War News for Wednesday, December 8, 2004
Bring ‘em on: Four Iraqi national guardsmen killed in two incidents in Baghdad
and further south. US soldier killed by gunfire in Baghdad, the 1000th American combat death since start of war. Deaths from all causes are higher, of course.
Bring ‘em on: Two Christian churches bombed in Mosul
, three injured. US Marine dies in vehicle accident in Baghdad.
: In recent weeks, insurgents have taken their fight to this city of 1.7 million people in Iraq's mostly quiet north. Last month, insurgents launched coordinated attacks on the city's police stations and drove most officers away before U.S. forces could re-establish control. Since then, insurgents have waged a terror campaign, assassinating police or individuals suspected of working with the coalition.
The message is clear: Stay away from Americans and the interim Iraqi government. The message has gotten through to interpreters.
Translators are integral to battling an insurgency. Winning the support of the public requires rebuilding civil society. Kenna's unit once had as many as 70 translators, most hired locally. Now it has four.
: A top Iraqi official accused the country's neighbors Tuesday of doing too little to stop foreigners from joining the brutal insurgency, while the U.S. combat death toll neared 1,000 with the killing of an American soldier in Baghdad.
In a speech to the Iraqi National Council, the deputy prime minister, Barham Saleh, said he was losing patience with Iraq's neighbors. He didn't single out any governments, but noted that Iraqi police had arrested a Syrian driving a car bomb packed with artillery shells and other explosives.
``There is evidence indicating that some groups in some neighboring countries are playing a direct role in the killing of the Iraqi people and such a thing is not acceptable to us,'' Saleh said. ``We have reached a stage in which if we do not see a real response from those countries, then we are obliged to take a decisive stance.''
Putin weighs in
: President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday he could not imagine how Iraqi elections scheduled for Jan. 30 could be held under current conditions.
"Honestly speaking, I cannot imagine how it is possible to organize elections under the conditions of occupation by foreign forces," Putin said in televised comments during a Kremlin meeting with interim Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi.
Iraq and the US Military
: It's an offense punishable by death during wartime. It's been committed by 5500 soldiers since the war with Iraq began. The men, who have violated military orders and oaths, tell 60 Minutes Wednesday that it isn't cowardice, but rather the nature of the war in Iraq, that turned them into American deserters.
One soldier, Pfc. Dan Felushko, 24, tells Pelley, "I didn't want...'Died deluded in Iraq' over my gravestone."
The Andover cheerleader returns
: President Bush sought on Tuesday to boost the morale of U.S. troops facing extended deployments in Iraq, but acknowledged mixed results so far in training Iraqi forces to replace them.
Bush did not repeat his assertions from September about nearly 100,000 "fully trained and equipped" Iraqi soldiers, police officers and other security personnel being on the job.
Words are cheap
: Bush was by far the preferred presidential candidate of members of the military and their families; some polls showed him to be a 3-1 or 4-1 favorite over Democrat John F. Kerry. But his relationship with the armed forces hasn't been uniformly positive.
The extended deployments in combat zones have been unpopular, and Bush drew fire during the presidential campaign for seeking to deny new health benefits to middle-income veterans.
Moreover, soldiers who were told by the administration that they would be greeted as liberators in Iraq are still facing daily violence, Hughes said.
''If he really wants to buck up morale, let's put some honesty into his statements about the war," he said. ''A lot of us see a guy go up and pump out a lot of hot air when he's talking to the troops. Words are cheap. We want to see that people are really concerned for soldiers and their families.”
American Moral Leadership
: A former US marine has said his unit killed more than 30 innocent Iraqi civilians in just two days.
In graphic testimony presented to a Canadian asylum tribunal on Monday, Sergeant Jimmy Massey's evidence appeared to bolster war crime claims made by fugitive US paratrooper Jeremy Hinzman.
The 26-year-old Hinzman said he would face persecution if sent home to the US, in a politically charged case which could set a precedent for at least two other American deserters seeking asylum in Canada.
Williams and May
: U.S. military prosecutors alleged Monday that American soldiers shot to death two unarmed Iraqi men in their homes, then tried to cover up their crimes by claiming that the Iraqis had reached for guns.
