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JFP 12/14: Holbrooke: "You've Got to Stop This War in Afghanistan"
Submitted by Robert Naiman on 14 December 2010 - 9:36pm
Just Foreign Policy News
December 14, 2010
Richard Holbrooke: "You've Got to Stop This War in Afghanistan"
To honor Holbrooke's memory, we should obey his last command.
Afghanistan experts call for peace deal and exit strategy
Afghanistan experts with decades of experience in the country call on President Obama to change course and push for a peace settlement and exit strategy. Signers include: Scott Atran, Michael Cohen, Gilles Dorronsoro, Bernard Finel, Joshua Foust, Anatol Lieven, Ahmed Rashid, and Alex Strick van Linschoten.
Deficit Reduction Proposals: Defense Discretionary Spending
Laicie Olson of the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation has put together a chart that shows where various deficit reduction proposals come down on specific cuts to the military budget. For example, one can see from the chart that five of the nine proposals essentially call for returning troop levels to their prewar levels; and seven of the nine proposals call for at least a 1/3 cut in the US military presence in Asia and Europe.
Public Citizen Condemns Attacks on WikiLeaks, Which Threaten Online Speech and Freedom of Press
Statement of Robert Weissman, President of Public Citizen: "the attacks are an assault not only on WikiLeaks, but on freedom of speech, freedom of the press and freedom of the Internet."
Center for Constitutional Rights: Rights Groups Denounce U.S. Decision to Resume Deportations to Haiti
"ICE's sudden decision to resume deportations to Haiti is unconscionable...the situation in Haiti has not improved and may be even worse now than when the deportations were halted in the weeks after the devastating earthquake of January 2010."
*Action: Petition: Timetable for the Withdrawal of UN Troops from Haiti
The election fiasco in Haiti, following UN attempts to cover up the likely role of UN troops in the outbreak of cholera in Haiti, add urgency to the call for the UN to tell Haitians what the plan is for the full restoration of Haitian sovereignty.
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1) A review of U.S. strategy in Afghanistan on Thursday will report some progress despite the bloodiest year in nine years of war and signal no major change in President Obama's plans, Reuters reports. But even reports of modest progress might surprise many in Afghanistan, where a recent U.S. military report found an expanding, tenacious insurgency, entrenched corruption and dysfunctional governance despite some pockets of security. Almost 700 foreign troops have been killed in 2010, at least 477 of them Americans. "What's going to happen next year is quite clear: less Europeans, more Taliban, and Karzai not being able to do the work," said Gilles Dorronsoro of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
2) Human Rights Watch said diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks stated that Yemen in 2009 repeatedly diverted U.S.-supported Yemeni counterterrorism forces and possibly U.S.-supplied military vehicles to assist the government's fight against northern Huthi rebels, Inter Press Service reports. HRW called on the U.S. government to investigate Yemen's apparent diversion of U.S. counterterrorism assistance and suspend such aid unless the misuse has stopped. The administration and Congress also should investigate reported Saudi use of U.S.-supplied ammunition in Yemen and U.S. missile strikes in Yemen, including a 2009 attack that killed several dozen local residents, HRW said.
3) A British judge agreed Tuesday to release Julian Assange on bail, the Washington Post reports. Assange remained in custody as British prosecutors representing Sweden challenged the decision.
4) One of Julian Assange's attorneys says the possibility that a secret grand jury is meeting in Virginia to consider charges against the WikiLeaks founder is "purely speculation" that has not been substantiated by his legal team, Salon reports.
5) 68 percent of Americans say WikiLeaks' exposure of government documents about the State Department and U.S. diplomacy harms the public interest, the Washington Post reports. 59 percent say the U.S. government should arrest Assange and charge him with a crime for releasing the diplomatic cables. But younger adults viewed the situation differently: a third say the release serves the public interest, and half say Assange should not be arrested. Democrats were also evenly split on whether Assange should be prosecuted. The overall negative opinion may represent a shift since August, when those who had heard about Afghanistan leaks were more evenly split on whether they served the public interest. [This result suggests that the fierce US government reaction may have succeeded in moving public opinion - JFP.]
