Saturday, December 04, 2004

<>War News for Saturday, December 4, 2004 Bring ‘em on: Car bombing at entrance to Green Zone kills at least 15, wounds at least 30. Small arms attacks at two Green Zone checkpoints afterward kills four Iraqi police. Bring ‘em on: Six Iraqi police killed, ten wounded in car bomb attack on police station near Green Zone. Bring ‘em on: One US soldier killed, three wounded in Baghdad roadside bombing. One US soldier killed, two wounded in roadside bombing near Kirkuk. (Scroll to second story) Bring ‘em on: Two multinational force soldiers killed and five wounded in car bombing on Iraq-Jordan border. Bring ‘em on: Four Mosul police stations brought under coordinated attack but repelled by Iraqi police. Six people killed in attacks on Mosul's provincial government headquarters and on a US patrol that also left an undetermined number of insurgents dead. Also on Friday, a patrol in the Yarmuk district of the city was attacked by an estimated 70 assailants. An estimated 22 insurgents were also killed in that attack. Seven days of hell: Getting a broad view of the war has become harder than ever before; even investigating major incidents can be nearly impossible. For instance, two weeks ago 60 Iraqi police recruits reportedly were kidnapped from their hotel in Rutbah, in Anbar province, and to date no one has been able to confirm what became of them, because Rutbah is too dangerous to reach, even for Iraqi journalists. Compounding the problem, both Iraqi and coalition authorities often simply don't report much of what happens, while private contractors almost never reveal attacks on their reconstruction efforts, even when their foreign personnel are killed (although 190 such deaths have surfaced so far this year, it's a fraction of the probable total). This article lists an admittedly incomplete account of the horrors occurring in Iraq over a seven day period. It is one of the best such efforts I’ve seen in the mainstream media. So why is it a web-only exclusive? Most Americans don’t get their news from the internet. Life in Iraq: There was a strange little incident on Thursday evening in Basra. A man on a bicycle threw a hand grenade at a building that's going to be used as a polling station. There was a little damage and no one was hurt as the building was empty. Obviously the idea is to try to scare people. There is a lot of feeling against the election. You don't feel it's going to be a major event and people are too concerned with day-to-day problems. If Ayatollah Ali Sistani hadn't come out in favour of the election, no one here would vote at all. People in Basra can't yet imagine a better or brighter future here, and it's better in the south that in other parts of Iraq. Lots of people, especially young men are trying to leave. They're heading mainly for the Emirates, Jordan and Syria. It looks bleak to me too, but I have work here. This is from a continuing series from the BBC, publishing accounts of daily life from ordinary Iraqis. Worth regular visits. Predictions: Myers said he does not now see signs of a civil war brewing, but he did predict that targeted killings of Iraqis who join the new government would continue "for years to come." At the beginning of this year, US military officials intended to reduce the number of American troops in Iraq to about 110,000 by mid year and also predicted the Iraqi forces would grow to nearly 300,000 by now. Asked why these plans had gone awry, Myers responded: "The enemy gets a vote." "I'm a realist," he said of the war. "Nobody predicted exactly where we'd be, and nobody can." Instead, he said the focus should be on how to respond to the shifting insurgency. "Where we need to be perfect is in our ability to adapt and our nimbleness in reacting." Actually a number of highly accurate predictions regarding the course of events in Iraq were made by many individuals in the military. Sadly, they were ignored by civilian decision makers. But I’ll bet that Gen. Myers’ prediction in the first paragraph above comes true. Job creation in Iraq: Britain’s elite special forces are facing an imminent crisis because record numbers of men are asking to leave their units early, lured by high wages on offer in a growing security industry in Iraq. Defence and special forces sources have told The Scotsman that such is the demand from private military companies in Britain and the United States who are operating in Iraq for former Special Air Service and Special Boat Service soldiers that, between May 2003 and December 2004, between 40 and 60 men are expected to have sought premature voluntary release, or PVR, from the army and Royal Marines. In operational terms, this could mean that this year, the equivalent of one entire special forces squadron out of a total of six in the SAS and SBS is on its way to seek its fortune in the new Iraq. Such is the demand for the security skills of former SAS NCOs and officers in Iraq that pre-tax pay can range from £200 to £700 per day. The war that would pay for itself: As the Army continues to shoulder the brunt of operations and expenses in Iraq, service officials are counting on Congress to approve at least $45 billion in fiscal 2005 supplemental funds early next year, part of an anticipated emergency spending package estimated to be as high as $75 billion, Pentagon officials told CongressDaily. Army officials do not expect to see any of that money until June, but in the interim, the service's "burn" rate in Iraq is rising -- from roughly $3.8 billion a month over the past year to as much as $4.7 billion a month today. And budget experts say that while Congress approved $25 billion in additional funds this summer to pay for war-related costs, the Army's share of that money will be gone by the end of January. Two Stories Made For Each Other More predictions: Yesterday, advance units from two 750-soldier battalions of