War News for Friday, December 03, 2004
Bring ‘em on: Thirty people
, including at least sixteen police officers, killed in attacks against a Shiite mosque and a Baghdad police station.
Bring ‘em on: Two Iraqis killed, 14 wounded in five separate mortar attacks in Baghdad
. In addition, one US soldier killed in Mosul and an additional 14 bodies, including three Iraqi national guards, were found there as well, bringing the total found to at least 90. In Bayji, two US soldiers and two Iraqi national guardsmen were wounded in a car bombing and the director of the Bayji bank was kidnapped. Three Iraqi civilians were killed by gunfire in Balad Ruz.
Bring ‘em on: Two Iraqi councillors ambushed and killed, one wounded in attack by gunmen outside of Khalis
: American behavior and self-perceptions reveal the ease with which a civilized country can engage in large-scale killing of civilians without public discussion. In late October, the British medical journal Lancet published a study of civilian deaths in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion began. The sample survey documented an extra 100,000 Iraqi civilian deaths compared to the death rate in the preceding year, when Saddam Hussein was still in power— and this estimate did not even count excess deaths in Fallujah, which was deemed too dangerous to include.
America’s public reaction has been as remarkable as the Lancet study—for the reaction has been no reaction. The vaunted New York Times ran a single story of 770 words on page 8 of the paper (October 29). The Times reporter apparently did not interview a single Bush administration or U.S. military official. No follow-up stories or editorials appeared, and no New York Times reporters assessed the story on the ground. Coverage in other U.S. papers was similarly frivolous. The Washington Post (October 29) carried a single 758-word story on page 16.
Recent reporting on the bombing of Falluja has also been an exercise in self-denial. The New York Times (November 6) wrote that “warplanes pounded rebel positions” in Fallujah, without noting that “rebel positions” are actually in civilian neighborhoods. Another New York Times story (November 12), citing “military officials,” dutifully reported that, “Since the assault began on Monday, about 600 rebels have been killed, along with 18 American and 5 Iraqi soldiers.” The issue of civilian deaths was not even raised.
The Wall Street Journal actually wrote an editorial on November 18 that criticized the critics, noting as usual that whatever the United States does, its enemies in Iraq do worse—as if this excuses American abuses.
It does not.
Another missed story
: More than 200,000 people who fled Falluja before the US offensive have been unable to return and many are in desperate need of aid, with temperatures in Iraq heading towards freezing, according to a UN emergency report.
It described shortages of fresh food and cooking oil and said there was serious concern about the cold. The temperature has plunged by around 50F since the residents began fleeing.
Many families left with the clothes they were wearing and a few personal items, unprepared for the falls in temperature.
Hearts and minds
: Today many Iraqis are afraid to work with Americans because of the campaign of intimidation. "We're having a hard time keeping interpreters because they are being threatened," said Army Capt. Matthew McGrew. "If they find out who they are, the AIF — the anti-Iraqi forces — threaten to kill them or kill their families.
Iraqis in almost every walk of life are under attack. Hameed Al Sadoon is the head of European Studies at the University of Baghdad. He says he knows of 60 professors who have been killed, and says more than 75 from his own university have fled the country.
Though Sadoon says he has not received any threats himself, he has changed the way he teaches. "I watch what I say in class," Sadoon said, "because I don't really know who the students are."
With teachers afraid to teach, soldiers afraid to fight, and translators afraid to speak, progress is not easy in the shadow of fear.
Feith based intelligence
: Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has acknowledged intelligence had failed to predict the strength of the insurgency in Iraq, as the United States said it will boost its forces back to the highest levels since Iraq invasion before crucial January elections.
"If you're asking, 'Was there any kind of understanding or agreement that there would likely be a long insurgency afterwards?', I don't believe ... if you dropped a thumbline through all that intelligence, that anyone would say that," Rumsfeld told Fox TV.
(Oh, yes, and Bring ‘em on: Far down in the article we learn US-led forces continue to come under daily attack in Ramadi, while rebels still control districts in Mosul. Also, on Thursday, a criminal investigations chief and two other police officers were mown down in an ambush, a national guard captain died in a car bombing in the same area while another was murdered near the Shiite pilgrimage city of Karbala.)
Here's a solution
: The Pentagon announced Wednesday it would extend tours of duty by up to 60 days for some 10,400 troops in Iraq, some for the second time, and deploying another 1,500 US infantry troops for four months to provide security during the elections.