6) The results of the Afghanistan strategy review are to be announced publicly Thursday, the Washington Post reports. Obama is expected to restate his pledge to begin drawing down U.S. combat troop levels in July, a process now scheduled to be completed by the end of 2014.
7) At least 100 relief workers in Afghanistan have been killed this year, prompting humanitarian organizations to charge that US military strategy is putting them and the Afghans they serve at unnecessary risk, th`e New York Times reports. Most of the victims worked for aid contractors employed by NATO countries, with fewer victims among traditional nonprofit aid groups. Doctors Without Borders says US strategy is forcing people to choose sides who do not want to choose sides. Many of the traditional aid groups are particularly critical of the UN, which they accuse of failing in its responsibility to make sure aid efforts are not militarized.
8) Former US diplomat Bill Harris, who was the senior diplomat responsible for Kandahar, is certain the war will fail if the US does not find a way to eliminate the de facto sanctuary that Taliban fighters have established in neighboring Pakistan, the Washington Post reports. "Pakistani sanctuaries are crucial: If you can't solve that problem, you can't win," said a senior US military official.
9) A Pakistani journalist whose relatives were killed in a US drone strike has started a legal push to charge Jonathan Banks, the CIA station chief in Pakistan, with murder, the Guardian reports. Karim Khan says his brother and son, both government employees, were killed in a CIA drone strike on their home in North Waziristan in December 2009. A WikiLeaks cable showed that last year ambassador Anne Patterson argued that increased "unilateral operations" risked "destabilizing the Pakistani state" and ultimately hindering the US goal of expelling al-Qaida from the region, the Guardian notes.
10) The Washington Post's new neoconservative blogger, Jennifer Rubin, says we need to make human rights a central theme in our bilateral and multilateral diplomacy regarding Iran, notes Justin Elliott in Salon. She also says we should assassinate Iranian nuclear scientists, apparently unconcerned by any possible contradiction between assassinating people and supporting human rights.
11) A new wave of Iraqi Christians has fled to northern Iraq or abroad amid a campaign of violence against them and growing fear the country's security forces are unable or unwilling to protect them, the New York Times reports.
12) Texas is sending more guns to Mexico's drug wars than any other US state, and Houston is sending more guns than any other Texas city, the Washington Post reports. Mexican officials have urged the US to stop the flow of guns south.
1) Analysis: Outlook grim as U.S. touts progress in Afghan review
Missy Ryan and Sayed Salahuddin, Reuters, Mon, Dec 13 2010
Washington/Kabul - A long-awaited review of U.S. strategy in Afghanistan due on Thursday will report some progress despite the bloodiest year in nine years of war and signal no major change in President Barack Obama's plans.
But even reports of modest progress might surprise many in Afghanistan, where a recent U.S. military report found an expanding, tenacious insurgency, entrenched corruption and dysfunctional governance despite some pockets of security. Almost 700 foreign troops have been killed in 2010, at least 477 of them Americans.
"What's going to happen next year is quite clear: less Europeans, more Taliban, and Karzai not being able to do the work," said Gilles Dorronsoro, a critic of the U.S. strategy and scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
"The great problem we face here is that (the United States) can succeed in Afghanistan but the Afghan government can still fail, and we can have no influence over Pakistan, the strategic center of this war," said Anthony Cordesman, a security expert at the U.S. Center for Strategic and International Studies.
More and more, the West sees neighboring Pakistan as the linchpin to its success in Afghanistan. But the last year has shown the limits of U.S. leverage over Islamabad as Washington presses it to go after militants based inside its borders.
