Operation New Dawn: U.S. Engaged in Combat in Iraq

Note: Yet another “Mission Accomplished” for the U.S. led war in Iraq.  This time, Barack H.Obama is the flag pole from which the people in the United States and the rest of the world see the deceit waving in front of them.  Combat is not over, combat troops are still there.

AP

Even as President Barack Obama was announcing the end of combat in Iraq, American soldiers were sealing off a northern village early Wednesday as their Iraqi partners raided houses and arrested dozens of suspected insurgents.

While the Obama administration has dramatically reduced the number of troops and rebranded the mission, the operation in Hawija was a reminder that U.S. forces are still engaged in hunting down and killing al-Qaida militants — and could still have to defend themselves against attacks.

That reality was front and center at a change-of-command ceremony in one of Saddam Hussein’s former palaces outside Baghdad that the American military now uses as its headquarters. Officials warned of a tough road ahead as the U.S. moves into the final phase of the 7 1/2-year war.

Of paramount concern is Iraqi leaders’ continued bickering, six months after parliamentary elections, over forming a new government — a political impasse that could further endanger stability and fuel a diminished but still dangerous insurgency.

“Iraq still faces a hostile enemy who is determined to hinder progress,” Gen. Lloyd Austin, the newly installed commander of the just under 50,000 U.S. troops still in Iraq, told the swelling crowd that was clad in military fatigues and political suits. “Make no mistake, our military forces here and those of the Iraqi nation remain committed to ensuring that our friends in Iraq succeed.”

Vice President Joe Biden presided over the gathering at al-Faw palace, Saddam’s gaudy former hunting lodge replete with fake marble walls and a huge chandelier made of recycled plastic.

The remaining U.S. forces in Iraq would be “as combat ready, if need be, as any in our military,” Biden said, flanked by Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen for the 75-minute ceremony, which also changed the U.S. mission’s name from “Operation Iraqi Freedom” to “Operation New Dawn.”

Three years ago, about 170,000 U.S. troops were in Iraq. Of those who remain, fewer than 10 percent — or 4,500 — are special forces who will regularly go on raids and capture terrorists, albeit alongside Iraqi troops.

Obama ordered the end of combat missions by Aug. 31 in a step toward a full withdrawal of American forces by the end of next year that was mandated in a U.S.-Iraqi security agreement.

Violence also has declined dramatically since early 2007, when the Pentagon poured tens of thousands more troops into Iraq over a matter of months to quell a Sunni insurgency that had lured the country to the brink of civil war. Additionally, a Sunni revolt against al-Qaida in Iraq and a Shiite militia cease-fire have helped tamp down attacks, although bombings and shootings across Iraq continue on a near-daily basis.

But Iraqi forces are heavily dependent on U.S. firepower, along with helicopters, spy data and other key tools for combating terrorists that they won’t be able to supply on their own for years to come.

“Every soldier I have knows that fighting is not over because there are groups here that still want to hurt us,” Maj. Gen. Tony Cucolo, commander of U.S. troops in Iraq’s volatile north, told The Associated Press recently. “But clearly combat operations is not in our mission statement.”

In Hawija, once a hub for Sunni militants and Saddam’s disaffected allies located 150 miles north of Baghdad, roughly 80 U.S. soldiers teamed up with more than 1,000 Iraqis to arrest about 60 terror suspects in the early morning raid Wednesday.

From checkpoints and command centers to helicopters hovering overhead, the Americans were on hand at the request of Iraqi police. But it was the Iraqis who went into houses and arrested suspected insurgents — including two considered high-value targets — while the U.S. watched the operation from afar.

Hours before the raids, Lt. Col. Andy Ulrich gave his soldiers a pep talk to counter concerns they weren’t on a worthwhile mission.

“You all are combat troops not doing a combat mission, although it looks smells and feels and hurts a lot like combat,” Ulrich said.

“Don’t worry about what the politicians are saying because we have a mission,” he added. “The bad part is, we can’t go kicking the doors ourselves and get these guys. We’ve got to kind of convince Iraqis to do it, but the good part is, they’re kind of willing to do it.”

Iraqi forces across Baghdad appeared to be on heightened alert, aiming to reassure the populace and ward off insurgent attacks to coincide with the change in command.

