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The Crisis of ISIS

As ISIS beheads its way to Baghdad, leaving scores of headless bodies of police and soldiers along the roads, and President Obama promises aid, refusing to rule out military engagement, there are lots of questions.

  • How did the U.S. and its allies not see this coming? It sure didn't happen overnight.
  • Were the billions of dollars we spent training Iraqi forces just a waste?


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AQAP Sweats the Small Stuff

According to Associated Press reporter Rukmini Callimachi in Mali, it appears al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) is very focused on accounting.

The convoy of cars bearing the black al Qaeda flag came at high speed, and the manager of the modest grocery store thought he was about to get robbed.

Mohamed Djitteye rushed to lock his till and cowered behind the counter. He was dumbfounded when instead, the al Qaeda commander gently opened the grocery’s glass door and asked for a pot of mustard. Then he asked for a receipt.

Confused and scared, Djitteye didn’t understand. So the jihadist repeated his request. Could he please have a receipt for the $1.60 purchase?

The AP found a treasure trove of documents, including receipts for things like a single light bulb and bar of soap. [More...]

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500 Inmates Break Out of Abu Ghraib

500 inmates, including many members of al Qaida have broken out of Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

Sunni insurgents, including the al Qaeda-affiliated Islamic State of Iraq, have been regaining strength in recent months and striking on an almost daily basis against Shi'ite Muslims and security forces amongst other targets.

The violence has raised fears of a return to full-blown conflict in a country where Kurds, Shi'ite and Sunni Muslims have yet to find a stable way of sharing power.

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Al Qaeda Claims Responsibility for Iraq Anniversary Bombings

It's been ten years since we invaded Iraq. Al Qaeda is marking the anniversary with bombings. At least 60 people have been killed.

Der Speigel has "10 Lessons From America's 'Dumb War.'

The Atlantic looks back at the cost, in lives and dollars. The BBC has the Iraq War in Numbers.

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Haditha Killings: Last Marine Pleads, Looking at 3 Month Sentence

Haditha has been described as the My Lai of the Iraq War. 24 civilian Iraqis, including women, children and an elderly person in a wheel chair were shot in cold blood when Marines from Kilo Company (3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment)went on a retaliatory rampage after a soldier had been killed by a roadside bomb.

Eyewitnesses disputed the Marines' account. The account by a 13 year old girl who pretended to be dead as the Marines barged in and killed her parents, grandparents and brother is especially compelling. [More...]

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U.S. Soldiers Have Left Iraq

The last soldiers left Iraq last night. The price tag of the nine year war in human terms: 4,500 American lives and the lives of tens of thousands of Iraqis.

At the height of the war, more than 170,000 U.S. troops were in Iraq at more than 500 bases. By Saturday, there were fewer than 3,000 troops, and one base.

The death toll:

Since the US invasion in March 2003, at least 126,000 Iraqi civilians were killed in the war, according to Boston University professor Neta Crawford. In addition, another 20,000 Iraqi soldiers and police were killed, along with more than 19,000 insurgents. British group IraqBodyCount.org puts the number of documented Iraqi civilian deaths from violence at 104,035 to 113,680.

The financial cost to the U.S. for operations from 2003 until now: $670 Billion to $1 Trillion.

Was it worth it?

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Wikileaks Cable on US Troops' Murder of Iraqi Family in Ishaqi

In Iraq in 2006, U.S. soldiers herded 11 members of a family into a room, including a 75 year old woman and five children, handcuffed them, and shot them point blank.

The story was widely reported in 2006 (we covered it here, and even I gave the soldiers the benefit of the doubt as to whether they shot the kids at point-blank range -- silly me.)

A newly released cable from Wikileaks (available here) authored by Philip Alston, Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions, a few weeks after the killings, recounts the original police report of the killings stating that the family was handcuffed and shot at close range. The cable says soldiers then called in an airstrike to bomb the house and destroy the evidence.

The U.S. had maintained that the soldiers raided the house after getting a tip that a member of al-Qaida was at the house. The U.S. said a fierce gunfight ensued that left the house in a rubble and a few people, including the al qaeda suspect, dead. It refused to conduct a further investigation. [More...]

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Can We Afford Continuing The Iraq Debacle?

While the Super Catfood Commission plots how to dismantle The New Deal, Iraq remains troubled:

A chilling series of fatal attacks across Iraq on Monday sent a disheartening message to the Iraqi and American governments: After hundreds of billions of dollars spent since the United States invasion in 2003, and tens of thousands of lives lost, insurgents remain a potent and perhaps resurging threat to Iraqis and the American troops still in the country.

Unless the US plans to stay in perpetuity, I believe a full blown civil war in Iraq is inevitable. There is nothing more the US can do. We can't afford to do more. Time to declare victory and leave.

Speaking for me only

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Charles Graner, Abu Ghraib Prison Guard from Hell, Released

Charles Graner, the prison guard from Hell, has been released after serving 6 1/2 years of his 10 year sentence for torturing prisoners at Abu Ghraib.