Pakistan continues to identify its chief foreign policy concern not in Afghanistan but in India, a strong U.S. ally Pakistan accuses of meddling. "We are saying (to the United States): we are here to help you but you also (must) take care of our interests," a senior security official in Pakistan said on condition of anonymity
2) Yemen Funneled U.S. Aid to Insurgency War
William Fisher, Inter Press Service, 13 Dec
New York - Yemen is diverting U.S. military counterterrorism assistance to an abusive military campaign unrelated to terrorist threats, a prominent human rights group has learned from Wikileaks.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) said that U.S. diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks this month stated that Yemen in 2009 repeatedly diverted U.S.-supported Yemeni counterterrorism forces and possibly U.S.-supplied military vehicles to assist the government's fight against northern Huthi rebels.
In the cables, U.S. diplomats complain that their requests for Yemen to halt such diversions were having little effect. Human Rights Watch has documented numerous possible violations of the laws of war by government as well as rebel forces in the Huthi conflict. HRW said the U.S. should also investigate reported Saudi use of U.S.-supplied military hardware in the Yemeni-Huthi conflict.
The leaked cables also confirm that the U.S., not the Yemeni government, carried out missile strikes in December 2009 in the south of the country, including one that killed 42 local residents.
"The U.S. should not tolerate the misuse of such resources because it could implicate the U.S. in Yemen's abusive practices," Letta Tayler, terrorism and counterterrorism researcher for HRW, told IPS.
HRW called on the U.S. government to investigate Yemen's apparent diversion of U.S. counterterrorism assistance and suspend such aid unless the misuse has stopped.
The Obama administration and the U.S. Congress also should investigate reported Saudi use of U.S.-supplied ammunition in Yemen and U.S. missile strikes in Yemen, including a 2009 attack that killed several dozen local residents, HRW said.
Human Rights Watch's April 2010 report on the Huthi- government armed conflict in northern Yemen, "All Quiet on the Northern Front?", documents credible allegations that Yemeni government forces indiscriminately shelled and bombed civilian areas in its fight against the Huthis, causing civilian casualties, and used child soldiers. Those practices violate the laws of war. It also found violations by Huthi forces.
U.S. investigations should include an assessment of steps that U.S. embassy officials in 2009 said that they would take to address shortcomings in their "End-Use Monitoring Agreement" - a pact that allows the U.S. to check if Yemen misused or illicitly transferred any U.S. security assistance.
The U.S. government should take an equally hard look at its own military's conduct in Yemen, Human Rights Watch said. One diplomatic cable leaked by Wikileaks from December 2009 recounts how Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh promised U.S. Gen. David H. Petraeus that he would continue to falsely claim that U.S. missile strikes against suspected AQAP targets were Yemeni operations. Those strikes included the Dec. 17 cruise missile attack in the southern province of Abyan that killed at least 42 people, the majority of them women and children. The Abyan strike reportedly used cluster munitions, weapons that are banned by more than 100 countries because they are unable to distinguish between military and civilian people and objects.
"The U.S. should immediately conduct an impartial review of the Abyan strike to ensure compliance with international law, including the prohibition against indiscriminate attacks that harm civilians," Tayler said. "The Obama administration has yet to clarify the legal basis for such strikes."
3) WikiLeaks founder granted bail
Anthony Faiola and Rebecca Omonira-Oyekanmi, Washington Post, Tuesday, December 14, 2010; 3:39 PM
London - A British judge agreed Tuesday to release Julian Assange on bail, potentially setting the controversial founder of the WikiLeaks Web site free in coming days to fight an extradition warrant to Sweden from outside a prison cell.
Assange remained in custody, however, as British prosecutors representing Sweden challenged the decision, with a hearing on their appeal to be heard by Britain's High Court no later than Thursday. Assange's wealthy backers, who include Bianca Jagger and U.S. filmmaker Michael Moore, were also scrambling to come up with the funds - equivalent to about $380,000 - to cover his bail and provide other required financial assurances.
4) Assange grand jury report "purely speculation"
Justin Elliott, Salon, Tuesday, Dec 14, 2010 17:33
One of Julian Assange's attorneys tells Salon that the possibility that a secret grand jury is meeting in Virginia to consider charges against the WikiLeaks founder is "purely speculation" that has not been substantiated by his legal team. "We haven't heard anything specific. It's only rumors," said Attorney Jennifer Robinson of the London firm Finers Stephens Innocent. "We do not have any concrete information about that."
