Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Status of Forces Agreement Explained

Some suggested readings about the implications of the US-Iraq Agreement. The only way to really understand this agreement is recognizing that this is between occupied and occupier. To see an English version of the text, visit this link to yesterday’s e-mail newsletter. To better understand the response in Iraq and the broad scale of nonviolent resistance, click here.

Rami Khoury explores the legacy of the colonial era in the Middle East
Phyllis Bennis gives an overview with recommendations for the peace movement
Oona Hathaway & Bruce Ackerman highlight the role of the US congress
Jeffrey Fleishman & Raheem Salman provide a reminder and snapshot of the grim realities in Sadr City
David Morgan reports about the concerns of Iraqi officials
For on-going analysis and updates see Juan Coles site Informed Comment.


Will Iraq Finally End the Colonial Era?
By Rami G. Khouri 22 October 2008, Daily Star

US-Iraq Agreement on Maintaining U.S. Troops in Iraq
Phyllis Bennis, 21 October 2008, UFPJ Talking Points #62

The President's Agreement with Iraq Bypasses Congress. Again.
Bruce Ackerman and Oona A. Hathaway, 21 October 2008, Slate Magazine

Childhood Cut Short in Baghdad,0,2221488.story
Jeffrey Fleishman and Raheem Salman, 18 October 2008, Los Angeles Times

Iraq Officials Oppose Draft of U.S-Iraq Security Pact
David Morgan, 21 October 2008, Reuters


Where we stand

Healing the Wounds of War: Alternatives to War Funding That Can Lead to a Lasting Peace
March 2008

A Path Forward in Iraq
February 2008

AFSC Statement on Immediate Troop Withdrawal
December 2004

Profiles of Courage - Updates on the Third Annual Week of Nonviolence in Iraq

All across Iraq communities are working to repair the damage of Iraq’s many wars - this is the third year of coordinated activities. These efforts to revive and restore are helping to create an environment to build a better future that meets the needs of all Iraqis.

The challenges they face are daunting. Communities have been devastated by unimaginable violence that has left hundreds of thousands dead, and one in five Iraqis forced from their homes. Communities are separated by walls and barriers, foreign occupation, bombings, and arrest sweeps.

This is the face of change we don’t often hear about.

Your help in drawing attention to these campaigns will help illustrate that peace and security in Iraq will come from Iraqis united, not a better foreign occupation. It is an opportunity to learn more about what Iraqis are identifying as their priorities.

To see what change looks like, visit the picture gallery that documents just some of the amazing activities. Remember, many of the groups in Iraq feel very isolated. To address that, the gallery is envisioned to have a duel role; to give us a snapshot of the activities taking place in Iraq, AND, by documenting our solidarity to show Iraqis that we are in support.

Below is a list of the current reports – keep an eye on the last link for the most resent updates. You will find reports the feature student organizing on campus, safe environments for children to play sports – with ‘no to violence’ jerseys, organizing among women’s groups, and the artists of Iraq.

Report Four: The Women of LaOnf
Report Three: Inspiration From Iraqi Artists
Report Two: Highlights From Day One
Report One: Elections as a Path to Nonviolence
Background and Goals: Focus on the Upcoming Iraqi Elections

You can find all of the reports here (September Eleventh Families for a Peaceful Tomorrow).

More information on LaOnf is available on their website in Arabic, Kurdish and English: The button for English translation is in the upper right hand corner of the site.

Open Letter of Support

International LaOnf Solidarity Campaign Supporting Iraqi Nonviolence Activists
LaOnf = NonViolence

Today in Iraq, there is a growing movement of citizens pursuing an end to violence, occupation and corruption through nonviolent means. LaOnf is a network of Iraqi organizations and individuals, from all religious and ethnic groups, with different ideological and political backgrounds, who have joined together to promote nonviolence as the most effective way to struggle for an independent, democratic, and peaceful Iraq.

LaOnf is neither a political party nor an organization: it is a free gathering of people, and any Iraqi committed to nonviolence is welcome to join. It has a democratic structure composed of elected councils and representatives from each of the 18 governorates (provinces) of Iraq. LaOnf members reject occupation and war as a means to build democracy and establish rule of law: they believe instead in promoting dialogue and a culture of peace.

On the 10th of October 2008, LaOnf members will start their annual campaign, the Iraqi Week of Nonviolence, in which they will advocate through nonviolent action for measures to ensure the freedom and security of Iraqis who will exercise their right to vote during Iraq’s upcoming governorate elections.

As believers in the power of nonviolence and supporters of an independent and democratic Iraq, governed by its people, free of foreign occupation, we, the undersigned, endorse the work of LaOnf and their activities during their Week of Nonviolence.


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Guns Not Roses

One year ago Mark Benjamin highlighted the escalating arms transfers to Iraq by the United States. In testimony before the Senate Armed Service Committee General David Petraeus noted that "Iraq is becoming one of the United States' larger foreign military sales customers."

The transfer and sales of arm to Iraq and around the world have only escalated. US government-brokered arms sales are now expected to reach $34 billion for the fiscal year. It is a 45% increase from the year before. The NYT reported Sunday that “about 60 countries get combined annual military aid from the United States totaling $4.5 billion a year to buy American weapons. Israel and Egypt receive more than 80 percent of that aid.”

The United States is the largest supplier of weapons and weapons systems in the world. Arms sales have always been a key instrument of U.S. foreign policy. They are central to the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, and a price of alligence for other countries around the world. They also create hugh profits for the arms merchants Lockheed Martin Corp, Boeing Co, Northrop Grumman Corp, General Dynamics Corp and Raytheon Co.

"This is not about being gunrunners," said Bruce Lemkin, the Air Force deputy undersecretary who is helping to coordinate many of the biggest sales. "This is about building a more secure world."

As part of our campaign to heal the wounds of war, and promote alternatives to war funding we promote four Peacebuilding measures.

Stop funding the U.S. military presence in Iraq
Negotiate a timetable for a complete withdrawal of U.S. forces
Withhold funding allocated for arming Iraq’s sectarian militias and armed forces
Suspend plans to implement a $60 billion U.S. arms package to the region

Mark Malan, writing for Refugees International spells out the dangers of the dominant role the military is playing in shaping US foreign policy.

“Foreign assistance represents less than one percent of the federal budget, while defense spending is 20%. The U.S. military has over 1.5 million uniformed active duty employees and over 10,100 civilian employees, while the Department of State has some 6,500 permanent employees. Although several high-level task forces and commissions have emphasized the urgent need to modernize our aid infrastructure and increase sustainable development activities, such assistance is increasingly being overseen by military institutions whose policies are driven by the Global War on Terror, not by the war against poverty. Between 1998 and 2005, the percentage of Official Development Assistance the Pentagon controlled exploded from 3.5% to nearly 22%, while the percentage controlled by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) shrunk from 65% to 40%.”

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Number of Iraqis Resettled

Last Friday the State Department held a press conference to announce meeting the goal of resettling 12,000 Iraqis. It was a dramatic increase over the 1,600 admitted the year before. Ambassador James B. Foley, the secretary of state's special coordinator for refugees confirmed ‘he expected to exceed that total in the coming year.’ The US government numbers are based on the fiscal year that runs from October through September. The goal for the coming year is 17,000.

The office of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has a list of 90,000 Iraqis in the region seeking resettlement. In June, while visiting Jordan, I met one of those families. To learn more, read Su’ad’s Story.

To find out how you can help Iraqi families arriving in the United States visit this page. You will find background information on the needs facing Iraqis as well as the agencies around the country that are helping Iraqi families begin a new life in the United States.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Young Men

Kathy Kelly shares the story of one widow’s lament for a son who is unable to join her in Jordan. So often it is the young men who are targeted in so many ways. An excerpt.

Old Shoulders
Kathy Kelly, ZNet, 7 July 2008

"Her son is one of many thousands in Iraq who are out of luck, out of work, undereducated, and lonely for parents and siblings lucky enough to escape to neighboring countries.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) says that poverty is driving Iraq's boys and young men, out of desperation, into the militias. A 2007 IOM report noted that "militant fighters sometimes buy the loyalty of displaced persons by providing them some of the things they need, such as food and shelter. More and more children are joining these armed groups, the militias and the insurgents," said IOM officer Dana Graber Ladeck. "Sometimes they do it for money and sometimes for revenge, but we're finding more and more child soldiers, so to speak." (January 30, Voice of America interview)

Some youngsters agree to carry guns and to man checkpoints for the strongest and most heavily armed militia in their country, the U.S. military. Reporting for Reuters, Adrian Croft recently wrote about a "ragtag band of men toting AK-47s at a checkpoint in Baghdad's Sadr City," some of 500 youngsters the US had recruited as part of a new plan to "strengthen the Iraqi army's hold" in the backyard of U.S. rival Moqtada Sadr. (Jordan Times, June 27). New recruits risk their lives to earn $300 a month, guarding these checkpoints. It's undoubtedly one of the best jobs in town. Will this option, will one like it, attract Umm Hamdi's son?”

