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US Tests Military Exit Routes Out of Iraq

US tests military exit routes out of Iraq
By Chelsea J. Carter | Yahoo!News

The American military is shipping battlefield equipment through Jordan and Kuwait, testing possible exit routes in advance of a U.S. withdrawal in Iraq, military officials said.

The convoys — carrying armored vehicles, weapons and other items — mark the Pentagon's first steps in confronting the complex logistics of transporting the huge arsenal stockpiled in Iraq over nearly six years.

It's also part of a wider assessment, ordered by U.S. Central Command, to decide what items the military can transfer, donate, sell or toss away once a full-scale withdrawal is under way, Marine Corps and Army officials told The Associated Press.

US Iraq Casualties Rise to 71,142

US Iraq casualties rise to 71,142
Compiled by Michael Munk | www.MichaelMunk.com

US military occupation forces in Iraq under Commander in Chief Obama suffered 22 combat casualties in the eight days ending Feb 18, 2009, as the official total rose to at least 71,142. The total includes 34,465 dead and wounded from what the Pentagon classifies as "hostile" causes and more than 36,677 dead and medically evacuated (as of Jan 31, 2009) from "non-hostile" causes.*

The actual total is over 100,000 because the Pentagon chooses not to count as "Iraq casualties" the more than 30,000 veterans whose injuries - mainly brain trauma from explosions (TBI) diagnosed only after they had left Iraq.**

Iraqis Have Voted: Will the U.S. Be Kicked Out the Door Soon?

By Robert Dreyfuss, www.thenation.com

For the first time in six years, it's possible to see the light at the end of the tunnel in Iraq. Despite all their flaws -- and there were many -- the January 31 elections in fourteen of Iraq's eighteen provinces ratified the resurgence of secular nationalism. A large majority of voters repudiated the Shiite and Sunni religious parties and the Kurdish separatists. And in so doing, they broke free of the rigid confines of the ethno-sectarian politics that has dominated the Iraqi scene since 2003. The results mean that the Obama administration may soon have to deal with a vastly different cast of characters in Iraq -- politicians less willing to tolerate a long-term US presence and firmly opposed to a special relationship between Baghdad and Washington.

New Jail Opens at Abu Ghraib Site

New jail opens at Abu Ghraib site
By Jim Muir | BBC News

Abu Ghraib, the Iraqi prison which became notorious for detainee abuse by US forces in 2004, is being officially re-opened in a new incarnation.

It has been handed over to the Iraqis and renamed Baghdad Central Prison.

Military Court in Germany Convicts US Soldier in Iraq Murders

Military Court in Germany Convicts US Soldier in Iraq Murders | Deutsche Welle

A 28-year-old US Army medic has been sentenced by a US military court in Germany to life in prison with the possibility of parole for his role in murdering four Iraqi prisoners in 2007.

The US military court in Vilseck, Germany, on Friday evening, Feb. 20, found Sgt. Michael Leahy guilty of murder for his role in the execution-style killings of four Iraqi detainees.

The nine-member jury convicted Leahy, one of four soldiers charged in the slayings, of murder and conspiracy to commit murder. His rank will be reduced to private and he will be dishonorably discharged from the Army.

Another US soldier, Steven Ribordy, in October was sentenced to eight months in prison for his role in the killings as part of a plea deal.

Anne Miller: Stimulate Peace, Not War

Anne Miller: Stimulate Peace, Not War | Capital Times

As the $787 billion stimulus bill snaked its way through the House and the Senate and finally landed under the pen of President Obama, my predominant thought has been holy cow -- that's a lot of money!

Sen. John Thune was even kind enough to explain to CSPAN viewers last week how a stack of hundred dollar bills totaling $787 billion, wrapped side by side, would encircle the Earth nearly 39 times. As unsettling as this new financial commitment may be, it is at least an attempt to help more Americans achieve some semblance of economic security.

The stimulus package was aggressively attacked by fiscal conservatives who have been outspoken about the "pet projects" in the bill, and the wasteful programs that will weigh down future generations with massive debt. Point taken.