Mark Stephens, an attorney at the same firm and another member of Assange's legal team, told Al Jazeera over the weekend: "We have heard from Swedish authorities there has been a secretly empaneled grand jury in Alexandria."
But Robinson's comments today make it clear that Assange's legal team has not been able to confirm the existence of a grand jury. If one has been empaneled, it would mark an escalation in the Obama administration's war on WikiLeaks.
The Justice Department has so far not publicly come up with a convincing theory of a law broken by Assange in the case - though various Obama officials have asserted that WikiLeaks has committed a crime.
5) Poll: Americans say WikiLeaks harmed public interest; most want Assange arrested
Meredith Chaiken, Washington Post, Tuesday, December 14, 2010; 7:00 AM
The American public is highly critical of the recent release of confidential U.S. diplomatic cables on the WikiLeaks Web site and would support the arrest of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange by U.S. authorities, a new Washington Post-ABC News poll finds.
Most of those polled - 68 percent - say the WikiLeaks' exposure of government documents about the State Department and U.S. diplomacy harms the public interest. Nearly as many - 59 percent - say the U.S. government should arrest Assange and charge him with a crime for releasing the diplomatic cables.
Assange was scheduled to appear in a London courtroom Tuesday to formally contest an extradition order on sexual assault charges in Sweden. U.S. federal authorities are reportedly investigating whether Assange could be charged with violating the Espionage Act by releasing the documents, but his potential extradition to Sweden could significantly complicate any U.S. attempt to quickly try him.
A generational gap was evident among those polled, with younger Americans raised in the Internet age expressing distinct views on the matter. Nearly a third of those ages 18 to 29 say the release of the U.S. diplomatic cables serves the public interest, double the proportion of those older than 50 saying so. When it comes to Assange, these younger adults are evenly split: Forty-five percent say he should be arrested by the United States; 46 percent say it is not a criminal matter. By contrast, those age 30 and older say he should be arrested by a whopping 37-point margin.
Though Americans are divided by age, the public response to the leaks represents a rare moment of shared perspective across partisan lines. Large majorities of Democrats, Republican and independents alike see the massive document release as harmful to the public interest. Fully three-quarters of Republicans say it harms the public interest, and nearly the same proportion believes he should be arrested by the United States. Among Democrats and independents, slim majorities say the government should pursue criminal charges against Assange.
These opinions reflect a possible shift in public opinion since August, when about three-quarters of Americans told Pew pollsters that they had heard about a previous WikiLeaks release of classified documents about the war in Afghanistan. At that time, those who had heard about those cables were more evenly split on how the leaks affected the public interest: Forty-two percent said they served the public; 47 percent said they harmed the public.
6) Holbrooke's Death Leaves Void In War Strategy
Karen DeYoung, Washington Post, Tuesday, December 14, 2010; 3:43 PM
President Obama and his advisers gathered at the White House on Tuesday to review U.S. strategy in Afghanistan, a day after Richard C. Holbrooke, special envoy to the region, died of complications from a torn aorta. His absence leaves a major void in what has always been the most difficult aspect of a high-risk, high-stakes war.
The results of the strategy review - compiled by the National Security Council from input by Holbrooke; Gen. David H. Petraeus, the U.S. commander in Afghanistan; and other officials - are to be announced publicly Thursday.
Obama is expected to restate his pledge to begin drawing down U.S. combat troop levels in July, a process now scheduled to be completed by the end of 2014.
According to several administration officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the assessment has not been released, its most positive aspects will be based on military reports from Petraeus, who has described successful clearing operations in and around the Taliban bastions of Kandahar, Afghanistan's second-largest city, and southwestern Helmand province. Petraeus has also cited the elimination, through killing or capture, of hundreds of Taliban commanders and local political leaders in raids by U.S. Special Operations forces.