Friday, June 27, 2008

Responding to the Displacement Crisis

Today's editorial from the NGO Coordination Committee in Iraq highlights the need for the international community and the government of Iraq to address the root causes of the displacement crisis.

"The Iraqi authorities and the international community have been rendered in a difficult situation, facing a unique situation of a massive humanitarian crisis amidst a post-conflict early recovery context; adaptation took a long time and the response has been more of a treatment of symptoms than the root causes."

The steps necessary are outlined in the document 'Healing the Wounds of War.'

Responding to the Iraqi displacement problem:
A ‘National Priority’ that will lead to ‘National Unity’
NGO Coordination Committee in Iraq (NCCI): Editorial, 26 June 2008

During the past five years, Iraq witnessed a horrific and overwhelming wave of displacement that affected almost all Iraqi communities; according to reports from The UN, IOM, and the Iraqi Ministry of Displacement and Migration, there are currently 2.7 Million Iraqis displaced in Iraq and estimates of another 2 Millions displaced in neighbouring countries and an alarming increasing in numbers of Iraqis seeking refuge in Europe and North America. Roughly, 20% of the population of Iraq are displaced; this makes it the biggest displacement crisis in the world today.

Displacement is not new to Iraq. Throughout the last three decades, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have been displaced by wars, internal conflicts and oppression, in addition to natural disasters and economic reasons; these displaced groups grasped the opportunity they saw in the aftermath of the US led invasion back in 2003 to return to their country and to try to integrate within their society and re-start their lives, unfortunately in the absence of durable solutions and political will, and as a result of prevailing violence and sectarianism, they found themselves being displaced again, and again, and gain …and again.

The Iraqi authorities and the international community have been rendered in a difficult situation, facing a unique situation of a massive humanitarian crisis amidst a post-conflict early recovery context; adaptation took a long time and the response has been more of a treatment of symptoms than the root causes.

Iraqis who have moved to countries neighbouring Iraq are living daily with the fear of deportation and are being used as political leverage, their vulnerability is worsened by the fact that they too have spent their savings and lost their properties, investments and businesses and are living with very little external assistance from the international community despite their well-publicised situation. Iraqis who have applied for asylum in European or North American countries have been hanging in a limbo for a long time due to international politics and prejudices4, living in fear of forced return to a country they love with all their hearts and fear with all their senses.

Despite the well-publicised improvement in the security situation in different parts of the country, additional problems are preventing the return of the displaced; 70% of homes left empty by displaced families have been occupied by other families or damaged in armed conflict or sectarian-motivated rival attacks, previously mixed communities have become homogenous and not receptive to the idea of people from other sects or ethnicities return, families that were displaced have started to integrate within their host communities and are reluctant to risk returning to their original places, in addition to hesitance on how long the fragile improvement in security will last and the fact that these families do not want to risk facing the same threats and terror they have experienced and that led them to become displaced.

Third country nationals, such as Sudanese, Palestinians, Iranians, Turks and others, who have sought refuge in Iraq in the past are not in a better situation, they find themselves extremely vulnerable and helpless in a situation that has been forced on them, they feel intimidated and threatened by the conflict of the past five years.

NGOs, ICRC, UN agencies and other charities have considered assistance of the displaced a priority, they focused the majority of their operations in/on Iraq to assist vulnerable groups within the displaced populations, yet the gap is too big to fill; in the absence of international and governmental support to displaced groups and their strained host communities, the situation will only lead to dramatic ‘snow-ball’ effects on the stability, welfare and hopes of the Iraqi society.

Humanitarian assistance to the displaced continues to be the overarching priority; the savings that many of those displaced have depended upon to pay for rent and expenses have started to run out, impoverishment and vulnerability are now common complaints among displaced communities, food insecurity is a challenge resulting from the lack of coping mechanisms; the need for protection from violence and evictions has increased in view of the deterioration of security conditions and weariness of local authorities in parts of the country that were seen as save havens for people in need of safety … and dignity.

We take the opportunity of the ‘World Refugee Day’ to call on the international community to provide more assistance and durable solutions to Iraqis displaced inside or refugees outside Iraq.
We also call on the Iraqi Government to consider the displacement crisis a ‘National Priority’ that over-rides al other challenges and benchmarks.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Books, Not Bombs

Nicholas Kristof has an op-ed piece in the New York Times that focuses on Iraqi refugees.

“American hawks prefer to address the region’s security challenges by devoting billions of dollars to permanent American military bases. A simpler way to fight extremism would be to pay school fees for refugee children to ensure that they at least get an education and don’t become forever marginalized and underemployed.

We broke Iraq, and we have a moral responsibility to those whose lives have been shattered by our actions. Helping them is also in our national interest, for we’ll regret our myopia if we allow young Iraqi refugees to grow up uneducated and unemployable, festering in their societies.”
Books, Not Bombs
By: Nicholas Kristof, New York Times, 25 June 2008

There are some very interesting Comments.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Today is World Refugee Day

Cause and Effect

Last night the US House of Representatives approved $162 billion for the war and occupation of Iraq*. It is the largest war funding bill since the invasion, and when passed by the Senate will guarantee war funding well into year six.

We know what the results will be.

The war and occupation has led to the largest refugee flow in the Middle East since the establishment of Israel and the forced displacement of Palestinians in 1948.

The trends speak for themselves.

· For the second year in a row the number of refugees world-wide has increased.
· The increase has been driven by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Action Step: Join us in sending a letter to your local paper drawing attention to this crisis.

Below is a sample letter with tips – and links - on how to send that letter to the editor of your local paper.

Is Your Newspaper Covering the Iraqi Refugee Crisis?

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Iraqi Voices

Some reflections from Iraqis on the eve of world refugee day.

Daniela Cavini has a moving profile of a former employee of CARE International in Baghdad, Ali al-Fadily moves us towards family and the interruption of war, and this week’s editorial from the NGO coordination Committee in Iraq runs a story about a life in Iraq.

Sadly, these types of stories – the human face of war - are all too often ignored by most coverage of the war.

IRAQ: The Love Stories Are Gone
Ali al-Fadhily, IPS, 14 June

This is the land of the Arabian Nights, and of love stories that became fables far and wide. In these stories, in the traditions of which they were born, the lover thought nothing of giving up his life for a beloved. But no one thought death would come to this land under the present circumstances.

We belong to the past, there is no future for us in Iraq
Daniela Cavini, ECHO Regional Information Officer, 19 June

Only four years ago Jamil Abdullatif, 44, had a decent job, a house in Baghdad, two cars and a normal life. He was the driver and logistician of CARE International, a humanitarian aid organization established in Iraq since 1991. For years he had been driving aid workers around his country, to provide food and health assistance to vulnerable Iraqis, mostly children.

A life in Iraq: An ordinary woman’s story
NGO Coordination Committee for Iraq, Editorial 19 June 2008

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

World Refugee Day: Naseer Shamma Benefit Concert in Damascus for Iraqi Refugees

DAMASCUS: Acclaimed Iraqi oud (lute) player Naseer Shamma has raised more than USD 24,000 for UNHCR's Iraqi refugee program with a concert at the Opera House to mark World Refugee Day, which falls on Friday.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

A Vision of Peace

You've probably heard a lot about the Iraq war. But you've probably never heard of 8-year-old Rasool, who lost his father, his home and his eyesight to the war. He and his mother are among hundreds of thousands of families who represent the fastest growing refugee crisis in the world and one of today's most under-reported stories. The mainstream media does not tell their stories. But AFSC does.

Two years ago, Rasool implored his mother to let him leave their Baghdad home for a quick trip to a nearby store for some candy. After resisting his pleas, she finally relented, figuring that a decline in violence in their neighborhood made such a short trip safe.

Instead, Rasool walked into a firefight. A bullet struck him in the head, leaving him blind in one eye and with severely reduced vision in the other. There was no hospital for his mother to take him to; instead, she brought her wounded son home.

Last year, AFSC St. Louis hosted Noah Merrill, a journalist and expert on the Iraq refugee crisis. His analysis and firsthand experience brought a coherent sense of the big picture as well as the human faces of this crisis. Noah told stories about some of the millions of Iraqi refugees displaced inside Iraq and living in neighboring countries. He told us about Rasool.

Rasool's mother did all she could to seek medical care for her son, making three risky and expensive trips to Jordan to seek help. But she couldn't afford the cost of care.