Bush's "Icy Smile" Enraged Iraq Shoe-Thrower

Bush's "icy smile" enraged Iraq shoe-thrower
By Khalid al-Ansary | Reuters | Submitted by Michael Munk | www.MichaelMunk.com

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - An Iraqi reporter who hurled his shoes at George W. Bush said in the past he had videotaped himself practicing the Arab insult to use against the president whose "icy smile" had filled him with uncontrollable rage.

Muntazer al-Zaidi said on Thursday at the start of his trial in Baghdad on charges of assaulting a foreign leader that he took a recording of his shoe-throwing training two years ago and had hoped to accost Bush in Jordan but this did not take place.

South Africa: Tutu Urges Obama to Apologize to Iraqis

By AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Archbishop Desmond Tutu warned Thursday that President Obama risked squandering good will from around the world if he failed to take concrete steps like apologizing for the Iraq war. Archbishop Tutu, 77, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate and the retired archbishop of Cape Town, also urged Mr. Obama to support the International Criminal Court and “come down hard” on African dictators. He wrote in an article for the BBC’s Web site that the high hopes surrounding Mr. Obama’s presidency could turn sour. Mr. Obama “could easily squander the good will that his election generated if he disappoints,” Archbishop Tutu wrote. “It would be wonderful if, on behalf of the nation, Obama apologizes to the world, and especially the Iraqis, for an invasion that I believe has turned out to be an unmitigated disaster.”

Is the U.S. Paying Off the Italian Government for Forging the Niger Documents?

By Jeffrey Klein and Paolo Pontoniere, AlterNet

Evidence suggests a payoff to Italy for supplying the forged documents Bush famously used to justify launching the Iraq war.

"Obama Confronts a Choice on Copters" read this week's New York Times. The President soon "will have to decide whether to proceed with some of the priciest aircraft in the world -- a new fleet of 28 Marine One helicopters that will each cost more than the last Air Force One....The choice confronting Mr. Obama encapsulates the tension between two imperatives of his nascent presidency, the need to meet the continuing threats of an age of terrorism and the demand for austerity in a period of economic hardship."

Congress members urge us to lobby them on Moratorium day

By Bill Christofferson

This is not exactly a man-bites-dog story, but at least three members of Congress have expressed their support for a campaign to contact members of Congress and urge them to end the occupation of Iraq.

And a fourth has joined protesters at their regular vigil.

Representatives Barbara Lee, Lynn Woolsey, and George Miller -- all California Democrats -- have written the Raise Hell for Molly Ivins campaign to encourage it to continue raising hell. Meanwhile, Rep. John Conyers, a Michigan Democrat, joined a vigil in Wyandotte, MI. (He's at left in photo)

The Ivins campaign has been urging people to use the Third Friday of every month -- Iraq Moratorium day -- to contact Congresspeople in their home offices and ask them to get US troops out of Iraq. Friday, Feb. 20, is Iraq Moratorium #18.

READ THE REST HERE.

Implementing the President's Plan: An Outline for Action in Iraq

By Col. Richard L. Klass (USAF, ret.), Lt. Gen. Robert G. Gard, Jr. (USA, ret.) and Brig. Gen. John Johns (USA, ret.)

Barack Obama campaigned on a policy of ending U.S. military involvement in Iraq. There is speculation today about how President Obama’s campaign stance will be transformed into actual policy now that he sits in the Oval Office. Based on recent press reports, there is reason to suspect that there may be an effort underway to revise or soften President Obama’s 16-month timetable for withdrawing U.S. forces.

This paper outlines how the President can responsibly execute his policy of removing U.S. combat forces from Iraq within 16 months. It proposes a workable U.S. redeployment schedule that would result in 100,000 total U.S. troops remaining in Iraq by the end of 2009; 35,000 to 65,000 support troops remaining in Iraq by July 2010, when the President’s 16-month timetable would end if it is initiated in April 2009; and less than 1,000 troops remaining by December 2011, when the U.S.-Iraqi security agreement (commonly known as the status of forces agreement or “SOFA”) mandates that all U.S. forces be out of Iraq.

READ IT HERE.