Progress has lagged, however, on installing competent, non-corrupt Afghan officials who can convince their own population that they are worth supporting once the Taliban returns, as expected, in a new offensive next spring
7) Killings Of Afghan Relief Workers Stir Strategy Debate
Rod Nordland, New York Times, December 13, 2010
Kabul, Afghanistan - At least 100 relief workers in Afghanistan have been killed so far this year, far more than in any previous year, prompting a debate within humanitarian organizations about whether American military strategy is putting them and the Afghans they serve at unnecessary risk.
Most of the victims worked for aid contractors employed by NATO countries, with fewer victims among traditional nonprofit aid groups.
The difference in the body counts of the two groups is at the heart of a question troubling the aid community: Has American counterinsurgency strategy militarized the delivery of aid?
That doctrine calls for making civilian development aid a major adjunct to the military push. To do that there are Provincial Reconstruction Teams in 33 of 34 provinces, staffed by civilians from coalition countries to deliver aid projects. The effort is enormous, dominated by the Americans; the United States Agency for International Development alone is spending $4 billion this year, most of it through the teams. The so-called P.R.T.'s work from heavily guarded military compounds and are generally escorted by troops from the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force.
Traditional aid workers worry that the P.R.T.'s and the development companies working for them are compromising their neutrality. Oxfam and 28 other charitable groups signed a report last month, "Nowhere to Turn," that denounces the practice, saying it puts civilians at greater risk.
"In many instances, where P.R.T. projects have been implemented in insecure areas in an effort to win 'hearts and minds,' they put individuals and communities at risk," the Oxfam report said.
Michiel Hofman, the head of Doctors Without Borders in Afghanistan, said, "This assistance forces the beneficiaries to choose sides, and many people in the disputed areas do not want to choose sides."
The military and its supporters say the difference in body counts only reflects the fact that the aid contractors work in dangerous areas where many nongovernmental organizations are unwilling to operate.
Nongovernmental organizations vigorously disagree. "We are in 26 provinces," said Ashley Jackson of Oxfam, "and in Arghandab there are four N.G.O.'s working on health care and education." Arghandab is one of the most dangerous areas in Kandahar, with a district-level team from the Provincial Reconstruction Team running more than 50 aid projects. "The P.R.T.'s' presence makes it more dangerous to work there," Ms. Jackson said.
NATO officials contend that insurgents do not distinguish between aid workers. "Insurgents have made clear both in their rhetoric and their actions that they target N.G.O.'s and aid workers," said Mark Jacobson, the deputy senior civilian representative of NATO in Afghanistan.
But aid officials counter that the very difference in casualties between private contractors and charitable ones shows that the Taliban do make a distinction. "It's quite easy," said Mr. Hofman of Doctors Without Borders. "We don't use armed guards, we don't have barbed wire on our gates, there's a clear logo on our cars, and we are not associated with any program strengthening government. The government is just one of many warring parties."
Doctors Without Borders has offices in Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand Province, where it runs a hospital. Those offices have never been attacked, while a private development company, International Relief and Development, just down the same street, has a fortified compound that has been attacked by insurgents. In Kunduz, his group has not been attacked, but the company DAI has been.
Many of the traditional aid groups are particularly critical of the United Nations, which they accuse of failing in its responsibility to make sure aid efforts are not militarized. The United Nations recognizes the Afghan government and is politically committed to it, but many of its agencies, including Unicef and the World Food Program, are expected to deliver humanitarian aid.
8) Former U.S. envoy in Afghanistan worried about insurgent havens in Pakistan
Rajiv Chandrasekaran, Washington Post, Monday, December 13, 2010; 10:59 PM
After serving as the senior U.S. diplomat responsible for Kandahar, Bill Harris is convinced that American forces have made "staggering progress" against insurgents this fall in areas around Afghanistan's second-largest city.
But he is equally certain that the overall war will fail if the United States does not find a way to eliminate the de facto sanctuary that Taliban fighters have established in neighboring Pakistan. "As we sat there for a year . . . we knew the insurgents who attacked us were going to Pakistan to re-equip, replenish, retrain and get orders to attack us again," he said.