the elite 82nd Airborne Division, flew to Iraq -- a day after Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld conceded the Pentagon had failed to prepare for a sustained insurgency after Mr. Hussein was ousted in April of 2003. "Was there any kind of understanding or agreement that there would likely be a long insurgency afterwards?' " Mr. Rumsfeld asked. "I don't believe . . . if you dropped a thumb line through all that intelligence, that anyone would say that." Although convoluted, it was the clearest admission yet by a senior figure in the Bush administration that the expectation U.S. soldiers would be greeted as liberators last year was grossly incorrect. Mr. Rumsfeld now suggests Iraq should be stable in two years. He rejected claims that Iraqi police and security forces are now so cowed they are hunkering down in their stations. No metrics to gauge failure either, apparently: Donald Rumsfeld, America's combative and famously undiplomatic defence secretary, has survived the criticisms over his handling of the Iraq war and will remain in charge of the Pentagon, it emerged yesterday. To Mr Bush's critics at home and abroad Mr Rumsfeld personifies the mistakes of his first term. His outspoken dismissal of France and Germany as "Old Europe", the scandal over the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by American troops, together with the US-led coalition's mounting difficulties in Iraq led to calls for his resignation earlier this year. But the White House was keen to keep the 72-year-old political veteran. He was reluctant to leave with his reputation tarnished, and also wanted to see through his overhaul of the Pentagon. Yeah, I’d hate to see him leave with a tarnished reputation too… Meanwhile, At Slightly Lower Levels in the DoD Chain of Command… Suck it up, part 3: Some plans were bigger than others. To live, for the first time, with the wife he married while home on leave. To shower with hot water. To be there as his wife's daughter, recently diagnosed with congenital heart disease, goes to doctor appointments. To eat good pizza. When the Pentagon announced Wednesday that some 10,000 troops serving in Iraq would have their tours of duty extended for several months, there was a lot of talk of security and force strength, of the upcoming Iraq election and the goal of democracy. But on an Army base here in this northern Iraq city, soldiers were focused on the smaller, more personal effects Washington's decision had for the boots on the ground. Their reaction was mostly one of resignation, not anger. "I had a son in October. I haven't met him yet," said Sgt. Eric Wing, 24. "I was mostly wanting to get home for him." Suck it up, part four: "You need a bigger Army if you're going to carry out the Bush national security strategy," said Lawrence Korb, who served as assistant secretary of defense in the Reagan administration. "Right now, you're really using the reserves at an unsustainable pace, and you're violating the norms that you have for deploying people overseas that you've established not only for equity but for retention." About 40,000 servicemen and women have been held in the military beyond their retirement or separation dates under emergency "stop loss" orders, or kept overseas beyond their transfer dates under "stop move" orders. The Army National Guard achieved only 87 percent of its recruitment goal in the fiscal year that just ended. According to Lt. Gen. James Helmly, chief of the Army Reserve, the reserve is short about 5,000 captains--officers who fill vital roles as company commanders or perform other important duties in the field. Suck it up, part five: After serving more than a year in Kuwait and Iraq, a South Side woman said she came home in June to find a notice posted at her residence: The City of Chicago was planning to demolish her brick bungalow.<> Bettye Green, a 65-year-old major in the Army Reserve, thought she had resolved the problem -- until a frantic neighbor called Wednesday to say a demolition crew was tearing through her Avalon Park home. 65 year old major?!? Deployed to Iraq? WTF? Suck it up, grandma! Suck it up, part six: Marine Lance Cpl. Andrew Derrig was fixing a dented .50-caliber machine-gun round outside one of Saddam Hussein's palaces when the bullet exploded. The blast cut through his hand, blew out an eye and scattered shrapnel over the 18-year-old. Now, a year and a half later, the 2002 graduate of Luther North High School in Jefferson Park has another concern: How much money will the federal Veterans Affairs office in Chicago decide his injuries are worth? Derrig and other wounded soldiers returning from Iraq to Illinois have good cause to worry. The VA office here is one of the stingiest when it comes to deciding how much money a disabled vet's injuries are worth, a Chicago Sun-Times examination of federal records shows. That finding comes even as the number of disabled vets is rising to what's expected to be record levels, because of the war in Iraq and other factors. Apparently we have been unable to purchase enough bullets with our half a trillion dollar Defense budget so we have to have jarheads fix the broken ones. American Moral Leadership Rule of law: "If a little old lady in Switzerland writes checks to what she thinks is a charitable organization for Afghanistan orphans, but it's really supporting . . . al Qaeda, is she an enemy combatant?" the judge asked. Boyle said the woman could be, but it would depend on her intentions. "It would be up to the military to decide as to what to believe," he said. After hearing Green's hypothetical questions, the military agreed it could imprison a Muslim teacher whose class includes a family with Taliban connections. It also agreed that it could detain a man who does not report his suspicions that his cousin may be an al Qaeda member, or a reporter who knows where Osama bin Laden is