Intelligence officials had warned al-Qaida in Iraq might use the U.S. military’s shifting mission to launch suicide bombings around the capital in the days leading up to Wednesday’s ceremony. However, the day was relatively quiet, except for a roadside bomb in eastern Baghdad that police said killed one person.

At the Baghdad ceremony, Gen. Ray Odierno, the outgoing commander, formally ended his nearly five-year tour in Iraq on a reflective note.

“This period in Iraq’s history will probably be remembered for sacrifice, resilience and change,” Odierno said. “However, I remember it as a time in which the Iraqi people stood up against tyranny, terrorism and extremism, and decided to determine their own destiny as a people and as a democratic state.”

Then, wistfully using his military call sign one last time, Odierno ended his remarks: “Lion 6 — out.”

Obama ordered the refocusing of the U.S. mission last year to fulfill a campaign promise of ending what he once termed “a dumb war” and one that Gates acknowledged Wednesday was launched without justification. In an address Tuesday night Obama announced the end of American combat, but made clear that this was no victory celebration.

“Of course, violence will not end with our combat mission,” the president said.

Defining the front lines in a war where soldiers who are attacked while delivering supplies could just as easily return fire as Marines while on a raid to round up suspected insurgents has never been easy. Some of the key ongoing threats to the safety of American forces are the same as they’ve always been: rockets, mortars and roadside bombs.

U.S. military officials have said Iranian-backed militias are stepping up their attacks against targets in Baghdad, trying to make it look like they’re driving out the Americans. Since arriving in Iraq, the battalion taking part in the Hawija raids has been hit by rocket and grenade attacks on their patrols and on their base almost every other day.

In the western Iraqi city of Ramadi before the ceremony, Gates told reporters the U.S. would consider keeping some military forces in place past next year, if the Iraqi government requests it.

Asked whether the U.S. was still at war in Iraq, Gates answered succinctly, “I would say we are not.”

He was less definitive about whether the 7 1/2-year war was worthwhile. More than 4,400 American troops and an estimated 100,000 Iraqis have been killed since the 2003 invasion, and billions of dollars have been poured into the war effort.

Claiming that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction, then-President George W. Bush ordered the invasion with approval of a Congress still reeling from the 9/11 attacks. Bush’s claims were based on faulty intelligence, and the weapons were never found.

“The problem with this war, I think, for many Americans, is that the premise on which we justified going to war turned out not to be valid,” Gates said. “Even if the outcome is a good one from the standpoint of the United States, it’ll always be clouded by how it began.”

Costa Ricans Massively against U.S. Military Invasion

By Luis R. Miranda
The Real Agenda
August 16, 2010

In the latest survey released by a Costa Rican polling firm, it is confirmed that most of Costa Rica does not welcome on arrival and permanence of U.S. troops in their country. In recent weeks, the Congress of Costa Rica agreed to allow the arrival of military ships, planes and thousands of American marines to ‘aid’ in the war against narcotics trafficking in the Americas, which is largely driven by the U.S. and Colombia.

In the survey, whose partial results were published in a local newspaper, Costa Ricans expressed unfavorable views of the U.S. occupation. Of all respondents, 32 percent believe that the occupation is detrimental. The newspaper did not explain why, or if polled respondents were questioned as to why their opinion was such. Meanwhile, another 38 percent of respondents expressed concern that the arrival and permanence of Americans violates Costa Rican sovereignty.

Overall, 70 percent of ‘Ticos’ demonstrated their dissatisfaction with the arrival and permanence of foreign troops until December 2010. But it is the 38 percent number that sounds the bell, more than any other number. The reason is that more than one third of Costa Ricans are aware that the U.S. invasion is a violation of their sovereignty, a position that until a few weeks ago was unknown. Thus, the 57 per cent who welcomes the country’s militarization pales in comparison to the 70 percent who disapproves -32 percent who see as harmful the arrival of the Americans and the 38 percent who disapprove due to the violation of sovereignty.

Although the majority of Costa Ricans disapprove the arrival of the Americans, for the reasons mentioned above, 57 percent approval makes it clear that there is considerable support. The reason for the support, although not explained in the publication, can be easily be connected to the insecurity that the ‘Ticos’ experience daily in their neighborhoods and cities. The insecurity has been allowed to grow freely for several decades by many governments that believed the fallacy that Costa Rica was the Switzerland of Central America and that nothing would change that. Years later, the underworld, the drug lords, both locals and from abroad, gained control of the streets in the country. Drug cartels now control large areas in southern, northern and the Caribbean regions. The failure of a bureaucracy that purposely let crime grow out of control, now presents the militarization as a solution with the arrival of 7,000 troops, warships and military aircraft and helicopters, which is seen as an exageration and a threat to the sovereignty of Costa Rica. But this is not new. It is the well known modus operandi and Hegelian practice of problem, reaction, solution.