At his trial, his lawyer claimed he was only acting as a cheerleader:

Graner's attorney said piling naked prisoners into pyramids and leading them by a leash were acceptable methods of prisoner control. He compared this to pyramids made by cheerleaders at sports events and parents putting tethers on toddlers.

"Don't cheerleaders all over America form pyramids six to eight times a year. Is that torture?" Guy Womack, Graner's attorney, said in opening arguments to the 10-member U.S. military jury at the reservist's court-martial.


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Robert Gates Departs: Now Wary of "Wars of Choice"

Defense Secretary Robert Gates shares his thoughts on the U.S. and war in an interview Friday:

“If we were about to be attacked or had been attacked or something happened that threatened a vital U.S. national interest, I would be the first in line to say, ‘Let’s go,’ ” Mr. Gates said. “I will always be an advocate in terms of wars of necessity. I am just much more cautious on wars of choice.”

He also had some thoughts on how to make it Washington, particularly when, as he did, you have to serve under different Presidents from different parties: [More...]

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Wikileaks Discloses Iraqi Torture Docs

Wikileaks has published 400,000 pages of military documents from 2004 to 2009 revealing details of murder and torture. It's the largest leak of military documents in history.

"There are over 300 recorded reports of coalition forces committing torture and abuse of detainees across 284 reports and over 1,000 cases of Iraqi security forces committing similar crimes," WikiLeaks said in a press release.

"There are numerous cases of what appear to be clear war crimes by US forces, such as the deliberate killing of persons trying to surrender," WikiLeaks said.

Via the LA Times: [More...]

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Wolfowitz: Iraq Debacle Like Korean War

I kid you not:

The aftermath of another American war is instructive. Fifty-seven years ago, an armistice ended the fighting in Korea — another unpopular conflict, far bloodier than the Iraq war, although shorter. [. . .] Some similar considerations apply to Iraq today. First, Iraq occupies a key position in the Persian Gulf, a strategically important region of the world — a position that is all the more important because of the dangerous ambitions of Iran’s rulers.

[. . .]It is well worth celebrating the end of combat operations after seven years, and the homecoming of so many troops. But fully abandoning Iraq would damage the interests of the United States in the region and beyond. Maintaining a long-term commitment, albeit at greatly reduced cost and risk, is the best way to secure the gains that have been achieved with so much sacrifice.

Being one of the principal architects of the greatest strategic error in recent American history does not lead to humility. The Iraq Debacle and the Korean War have nothing in common. Moreover, there is nothing the US can really do for Iraq. Iraq will sort out Iraq. And a Wolfowitz Op-Ed won't change that. But coming from the guy who said the Iraq War would pay for itself, who had Army Chief of Staff Eric Shinseki cashiered because he told the truth about the Iraq Debacle, talk about the "gains" we made in the trillion dollar Debacle is really galling. He seems anxious to gain "credit" for the Iraq Debacle. I'm all for that. All credit to the Neocons for the disaster that is the Iraq Debacle.

Speaking for me only

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U.S. Completing Turnover of Iraqi Prisoners

Tariq Aziz has been turned over to Iraqi custody to finish serving his 22 year sentence. He is one of 55 former members of Saddam Hussein's government turned over.

The handover was announced one day before Iraqi authorities take control of Camp Cropper, the last US-run detention facility in Iraq. Ibrahim said several more detainees would be turned over in the next 24 hours. The formal transfer of the last U.S. detention centre in Iraq -- Camp Cropper near Baghdad airport -- takes place on Thursday.

But the US military says it will keep control of roughly 200 prisoners even after the handover. US authorities will continue to oversee some operations at the prison until the end of the year.

According to Reuters,

The handover was part of a security pact signed in 2008 under which the U.S. military agreed to stop making arrests, hand over its remaining detention centres and withdraw completely from Iraq by the end of 2011.

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The Greatest Casualty

The greatest tragedy is being forgotten.

Today is Memorial Day, and whether you support or oppose the war, it's a day to proudly remember and be grateful to those who gave their lives for our country.

What will you do to remember the fallen members of our military today?

This is an open thread for topics related to Memorial Day.

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Wikileaks Posts Video of U.S. Soldiers Killing Iraqi Civilians

WikiLeaks, a military "whistleblower" website has obtained and posted a video showing the 2007 attack by U.S. soldiers in in a suburb of Baghdad that killed 12 civilians, including two Reuters journalists. You can view the full unedited 39 minute version on You Tube here.

The video, released on Monday, is of high quality and appears to be authentic, the BBC's Adam Brookes in Washington says. It is accompanied by a recording of the pilots' radio transmissions and those of US troops on the ground.

The video shows a street in Baghdad and a group of about eight people, whom the helicopter pilots deem to be insurgents. It then shows the individuals on the street being shot dead with the Apache's cannon. Then, a van drives onto the scene, and its occupants appear to start picking up the wounded. It, too, is fired upon. Altogether, around 12 people die. Two children appear to be injured.

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