Iraqi Defends Shoe-Throwing Incident

By Ernesto Londoño and Zaid Sabah, The Washington Post

Baghdad - Wearing leather shoes, a pressed beige suit and a scarf emblazoned with the Iraq flag, the Iraqi journalist who became a folk hero in the Arab world by slinging shoes at President George W. Bush defended his conduct on Thursday in court.

"I did not mean to kill the leader of the occupation forces," Muntadar al-Zaidi said, speaking clearly and forcefully from a wooden cage before a packed courtroom. "I was expressing what's inside of me and what's inside the Iraqi people from north to south and from west to east."

Throwing his shoes, fastball style, at the leader of the free world was not, Zaidi argued, a crime.

Still Homeless in Baghdad

By Dahr Jamail, Inter Press Service

BAGHDAD — “We only want a normal life,” says Um Qasim, sitting in a bombed out building in Baghdad. She and others around have been saying that for years.

Um Qasim lives with 13 family members in a brick shanty on the edge of a former military intelligence building in the Mansoor district of Baghdad.

Five of her children are girls. Homelessness is not easy for anyone, but it is particularly challenging for women and girls.

“Me and my girls have to be extra careful living this way,” Um Qasim told IPS. “We are tired of always being afraid, because any day, any time, strange men walk through our area, and there is no protection for us. Each day brings a new threat to us, and all the women here.”

She rarely leaves her area, she says. Nor do her girls, for fear of being kidnapped or raped.

Gitmo Guard Brandon Neely Speaks

Gitmo Guard Speaks

9:20 mins.

Commanders in Iraq Challenge Petraeus on Pullout Risk

By Gareth Porter, IPS

WASHINGTON, Feb 17 (IPS) - CENTCOM Commander General David Petraeus and Multinational Force Iraq (MNF-I) Commander General Ray Odierno have submitted assessments of Iraq combat troop withdrawal plans to President Barack Obama based on the premise that his 16-month withdrawal plan would pose significantly greater risk to "security gains" than the 23-month plan they favour.

But a senior commander in Iraq appeared to contradict that premise last week by declaring that security gains in the Shi'a provinces of Iraq are "permanent", and a field commander in Iraq says there is no objective basis for any Petraeus-Odierno finding that Obama's plan carries greater risk than their 23-month plan.

A 'fraud' bigger than Madoff

Senior US soldiers investigated over missing Iraq reconstruction billions
By Patrick Cockburn in Sulaimaniyah, Northern Iraq, The Independent

In what could turn out to be the greatest fraud in US history, American authorities have started to investigate the alleged role of senior military officers in the misuse of $125bn (£88bn) in a US -directed effort to reconstruct Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein. The exact sum missing may never be clear, but a report by the US Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR) suggests it may exceed $50bn, making it an even bigger theft than Bernard Madoff's notorious Ponzi scheme.

"I believe the real looting of Iraq after the invasion was by US officials and contractors, and not by people from the slums of Baghdad," said one US businessman active in Iraq since 2003.

Best Book on Iraq Occupation?

By David Swanson

I've only read a fraction of the books written on the war/occupation of Iraq, and even those are a large pile. It's tough to choose the best one, but one of the most readable and informative has got to be "Red Zone: Five Bloody Years in Baghdad," by Oliver Poole. This is also perhaps the book most likely to engage war supporters and make them think without being didactic and without pulling any punches.

Dahr Jamail's New Iraq Photo Albums

Album: Fallujah, 2009 (Views from inside Fallujah, February 2009.)

Album: Over 1 Million Displaced Persons In Baghdad (As of February 2009, there are over one million displaced people in Baghdad alone.)

Album: Various Photographs of the Occupation (2009) (Various pictures from the occupation in Iraq, February 2009)

Album: Fishermen on the Tigris River (Due to decreased water level, increased pollution, and a disastrous economy, Iraqi fishermen are struggling to survive.)

Album: Awakening Group leaders of Iraq’s Al-Anbar Province (Photos of two key leaders of the U.S.-backed Sunni militia)

The River Too Tells the Story

The River Too Tells the Story
by Dahr Jamail | Inter Press Service

There is less water now in the Tigris, and it is less clean. The river has fewer fish, and rising fuel and other costs mean they are more costly to catch. It's not, as Hamza Majit finds, a good time to be a fisher.