Noah's story about Rasool moved me deeply. Here was a cute kid with a shy little face and ears sticking out. Last year, Rasool's father was missing, and the only thing keeping his mom going was the hope that Rasool's vision could be brought back.

I contacted the local chapter of Healing the Children, a nonprofit organization which helps children from around the world receive the medical care they need. HTC's director, Kathy Corbett, agreed to do all she could to help Rasool. I relayed the happy news to Noah.

But when Noah called Rasool's mom to tell her, he learned that Rasool's father had been found dead. As Kathy Corbett told Sylvester Brown of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, "It was devastating. A child and mother with so much pain, now had even more pain. It made me even more determined to help this family."

And so, as a direct result of Noah's visit and the generosity he engendered, Rasool will travel in June to receive eye surgery at St. Louis Children's Hospital. AFSC and HTC are trying to find a host family for him and his mom. Their stay here could last several months.

I hope to meet Rasool and his mom when they come to St. Louis. I want to embrace Rasool and let his mother know that she is not alone in her struggle for her family. I want her to know we all share a restored vision of peace.

By Lori Reed, St. Louis International Affairs Program Director

[Ed note: Rasool has arrived in St. Louis and is receiving preliminary tests for surgery]

### END ###

To see the full article with pictures, look at the newsletter below – page 6.

A Vision of Peace
By Lori Reed, St. Louis International Affairs Program Director
Central Region News and Views – Summer 2008

Monday, June 16, 2008

Connecticut Church Helps Resettle Iraqi Family

Are you ready to help? Are you ready to move fast?

The Reverend W. Evan Golder maps out the needs as represented by one Iraqi family being resettled in the U.S.

Connecticut Church Helps Resettle Iraqi Family
By W. Evan Golder, United Church of Christ, June/July 2008

“Little notice, big welcome:

Two weeks.

That's all the time Iraqi refugees Hisham Ahmed Kadhim and his wife, Maysaa Lelo, both in their 20s, had to prepare for a life-changing move with their 2-year-old son from Amman, Jordan, to a new life in the United States.

Two weeks.

That's all the time Chris George, executive director of Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services (IRIS) in New Haven, Conn., had to find a host group to help resettle this Iraqi refugee family.

Two weeks.

That's all the time the informal refugee resettlement committee at Spring Glen UCC in Hamden, Conn., had to locate a vacant apartment near a bus line, come up with the first month's rent and security deposit, and completely furnish this new home by the time the refugee family stepped off the plane.

Two weeks was all anyone had.”

Iraqi Refugee Crisis Grows Worse as West Turns it’s back

Writing for the Independent, Kim Sengupta documents an Iraqi refugee crisis that continues to grow worse.

“The Iraqi diaspora is now one of the largest in modern times, with more than two million people fleeing abroad. But the ferocious strife and the breakdown in law and order have led to another wave of about 2.7 million fleeing their homes but unable to escape the country. Many of these have moved to Baghdad, putting further strain on a shattered infrastructure and adding to the city's sectarian tensions. The situation in terms of numbers and conditions for the displaced people has deteriorated dramatically in the past two years, Amnesty claims.”

Rhetoric and Reality: The Iraqi Refugee Crisis (New Report)
Amnesty International, June 2008

Iraqi Refugees Facing Desperate Situation
Amnesty International Iraq home page, features video clips and links to other documents.

Friday, May 30, 2008

What Bassam Sees

The Philadelphia City Paper has a feature cover story on Iraqi journalist Bassam Sebti.

What Bassam Sees
Philadelphia City Paper, 28 May

Bassam Sebti lived through the first three years of the war as an Iraqi in Baghdad. He's watched the last two from Philadelphia.

The Iraqi Displaced (AP Interactive Website)

The Associated Press has produced an interactive website focused on the Iraqi displacement crisis. Take a minute to check it out. You will find stories, photo galleries and maps charting the monthly displacement and the violence that created the crisis. The data is based on figures from the International Organization for Migration.

The Iraqi Displaced – Interactive Website
Associated Press, May 2008

Welcoming Iraqi Families - Celebrating Iraqi Culture

This is a unique opportunity to meet Iraqi families who are being resettled in Philadelphia. You will learn more about the important work of the Nationalities Service Center, and find volunteer opportunities with the Iraqi Refugee Advisory Committee. The event is in honor of world refugee day celebrated on 20 June.

Welcoming Iraqi Families Celebrating Iraqi Culture

Saturday, June 21, 2008
10:00 AM to 4:00 PM

Arch Street Meeting House
4th and Arch Streets
Philadelphia, PA

To see the day’s events, visit


Philadelphia is one of many cities across the U.S. currently welcoming and resettling Iraqi refugees. Local agencies, including the Nationalities Services Center (NSC), are helping these new Philadelphians get established by finding housing and jobs, completing studies, boosting English skills, and learning about daily life in the City of Brotherly Love.

These families are the human face of war—people whose lives have been turned upside down from the violence of war. One in five Iraqis has been displaced from their homes making it the largest refugee crisis in the Middle East since 1948. Among those being resettled are students, teachers, those needing special medical treatment and single parent families. This is a wonderful opportunity to learn more about Iraqi and Iraqis; the stories, the culture and the passion. You will also meet many of the individuals who make up the Iraqi Refugee Advisory Committee.

Raffle tickets will be sold in an effort to raise funds to support Iraqis who will be arriving in the coming months.

Please join us in celebrating their arrival to Philadelphia

Nationalities Service Center
Iraqi Refugee Advisory Committee

Monday, May 12, 2008

NGO's and Residents Welcome Sadr city Truce

Aid organizations and residents of Baghdad's Sadr City neighborhood welcomed a weekend truce between Shia militiamen loyal to Moqtada al-Sadr and US-backed government forces, ending seven weeks of clashes that left daily life almost paralyzed since 25 March.

"We welcome and encourage any act, agreement and dialogue that helps end the bloodshed of Iraqis and helps aid organizations do their work properly in reaching all needy persons," said Basil al-Azawi, head of the Iraqi Commission for Civil Society Enterprises (ICCSE), a coalition of over 1,000 Iraqi non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

"The deteriorated security situation that Sadr City witnessed over the past seven weeks hindered all aid operations and, in our estimation, only 1 percent of the City's medical, food and public services needs are being met. There is a lot to be done," al-Azawi told IRIN.

Al-Azawi added that there are plans and programs to assist residents of Sadr City "but all these plans are still in theory as we are monitoring the situation on the ground fearing that this lull [in fighting] could be a fragile one".

Friday, May 9, 2008

Sadr City Update | First International NGO to Begin Working in Syria with Iraqi Refugees

Continued attacks in Sadr City threaten to create a new community of displaced. While the international community is beginning to try and address the humanitarian crisis for so many Iraqis who have fled the country, the 2.7 million internally displaced are incredibly vulnerable. Leila Fadel reports on the Iraqi Governments call for people to evacuate to two soccer fields and through testimonials, Shashank Bengali illustrates the humanitarian work of the Sadr movement. There is a history in the Middle East of political movements growing out of institutions that first start with addressing social services that a rueling government is unable or unwilling to address.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has signed the first contract with an International NGO to work with Iraqi Refugees in Syria. The group, International Medical Corps also has very large contracts for work in Iraq with Internally Displaced. It has been difficult for large international NGO’s to work in Syria.


Iraqi military orders Sadr City residents to evacuate
Leila Fadel McClatchy Newspapers (8 May 2008)

Iraqi security forces, after more than of 40 days of intense fighting, on Thursday told residents to evacuate their homes in the northeast Shiite slum of Sadr City and to move to temporary shelters on two soccer fields.

The military's call indicated the possibility of stepped-up military operations and came as Iraqi security forces raided a radio station run by backers of Shiite cleric Muqtada al Sadr. In the southern port city of Basra, militants launched rockets that struck a coalition base, killing two contractors and injuring four civilians and four coalition soldiers.

Sadr City has been a battleground since late March, enduring U.S. airstrikes, militia snipers and gunbattles between U.S. and Iraqi forces and the Mahdi Army, the militia loyal to Sadr.

Already some 8,500 people have been displaced from the sprawling slum of some 2.5 million people, according to the Iraqi Red Crescent. For weeks, food, water and medical shortages have affected about 150,000 people.

Charity work shows another side to Sadr's movement in Iraq
Shashank Bengali McClatchy Newspapers (8 May 2008)

When Ali Ateya was killed last month at the age of 23_ a victim of an American airstrike on a block of concrete tenements in Baghdad's Sadr City slum, according to his family — there was no money for his burial.

Within days, two officials from Sadr City's main humanitarian organization showed up at the family home. Unsolicited, they offered to pay for Ateya's Shiite Muslim burial service and provide food for three days of ritual mourning.

