Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Tidbits from empire

US Colonel Greg Julian with Afghan village elders in Inzeri yesterday. US commanders distributed $40,000 and apologized to relatives of 15 people killed in a recent US raid. (Jason Straziuso/Associated Press)

Today's Boston Globe, reports testimony by Secretary of Defense (War) Robert Gates and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs:

"The civilian casualties are doing us an enormous harm in Afghanistan, and we have got to do better" to avoid innocent deaths, even though the Taliban militants use civilians as cover, Gates told the Senate Armed Services Committee. ...

"I don't think we can succeed in Afghanistan if civilians keep dying there," [Admiral Mike] Mullen said. "And we've got to figure out a way to absolutely minimize that, the goal being zero."

So what are they going to do about it? Afghan civilians get killed because U.S. forces sensibly would rather call in air strikes than walk into ambushes in a country they find impenetrable among enemies (people?) they find incomprehensible. They don't choose to take casualties in a war that makes no sense to the men who fight it. This isn't going to be cured by putting a few more U.S. troops in Afghanistan. More U.S. troops = more dead Afghans, many/most civilians. No way around it. Here's more from Robert Young Pelton on the ground with the troops.
Meanwhile in the Iraq sector, there will be provincial elections on Saturday. Well, sort of ... McClatchy Baghdad bureau chief Leila Fadel describes what happened in early voting:

Today was special voting day. Prisoners with a term of five years or less, hospital employees and security forces went to the polls on Wednesday in advance of Saturday's provincial elections in Iraq.

It was also a small glimpse of what is to come. According to a local organization to protect journalist rights, 64 journalists' rights were violated across the nation. In Basra, Babil and Anbar journalists were beaten or prevented from entering polling sites by security forces. Their camera equipment was confiscated and in many cases they were cursed at with foul language.

In the southern port city of Basra at Al Mina center where prisoners were voting, 15 journalists tried to cover the vote. They were beaten and guards cursed them as they forcibly confiscated or destroyed their equipment, the journalist association reported. ...

That's not all that happened during early voting. Check out the whole story.

It seems likely that whatever happens on Saturday will be called a "success," showing that the Iraqis are taking back responsibility for their country. But really, in the United States, few will be watching.

In part, that is because many journalistic organizations have moved on to other, hotter, stories. Iraq is old news. And more and more, Iraqi reporters -- who are the eyes and ears of Western journalists -- are taking advantage of a program that offers asylum to people "tainted" in Iraqi nationalist eyes by their association with the occupiers. Few are more qualified or more likely to find a viable place in the U.S. than the loyal journalists who've worked with the news bureaus. But if they go, who will interpret Iraq to outsiders? Of course, maybe Iraq would just like to be left alone.

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