Tuesday, August 31, 2004

War News for August 30 and 31, 2004 Bring ‘em on: One US soldier killed, two wounded by roadside bomb near Mosul. Bring ‘em on: Iraqi education official assassinated in Kirkuk. Bring ‘em on: US Army convoy ambushed near Balad. Bring ‘em on: Four Iraqis killed, seven wounded in mortar attack near Samarra. Bring ‘em on: Three Iraqi policemen wounded in ambush near Kirkuk. Bring ‘em on: Four Iraqis killed, five wounded in US airstrike near Samarra. Bring ‘em on: Fighting reported near Fallujah. Bring ‘em on: US troops under heavy mortar attack near Baquba. Bring 'em on: Insurgent attacks near Basra stop oil exports. Bring ‘em on: Twelve Nepalese hostages executed by insurgents. Bring ‘em on: US patrol ambushed near Mosul. British troops cease patrols in Basra. "After three deaths in as many weeks the British Army has stopped patrolling the streets of Basra, choosing instead to remain in barracks under daily bombardment despite pleas from residents to take on the Iraqi insurgents. With troops now moving only in Warrior armoured vehicles on patrols not more than 100 yards from base, forces loyal to the rebel cleric Moqtada al-Sadr have stepped into the power vacuum, roaming the streets with rocket-propelled grenades and AK47s. Vital reconstruction has been halted and the citizens are suffering deprivations daily." Let freedom reign. "For journalists working in Iraq, it sometimes feels like trying to operate between a rock and a hard place. Last week around 60 of us covering the battle in Najaf were sitting in our hotel when the Iraqi police burst in. A man we later nicknamed 'the evil smurf' stormed into the lobby and fired a shot into the wall. Other policemen, some of them wearing balaclavas, then ran upstairs and went from room to room, yelling 'Yalla, Yalla '- 'Go, go.' It is hard to argue with someone who is pointing a Kalashnikov at you, and so we went - waiting outside the Sea of Najaf hotel while the police fired a live volley over our heads. They then herded us on to a truck. From there, I managed to phone London on my satellite phone and say: 'We've been arrested ... '; unfortunately, the evil smurf then grabbed it. The incident last Wednesday confirms an unwelcome truth: that despite the talk of democracy, Iraq's interim government shares many of the same authoritarian traits as its predecessor. The new police force is very like the old one. The same Ba'athist instincts – to threaten and intimidate people who cause you embarrassment - appear to be alive and well. Many of the rank-and-file police officers who served under Saddam Hussein are now back in uniform. The only organisation that inspires any confidence is the Iraqi National Guard (ING) - the new Iraqi army that started patrolling the streets of Najaf last Friday. So far Iraq's US-backed interim prime minister, Ayad Allawi, himself a former Ba'athist, has offered no explanation or apology for last week's mass arrest, despite complaints from the Guardian, the BBC and other media organisations." Why should I believe this? "The meetings, some of which have occurred at Allawi's private home outside the highly fortified zone that houses the Iraqi government, are a risky and unconventional form of back-channel diplomacy. But they represent the most significant effort yet to address the insurgency through political rather than military means…Allawi did not identify the people with whom he met. He described them as not 'the hard-core criminals' but as 'people on the fringes who are disillusioned.' He insisted the meetings were not negotiations but opportunities for him to make a pitch to skeptics. 'I am meeting them and telling them there is one thing to do: It is the respect of law, the rule of law,' he said. 'If you want to use violence, we will face you violently and suppress you -- and we will bring you to justice.'" Allawi made this claim before. If he's not meeting with the leadership of the resistance with the aim of negotiating a political settlement, he's wasting his time. Informal cease-fire reported in Sadr City. "For the Americans and the interim Iraqi government, the goal is the disarmament of the militia, known as the Mahdi Army. That is the thorniest issue left unresolved by a settlement on Friday in the southern city of Najaf after three weeks of intense combat there." 