Then they handed the parents an envelope. It was stuffed with 500,000 Iraqi dinars — about $400 — and on it was printed: "A gift from Sayyid Muqtada al Sadr."

UNHCR signs landmark accord in Syria with international NGO
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)

Boudewijn van Eenennaam, head of the UN refugee agency's governing body, on Thursday attended the signing of a landmark contract between UNHCR and the International Medical Corps (IMC), paving the way for the aid agency to become the first international non-governmental organization (INGO) to work with Iraqi refugees in Syria. IMC will run three health clinics for refugees in Damascus under the agreement. The Danish Refugee Council and Premier Urgence are also slated to start work in Syria soon in support of UNHCR community services and education programmes.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Sadr City Death Toll Passes 1,000 | War Funding Vote Delayed

The Christian Science Monitor confirms that seven weeks of fighting in Sadr City has left over 1,000 Iraqis dead. That is according to Iraqi health officials. The NGO Coordination Committee in Iraq editorial this afternoon addresses the broader legal and ethical issues with wire stories reporting on humanitarian crisis that has been created by the siege and curfews. AP documents

“Entire sections of Baghdad's Sadr City district have been left nearly abandoned by civilians fleeing a U.S.-led showdown with Shiite militias and seeking aid after facing shortages of food and medicine, humanitarian groups said yesterday.

The reports by the agencies, including the U.N. children's fund, added to the individual accounts of civilians pouring out of the Sadr City area as clashes intensify.

U.S. forces have increased their use of air power and armored patrols in an attempt to cripple Shiite militia influence in Sadr City, a slum of 2.5 million people that serves as the Baghdad base for the Mahdi Army….”

War Funding

The Democratic leadership in the House of Representatives will push back the war funding vote to next week. Sadly it is not the humanitarian crisis or crisis of conscience that delayed the vote, but procedural concerns. Erik Leaver has an article that helps explain what is happening behind closed doors. That means there is still time to act on our action alert call your representatives.


Editorial: Lethal ghettoes - Ignored legally and ethically
NGO Coordination Committee in Iraq, 8 May 2008

“The citizens of the sealed off areas of Sadr city, in East Baghdad are isolated from the rest of the world, secluded with most probably no access to basic facilities and goods such as food and water for seven long and agonizing weeks. Under curfew, partial or total, under siege and sealed off, enwalled and banned from movement for seven weeks. Official forces, MNF-I and non state armed groups are celebrating the freedom of movement in Sadr City.”

Baghdad’s Sadr City Residents Fear Intensifying Fight
Howard LaFranci, Christian Science Monitor (9 May 2008)

Aid Groups: Sadr City Devastated by Fighting
Bradley Brooks, Associated Press (8 May 2008)

Residents Told to Leave Sadr City
Associated Press, 8 May 2008

War Funding

The Iraq Supplemental: A Three Ring Circus
Erik Leaver, 8 May 2008

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Stop the House from Funding the War into 2009

The House of Representatives will vote as soon as tomorrow (Thursday, May 8) on an additional $162.6 billion for the war and occupation in Iraq.

Sadly, the bill includes $66 billion for fiscal year 2009. This means the funds for the occupation will keep flowing well into the next administration, allowing the new president to continue the war and occupation with little or no accountability to Congress until next spring.

At a time when money is urgently needed in our communities, the new bill would bring the total for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to $859 billion. By including fiscal year 2009 (FY09) funding, the House leadership is effectively taking the war off the congressional agenda for the rest of this year. This might be our last opportunity to stop war funding during this Congress and presidency.

Call Congress

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Sadr City | War Funding Resources | UFPJ Action Alert

The Iraqi Red Crescent estimates that hundreds have fled Sadr City amid heavy fighting and curfews that continue to cut off access to food, water, and electricity. There is also an update from the congressional quarterly on the next steps on the congressional strategy for war funding. You will find wonderful resources and action ideas on the link to voices for creative nonviolence. There is also a link to the UFPJ call. The AFSC defund/refund letter to congress is at the bottom of the message.

925 Dead in Sadr City Clashes
Agence France Press, 30 April 2008

UNHCR Concerned About Funding for Refugees and IDPs
UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 30 April 2008

A View Inside Sadr City –Slideshow
New York Times, 28 April 2008


Democrats’ War Spending Strategy Riles Many
Josh Rogin, Congressional Quarterly, 29 April 2008

“After weeks of discussions, several House aides confirmed that they could bring to the floor, probably next week, a bill that would be open to three specific amendments: one for over $170 billion in war funding, another for domestic spending items and a third for a series of Iraq-related policy provisions.

The bill would then be packaged and sent to the Senate, which would hold floor votes on its own amendments and send the measure back to the House to be cleared.

Daniel K. Inouye, D-Hawaii, the chairman of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, said House and Senate Democrats were closing in on an agreement. “I think we’re about 95 percent there,” Inouye said.

But after a leadership meeting Tuesday evening, House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., said no final deal had been struck. “There are still a lot of moving parts,” Hoyer said.”


Voices for Creative Nonviolence: Iraq War Funding Resources*

* You will find a question and answer section on war funding, several very helpful charts of voting records on approval for war funding, and a history of amendments that have been added to the funding bills over the years.


UFPJ – Action Alert

AFSC Documents

Download "The Iraqi Refugee Crisis" (spring/summer update)

Download "Iraqi Refugee Resettlement" (new)

Healing the Wounds of War: Alternatives to War Funding

Peacebuilding Measures Outlined in the Document

1) Stop funding the U.S. military presence in Iraq
2) Negotiate a timetable for a complete withdrawal of U.S. forces
3) Withhold funding allocated for arming Iraq’s sectarian militias and armed forces
4) Suspend plans to implement a $60 billion U.S. arms package to the region

Cost of War – Activist Tool Kit

Defund/Refund Letter to Congress

New Resource Page

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Funding Occupation

Congress will soon begin another discussion on the amount of war funding necessary to sustain the wars and occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan. Kathy Kelly has a rousing call appeal to stop collaborating. Weary of War? Don't Collaborate It is the clearest debunking of the recent congressional appeals to demand that Iraq do more to sustain the occupation with their oil revenue.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

$170 billion War Funding Request

Congressional Quarterly is reporting that “House Democratic leadership is close to finalizing a decision to combine all outstanding Bush administration requests for war funding — totaling at least $170 billion — into one huge bill, according to lawmakers and aides. Such a move would clear war funding from the congressional agenda until well into the next administration.”

Huge War Supplemental in Works
Congressional Quarterly, 16 April 2008

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Uprooted and Unstable: Meeting Urgent Humanitarian Needs in Iraq

This new report by two seasoned travelers to the region gives an accounting of the humanitarian crisis inside of Iraq. It has helpful policy recommendations regarding increasing assistance, for Iraqis returning home (which is discouraged at the moment), and the way forward.

Uprooted and Unstable: Meeting Urgent Humanitarian Needs in Iraq
Kristele Younis and Nir Rosen, Refugees International (April 2008)

Executive summary (excerpt)

Five years after the US -led invasion, Iraq remains a deeply violent and divided society. Faced with one of the largest displacement and humanitarian crises in the world, Iraqi civilians are in urgent need of assistance. Particularly vulnerable are the 2.7 million internally displaced Iraqis who have fled their homes for safer locations inside Iraq. Unable to access their food rations and often unemployed, they live in squalid conditions, have run out of resources and find it extremely difficult to access essential services. The US, the government of Iraq and the international community must begin to address the consequences of leaving Iraqis' humanitarian needs unmet.

As a result of the vacuum created by the failure of both the Iraqi Government and the international community to act in a timely and adequate manner, non-state actors play a major role in providing assistance to vulnerable Iraqis. Militias of all denominations are improving their local base of support by providing social services in the neighborhoods and towns they control. Through a 'Hezbollah-like' scheme, the Shiite Sadrist movement has established itself as the main service provider in the country. Similarly, other Shiite and Sunni groups are gaining ground and support through the delivery of food, oil, electricity, clothes and money to the civilians living in their fiefdoms. Not only do these militias now have a quasi-monopoly in the large-scale provision of assistance in Iraq, they are also recruiting an increasing number of civilians to their militias - including displaced Iraqis.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Tax-Day Actions | Petraeus-Crocker | Kennedy-Biden Report on Iraqi Refugees | Lessons Learned

New links for next week’s tax-day actions and call in - please take a moment to share with friends and family. You should also take a look at the report back slideshow; it begins with a beautiful shot of the light installation in San Francisco. Regarding the Petraeus-Crocker hearings. Phyllis Bennis has talking points and Juan Cole looks at the role of foreign military occupations in retarding national reconciliation. There is also a copy of the report issued yesterday by Senators Kennedy and Biden on Iraqi refugees. Zia Mian also has an interesting article on intervention and lessons learned.