His alarm over Pakistan, which grew with each month he spent in Kandahar, contrasts with his diminishing concern over the behavior of President Hamid Karzai's half brother, the most powerful political leader in southern Afghanistan. Harris arrived thinking that Ahmed Wali Karzai was Afghanistan's equivalent of the notorious Colombian drug trafficker Pablo Escobar and should be expelled. Harris left believing that Karzai was supporting U.S. strategy and that decisions about his future should be left to Afghans, not Americans.
Harris's field-level insights on Pakistan and the Karzai family illuminate the challenges facing the United States as it seeks to translate recent security improvements into something more than transitory gains. Those issues are among the most important and complicated questions being discussed by members of President Obama's national security team as they assess the Afghan war this week.
"Pakistani sanctuaries are crucial: If you can't solve that problem, you can't win," said a senior military official who is participating in some of the review discussions and discussed the issue on the condition of anonymity.
9) Pakistani journalist sues CIA for drone strike that killed relatives
Karim Khan is seeking $500m damages for death of two relatives in drone attack in North Waziristan
Declan Walsh, Guardian, Monday 13 December 2010 18.37 GMT
Islamabad - A Pakistani journalist whose relatives were killed in a US drone strike has started a legal push to charge America's top spy in Pakistan with murder. "We appeal to the authorities not to let Jonathan Banks escape from Pakistan," said Karim Khan, naming the alleged CIA station chief in Islamabad. "He should be arrested and executed in this country."
Khan was speaking outside an Islamabad police station after lodging an application to prevent the US official from leaving Pakistan. He has lodged a separate civil suit seeking $500m (£314m) in damages from the US government.
Khan says that his brother and son, both government employees, were killed in a CIA drone strike on their home near Mir Ali in North Waziristan in December 2009.
Press reports named the target as Haji Omar, a leading Taliban commander. Khan insists that Omar was not in the house and that his relatives were innocent. "These men had nothing to do with the Taliban," said his lawyer, Shahzad Akbar.
Khan's allegations are difficult to confirm independently. Information about civilian deaths from US drone strikes is widely disputed, largely because the lawless tribal belt is out of reach to foreign and even most Pakistani journalists. His unusual legal bid has slim chances of success. The CIA has rarely been successfully sued at home, much less abroad. And the recent WikiLeaks cables revealed secret Pakistani government support for the drones.
The drones are already a subject of lively debate inside the American system, the WikiLeaks cables showed. Last year ambassador Anne Patterson argued that increased "unilateral operations" risked "destabilizing the Pakistani state" and ultimately hindering the US goal of expelling al-Qaida from the region.
10) Neocon's Iran plan: Assassinations, human rights
Washington Post scribe calls for United States to kill civilian scientists - while also prioritizing human rights
Justin Elliott, Salon, Monday, Dec 13, 2010 08:30 Et
The Washington Post's new neoconservative blogger, Jennifer Rubin, is up with a big post laying out four steps for a "reset" of America's policy toward Iran.
Rubin's four-point plan contains this remarkably unselfconscious juxtaposition of ideas:
>Second, we should continue and enhance espionage and sabotage of the Iranian nuclear program. Every nuclear scientist who has a "car accident" and every computer virus buys us time, setting back the timeline for Iran's nuclear capability, while exacting a price for those who cooperate with the nuclear program. Think of it as the ultimate targeted sanction.
>Third, we need to make human rights a central theme in our bilateral and multilateral diplomacy regarding Iran. The spotlight on the noxious regime helps to undermine the regime's legitimacy at home and emboldens the Green Movement. We should test the theory that the most effective disarmament strategy is a robust human rights policy, one that includes the EU and other nations exerting diplomatic pressure on the regime.
To summarize: Rubin wants the United States to make human rights a central theme in its Iran policy - and to indiscriminately assassinate civilian scientists.
The "car accident" line in her post is a clear reference to the bombing of two scientists' cars last month in Tehran….One of the scientists was killed and one was wounded. Both of their wives were also reportedly wounded. Another nuclear scientist was killed in a similar bombing earlier this year.