located but does not divulge the information to protect an anonymous source. Patterns: The U.S. military has launched a criminal investigation into photographs that appear to show Navy SEALs in Iraq sitting on hooded and handcuffed detainees, and photos of what appear to be bloodied prisoners, one with a gun to his head. Some of the photos have date stamps suggesting they were taken in May 2003, which could make them the earliest evidence of possible abuse of prisoners in Iraq. The far more brutal practices photographed in Abu Ghraib prison occurred months later. The photos surfaced amid a case of prisoner abuse involving members of another SEAL team also stationed at Coronado, a city near San Diego. Navy prosecutors have charged several members of SEAL Team Seven with abusing a suspect in the bombing a Red Cross facility. According to charge sheets and testimony during a military hearing last month, SEALs posed in the back of a Humvee for photos that allegedly humiliated Manadel al-Jamadi, who died hours later at Abu Ghraib. Some of the pictures can be seen here. They aren't pretty. The multilateral framework: A blue ribbon panel released today a landmark report on global threats that insisted the UN Security Council approve any “preventive” war, which was not the case when the US invaded Iraq. The UN charter allows a nation to respond immediately in self-defence to an actual or imminent attack. But the report, spurred by the US-led invasion of Iraq last year that divided world leaders, said “preventive action” when a threat was not imminent needed Security Council consent. This was denied to the Bush administration before the war. "If there are good arguments for preventive military action, with good evidence to support them, they should be put to the Security Council, which can authorise such action,” the report said. “For those impatient with such a response the answer must be that in a world full of perceived potential threats, the risk to the global order... is simply too great for the legality of unilateral preventive action,” it added. An open letter: In April, US forces laid siege to Falluja in retaliation for the gruesome killings of four Blackwater employees. The operation was a failure, with US troops eventually handing the city back to resistance forces. The reason for the withdrawal was that the siege had sparked uprisings across the country, triggered by reports that hundreds of civilians had been killed. This information came from three main sources: 1) Doctors. USA Today reported on April 11 that "Statistics and names of the dead were gathered from four main clinics around the city and from Falluja general hospital". 2) Arab TV journalists. While doctors reported the numbers of dead, it was al-Jazeera and al-Arabiya that put a human face on those statistics. With unembedded camera crews in Falluja, both networks beamed footage of mutilated women and children throughout Iraq and the Arab-speaking world. 3) Clerics. The reports of high civilian casualties coming from journalists and doctors were seized upon by prominent clerics in Iraq. Many delivered fiery sermons condemning the attack, turning their congregants against US forces and igniting the uprising that forced US troops to withdraw. US authorities have denied that hundreds of civilians were killed during last April's siege, and have lashed out at the sources of these reports. For instance, an unnamed "senior American officer", speaking to the New York Times last month, labelled Falluja general hospital "a centre of propaganda". But the strongest words were reserved for Arab TV networks. When asked about al-Jazeera and al-Arabiya's reports that hundreds of civilians had been killed in Falluja, Donald Rumsfeld, the US secretary of defence, replied that "what al-Jazeera is doing is vicious, inaccurate and inexcusable ... " Last month, US troops once again laid siege to Falluja - but this time the attack included a new tactic: eliminating the doctors, journalists and clerics who focused public attention on civilian casualties last time around. Commentary Opinion: Maybe this should be the rule: If you can't handle seeing what really goes on in a war, maybe you don't deserve to support it. If you can't stomach the truths of what our soldiers are doing and how brutally and bloodily they're dying and in just what manner they have to kill those innocent Iraqi civilians in the name of BushCo's desperate lurch toward greed and power and Iraqi oil fields and empire, maybe you don't have the right to stick that little flag on your oil-sucking SUV. Clear enough? The major media, by the way, is often hamstrung and torn. They can rarely run such photos. Newspapers and TV are hemmed in by "no-sensationalism" policies and are often paralyzed by the notion that if they ran such pictures, they would be called insensitive or inflammatory or anti-Bush and advertisers and readers alike would run away in droves. After all, most readers just aren't keen on seeing gross-out pics of 19-year-old kids from Kentucky with massive bleeding head traumas. It just totally ruins "Garfield." You have to seek the facts yourself. You have to dare yourself to click, to take it in, to see if you can, in fact, handle the truth. It is not easy. It is definitely not pleasant. But in this time of ever escalating numbers of war dead and flagrant BushCo lies and sanitized BS about the real effects of war, all coupled with a simmering plan to attack Iran and maybe North Korea someday real soon, seeking out such visceral truth is no longer just optional. It is, perhaps, the most patriotic thing you can do. Note: This column contains a link to fallujahinpictures.com which is not for the squeamish. Casualty Reports Local story: Beaver Dam, WI, Marine killed in Iraq. Local story: Philadelphia, Miss., soldier killed in Mosul. .


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