Iraq Update 9 April 2008: Making a Difference for Iraqis
Action: Tax-Day Call In
Background Resources: Tax-Day Call In
Report Back: Slideshow on Commemorating the Human Cost of War
Updated Resource Page: Learn About Iraq

Petraeus-Crocker Hearings: Political Theater on Message
By Phyllis Bennis, Institute for Policy Studies, 8 April 2008

A critical review of the four themes advocated by General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker in their testimony before Congress. The themes should be understood as a continued framework for occupation.

Iran is the Problem in Iraq
The "Surge" Stopped the Violence
Keep the Troops in Iraq
Support the $110 billion Supplemental Funding Bill for Iraq War

* Also Distributed as UFPJ Talking Points #57: Petraeus-Crocker hearings target Iran, justify the "surge," and defend permanent occupation.

Petraeus, Iraq and the Lebanon Analogy

Juan Cole expands the scope of the hearings and asks what reconciliation might look like if the US Military was not supporting one side. Following an analogy with Lebanon, he suggests that maybe the US in Iraq is not the little boy with his finger in the dyke. Maybe we are workers with jackhammers instructed to make the hole in the dyke much more huge.

Managing Chaos – The Iraqi Refugees of Jordan and Syria and Internally Displaced Persons in Iraq. Senators Kennedy, Biden Release Report On Iraqi Refugees


April 8, 2008

“[The] findings suggest a startling lack of American leadership in a crisis that much of the international community considers a result of our intervention in Iraq. Acknowledging that the war in Iraq has resulted in one of the greatest humanitarian crises of the post-Cold War era is a bitter pill to swallow. Ensuring that this refugee population receives the humanitarian treatment and dignity that it deserves requires American leadership of a kind not seen to this point.

We believe that more must be done by the United States to deal with this crisis. An appropriate action by President Bush at this time would be to appoint a senior official in the White House to coordinate our overall policy on the Iraqi refugees and internally displaced persons. As President Ford stated in appointing the late Julia Taft to be Director of the Interagency Task Force on Indochina Refugees, our country’s response to the refugee crisis caused by the Vietnam War was “a reaffirmation of American awareness of the roots and ideals of our society.”


Recommendation number two on funding gives you a sense to what degree the US Government has failed to provide any meaningful support to international agencies and States supporting Iraqi refugees.

The United States should fund fifty percent of all United Nations’ and other international organizations’ appeals for Iraqi refugees, internally displaced persons, and for other vulnerable Iraqis.

· In 2008, a 50% commitment would amount to approximately $500 million, somewhat less than one-half of one percent of the costs of annual U.S. military operations in Iraq.[25] Providing this level of assistance on an ongoing basis would match our resources with our moral obligation to assist those suffering and relieve the burden on host governments.

Click here for the report.
AFSC Page in the Iraqi Refugee Crisis

Costs of War
Zia Mian, Foreign Policy in Focus

Excerpt : The Iraq war has broken the Bush presidency, cost the Republicans control of Congress, and may lose them the White House. The growing sentiment among Americans that the United States should mind its own business and not try to manage the affairs of the rest of the world may be enough to restrain future leaders from a similar illegal assault on another nation.

But we have been here before. It is worth remembering that thirty years ago many believed the painful lessons of the Vietnam War and American defeat would restrain American interventions overseas. But it took right-wing politicians, led notably by Ronald Reagan, barely five years to begin rallying the public to overturn the “Vietnam Syndrome” and demand that America show it had “the means and the determination to prevail.” They prevailed. The challenge after Iraq will be to make sure this does not happen again.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Linked: Petraeu's Testimony | Muqtada al-Sadr

Patrick Cockburn, Petraeus's Ghost
Tom Engelhardt, Tomgram 8 April 2008

On the first day of testimony in Washington, Tom Engelhardt has made available the last chapter of a new book on Muqtada al-Sadr just published by Patrick Cockburn.


Riding the Tiger: Muqtada al-Sadr and the American Dilemma in Iraq
By Patrick Cockburn

Muqtada al-Sadr is the most important and surprising figure to emerge in Iraq since the U.S. invasion. He is the Messianic leader of the religious and political movement of the impoverished Shia underclass whose lives were ruined by a quarter of a century of war, repression, and sanctions.

From the moment he unexpectedly appeared in the dying days of Saddam Hussein's regime, U.S. emissaries and Iraqi politicians underestimated him. So far from being the "firebrand cleric" as the Western media often described him, he often proved astute and cautious in leading his followers.

During the battle for Najaf with U.S. Marines in 2004, the U.S. "surge" of 2007, and the escalating war with the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, he generally sought compromise rather than confrontation. So far from being the inexperienced young man whom his critics portrayed -- when he first appeared they denigrated him as a zatut (an "ignorant child," in Iraqi dialect) -- he was a highly experienced political operator who had worked in his father's office in Najaf since he was a teenager. He also had around him activist clerics, of his own age or younger, who had hands-on experience under Saddam of street politics within the Shia community. His grasp of what ordinary Iraqis felt was to prove far surer than that of the politicians isolated in the Green Zone in Baghdad.

A Kleptocracy Comparable to the Congo

Mass movements led by Messianic leaders have a history of flaring up unexpectedly and then subsiding into insignificance. This could have happened to Muqtada and the Sadrists but did not, because their political and religious platform had a continuous appeal for the Shia masses. From the moment Saddam was overthrown, Muqtada rarely deviated from his open opposition to the U.S. occupation, even when a majority of the Shia community was prepared to cooperate with the occupiers.

As the years passed, however, disillusion with the occupation grew among the Shia until, by September 2007, an opinion poll showed that 73% of Shia thought that the presence of U.S. forces in Iraq made the security situation worse, and 55% believed their departure would make a Shia-Sunni civil war less likely. The U.S. government, Iraqi politicians, and the Western media habitually failed to recognize the extent to which hostility to the occupation drove Iraqi politics and, in the eyes of Iraqis, delegitimized the leaders associated with it.

All governments in Baghdad failed after 2003. Almost no Iraqis supported Saddam Hussein as U.S. troops advanced on Baghdad. Even his supposedly loyal Special Republican Guard units dissolved and went home. Iraqis were deeply conscious that their country sat on some of the world's largest oil reserves, but Saddam Hussein's Inspector Clouseau-like ability to make catastrophic errors in peace and war had reduced the people to a state in which their children were stunted because they did not get enough to eat.

The primal rage of the dispossessed in Iraq against the powers-that-be exploded in the looting of Baghdad when the old regime fell, and the same fury possessed Muqtada's early supporters. Had life become easier in Shia Iraq in the coming years, this might have undermined the Sadrist movement. Instead, people saw their living standards plummet as provision of food rations, clean water, and electricity faltered. Saddam's officials were corrupt enough, but the new government cowering in the Green Zone rapidly turned into a kleptocracy comparable to Nigeria or the Congo. Muqtada sensed the loathing with which the government was regarded, and dodged in and out of government, enjoying some of the fruits of power while denouncing those who held it.

Muqtada's political intelligence is undoubted, but the personality of this highly secretive man is difficult to pin down. While his father and elder brothers lived he was in their shadow; after they were assassinated in 1999 he had every reason to stress his lack of ability or ambition in order to give the mukhabarat [Saddam Hussein's secret police] less reason to kill him. As the son and son-in-law of two of Saddam Hussein's most dangerous opponents, he was a prime suspect and his every move was watched.

When Saddam fell, Muqtada stepped forward to claim his forbears' political inheritance and consciously associated himself with them on every possible occasion. Posters showed Muqtada alongside Sadr I and Sadr II [Muqtada's father-in-law and father, both assassinated by Saddam] against a background of the Iraqi flag. There was more here than a leader exploiting his connection to a revered or respected parent. Muqtada persistently emphasized the Sadrist ideological legacy: puritanical Shia Islam mixed with anti-imperialism and populism.

Riding the Tiger of the Sadrist Movement

The first time I thought seriously about Muqtada was a grim day in April 2003 when I heard that he was being accused of killing a friend of mine, Sayyid Majid al-Khoei, that intelligent and able man with whom I had often discussed the future of Iraq. Whatever the involvement of Muqtada himself, which is a matter of dispute, the involvement of the Sadrist supporters in the lynching is proven and was the start of a pattern that was to repeat itself over the years.