Senior military officials left open the possibility of further increases in troop levels as the January 30 elections approach. Pentagon officials insist the increase is temporary, and will return to current levels of about 138,000 by the end of March. But US force levels in Iraq have climbed steadily since April, when unexpected uprisings in the Sunni triangle and important Shiite cities of southern Iraq forced commanders to shelve plans to scale back the size of the force.
Bacevich said the US all-volunteer force has never been under such strain since it was created 30 years ago.
"And I think none of us know how long it's sustainable," he said. "I'm not trying to suggest things are going to start to collapse in the next six months, but it's possible that it could start to have some serious deteriorating in some of the measures of the cohesion of the force," he said.
"But it's also possible these young, brave, patriotic people will suck it up," he said.
Suck it up, part one
: They may be disappointed, but families of troops in Iraq should not be surprised that 3,500 soldiers who were expected home next month have been ordered to remain overseas for more hazardous duty, an Army official said Thursday.
Suck it up, part two
: In a shift in military culture, the U.S. armed forces have recently announced new efforts to keep seriously wounded or disabled soldiers on active duty. Although there is no clear written policy, the sentiment is being echoed down from the White House."When we're talking about forced discharge, we're talking about another age and another" military, President Bush told wounded soldiers at Walter Reed last year. "This is a new age, and this is a new [military]. Today, if wounded service members want to remain in uniform and can do the job, the military tries to help them stay."
"Our view is that once a soldier, always a soldier, and the Army is looking for ways to keep a number of them on active duty rather than medically retiring them," said Lt. Gen. Franklin Hagenbeck, the Army's deputy chief of staff for personnel. He has pledged to review the case of any military amputee who feels unfairly treated.
: Soldiers missing limbs. Young men with massive brain injuries and severed spinal cords. Neurosurgeon Dr. Gene Bolles saw the "horrific cost" of war as he tried to patch up American soldiers injured in Iraq. When he came back to the United States in February, he switched on the news and found that Americans were obsessed with a huge breaking story: Janet Jackson's exposed breast.
"I saw things that made me sick to my stomach - kids with one arm and two legs missing," said Bolles, 68, a former flight surgeon in Vietnam. "I came back and all I heard about was Janet Jackson. I said to myself, 'Is this all the American public is interested in?' "
A sign that US elections are over
: More than a month after it stopped publicly reporting individual Marine deaths in Iraq, the Corps' main headquarters there intends to resume the announcements, a spokeswoman said Thursday.Col. Jenny Holbert, spokeswoman for the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, said it was decided that during the Fallujah offensive the Marines would stay silent until the Defense Department's public affairs office in Washington released identities of Marines killed. The names are not released in Washington until 24 hours after the victim's relatives are notified, a procedure that usually takes a few days.
Previously, the Marines would announce the fact of a death on the day it happened, without details. That practice ended sometime before the Fallujah offensive was launched Nov. 8.
It's not all bad news
: The outdoor markets are busy again and the gridlocked traffic is back. The bands of excited children who walked behind local militiamen heading to battle in the fall now clamor around machinery laying down new water pipes.
After spending much of the year as a battlefield between militiamen and U.S. forces, Baghdad's Sadr City district is now embracing peace and reconstruction. Anticipation is high for what the residents of the mainly Shiite district say is their overdue empowerment through elections Jan. 30.
Just 99% of it
: The largest Sunni party in Iraq gave warning yesterday of civil war unless the January 30 elections are delayed to allow it to compete on equal terms.
Yousef Ghadban, technical director of the Iraqi Islamic Party, which recently withdrew from the government in protest at the US-led assault on Fallujah, said that internecine violence was a very real prospect unless electoral commissioners delayed the poll for six months.
He said: “Many experts have warned of a civil war after the elections, and certainly this could happen in Iraq.”
Speaking inside the mosque of a building that once served as offices for Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party, he added: “If you are about to ignore me and do not listen to my opinion, what do you expect?"
American Moral Leadership
in Iraq were ordered to stay away from a U.S. military interrogation facility last year because agency officials questioned the way detainees were being interrogated, according to a December 2003 report on a secret special operations unit.
Herrington's report went up the chain of command to Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the top U.S. commander in Iraq at the time, who ordered that the possible abuses be investigated, Pentagon officials said. Pentagon officials could not say Wednesday what became of that investigation.
: It is both peculiar and chilling to find oneself discussing the problem of American torture. I have considered support of basic human rights and dignity so much a part of our national identity that this feels as strange as though I'd suddenly become Chinese or found Fidel Castro in the refrigerator.