In fact, the cooperation agreement between Costa Rica and the United States did not improve at all the drug trafficking situation in the country. During the execution of this agreement, more and more drugs continue moving through Costa Rican land and waters to their northern destinations of Mexico and the United States. In South America, the treaty known as Plan Colombia did not resul in anything positive, either. Millions of dollars of U.S. taxpayers are ‘invested’ in a war regarded as a failure because it has failed to accomplish its only goal: ending the drug trade in South, Central and North America, where the largest consumer market of cocaine, crack, heroin and other drugs -made in clandestine laboratories with mixtures of pharmaceutical ingredients- is located.

In response to growing drug trafficking, the U.S. pursued a policy of ‘cooperation’ that includes the invasion of sovereign territories to supposedly stop the flow of drugs across the continent, but neither the navy nor the army, -under the guidance of the Southern Command (SOUTHCOM )- scattered across the continent have achieved that goal. People have to wonder why.

The results so far provided by the pollster UNIMER, not only reveal the overwhelming opposition of the people in Costa Rica to the occupation, but also the fatigue of the ‘Ticos’ to the ‘business as usual’ policy of their government. Although the new president arrived with great fanfare, as they all arrive, she was not able to recognize the lack of leadership from the previous governments and project a clear plan on what to do about insecurity in the country. Mrs. Chinchilla preferred to extend the policy of accepting gifts and even sacrifice the sovereignty of Costa Rica to participate in a drug war that has proved a complete failure due to the fact it is driven by corruption and not by a desire to end the drug trafficking scheme.

Another conclusion that emerges from the survey is that 57 percent of ‘Ticos’ who support military intervention ignore the failure of the current war on drugs, which is largely responsible for the bankruptcy of the United States. The policy of occupation emptied the coffers of the government, which in itself did not even have any money. Similarly, history shows that countries who sacrifice freedom and sovereignty in exchange for ‘security’, end up losing both. What this 57 percent should demand is a clear policy against crime, not the acceptance of royalties. Although the democratic system is a hedious one, as it subjects large amounts of citizens to the wishes of others, hopefully in the case of Costa Rica the voice of the majority, -which this time seems to be wiser than before- will be heard louder than ever, to wake up the minority from their sleep in the arms of ignorance.

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Costa Rica Occupied by U.S. Military -Update-

By Luis R. Miranda
The Real Agenda
July 7, 2010

In an interview to a local newspaper, the Vice Minister of Security of Costa Rica, JORGE CHAVARRÍA said the alternative solution to letting the American occupiers move around the country is “too expensive”.  ”It would require the whole national budget to fully equip the Coast Guard so they can do the work the U.S. military will do.”  But if Costa Rica is not capable of securing its own coasts and land, it means the U.S. Army will have to stay in Costa Rican territory forever, and not only for six months as the permit says, doesn’t it?  One point the Vice Minister got right is that drug smuggling is a regional or even continental problem, therefore, Costa Rica cannot solve it by itself.  However, Mr. CHAVARRÍA also believes it is kosher to violate the Constitution and allow foreign forces to occupy the country.  But isn’t this very same action an example of trying to solve the problem by itself?

In the meantime, legislator Luis Fishman has decided to take the approval of Congress to Costa Rican courts as he believes it is unconstitutional.  ”The agreement signed between Costa Rica and the United States in 1998 was to allow Coast Guard ships only and not military,” insists Fishman.  While some legislators complain about the arrival of the Americans, it seems some people in Costa Rica do not understand what this issue is all about.  It is common to read comments in the local media which favor the arrival of the U.S. Army.  Jesus Cespedes Calderon says in a comment that Fishman’s actions only reflect an interest for self promotion and not an authentic concern for the country’s sovereignty.  Luis Adrian Gonzalez Rozmenoski, another Costa Rican writes that people like Fishman and the others opposing the move are a bunch of drama queens that shield themselves with the issue of sovereignty to become popular figures.