Muqtada was always a man riding a tiger, sometimes presiding over, sometimes controlling the mass movement he nominally led. His words and actions were often far apart. He appealed for Shia unity with the Sunni against the occupation, yet after the bombing of the Shia shrine in Samarra in February 2006, he was seen as an ogre by the Sunni, orchestrating the pogroms against them and failing to restrain the death squads of the Mehdi Army. The excuse that it was "rogue elements" among his militiamen who were carrying out this slaughter is not convincing, because the butchery was too extensive and too well organized to be the work of only marginal elements. But the Sadrists and the Shia in general could argue that it was not they who had originally taken the offensive against the Sunni, and the Shia community endured massacres at the hands of al-Qaeda for several years before their patience ran out.

Muqtada had repeatedly demanded that Sunni political and religious leaders unequivocally condemn al-Qaeda in Iraq's horrific attacks on Shia civilians if he was to cooperate with them against the occupation. They did not do so, and this was a shortsighted failure on their part, since the Shia, who outnumbered the Sunni Arabs three to one in Iraq, controlled the police and much of the army. Their retaliation, when it came, was bound to be devastating. Muqtada was criticized for not doing more, but neither he, nor anybody else could have stopped the killing at the height of the battle for Baghdad in 2006. The Sunni and Shia communities were both terrified, and each mercilessly retaliated for the latest atrocity against their community. "We try to punish those who carry out evil deeds in the name of the Mehdi Army," says Hussein Ali, the former Mehdi Army leader. "But there are a lot of Shia regions that are not easy to control and we ourselves, speaking frankly, are sometimes frightened by these great masses of people."

American officials and journalists seldom showed much understanding of Muqtada, even after [U.S. Coalition Provisional Authority head] Paul Bremer's disastrous attempt to crush him [in 2004]. There were persistent attempts to marginalize him or keep him out of government instead of trying to expand the Iraqi government's narrow support base to include the Sadrists. The first two elected Shia prime ministers, Ibrahim al-Jaafari and Nouri al-Maliki, came under intense pressure from Washington to sever or limit their connection with Muqtada. But government officials were not alone in being perplexed by the young cleric. In a lengthy article on him published in its December 4, 2006, issue, Newsweek admitted that "Muqtada al-Sadr may end up deciding America's fate in Iraq." But the best the magazine could do to assist its readers in understanding Muqtada was to suggest that they should "think of him as a young Mafia don."

Of course, Muqtada was the complete opposite to the type of Iraqi leader who proponents of the war in Washington had suggested would take over from Saddam Hussein. Instead of the smooth, dark-suited, English-speaking exiles who the White House had hoped would turn Iraq into a compliant U.S. ally, Muqtada looked too much like a younger version of Ayatollah Khomeini.
Muqtada epitomized the central dilemma of the United States in Iraq, which it has never resolved. The problem was that the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and his Sunni regime was bound to be followed by elections that would produce a government dominated by the Shia allied to the Kurds. It soon became evident that the Shia parties that were going to triumph in any election would be Islamic parties, and some would have close links to Iran.

The Arab Sunni states were aghast at the sight of Iran's defeat in the Iran-Iraq war being reversed, and spoke of a menacing "Shia axis" developing in Iran, Iraq, and Lebanon. Much of this was ignorance and paranoia on the part of the Arab leaders. Had the Iranians been tempted to make Iraq a client state they would have found the country as prickly a place for Iranians as it was to be for Americans. It was the U.S. attempt to create an anti-Iranian Iraq that was to play into Iranian hands and produce the very situation that Washington was trying to avoid.

The more Washington threatened air strikes on Iran because of its nuclear program, the more the Iranians sought to make sure that it had the potential to strike back at American forces in Iraq. Before he was executed, Sadr I believed that he had been let down by Iran; Sadr II had bad relations with Tehran; and at first Muqtada denounced his Shia opponents in SCIRI and the Marji'iyyah as being Iranian stooges. But American pressure meant that the Sadrists had to look to Iran for help, and in a military confrontation the Mehdi Army saw Iran as an essential source of weapons and military expertise.

The New Iraqi Political Landscape

On reappearing after his four-month disappearance in May 2007, Muqtada called for a united front of Sunni and Shia and identified the U.S. occupation and al-Qaeda in Iraq as the enemies of both communities. The call was probably sincere, but it was also too late. Baghdad was now largely a Shia city, and people were too frightened to go back to their old homes. The U.S. "surge" had contributed to the sharp drop in sectarian killings, but it was also true that the Shia had won and there were few mixed areas left.

The U.S. commander General David Petraeus claimed that security was improving, but only a trickle of Iraqis who had fled their homes were returning. Muqtada was the one Shia leader capable of uniting with the Sunni on a nationalist platform, but the Sunni Arabs of Iraq had never accepted that their rule had ended. If Sunni and Shia could not live on the same street, they could hardly share a common identity.

The political and military landscape of Iraq changed in 2007 as the Sunni population turned on al-Qaeda. This started before the "surge," but it was still an important development. Al-Qaeda's massive suicide bombs targeting civilians had been the main fuel for Shia-Sunni sectarian warfare since 2003. The Sunni Arabs and many of the insurgent groups had turned against al-Qaeda after it tried to monopolize power within the Sunni community at the end of 2006 by declaring the Islamic State of Iraq. Crucial in the change was al-Qaeda's attempt to draft one son from every Sunni family into its ranks. Sunni with lowly jobs with the government such as garbage collectors were killed.

By the fall of 2007 the U.S. military command in Baghdad was trumpeting successes over al-Qaeda, saying it had been largely eliminated in Anbar, Baghdad, and Diyala. But the Sunni Arab fighters, by now armed and paid for by the United States, did not owe their prime loyalty to the Iraqi government. Muqtada might speak of new opportunities for pan-Iraqi opposition to the U.S. occupation, but many anti-al-Qaeda Sunni fighters had quite different ideas. They wanted to reverse the Shia victory in the 2006 battle of Baghdad.

A new breed of American-supported Sunni warlords was emerging. One of them, Abu Abed, is a former member of the insurgent Islamic Army. He operates in the Amariya district of west Baghdad, where he is a commander of the U.S.-backed Amariya Knights, whom the U.S. calls Concerned Citizens. His stated objectives show that the rise of the new Sunni militias may mark only a new stage in a sectarian civil war. "Amariya is just the beginning," says Abu Abed. "After we finish with al-Qaida here, we will turn towards our main enemy, the Shia militias. I will liberate Jihad [the mixed Sunni-Shia area near Amariya taken over by the Mehdi Army], then Saadiya and the whole of west Baghdad."

The al-Sadr family has an extraordinary record of resistance to Saddam Hussein, for which they paid a heavy price. One of the gravest errors in Iraq by the United States was to try to marginalize Muqtada and his movement. Had he been part of the political process from the beginning, the chances of creating a peaceful, prosperous Iraq would have been greater.
In any real accommodation between Shia and Sunni, the Sadrists must play a central role. Muqtada probably represented his constituency of millions of poor Shia better than anybody else could have done. But he never wholly controlled his own movement, and never created as well-disciplined a force as Hezbollah in Lebanon. None of his ambitions for reconciliation with the Sunni could take wing unless the Mehdi Army ceased to be identified with death squads and sectarian cleansing.

The war in Iraq has gone on longer than World War I and, while violence diminished in the second half of 2007, nothing has been resolved. The differences between Shia and Sunni, the disputes within the respective communities, and the antagonism against the U.S. occupation are all as great as ever. The only way the Sadrists and the Mehdi Army could create confidence among the Sunni that Muqtada meant what he said when he called for unity, would be for them to be taken back voluntarily into the areas in Baghdad and elsewhere from which they have been driven. But there is no sign of this happening. The disintegration of Iraq has probably gone too far for the country to exist as anything more than a loose federation.

Patrick Cockburn is the Iraq correspondent for The Independent in London. He has visited Iraq countless times since 1977 and was recipient of the 2004 Martha Gellhorn Prize for war reporting as well as the 2006 James Cameron Memorial Award. His book The Occupation: War and Resistance in Iraq, was short-listed for a National Book Critics Circle Award in 2007. This essay is the last chapter in his new book, Muqtada: Muqtada al-Sadr, the Shia Revival, and the Struggle for Iraq, just published by Scribner.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Internally Displaced Persons

Iraq Working Group for Internally Displaced Persons
Update (24 March 2008)

Main Issues Below – Full Report

• It is estimated that over 2.77 million people are currently displaced inside Iraq as of 20 March 2008. Of these, 1.2 million were displaced before 2006 and more than 1.5 million were displaced in 2006 and 2007; less than 1% was displaced in 2008.

• New displacement is continuing at a much lower pace than for the past two years but secondary displacement has been reported in Baghdad.

• Most of the Post-2006 IDPs come from Baghdad and Diyala.

