army lieutenant has refused orders to head out to Iraq this month to lead troops in what he believes is an illegal war of occupation.

1st Lt. Ehren Watada's Stryker brigade is scheduled to make its first deployment to Iraq this month. His refusal to accompany these troops puts him at risk of court-martial and years of prison time. "I feel that we have been lied to and betrayed by this administration," Watada said Tuesday in a telephone interview from Fort Lewis. "It is the duty, the obligation of every soldier, and specifically the officers, to evaluate the legality, the truth behind every order — including the order to go to war."

In making his decision, Watada has reached out to peace groups, including clergy, students, some veterans opposed to Iraq and others. Some war critics are raising money for his legal defense as they seek to galvanize broader opposition to Bush administration policy in Iraq.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Mainstream media starts to report on US massacres in Iraq

Following hard on the heels of the Haditha massacre, stories of more US atrocities involving the killing of civillians are starting to come out from Iraq. importantly, the mainstream media now seems willing to give them air time. The latest one is from the town of Ishaqi in March of this year.

Video of the Ishaqi massacre site is available from the BBC here and from Haditha here

Video from ITN news is avaible via here