Nur al-Cubicle

A blog on the current crises in the Middle East and news accounts unpublished by the US press. Daily timeline of events in Iraq as collected from stories and dispatches in the French and Italian media: Le Monde (Paris), Il Corriere della Sera (Milan), La Repubblica (Rome), L'Orient-Le Jour (Beirut) and occasionally from El Mundo (Madrid).

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

¡Viva! Judge Garzon

Via Le Monde

Spanish magistrate Baltasar Garzon believes it is time that Bush and his allies be put on trial for the Iraq war. Garzon calls the war, "one of the most sordid and most unjustifiable episodes in the recent history of mankind".

Judge Garzon has just returned from a year's sabbatical, during which he studied international terrorism. "In certain ways, without being aware, we have helped and continue to help this monster to grow, becoming stronger every moment, until it has probably become invincible," says Garzon.

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Saturday, March 17, 2007

Bio-Phooey Goes Ka-Blooey

No much when one counts the billions in Homeland Security boondoggles, however, BioShield may be about to bite the dust. Despite the Government's commitment to buy the wonder drug Neu-Mune (to rebuild our bone marrow have we've been dirty bombed, you see), the Health and Human Services Department raised the bar so high that the drug manufacturer, Brooklyn, Bridge and Poke (actually, Hollis) has thrown in the towel. This clever maneuver -demanding that the drug company spend $50 million in further research- is the back door on the way to putting an end the tomfoolery.

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Breathin' the Green

Fallujah, Iraq (Reuters)[Via Le Monde]

Medical sources report that two booby-trapped trucks transporting chlorine exploded Friday outside Fallujah, killing eight; the US military said 350 people were poisoned. A third blast releasing chlorine took place in Ramadi, west of Baghdad.

...The first truck exploded near the town of Amiria where two Iraqi policemen died and a hundred Iraqis were sickened by chlorine, with lesions to the skin and lungs, accompanied by vomiting. The second truck, which contained 900 liters of liquid chlorine, blew up approximately 5 kilometers from Fallujah 40 minutes later Friday evening.

...Earlier on Friday, a bomb releasing chlorine blew up ata US-manned checkpoint northeast of Ramadi, wounding a US soldier and one Iraqi.

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Mike Davis: The "Surge", a desperate gambit

A month or so ago, an editorialist for Beirut's L'Orient Le Jour, Christian de Merville, reflecting on the five brigades deployed to Iraq, observed that the contingent, too small for "pacifying" Anbar Province, was obviously destined for Sadr City. Nothing was lost on Moqtade al-Sadr, who, upon hearing the news, went to the maquis.

Writing in the Jan/Feb edition of New Left Review, Californian historian Mike Davis (because, you know, almost no American publication would actually allow an intrusion of the state of affairs), has come right out and spilled the beans in his article, The Democrats Return:
In a desperate gambit to appease the Sunnis and defend a zone of control in Baghdad, the Bush administration is currently weighing an all-out assault ("surge" is its military precondition) on the slum militias of Moqtada al-Sadr. A new war with the Mahdi Army (hugely enlarged and better trained since its first battle with American troops in 2004) would open up another Pandora's response from the entire Shi'ite world. (Inevitable US air strikes on Sadr City would produce grim scenes reminiscent of the Israeli bombardment of southern Lebanon...
You-know-who will be cheering all the way:
In the Senate, the hawkish Joe Lieberman...will be a powerful swing vote in favor of escalation.
As we now know, Pelosi and Reed have bought into Operation Desperate, which is also to escalate to $3 billion a month from the current $2 billion.

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Friday, March 16, 2007

Dead Reporters

Paris demonstration commemorating reporters slain in Iraq to date: 153.

The endless downwards spiral
Iraq: 15 March 2007

Col. David Sutherland, based in the provincial capital of Diyala (North-East), says attacks on US troops are on the increase in that province, while confessional conflict is down by 70%....

In the rest of the country, five people were killed in acts of violence including 3 by a homemade bomb in Kirkuk (North) and one in the shelling of the Sunni al-Khilayni mosque during Friday prayers.

In a message read during Friday prayers, radical Shi'ite Moqtada Sadr exhorted his partisans to resist occupation forces and to put pressure those Iraqis involved in the Baghdad security plan. More than 1,000 people demonstrated against US troops in Sadr City....