• While the majority of Pre-2006 IDPs were displaced in the three Northern Governorates (53%) and in the South (33%), 58% of Post-2006 IDPs are displaced in the six Central Governorates, 27% in the South and 15% in the three Northern Governorates.

• Percentage of IDPs compared to total estimated governorate population is highest in Dahuk, Baghdad, Wassit and Kerbala.

• More than 560,000 IDPs are living in Baghdad Governorate. 40% of surveyed IDPs in Baghdad have fled due to direct threats and forced eviction from their property, while between 10% and 17% have fled due to generalized violence and fear.

• At present, large-scale return movements have not been noted. Actual numbers of IDP and refugee returnees are currently uncertain. According to the latest figures released by MoDM, nearly 6,000 IDP families have returned so far (2% of Post-2006 IDPs) and approximately 45,000 individuals have returned from Syria in 2007.The actual numbers are likely higher.

• Returnees mostly return to those neighbourhoods/districts/governorates under control of members of their sect. To date, only a few families returned to areas under control of another sect. No members of minority groups (e.g., Christians, Sabaean-Mandaeans and Yazidis) have been reported to be among the returnees.

• According to the current estimation, the number of IDPs in need of adequate shelter and food is now higher than one million. In addition, over one million cannot access regular income. Around 300,000 individuals have no access to clean water and are in need of legal aid to enable them to access other basic services.

### END ###

This IDP Update has been produced by IDP Working Group members (UNHCR, IOM, other UN Agencies and NGOs). It is based on surveillance data gathered by IDP WG members, as well as information provided by the Ministry of Displacement and Migration (MoDM), the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), ICRC and other NGOs.

Implications of the Fighting in Basra

An estimated 130 people have been killed in the first four days of fighting in Basra. The US air force has launched missile attacks against targets in Basra for the first time in support of the Government action and a strict curfew has been imposed on Baghdad. Witnesses report that Mehdi army forces have taken control of Nassiriya and clashes continue in Kut, Hilla, Amara, Kerbala and Diwaniya. US forces have also used helicopter gunships in attacks against individuals in sadr city - Baghdad.

Juan Cole looks at the root causes and offers this overview of the political dynamics.

“My reading is that the US faced a dilemma in Iraq. It needed to have new provincial elections in an attempt to mollify the Sunni Arabs, especially in Sunni-majority provinces like Diyala, which has nevertheless been ruled by the Shiite Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq. But if they have provincial elections, their chief ally, the Islamic Supreme Council, might well lose southern provinces to the Sadr Movement.

In turn, the Sadrists are demanding a timetable for US withdrawal, whereas ISCI wants US troops to remain. So the setting of October, 2008, as the date for provincial elections provoked this crisis. I think Cheney probably told ISCI and Prime Minister al-Maliki that the way to fix this problem and forestall the Sadrists coming to power in Iraq, was to destroy the Mahdi Army, the Sadrists' paramilitary.

Without that coercive power, the Sadrists might not remain so important, is probably their thinking. I believe them to be wrong, and suspect that if the elections are fair, the Sadrists will sweep to power and may even get a sympathy vote. It is admittedly a big 'if.'”

U.S. forces drawn deeper into Iraq crackdown
By: Peter Graff and Waleed Ibrahim, Reuters

The Humanitarian Impact:

Humanitarian Situation Set To Worsen in South
International Organization of Migration (IOM), 28 March

IOM's humanitarian activities in Iraq's southern city of Basra and as well as in other southern governorates have been put on hold as violence and curfew prevent staff and partners from providing humanitarian assistance to internally displaced people (IDPs) and vulnerable populations.

Staff report that with the potable water network down in most parts of Basra as well as electricity being shut down, priority needs of the population is water, food and medical supplies for hospitals with the situation expected to deteriorate in the coming days. The suddenness of the crackdown had meant little to no time for people to stock up on essentials.

Humanitarian Situation in Basra and Baghdad
International Committee of the Red Cross, 28 March 2008

Thursday, March 27, 2008

What You Should Know About the Latest Violence

In order to move beyond a simplistic view of the violence in Iraq as being fueled by ancient ethnic or sectarian animosity, the first article details how “sectarian-based street-fighting is a symptom of a larger political conflict, one that has been poorly analyzed in the mainstream press. The real source of conflict in Iraq -- and the reason political reconciliation has been so difficult -- is a fundamental disagreement over what the future of Iraq will look like.”

Five Things You Need to Know to Understand the Latest Violence in Iraq
By: Joshua Holland & Raed Jarrar, 27 March 2008

The Internal Shia Conflict in Iraq
Al Jazeera English, 26 March

Bush Administration Takes Credit for Iraqi Offensive in Basra
McClarchy, Nancy Youssef, 26 March 2008

These two short videos from a symposium on Iraqi refugees organized last May are still relevant. It can be a quick tutorial to the impact of on-going decisions of the US to ignore the political process being pursued by Iraqis.

The roots of violence in Iraq (1min 19 sec)

The U.S. Role in Violence in Iraq (3min 4 sec)

Full playlist: Symposium on Iraqi Refugees (19 May 2007)
Kristele Younis, Noah Merrill, Raed Jarrar

Monday, March 24, 2008

4,000 Too Many

Commemorate the Human Cost

On-line listing of events across the country marking the 4,000th U.S. military death in Iraq. Help us commemorate all of those who have suffered in this war the U.S. military fatalities, the thousands of wounded soldiers, the estimated 600,000-1,000,000 Iraqis dead, the estimated 4.5 million Iraqis driven from their homes, and all of their families. We have an updated resource page where you to learn more.

Military and Gold Star Families Mourn 4,000th Troop Death in Iraq
Military Families Speak Out, 23 March 2008

“As the sixth year of the war in Iraq begins, the next grim milestone has just been reached: the 4,000th troop death. Military Families Speak Out (MFSO), the largest organization of military families to oppose a war in this country’s history, asks all in the nation to stop and reflect on the human toll of this war, and press Congress - including the major presidential candidates - to reject President Bush’s request for another $70 billion to continue the war, and instead appropriate all funds needed to bring our troops home quickly and safety, and take care of them when they get here.” MFSO Home Page

4,000 US Troops Dead Nearly 60 Dead in Iraq Attacks
Juan Cole: Informed Comment, 24 March 2008

Friday, March 21, 2008

Iraqi Voices From Beirut | Iraq Update

Today’s update gives more details on activities being planned around the 4,000 US soldier death, Nearly 4,000 US Soldier Deaths

Dreams of reaching Europe grind to a halt in Beirut ghetto

Rabi'a, an Iraqi refugee, is cooking in the narrow, filthy corridor that doubles as a makeshift kitchen in his tiny apartment in eastern Beirut. There is a gas burner, a sink, a cupboard and a small plastic bucket overflowing with garbage and potato peelings. At one end of the room a door leads to a reeking toilet. The heavy smell of urine mixes with that of the months-old oil he is pushing round the frying pan.

"I fry the best tomatoes in the world, the most delicious dish," he tells me. "You must have some with us." In Iraq they used to call this dish the "dinner of the sanctions", after the decade-long economic blockade imposed on the country in the 1990s.

Click here to watch the Winter Soldier hearings organized by the Iraq Veterans Against the War.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Bearing Witness: Five Years of the Iraq War

Interviews and images with Baghdad bureau chiefs, correspondents, and Iraqi journalists that work the streets fuel this powerful site. It shows the impact of a decision by a news agency – and its staff - to stay in Iraq, and report the stories.

Bearing Witness: Five Years of the Iraq War
Reuters, March 2008

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

In Memory

Moments of silence, flags at half-mast and federal buildings shrouded in black would just begin to address the suffering we have brought to Iraq after five years of war and occupation.

After five years, there are more US troops in Iraq and more money spent each day to sustain the military occupation. After five years there is less congressional support to defund the war and continued Iraqi deaths, displacement and fear.

These clips, the first two from Baghdad today will remind you what is at stake.

Iraq's lost generation (4 min 32 sec)
Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, 19 March 2008 bio

Baghdad: City of Walls (4min 37 sec)
Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, 18 March 2008

The Human Cost of War (2 min)
American Friends Service Committee

One Day = $720 Million (1min 46 sec)
American Friends Service Committee

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Five Years | One in Five Displaced

To help make sense of the volume of written material, here is a modest selection of overviews looking back on five years of war and occupation. Weighing the options, I was struck by the relative lack of political analysis verses the amount of information highlighting the humanitarian crisis for Iraqis - inside the country, and as refugees. Those studies are at the heart of this list. Sadly, for most people, these reports will only be mentioned in passing by an AP or Reuters wire story.

