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Archive | January, 2009

Threat of Violence Looms Again Over Fallujah

Awakening Council leaders Sheikh Ahmad Abo Risha (left) and Sheikh Aifan Sadun. Photo: Dahr Jamail

Awakening Council leaders Sheikh Ahmad Abo Risha (left) and Sheikh Aifan Sadun. Photo: Dahr Jamail

FALLUJAH — The threat of violence hangs over Fallujah again as leaders of the Awakening Council fight for political power through the elections Jan. 31.

The Awakening Councils were set up and backed by the U.S. military to curb spiralling violence. According to the U.S. military, most of the members recruited were former resistance fighters. Over recent years, they grew to a strength of about 100,000 men, each paid 300 dollars a month.

U.S. aid to the Councils was cut off in October on the understanding that the members would be absorbed into Iraqi government forces. To date, less than a third have been given government jobs.

The Awakening Councils now control most of Al-Anbar province. This is the largest province, covering about a third of Iraq. Political power here is critical because the province borders Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Syria. Anbar has a largely Sunni population of about two million, in an Iraqi population of about 25 million.

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A Capped Volcano of Suffering

A Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle, which the US military now uses for most of its patrols in Iraq's Sadr City. (Photo: Dahr Jamail / t r u t h o u t)

A Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle, which the US military now uses for most of its patrols in Iraq's Sadr City. (Photo: Dahr Jamail / t r u t h o u t)

Baghdad today, on the eve of provincial elections, feels like it has emerged from several years of horrendous violence, but do not be misled. Every Iraqi I’ve spoken with feels it is tenuous, the still-fragile lull too young to trust.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees provides recent statistics showing that more Iraqis continue to flee their country than are returning. Two studies show the number of dead Iraqis to be between 1.2-1.4 million, and the number of those displaced to be nearly five million, or one in six Iraqis. During 2006 and 2008, scores of bodies were found on the streets of Baghdad and fished from the Tigris River as death squads and sectarian militias raged. All but one of my Iraqi friends and translators have either fled the country, or been killed. It is nearly impossible to meet a family that has not had a family member killed or wounded.

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Tentative Hope Rises Ahead of Elections

Ayad Allawi. Photo: Dahr Jamail

Ayad Allawi. Photo: Dahr Jamail

BAGHDAD — Uncertainty and tension are running high in Baghdad ahead of the provincial election due Jan. 31. But this time fears are also touched by a new hope.

“Iraq is transitioning into something more stable,” former Iraqi interim prime minister Ayad Allawi told IPS. “The U.S. is pulling out soon because of the new administration, so Iraqis need to take matters into their own hands,” said Allawi, speaking at the headquarters of the Iraqi National Accord party in Baghdad.

Allawi, who was said to have provided “intelligence” about alleged weapons of mass destruction to the British MI6, is a former exile, and a controversial figure disliked by many in Iraq. Nevertheless, he speaks for many of the leading political figures running in the upcoming elections.

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Wounded Veterans Treated as an Afterthought

MARFA, Texas — “But the [George W.] Bush administration was never seriously interested in helping veterans. The sorry state of care for Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans is not an accident. It’s on purpose.”

Journalist Aaron Glantz makes this stunning statement in his recently released book, “The War Comes Home: Washington’s Battle Against America’s Veterans” (UC Press).

And his controversial claim is backed up by an extremely well-researched overview of the dismal state of care provided by the government for this new generation of war veterans.

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