Gen William Caldwell, spokesman for the US forces in Irak, declared that Sadr was in Iran, which his supporters deny.

In Basrah, 10 prisoners held by British forces their prison, after having exchanged clothes with visitors.

Meanwhile, Kurds commemorated the chemical attack on Halabja by Saddam Hussein. Families of the victims demanded assistance and compensation from the government, which the say ignores them.

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Saturday, March 10, 2007

Bush in Montevideo

Wednesday, March 07, 2007


News reports indicate that Robert Gates has asked for six thousand more troops for Iraq in addition to the 5 brigades announced by President Bush: 2000 MPS (to guard the 40,000+ Sunni prisoners) and 4000 combat troops.

So much for the November elections.

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Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Sorrow and Disgust

UPDATE: Please see "The Muckraker" at TalkingPoints Memo.
...Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) is quoted as saying that someone from the Department of Justice actually told [Senator] Ensign [of Nevada] that they [Department of Justice] were planning of taking advantage of the Patriot Act provision to avoid Senate confirmation for their choice [as federal prosecutors].
Today I tuned into Senate hearing today on the firing of 8 young(ish), committed, and hard-working US prosecutors who were fired for investigating a dishonest California Republican Congressman or not delivering indictments against dishonest Democrat officials in time for last November elections. The White House via the Justice Department ordered them removed from the jobs. It was sickening to hear that disreputable SOB, Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, attack these young people and seek to impugn their integrity for blowing the whistle on blatant Republican interference in the legal system and the course of justice. Yet, still no impeachment after one scandal succeeds another. There seems to be no crime too great for which Bush might be punished. It is to weep.


US Border Patrol sent to close Kurdistan's border with Iran

This is a funny report from L'Orient Le Jour. The US is dispatching US Border Patrol agents to Kurdistan and telling the Kurds they have to secure their border with Iran, which the Kurds really have no desire to do, since, in addition to importing most fresh fruits and vegetables from Iran, they enjoy friendly relations with the Islamic Republic.

The Americans want the Kurds to use scanners and sniffer dogs and God know what all. Fat chance.

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Mogadishu: Inexperienced Ugandan Kids on a Suicide Mission

Bad news from Somalia:

From Reuter's Sahal Abdulle Via Le Monde

MOGADISCIO (Reuters) - Rebels attacked Somali government forces and their Ethiopian allies in Mogadishu shortly after mortars were fired at the arriving African Peace Force as they debarked in the Somali capital.

A hundred insurgents attacked a government base located in the former Defense Ministry HQ in Mogadishu’s industrial area.

Clashes between government forces and rebels lasted approximately an hour in which at least two civilians were killed.

They were fighting with rocket launchers and machine guns,” declared Anab Mohammed, caught in the crossfire inside a hospital in the combat area.

Shortly before, more than a dozen explosions were heard at Mogadishu International Airport. The attack was commenced shortly after the arrival of an advance force of 350 Ugandan soldiers. A Ugandan Army spokesman said that no soldier was wounded.

The military area of the airport was hit but we cannot get through the lines to reach the spot", said a Somali reporter who witnessed the mortar barrage.


Most Ugandan soldiers were flown in by the Algerian Air Force. Last week, a first detachment of 35 Ugandan soldiers arrived in Baidoa, where Somalia’s provisional government institutions are located.They are the first members of an international peacekeeping force deployed to Mogadishu since the failure of the UN and United States missions during the 1990’s.

...This force, which may reach 8,000 troops, including 1,600 Ugandans, is to replace Ethiopian troops who participated last December with Somali government forces in the successful offensive against Islamic militias holding Mogadishu and most of the south of the country since June.

...This is a suicide mission. No sensible person would send 1,600 men to Somalia right now. Moreover, they are sending boys who have no experience in this type of mission", said an unidentified Western diplomat in Kampala.

As Sudan’s Darfur region, the African Union faces a lack of human and financial means. “I hope that our partners will assist us in overcoming the financial and logistical difficulties facing the African" Union, said Said Dijinit, the African commissioner in charge of peace and security.

...The situation in Somalia is very unstable and Mogadishu is the theater of daily attacks on government and Ethiopian forces.

...The Ugandans [Note: inexperienced kids!] have been assigned the particularly delicate task of restoring calm to Mogadishu, one of the most dangerous cities on earth.