Gaith Abdul-Ahad returns to his hometown to look at the impact of the war on what has become a city of walls. Take a moment to look at his video dispatches. Patrick Cockburn reviews the occupation and sees a country utterly ruined, fearing the impact of a new US armed militia 80,000 strong. Amy Goodman is rebroadcasting the testimonies from last weekend’s Winter Soldier on Democracy Now, and a couple of links from international humanitarian agencies highlight the need to be healing the wounds of war.

One in five Iraqis displaced or refugees
Reuters, via International Organization for Migration, 18 March 2008

How to Destroy a Country in Five Years
Patrick Cockburn, 17 March 2008

Baghdad: City of Walls (video series)
Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, 17 March 2008

Winter Soldier Broadcast
Democracy Now, 18 March

IRAQ: The Human Cost (database of reports on the human cost for Iraqis)
MIT Center for International Studies

IRAQ: No Let-Up in the Humanitarian Crisis
International Committee of the Red Cross, March 2008

Monday, March 3, 2008

What Do You Know About Iraq?

Correct answers are highlighted with links to sources.

1) How much does the US pay per day for the war in Iraq?
A) $100 million
B) $270 million
C) $525 million
D) $720 million

2) If the US spends $1 per day in Iraq, how much would go to repair and humanitarian assistance?
A) 7 cents
B) 13 cents
C) Fraction of one penny
D) 1 penny

3) What is the population of Iraq?
A) 53 million
B) 12 million
C) 27 million
D) 100 million

4) How many Iraqis have been displaced from their homes?
A) 8 million
B) 100,000
C) 5 million
D) 3 million

5) How many Iraqi have been killed?
A) 750,000
B) 1 million
C) 500,000
D) 17,000

6) How many Iraqis are now refugees outside the country?
A) 3.7 million
B) 750,000
C) 900,000
D) 2.4 million

7) How many Iraqi refugees has Syria accepted?
A) 75,000
B) 1.4 million
C) 500,000
D) 900,000

8) How many Iraqi refugees has the US accepted?
A) 750
B) 100,000
C) 725,000
D) 1,700

9) How many US troops are in Iraq? (Not including mercenaries & private contractors)
A) 50,000
B) 325,000
C) 700,000
D) 165,000

10) What countries border Iraq?
A) Lebanon, Palestine, North Korea, Pakistan
B) Yemen, Sudan, Somalia
C) Jordan, Syria, Turkey, Iran, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia
D) Afghanistan, Pakistan, Tajikistan

Friday, February 29, 2008

The Alternatives to War Funding

Healing the Wounds of War
Alternatives to war funding that can lead to a lasting peace in Iraq

Wars, sanctions and occupation in Iraq have created a humanitarian catastrophe for Iraqis; the lives and livelihoods lost are priceless and irretrievable. And the crisis is spreading; the chaos from the invasion and occupation is no longer contained by Iraq’s borders. Four and a half million people have been forced from their homes, making the war in Iraq the fastest growing refugee crisis in the world. Almost half of the displaced have fled to Jordan and Syria while 2.5 million Iraqis are displaced within the country. These communities are vulnerable and traumatized by physical and emotional violence.

The human needs emerging from Iraqi displacement will not be met by military surges, spiraling war funding, or continued U.S. occupation. Funding international nongovernmental organizations and providing direct aid to countries hosting Iraqi refugees are the best ways to meet the immediate needs of millions of Iraqis. Meeting these needs is critical to ending the violence and creating the conditions for reconciliation in Iraq. The history of the Middle East shows that there are great consequences for slow or inadequate responses to the needs of refugees.

The first step in healing the wounds of war is to stop the violence. This is best achieved with the complete removal of all U.S. troops. This is what the majority of Iraqis want, this is what the majority of Iraq’s elected officials want, and this is what the majority of Americans want as well. No government in Iraq will be able to gain people’s confidence, or have real sovereignty, if its power depends on foreign military forces. Repair, trust and reconciliation will move forward only when the military occupation ends.

A long-term process of regional diplomacy is needed to undo the damage of this war. The best thing the U.S. can do for Iraq and the world community is to take responsibility for the immense crisis which has resulted from its intervention in Iraq. The U.S. must step back militarily so others with more knowledge and experience in the region can step forward to support Iraqis as they rebuild their country.


One day of the Iraq war could fund a year of peace building

$720 million would be better used to support these United Nations
interagency humanitarian appeals AND the request by the
government of Syria to assist in the care of Iraqi refugees for ONE YEAR.

Protection and Immediate Assistance: $261 Million
The office of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) is rapidly increasing efforts to help Iraqi refugees and other refugee communities trapped inside Iraq. The initiative covers eight countries affected by the war. It doubles the number of Iraqi refugees in school, provides direct assistance to displaced families, assists in the resettlement of the most vulnerable, and increases emergency stockpiles inside Iraq.

Education for Refugee Youth: $129 Million
"Iraqi children are the most vulnerable among the displaced and are facing an enormous challenge. With the passing of time, the hope for a peaceful childhood, a stable family life and normal education is being swept away for many of them." The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) initiative addresses Iraqi student enrollment in neighboring countries by supplementing teacher training and salaries, and expanding facilities to accommodate the estimated 150,000 school and college-age refugees over the 2007-2008 school year.

Basic and Emergency Healthcare for the Displaced: $85 Million
The World Health Organization (WHO) initiative will expand primary and advanced care, assist in the treatment of chronic diseases, increase support to existing clinics and hospitals, and purchase medicine and emergency medical equipment. It includes the construction of 50 clinics, the treatment of 500 Iraqi cancer patients, and support for specialized amputee clinics.

Food for the most Vulnerable Iraqi Families: $126 Million
The World Food Program (WFP) initiative will assist more than one million displaced Iraqis who are unable to meet their basic food needs. The one-year operation will provide food to 750,000 of the most vulnerable Iraqis displaced within the country, and more than 360,000 of the poorest families who have fled to Syria. The project will run until December 2008.

Direct Support to Syria: $119 million
Syria accepted an estimated 1.5 million Iraqi refugees (an amount equal to 10% of their own population) before requiring entry visas beginning in October 2007. It was the last country to effectively close its borders to Iraqis. In addition to support for UN agencies operating in the country, Syria needs additional funds to strengthen its public institutions – including schools, hospitals and basic infrastructure – to accommodate greater demand. In April 2007, at a donor conference called by UNHCR in Geneva, Switzerland, the Syrian Foreign Ministry requested $256 million over two years to mitigate the costs of services being provided to Iraqi refugees. The government estimated the true cost to be $1 billion a year.

Peacebuilding measures

• Stop funding the U.S. military presence in Iraq

• Negotiate a timetable for a complete withdrawal of U.S. forces

• Withhold funding allocated for arming Iraq’s sectarian militias and armed forces

• Suspend plans to implement a $60 billion U.S. arms package to the region

The True Cost of the Iraq Conflict

The Three Trillion Dollar War: The True Cost of the Iraq Conflict
By: Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes

One week after President Bush rejected charges that the war in Iraq has hurt the US economy, a new book puts a conservative estimate of the war’s cost at $3 trillion. In their first national broadcast interview upon their book’s publication, Nobel laureate and former chief World Bank economist, Joseph Stiglitz, and co-author Linda Bilmes of Harvard University say the Bush administration has repeatedly low-balled the cost of the war—and even kept a second set of records hidden from the American public.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

One Day = $720 Million (How we got the numbers)

The economic cost of the Iraq War is far greater than most people imagine, with more than $1 trillion spent. One trillion dollars equals $720 million spent each day, or $500,000 per minute.

These numbers come from an investigation conducted by the American Friends Service Committee. Our figures are based on the research of Linda Bilmes (Kennedy School of Government professor and Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel Peace Prize winning economist).

Bilmes and Stiglitz took the war funding supplemental bills that Congress has passed every six months + estimates for caring for the wounded + 30% of the rise in the Defense Department budget since the war began + replacement of military equipment + increased budget for recruitment + interest on the war debt.

After 4 years of war that came to a little over $1 trillion or $720 million per day. That is about 2.6 times the amount approved through the supplemental. Or put another way, the supplemental is only 40% of what the war really is costing or will cost.

As of January 1, 2008 we figured that the cost of war was $1.256 trillion. That keeps with our $720 million/day. The major costs are the care for the wounded and the interest on the debt. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that at the end of 2006 the interest on the war debt alone was $178 billion.

For the economists in the crowd, another way of talking about it is TCO or Total Cost of Ownership of the Iraq War and occupation. For example, when you purchase a computer, you do not just consider the purchase price (supplemental) but all of the training, software, repairs necessary to use it. The total cost of ownership of the Iraq War is over two and a half times the “purchase price.”

A more detailed accounting of the research is on our web page, as is a short video that looks at how these funds could be better spent.

Facts and Figures From the Cost of War Project

One Day = $720 Million (2-minute Video)