Other comments express a belief that the precarious security condition the country is experiencing demands and justifies the type of actions the Costa Rican Congress has taken.  They ignore or do not recognize that the dire situation they so precisely point out exists due to the corruption that exists at all levels in the Costa Rican society.  They surely ignore the Hegelian dialect and way of operating in which the conquerors create a problem to cause a reaction and provide a “solution”.

A local newspaper called La Nacion, points out that the current security problem is a result of the government neglect, who is used to receiving donations from foreign governments instead of setting funds aside for combating crime and drug trafficking. The Director of the Coast Guard, Martín Arias, said in an interview that: “We don’t have the capacity to safeguard all our marine territory”.  Who has?  The United States, with all its might cannot take care of its own borders, which makes it even more ironic that they go to Costa Rican land and oceans to help them safeguard the territory.

Arias added that the government of Costa Rica has indeed neglected the security of the country, by many seen as a small piece of paradise in the middle of a revolted region.  ”The country is happy with accepting royalties from friendly governments,” he said.  The local Coast Guard obtains its budget from the Public Security Department.  The total annual budget for combating crime in Costa Rican waters is of about $145,000 of which only 15 percent is spent on security operations.  Did anybody say corruption?

Although Mr. Arias did not detail how the U.S. Army would help in the fight against drug trafficking, he insisted that if the Coast Guard had the ability to fully patrol the oceans they could limit the extent to which Costa Rican oceans are used to transport and deal illegal drugs.  One thing is sure: Costa Rica does not need 46 War Ships, or 7,000 Marines or War Helicopters to end with drug trafficking in its oceans.

Costa Rica Occupied: Congress Surrenders Sovereignty to U.S. Army

By Luis R. Miranda
The Real Agenda
July 6, 2010

For the first time since it abolished its Army in 1948, Costa Rica decided to allow the invasion of United States ships into its harbor

"Cuando alguno pretenda tu gloria manchar, verás a tu pueblo valiente y viril."

and effectively renounced to its sovereignty.  In an illegal move, the Costa Rican Congress approved the arrival of the American troops which include 46 US warships and 7,000 Marines.  All troops will have freedom to move about the country in their full gear, and will be allowed to police the Central American land.  The Congress’ illegal approval is in direct violation of the Costa Rican Constitution, as it was established after 1948 that the country would would not create or maintain an official army and that all the monies would instead be invested in social reform programs such as education and housing.

Although the US army is supposed to only stay in the country until December 2010, many citizens and political parties declared their opposition to the move, due to the fact the U.S. has never actually left a country it has taken possession of.  The newspaper Prensa Latina reported that the leaders of three parties in Costa Rica called the decision a “violation of sovereignty”.  The move, according to those who support it, is justified in order to empower the effort to eradicate drug trafficking in the region.  According to PressTV, the Costa Rican government argues that the approval is disproportionate to the threat caused by drug smuggling in the country and the Central American area.  Besides the 7,000 troops and the ships, the U.S. also added helicopters to the massive contingent.

Luis Fishman, the leader of the Social Unity Party (PUSC) said that the permission is a blank check to the U.S. to station its forces on the coast line of the country.  Others have warned that this position will allow the American forces to launch attacks against  targets like Venezuela, whose government opposes the American Imperialistic policies.  Before the arrival of the 7,000 troops, ships and Helicopters, the U.S. already counted with two bases in Costa Rica, which were directed by SOUTHCOM, or Southern Command, a paramilitary American group -disguised as a drug trafficking combating force- which maintains a Naval Base in the port of Caldera in the Caribbean and another one in the northern province of Guanacaste.  “We cannot support an illegal act, we won’t allow the Constitution to be broken,” Fishman added.

More complaints were heard from other political leaders.  Legislator Jose Maria Villalta said the permission will allow U.S. troops to “enjoy freedom of movement and the right to carry out the activities needed to fulfill their mission.”  Villalta added that the Washington government sees Central America as being within an area of influence  which it intends to use to force its dominance.  Previous to letting the American military forces in, Costa Rica already had agreements with the United States to allow the presence of Coast Guard vessels to remain in its waters, but never before did it permit the arrival or permanence of a military ships, helicopters or any other major war contingent.

Even if these military forces leave Costa Rican soil, as they are supposed to on December 31, 2010, the country will remain occupied by the flotilla of military soldiers who operate out of Caldera and Guanacaste under SOUTHCOM.  However, many believe that the U.S. Army is there to stay.  Let’s see if the Costa Rican people honor what their National Anthem says: “Whenever someone tries to stain your glory, you’ll see your people strong and virile.”