No one has argued that any of these men could be considered combatants. It's also still unclear who was behind the attacks, though Iran has accused the United States and Israel of having a role. But even the U.S. State Department referred to these attacks as acts of terrorism, which would make them antithetical to any serious concept of human rights.
11) With New Violence, More Christians Are Fleeing Iraq
Steven Lee Myers, New York Times, December 12, 2010
Qosh, Iraq - A new wave of Iraqi Christians has fled to northern Iraq or abroad amid a campaign of violence against them and growing fear that the country's security forces are unable or, more ominously, unwilling to protect them.
The flight - involving thousands of residents from Baghdad and Mosul, in particular - followed an Oct. 31 siege at a church in Baghdad that killed 51 worshipers and 2 priests and a subsequent series of bombings and assassinations singling out Christians. This new exodus, which is not the first, highlights the continuing displacement of Iraqis despite improved security over all and the near-resolution of the political impasse that gripped the country after elections in March.
It threatens to reduce further what Archdeacon Emanuel Youkhana of the Assyrian Church of the East called "a community whose roots were in Iraq even before Christ."
Those who fled the latest violence - many of them in a panicked rush, with only the possessions they could pack in cars - warned that the new violence presages the demise of the faith in Iraq. Several evoked the mass departure of Iraq's Jews after the founding of the state of Israel in 1948.
"It's exactly what happened to the Jews," said Nassir Sharhoom, 47, who fled last month to the Kurdish capital, Erbil, with his family from Dora, a once mixed neighborhood in Baghdad. "They want us all to go."
12) As Mexico drug violence runs rampant, U.S. guns tied to crime south of border.
James V. Grimaldi and Sari Horwitz, Washington Post, Monday, December 13, 2010; 12:41 AM
No other state has produced more guns seized by police in the brutal Mexican drug wars than Texas. In the Lone Star State, no other city has more guns linked to Mexican crime scenes than Houston. And in the Texas oil town, no single independent dealer stands out more for selling guns traced from south of the border than Bill Carter.
Carter, 76, has operated four Carter's Country stores in the Houston metropolitan area over the past half-century. In the past two years, more than 115 guns from his stores have been seized by the police and military in Mexico.
As an unprecedented number of American guns flows to the murderous drug cartels across the border, the identities of U.S. dealers that sell guns seized at Mexican crime scenes remain confidential under a law passed by Congress in 2003.
A year-long investigation by The Washington Post has cracked that secrecy and uncovered the names of the top 12 U.S. dealers of guns traced to Mexico in the past two years.
Eight of the top 12 dealers are in Texas, three are in Arizona, and one is in California. In Texas, two of the four Houston area Carter's Country stores are on the list, along with four gun retailers in the Rio Grande Valley at the southern tip of the state. There are 3,800 gun retailers in Texas, 300 in Houston alone.
"One of the reasons that Houston is the number one source, you can go to a different gun store for a month and never hit the same gun store," said J. Dewey Webb, special agent in charge of the Houston field division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. "You can buy [a 9mm handgun] down along the border, but if you come to Houston, you can probably buy it cheaper because there's more dealers, there's more competition."
Drug cartels have aggressively turned to the United States because Mexico severely restricts gun ownership. Following gunrunning paths that have been in place for 50 years, firearms cross the border and end up in the hands of criminals as well as ordinary citizens seeking protection. "This is not a new phenomenon," Webb said.
What is different now, authorities say, is the number of high-powered rifles heading south - AR-15s, AK-47s, armor-piercing .50-caliber weapons - and the savagery of the violence.
Federal authorities say more than 60,000 U.S. guns of all types have been recovered in Mexico in the past four years, helping fuel the violence that has contributed to 30,000 deaths. Mexican President Felipe Calderon came to Washington in May and urged Congress and President Obama to stop the flow of guns south.
U.S. law enforcement has ramped up its focus on gun trafficking along the southwestern border. Arrests of individual gunrunners have surged. But investigators rarely bring regulatory actions or criminal cases against U.S. gun dealers, in part because of laws backed by the gun lobby that make it difficult to prove cases.
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