“It’s getting worse everyday,” Majit told IPS on board his fishing boat.

“You see the low water level,” Majit said, touching the bottom of the river, just two metres down, with a wooden pole. “We need higher water to hold our nets up. And this is the deepest point in the Tigris in this area. With the water this low, it makes it difficult to catch any fish.”

Shock and . . . Oil?

By Russ Baker, Author of Family of Secrets: The Bush Dynasty, The Powerful Forces That Put it in the White House, and What Their Influence Means for America

George W. Bush has left office and pundits are reviewing “the Bush legacy” -- a legacy sure to be defined by the disastrous Iraq war (with financial meltdown as icing on the cake). In the new book Family of Secrets, a probing history of the Bush dynasty, investigative journalist Russ Baker, shows that George W. Bush was hatching ideas for war on Iraq not only before 9/11, but even before he was elected president.

Tomgram: Dahr Jamail, Iraq from the Inside of an Armored BMW

Tomgram: Dahr Jamail, Iraq from the Inside of an Armored BMW | TomDispatch.com

Already it's begun -- the endless non-departure from Iraq. The Obama plan, restated many times during the presidential campaign, involved a 16-month schedule for withdrawing not all U.S. forces, but only U.S. "combat troops." Now, his (and, of course, George W. Bush's) generals are showing visible evidence of dragging their combat boots in the sand on the subject. We were given fair warning. Over the last two years, numerous military figures have claimed that, as fast as they got into Iraq, it would be hell just getting all the U.S. stuff now embedded there out -- and that's without even taking into account the political situation in that country. Recently, according to military leaks to the media, "U.S. military planners" have come up with two alternate scenarios to Obama's 16-month plan. One is reportedly 19 months long, the other 23 months long, and -- here's a shock -- the two top generals in charge, Centcom commander David Petraeus and U.S. commander in Iraq, General Ray Odierno, favor the 23-month approach.

Gates Orders Review of Ban on Photos of Coffins

Gates orders review of ban on photos of coffins
By Lara Jakes | Yahoo!News

Defense Secretary Robert Gates ordered a review Tuesday of a Pentagon policy banning media from taking pictures of flag-draped coffins of military dead, signaling he was open to overturning the policy to better honor fallen soldiers.

At least two Democratic senators have called on President Barack Obama to let news photographers attend ceremonies at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware and other military facilities when military remains are returned to the United States. Obama told reporters Monday he was reviewing the ban.

US Iraq Casualties Jump to 71,119

US Iraq Casualties Jump to 71,119
Compiled by Michael Munk | www.MichaelMunk.com

US military occupation forces in Iraq under Commander-In-Chief Obama suffered 27 combat casualties in the week ending Feb 10, 2009, as the official total rose to jumped sharply to at least 71,119 with monthly "non hostile" casualties posted.

The total includes 34,443 dead and wounded from what the Pentagon classifies as "hostile" causes and more than 36,676 dead and medically evacuated (as of Jan 31, 2009) from "non-hostile" causes.*

The actual total is over 100,000 because the Pentagon chooses not to count as "Iraq casualties" the more than 30,000 veterans whose injuries-mainly brain trauma from explosions (TBI) and PTSD diagnosed only after they had left Iraq.**

Call-In Now to Pressure House Armed Services Committee on Iraq and Afghanistan!

From http://unitedforpeace.org

Tomorrow, February 12, the House Armed Services Committee is convening a hearing on 'U.S. Strategy in Iraq and Afghanistan: Balancing Interests and Resources'.

This is a large committee with 60 Representatives from many states around the country. United For Peace and Justice urges you to take a few minutes to help us put pressure on the House Armed Services Committee to use this hearing to raise the hard question, and put on the table the most critical issues about these two wars!

Here are the steps you need to take:

1) Click here for the full list of the members of the House Armed Services Committee.

2) Check that list to see if your Representative serves on the committee. If you find that person's name, click on that and it will take you to their website. From there, you will find the best phone number to use.