Israel Commandos Murder 16 people in attack to Aid Ship

Telegraph

Fighting broke out between the activists and the masked Israeli troops, who rappelled on to deck from helicopters before dawn.

A spokeswoman for the flotilla, Greta Berlin, said she had been told ten people had been killed and dozens wounded, accusing Israeli troops of indiscriminately shooting at “unarmed civilians”. But an Israeli radio station said that between 14 and 16 were dead in a continuing operation.

“How could the Israeli military attack civilians like this?” Ms Berlin said. “Do they think that because they can attack Palestinians indiscriminately they can attack anyone?

“We have two other boats. This is not going to stop us.”

But an Israeli military spokeswoman said that there had been a planned and organised attempt to “lynch” the boarding party. She said the activists were armed with knives and guns.

The Israeli government’s handling of the confrontation was under intense international pressure even as it continued. The Israeli ambassador to Turkey, the base of one of the human rights organisation which organised the flotilla, was summoned by the foreign ministry in Anakara, as the Israeli consulate in Istanbul came under attack.

One Israeli minister issued immediate words of regret. “The images are certainly not pleasant. I can only voice regret at all the fatalities,” Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, the trade and industry minister, told army radio.

But he added that the commandoes had been attacked with batons and activists had sought to take their weapons off them.

Israeli military sources said four of its men had been injured, one stabbed, and that they had been shot at.

“The flotilla’s participants were not innocent and used violence against the soldiers. They were waiting for the forces’ arrival,” they were quoted by a news website as saying.

The flotilla had set sail on Sunday from northern, or Turkish, Cyprus. Six boats were led by the Mavi Marmara, which carried 600 activists from around the world, including Mairead Corrigan Maguire, the Northern Ireland peace protester who won a Nobel Prize in 1976.

It came under almost immediate monitoring from Israeli drones and the navy, with two vessels flanking it in international waters. The flotilla, which had been warned that it would not be allowed to reach Gaza, attempted to slow and change course, hoping to prevent a confrontation until daylight, when the Israeli military action could be better filmed.

But in the early hours of this morning local time commandoes boarded from helicopters.

The activists were not carrying guns, but television footage shown by al-Jazeera and Turkish television channels show hand-to-hand fighting, with activists wearing life-jackets striking commandoes with sticks.

The Israeli army said its troops were assaulted with axes and knives.

The television footage did not show firing but shots could be heard in the background. One man was shown lying unconscious on the deck, while another man was helped away.

A woman wearing hijab, the Muslim headscarf, was seen carrying a stretcher covered in blood.

The al-Jazeera broadcast stopped with a voice shouting in Hebrew: “Everyone shut up”.

Israel imposed its blockade on Gaza after the strip was taken over by the militant group Hamas in 2007. It has allowed some food and medical supplies through, but has prevented large-scale rebuilding following the bombardment and invasion of 2008-9.

The flotilla is the latest in a series of attempts by activists to break through the blockade. The boats were carrying food and building supplies.

Activists said at least two of the other boats, one Greek and one Turkish, had been boarded from Israeli naval vessels. Activists said two of the other boats in the flotilla were American-flagged.

The confrontation took place in international waters 80 miles off the Gaza coast.

It was attacked by the head of the Hamas government in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh.

“We call on the Secretary-General of the U.N., Ban Ki-moon, to shoulder his responsibilities to protect the safety of the solidarity groups who were on board these ships and to secure their way to Gaza,” he said.

Turkish television meanwhile showed hundreds of protesters trying to storm the Israeli consulate in Istanbul. The incident will be particularly damaging for Israel’s relations with what had been seen as its closest ally in the Muslim world.

“By targeting civilians, Israel has once again shown its disregard for human life and peaceful initiatives,” a Turkish foreign ministry statement said. “We strongly condemn these inhumane practices of Israel.

“This deplorable incident, which took place in open seas and constitutes a fragrant breach of international law, may lead to irreparable consequences in our bilateral relations.”

Israel’s closest ally Washington described the loss of life as a “tragedy” on the eve of talks between President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“The United States deeply regrets the loss of life and injuries sustained and is currently working to understand the circumstances surrounding this tragedy,” a White House spokesman said.

Watch the Video of the Attack here