Tuesday, January 16, 2007

UNAMI's Human Rights report

Please read the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq: Human Rights report 1 November-31 December 2006. Then read the Iraq Study Group Report, then look at President Bush's speech on Iraq last week. Follow the links I've provided, it's all there at your finger tips. Then, after all that, think. What would you do? Would you strike out on your own, following the advice of those who have led you to the brink of disaster, or would you listen to a fresh perspective? Would you talk to Iran and Syria with no pre-conditions, or continue to ignore the two countries who, odious as they may be in many regards, can help?

A pertinent part of the report reads:

6. Without significant progress on the rule of law, sectarian violence will continue indefinitely and eventually spiral out of control thus thwarting efforts by the Government in the political, security or economic spheres. UNAMI Human Rights Office (HRO) has continued to receive information about a large number of indiscriminate and targeted killings. Unidentified bodies have appeared daily in Baghdad and other cities. According to information made available to UNAMI, 6,376 civilians were violently killed in November and December 2006, with no less than 4,731 in Baghdad, most of them as a result of gunshot wounds. Compared to the number killed in September and October, there has been a slight reduction. It is evident however that violence has not been contained but has continued to claim a very high number of innocent victims. During 2006, a total of 34,452 civilians have been violently killed and 36,685 wounded. (emphasis mine)

Now, I don't know how many readers have first-hand experience of violent death, but if you watched last night's second two hour part of the two part season premier of 24, when Jack can't breathe, gets disoriented, and starts yacking all over the grass after killing a comrade-in-arms who is trying to get a vengeance kill on a terrorist responsible for the deaths of men in his U.S. Army SpecOps company over decade before, I believe comes pretty close. It doesn't seem to me that in face of multiple deaths and casualties there is a lot of chest-thumping bravado. Rather, I envision a lot of white faces, blank stares, and, yes, puking. As Andy Rooney of 60 Minutes, who served as a grunt in WWII once remembered, after 60+ years, what remains with him about his experiences of combat is the smell. Smoke canisters, fuel, gun-powder, other incendiaries, burning flesh and hair, not to mention the noise of engines, helos, screaming, temporarily insane, freaking-out people, bombs not on target, the pork slices in barbecue sauce with way too many preservatives you ate a few hours ago, etc.

Just think about it, in 2006 such incidents occurred throughout Iraq many times per day, yielding, on average, over 94 deaths every, single day. It is a slaughter of innocents by ruthless men, terrorists and rogue militias, the latter aided and abetted by Nouri al-Maliki, the half-hearted anti-hero and his ilk. Yet, our answer is to send more U.S. troops into the meat grinder of Baghdad on the promise of ignoble and dishonorable men. God have mercy!! What a hornet's we've managed to stir up!

If we factor in the wounded, many of whom were wounded seriously, the number more than doubles to 195 per day.

At the core of leadership is not setting your people up to fail. This seems a simple enough way to analyze a situation. Before I had even heard of Just War theory, before I ever entered a formal Philosophy classroom, I knew a war can only be just if it is fought with a reasonable chance of success. Deaths and injury incurred in a hopeless cause are not morally justifiable. I can state without equivocation or evasion that without the whole-hearted cooperation of al-Maliki's government both militarily (i.e., taking down militias, like al-Sadr's Mehdi Army) and politically (i.e., embarking on program of national reconciliation- which means an end to executions, among other things), we cannot succeed. SecState Rice's diplomatic efforts smack of too much, too late, though I wish her all the best and hope she can secure the steadfast support of Arab governments.

Meanwhile, in the Horn of Africa, Somalia to be exact- you remember Somalia, right? Black Hawk down, etc.?- Al Qaida has managed to regroup and retrain. We are stretched so thin that we're relying on that highly professionalized military force, the Ethiopian Army (there goes sarcasm again), and supporting them with a single AC-130 gunship. Yeah!

So, please say a prayer tonight for all our men and women in Iraq, especially for those who don't wear a regular uniform and who do all the dirty work, whose lives are totally devoted to this great country of ours, who are too often away from their families and, as a result, have a high divorce rate and are deprived of their families. They are the ones who nightly run into the heart of chaos, seeking to bring order, who fight this many-headed hydra, who will never get the recognition they deserve outside of their own community- God knows who for whom you are praying. Also, pray for the people of Iraq, for their safety and security, which these brave men seek to bring about.

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