Why the GOP Is Going Down While Seeming to Go Up

Why the GOP Is Going Down While Seeming to Go Up
By Bernard Weiner | The Crisis Papers

The elites who pull the strings behind the curtain must have cringed every time George Dubya opened his mouth. The poor dummy couldn't help blurting out aspects of the actual agenda. "My job is to catapult the propaganda," he said. And, telling a citizen who criticized his policies: "Why should I care what you think?" And his thrice-stated "joking" remark: "If this were a dictatorship, it'd be a heck of a lot easier, just as long as I'm the dictator."

It's like watching someone being sucked down into quicksand. I'm referring to the sad, desperate struggle of the Republican Party to try to resurrect its electoral fortunes by championing the exact same policies that took them to embarrassing defeat in the Obama/Democratic landslide. By their actions, it's plain they got nuthin'.

Nothin' except to flail about in self-destructive obstructionism, basically in temper-tantrum mode. If we can't be victorious, they seem to be telling the Democrats (and, by extension, the country), we'll make sure you go down with us. This kind of schoolboy behavior is rolled out at a time in American history when the country's financial and governmental institutions are close to free-fall catastrophe unless some drastic corrective action is taken.

Misreading the Iraqi Election Results

Misreading the Iraqi Election Results
By Ivan Eland | Independent Institute

Now that their nemesis, George W. Bush, has left office, the mainstream media can be unbridled in their optimism about the future of Iraq. After 9/11, they chose to allow themselves to be duped by the Bush administration’s fairly lame reasons for the clearly unrelated U.S. invasion of Iraq and have been bitter about the quagmire ever since.

Given that Barack Obama, whom most media covered favorably during the election campaign, has taken office, their coverage of the recent Iraqi provincial elections indicates that they have flipped and now see a glass half full in Iraq rather than a glass half empty. They have touted the Iraqi elections as a wild success, with purple-thumbed Iraqi citizens depicted as supporting a centralized Iraqi state over autonomy for Iraq’s regions.

Not so fast.

Excuse Me, Mr. President

Excuse Me, Mr. President

Help Build the Iraq Memorial to Life

By Molly Gibbs

The Iraq Memorial to Life (IMtL) is born because your organization—and so many other organizations like yours—have been working hard for peace.

A powerful visual image of gravestones, on the National Mall in DC, will move Americans to end senseless death.

Thousands of memorial markers, carefully arranged, will bring home the full extent of Iraqi deaths to the American public and its legislators. The grieving that has long been a daily part of Iraqi life will be memorialized by small volunteer groups, and spread outward, community by community, as we prepare for the April display on the National Mall in DC. Reactions to both regional and national displays will bring attention to the human suffering caused by the Iraq war.

Sen. Leahy's and Rep. Conyers' Truth Commission Could Work but...

By Dave Lindorff

The similar calls by Senate Judiciary Chair Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and House Judiciary Chair Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) for a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate the crimes of the Bush/Cheney administration are potentially a terrible idea, but one that could turn out to be an excellent one, if handled correctly.

It would be a terrible idea if a Truth and Reconciliation Commission was just another 9-11-type body. That commission turned out to be worse than nothing, given that it was manipulated by the Bush administration to be toothless and that it ended up covering up more than it uncovered. Aside from the behind the scenes manipulation, the biggest problem with the 9-11 commission, though, was that is was not linked to any attempt to prosecute official wrong-doing.

Petraeus' Treason Spreads

Petraeus Leaked Misleading Story On Pullout Plans
By Gareth Porter, Inter Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb 9 (IPS) - The political maneuvering between President Barack Obama and his top field commanders over withdrawal from Iraq has taken a sudden new turn with the leak by CENTCOM commander Gen. David Petraeus - and a firm denial by a White House official - of an account of the Jan. 21 White House meeting suggesting that Obama had requested three different combat troop withdrawal plans with their respective associated risks, including one of 23 months.

The Petraeus account, reported by McClatchy newspapers Feb. 5 and then by the Associated Press the following day, appears to indicate that Obama is moving away from the 16-month plan he had vowed during the campaign to implement if elected. But on closer examination, it doesn't necessarily refer to any action by Obama or to anything that happened at the Jan. 21 meeting.

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