Sunday, March 04, 2007

Review: The General's War

BBC documentary that aired on February 28th, 2007 (UK)

The documentary nominally focuses on British Army's General David Richards, commander of ISAF and NATO troops in Afghanistan, in the last days of his command as he is about to be relieved by US General Dan McNeil. But it is not the general's story that is the real interest here, but the unlucky ISAF Canadians at the Martello base and their earnest commanding officer, a woman, whose mission is defeated...not by the Taliban, but by the Coalition.

The Canadians, charged with winning the hearts and minds of the locals, decide to repair the water pumps of a neighboring village. The water pumped would be for drinking, of course, but also for religious ablutions. The Canadians collect them all with a promise of a week's repair time but fail utterly, losing the wisp of confidence earned, because ISAF cannot find the gaskets, spark plugs and 4-kopek pieces to return them to operation. Adding to their embarrassment is the arrival of US Special Forces in armored vehicles flying the Jolly Roger. (No, I am not being rhetorical). The Special Forces proceed to kidnap a local from his home (one wonders how names could possibly be taken from this godforsaken village amid rock and scrub!) and bundle him, hooded, into an interrogation tent.

The hangdog Canadians return to the village, were they have to admit that they are not only unable to have the the pumps repaired but powerless to intervene with the US Special Forces. At this moment, a 9 year-old boy appears and from atop a pile of rubble delivers an angry and ominous exhortation: Rise up, o ye men of faith...

The Martello base is quickly shut down, and a parting shot shows the female officer, defeated and bereft of her command, sitting along the wwith her head in her hands.

As General Richard comments before the camera on his departure, he clearly is worried by his American relief. The Americans, he says, are too "kinetic", and by this he clearly means they shoot first and ask questions later. As we saw today...

It is doubtful that the BBC set out to capture the debacle of the Canadians in a film project that was meant be to a farewell tribute to the British commander. But the poignant subplot was poignant brings to the public a rare glimpse of the intractable mess on the ground in Afghanistan.

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Bombing the capital you occupy

Something is terribly wrong and immoral, when you bomb the capital of the country you occupy. The US apparently using artillery and warplanes on south Baghdad.

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Bloody Sunday in Afghanistan

"Destroy the evidence..."

Via Le Monde

LEMONDE.FR with AP, AFP and Reuters | 04.03.07 | 12h40

Sixteen Afghanis were killed and 25 wounded on Sunday 4 March following a suicide bombing targeting a Coalition convoy and return fire from US troops, who claimed they had fallen into a “complex ambush” on a highway in eastern Afghanistan. But the circumstances in which the civilians died remain ambiguous.

A booby-trapped vehicle driven by a kamikaze exploded near a Coalition patrol, which was then targeted by automatic gunfire “coming from all directions”, according to a coalition communiqué. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack. The communiqué also said that US troops had responded and that the killing of sixteen civilians and the wounding of another 25 occurred in the initial attack on a highway 45 km east of Jalalbad, near the frontier with Pakistan

But the wounded told AP that US troops had opened fire on cars and pedestrians on the highway. "They shot in all directions, even firing at 14 of 15 cars which happened to be on the road", says Tur Gul, 38, who was at a gas station along the highway and who has been shot twice in the right hand. They shot at everything and anything, as well as people traveling in their cars and pedestrians", he added.

The Afghani Ministry of the Interior says a “certain number" of civilians perished in the suicide bombing. "According to the coalition, the soldiers then came under fire, but their response killed ten people and wounded 25. An initial police estimate said 8 civilians were killed by the Coalition. The police made no mention of insurgent fire. Contradicting its own press corps, a Coalition spokesman told AFP that it “was not clear at the moment how many civilians were killed in the bombing and how many died from Coalition or insurgent gunfire. “An investigation is ongoing, he added.

Thousands of angry Afghanis then rushed to the scene and briefly blocked the highway. Demonstrators shouted “Death to America, Death to Karzai", before being dispersed. US troops at the scene, who are part of the ISAF coalition commanded by the United States and not by NATO, destroyed images taken by a photographer, an AP cameraman and Afghani journalists, said the AP.

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Friday, March 02, 2007

The latest from Mogadishu

The Italians may be the sole Western reporters in Somalia. From what I understand, the EU has been asked by the US to fund the African Union's peacekeeping mission, but it has refused to do so unless a serious effort at reconciliation is made. The US is miffed about this sort of inclusive assembly, and has ruled out the participation of the Islamic Courts, which it it has labeled a terrorist organization. Not all cats are panthers, but the US is slow to understand this lesson when it applies to so-called "Islamists" for which it has declared blanket zero tolerance.