The first requirement here is that we look at what we are doing -- and not blink, not use euphemisms. Despite the Red Cross' polite language, this is not "tantamount to torture." It's torture. It is not "detainee abuse." It's torture. If they were doing it to you, you would know it was torture. It must be hidden away, because it's happening in Cuba or elsewhere abroad.
In the name of Jesus Christ Almighty, why are people representing our government, paid by us, writing filth on the Korans of helpless prisoners? Is this American? Is it Christian? What are our moral values? Where are the clergymen on this? Speak out, speak up.
The Human Cost
Don’t forget to read Riverbend’s
: Little Aysha Saleem plays with her dead mother's jewellery in a Manchester hospital - a world away from the violence in Iraq which claimed the lives of most of her family.A necklace and ear-rings are her only reminder of her mum Atika, who was killed when their home was destroyed during an American bombing raid in Fallujah.
Debasing our young
: "No one wants to be here, and some take it out on the locals," he said. "In war, it can be hard to maintain your dignity and morality and not degenerate into an animal, especially when you are the law - judge, jury and executioner."
Army rules of engagement specify that soldiers should only fire when fired upon, Harp said.
"So, if you're an Iraqi, and you come up to me trying to kill me, then yeah, you should expect to die. How else could it be? It's easy to kill a person when the alternative is being killed," he said. "You don't need military training for that - it's pure animal instinct. Thinking about it comes much later."
: Who wrote this - a pop sociologist, obscure blogger or anti-war playwright?
"Muslims see Americans as strangely narcissistic - namely, that the war is all about us. As the Muslims see it, everything about the war is - for Americans - really no more than an extension of American domestic politics and its great game. This perception is ... heightened by election-year atmospherics, but none the less sustains their impression that when Americans talk to Muslims, they are talking to themselves."
Actually, this is the conclusion of the report of the defence science board taskforce on strategic communication - the product of a Pentagon advisory panel - delivered in September. Its 102 pages were not made public in the presidential campaign, but, barely noticed by the US press, silently slipped on to a Pentagon website on Thanksgiving eve.
: As noted by the New York Times, extending the tours of duty "is risking problems with morale and retention," which is already a rising concern both in the ranks and on Capitol Hill.
It didn't help that the much-read "Perspectives" page of Newsweek this week featured Marine Staff Sgt. Russell Slay's "instructions" to his 5-year-old son in a letter he sent to his family shortly before he was killed in Iraq. "Be studious, stay in school, and stay away from the military. I mean it."
Last week, the Army National Guard announced it has fallen significantly behind its recruiting goals this fall, continuing a downward slide that began last year. The Guard missed its October target by 30 percent.
At the same time, the Baltimore Sun reported the Army is planning to pull officers out of military professional schools or delay their entry into academic programs in order to meet "wartime needs." It is also considering curbing "family-oriented programs," such as one that permits soldiers to extend their tours of duty at particular U.S. bases so their children can finish high school.
: Last summer I interviewed a Tallahasseean who'd served in the Baghdad area for nine months as a platoon sergeant with a National Guard unit. He was an admirable, gung-ho guy who said he'd go back in a flash if duty called.
He also didn't hide his anger. He said troops who served under him were undertrained and ill-equipped. And he bristled about this administration's well-documented failure to adequately plan for the insurgency after Saddam's fall, postwar reconstruction or an exit strategy.
I hope the families of all the young men and women who've died, and will die, in Iraq can find solace and meaning in their loss.
But when you're the world's superpower and the war is on your timetable, failure to plan adequately isn't easily forgivable. How many more lives will it take?
Local story: Phoenix, AZ
, Marine killed in Anbar Province
Local story: Hawai’i
Marine killed in Fallujah
Local story: Brownsville, TX
, soldier wounded in Fallujah
Local story: Orlando, FL
, national guardsman killed in vehicle accident outside of Camp Taji.
Local story: Navy
quarterback killed in Fallujah.
Local story: University of Georgia
fraternity remembers former student killed in Fallujah.
Local story: Staten Island, NY
, soldier wounded, two others killed in Iraq.
Local story: New York City
soldier, wounded in incident that killed two others, reunited with father.
Local story: Maryland
soldier killed in Muqdadiyah
Local story: Dale City, VA
, soldier killed in Muqdadiyah
Local story: Corpus Christi, TX
, Marine killed in Al Anbar province
Local story: Fort Bend County, TX
, soldier killed in Fallujah
Local story: Upstate New York
soldier dies in Baghdad Humvee rollover