100. “An Army fuel supply specialist has become the 100th soldier from Fort Hood to die in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion began last year.” Foreclosure. “When she returned home on 10-day emergency leave in May, she found a life in disarray -- her husband had left her, family members were taking care of her four children, ages 10-16, and a mortgage company was foreclosing on her home. During leave, Curry filed for divorce, called the mortgage company and made arrangements for her kids. Then she traveled back to her station 30 miles north of Baghdad, where her unit tries to keep wounded soldiers alive long enough to get them to a hospital. But Curry is now back on another emergency leave, after the mortgage company, ABN Amro Mortgage Group, continued its foreclosure proceedings.” Planning failure. “About a dozen Oregon National Guard soldiers say they have languished for months here because the Army lacked a protocol to allow them to return to Oregon to convalesce…The problem arose from an oversight in the Army's war planning, which failed to anticipate the large number of wounded soldiers returning from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, said Col. Douglas Eliason, chief medical officer with the Oregon Guard.” Just when you think Lieutenant AWOL and the GOP festering pusbags can’t sink any lower. “Delegates to the Republican National Convention found a new way to take a jab at Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry's Vietnam service record: by sporting adhesive bandages with small purple hearts on them.” Maybe the GOP can go to Walter Reed and hand out a few of these little gimmicks. Commentary Opinion: “Facing such reversals in Iraq, what does the Bush administration plan to do in a second term? Will the United States double its bets in Iraq and fight a bloody new war to pacify the country, or will it tolerate more murky but pragmatic Iraqi solutions? Will it expand the war against Islamic militants by threatening Iran and Syria, or will it seek to enlist those nations as allies in maintaining regional stability? Will it accept a broad (and sometimes anti-American) coalition for change in Iraq and the Arab world -- broad enough to include even a Moqtada Sadr -- or will it hunker down with a narrower group of allies? The truth is that we don't know the Bush administration's plans. We see the twin towers looming in the background, as a powerful symbol of unity and resolve. But to what end? This week Bush should level with the nation about what's ahead. That's an obligation, surely, for a wartime president.” Opinion: “So what's the answer? Here's one thought: much of U.S. policy in Iraq - delaying elections, trying to come up with a formula that blocks simple majority rule, trying to install first Mr. Chalabi, then Mr. Allawi, as strongman - can be seen as a persistent effort to avoid giving Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani his natural dominant role. But recent events in Najaf have demonstrated both the cleric's awesome influence and the limits of American power. Isn't it time to realize that we could do a lot worse than Mr. Sistani, and give him pretty much whatever he wants?” Analysis: “The concentration of attacks in those areas is a reminder that the fiercest and most organized opposition to U.S. forces and the U.S.-backed interim government continues to be in Sunni-dominated cities, such as Fallouja. Nationwide, U.S. forces are being attacked 60 times per day on average, up 20% from the three-month period before the hand-over.” Analysis: “Rather than speaking blunt truths, investigators fall back on weasel words. Former Defense Secretary James R. Schlesinger, who headed one inquiry, ascribed Abu Ghraib to what he dismissively called "the night shift." Gen. Paul Kern, who directed the Pentagon inquiry that released a report last week, allowed that certain unnamed high-ranking officers might bear some responsibility for the prison abuse scandal, but he resisted the notion that any might be ‘culpable.’ In contrast, the My Lai massacre produced an investigative report that had no difficulty in calling a spade a spade. That report, issued in March 1970, was the work of Lt. Gen. William Peers. A crusty soldier of the old school, Peers refused to let the several echelons above Calley off the hook. Senior leaders — colonels and generals — had made My Lai possible and then had conspired to cover it up. Only by confronting their malfeasance, dishonesty and corruption could the officer corps as a whole begin to rehabilitate itself. So the Peers report bluntly called the chain of command to account and did not hesitate to name names. Peers wanted heads to roll…More important, at a time rife with moral confusion, Peers had reminded the officer corps of something fundamental: If lapses from professional standards have no consequences, then ‘responsibility’ becomes empty of meaning. For an army, that way lie indiscipline, dishonor and defeat.” Analysis: “Throughout its long-running fight with al-Sadr, the Bush administration has said it was battling a ‘radical cleric’ linked to terrorist Abu Musab al- Zarkawi, but most Iraqis saw the situation differently. Moderates have always opposed al-Sadr's confrontational stance, but for months they have demanded the Bush administration meet al-Sadr's basic demands. In Baghdad this spring, Shiite political leaders often echoed al-Sadr's public pronouncements, noting his willingness to agree to stop killing foreign troops if the U.S. Army withdrew from Najaf and agreed to leave the cleric's fate up to a future, elected Iraq government (exactly the terms al-Sistani negotiated).” Casualty Reports Local story: New York soldier killed in Iraq. Local story: Iowa Marine killed in Iraq. 86-43-04. Pass it on.


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