Correspondent Massimo A. Alberizzi of Corriere della Sera reports:

PORT HARCOURT (Nigeria) – An advance Ugandan army logistical unit arrived Thursday in Baidoa, the provisional seat of the transitional government. Its job is to organize the deployment of the African Union military contingent. In the next few days, 1,500 Ugandan troops are to arrive, to be followed by a least 850 Nigerian troops in April. Units from Ghana and Burundi are also expected. A total deployment of 8,000 men is planned but this goal is far from being realized.

DUTIES – However, the Ugandan President, Yoweri Musaveni, declared on Thursday that his army will not disarm the militias but will limit itself to defending the Somali government and its institutions, which, although internationally recognized, have virtually no power on the ground. The Ugandans will then build and train the Somali army and police. They are to arrive in Mogadishu next week. Men, weapons and armored vehicles are to be sent by special trains from Kampala to Mombasa. From this Kenyan port, all will be embarked for the sail to the Somali capital. Ethiopian troops already in Somalia will provide the defense necessary for their arrival.

In Mogadishu, the permanent capital, where the government intends to transfer itself as well as its institutions, the situation is extremely chaotic. Not a day goes by without gunmen shooting down “collaborators”, i.e., anyone working for the government. Another target of the gunmen are the Ethiopian troops that in December routed the government of the Islamic courts

THE FUNDAMENTALISTS – The fundamentalists had controlled Mogadishu and most of the country since June. Every day, Addis Abeba’s troops come under artillery or mortar fire. The air and sea ports also targeted. Many analysts have strong doubts concerning the ability of the African forces to restore peace and security.

FINANCING – Moreover, the African Union has warned that its coffers are empty. There is no money for the mission and so the Africans have requested money from the West. The Americans and the Italians will contribute something, but will it be sufficient to guarantee a mission for which no one really knows the duration? In any case, a peace and reconciliation conference is to start in early March in which all parts of Somali society have been invited to participate, except those whom the Americans have labeled “terrorists”. But an independent observer could not say who is a "terrorist" and who is not. On Wednesday evening, Somali President Abdullahi Yussuf discussed the conference behind closed doors with his Prime Minister, Ali Gedi. There was complete agreement –it was leaked– except on where to hold the conference. For security reasons, Abdullah believes it is better to hold the conference in the Puntland, in the north of the former Italian colony. Gedi, however, is pushing for Mogadishu, which would make the event more meaningful, prestigious and acceptable to those who, as of now, reject the idea.

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Army Doctors Scapegoated

The conditions at Walter Reed Army Medical Center were probably not the fault of General Weightman or even Army Secretary Francis Harvey. It smells of Don "You go to war with the hospitals you have" Rumsfeld.

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Late Night C-Span

Watching the Senate can be a painful, disappointing experience. The senators seem to be no more better informed than Joe Sixpack. Tonight's broadcast of the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Afghanistan and Iraq left me shaking my head.

Senator Kennedy was questioning General Lute on Pakistan and the forceful measures that could be used against the country to force it to eliminate the Taleban. But there were glaring and shocking omissions of facts on the ground, such as, Pakistan is a nuclear nation and thus cannot really be threatened very much and more important, that the Taleban is and was an ISI-created paramilitary force. Musharraf would no more take on the Taleban than nuke Islamabad. Senator Kennedy, lamentably, is under the impression that the Taleban is a threat to Pakistan.

Then it was Senator Warner's turn. For a moment I thought that the arrogant pr**k was going to hang the DoD witness, Undersecretary Edelman, out to dry. The DoD has been placing responsibility at the feet of Iran for Iraqi IEDs and Warner wanted to know if Iranian parts had been found in the IED's that are now regularly detonating all over Afghanistan. The DoD weasel said that topic would have to be covered in closed committee, meaning, the answer was "no". At that point Warner berated Edelman for the suggestion since the issue of IEDs is vastly public. Now, I thought, Edelman is going to be dead meat. But no! The Senator actually wanted Iran to be fingered!

Hopeless. Just hopeless.

Before zapping the program, the feckless gusano Bob Martinez came out swinging, wanting to know about the poppies. Slumber on, Bob.

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