Sgt. Michael P. Williams, 25, of Memphis, Tenn., and Spc. Brent W. May, 22, of Salem, Ohio, are the second pair of soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 41st Infantry Regiment of Ft. Riley, Kan., to face murder charges stemming from separate incidents in August.
The allegations against them are among about a dozen murder cases that have been filed against U.S. troops in Iraq.
: A U.S. tank company commander accused of killing a critically injured Iraqi driver for radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr will be court-martialed, an Army spokesman said Tuesday.
Capt. Rogelio Maynulet, 29, of Chicago, will be tried on charges of assault with intent to commit murder and dereliction of duty, which carry a maximum combined sentence of 20 1/2 years, said Maj. Michael Indovina.
Omerta, part one
: Two Defense Department intelligence officials reported observing brutal treatment of Iraqi insurgents captured in Baghdad last June, several weeks after disclosures of abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison there created a worldwide uproar, according to a memorandum disclosed today.
The memorandum, written by the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency to a senior Pentagon official, said that when the two members of his agency objected to the treatment, they were threatened and told to keep quiet by other military interrogators.
Omerta, part two
: U.S. special operations forces accused of abusing prisoners in Iraq threatened Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) personnel who saw the mistreatment, according to U.S. government memos released Tuesday by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
The special operations forces also monitored e-mails sent by defense personnel and ordered them "not to talk to anyone" about what they saw, said one memo written by a DIA officer, who complained to his Pentagon bosses about the harassment.
: A court proceeding last week also demonstrated how the United States is turning its back on its own due process standards in its treatment of detainees. For decades, evidence obtained from defendants after torture has not been admissible in US courts. But on Thursday, a deputy associate attorney general told a federal judge that there was nothing to stop military officials at Guantanamo from using torture-induced statements in deciding whether a detainee should be held indefinitely as an enemy combatant.
In another case last month, a federal judge found that the procedures at Guantanamo for determining enemy combatant status do not comply with the Geneva Conventions and US law, which state that any battlefield detainee is presumed to be a prisoner of war until a "competent tribunal" puts him in the less protected status of enemy combatant.
: Early in the Bush administration's detention of foreign terrorism suspects, FBI agents told Pentagon officials that the military's harsh interrogation tactics in Cuba would produce "unreliable results," according to documents released Tuesday.
An unidentified FBI official recounted in a May 10 e-mail to Tom Harrington, a top FBI counterterrorism official, how he pressed generals in charge of Guantanamo "early on" about the military tactics. "Both agreed the bureau has their way of doing business and DOD has their marching orders from SecDef," the official said, referring to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
: Preliminary findings of a military inquiry suggest that some of the recently published photographs of Navy special forces capturing detainees in Iraq were taken for legitimate intelligence-gathering purposes and showed commandos using approved procedures, a Navy spokesman said Monday.
The photos, which have drawn a strong reaction in Arab media, also appear to show Navy SEALs sitting or lying on top of hooded and handcuffed detainees in the back of a pickup truck.
The Human Cost
: It is hardly surprising: His son's death in the war turned Fernando Suarez del Solar of Escondido into another person. A proud father and gentle man became, over time, an eloquent and deeply disturbing voice of sorrowful anger, not merely in North County or across the United States ---- although his message has cut through rhetorical tangles from shore to shore ---- but also around the world.
There is no mystery to it, not even for Suarez.He says, "My son died, my government lied, my life changed," and that was that.
"Last December, I saw a bad situation, children in middle school, and I saw them and I promised to help. That was south of Baghdad, where my son was killed, but now with Fallujah it's city people, innocent people, children and women. They have no help for water or medicines."
Friends and I have gathered medicines, and donations come, and we collect the money, for we are going to buy the medicine in Jordan and perhaps at the border we can help the children."
"Children are the real victims. Soldiers die, Americans die, they go to the war and die, maybe in a few weeks. But why the children? Why the innocent people?"
Another far-reaching change
: International aid workers, whose pacifist-tinged neutrality once protected them from harm while they worked in combat zones, now find themselves as hated by militants in Iraq as the American soldiers there. The militants target them as missionaries for a Western-style culture that they consider a threat to Islamic traditions, and ordinary Iraqis fear the presence of a foreign aid worker in their midst will attract the next suicide bomber.
The kidnapping and believed slaying of Margaret Hassan, CARE International's director of operations in Iraq, and the decision of the aid organization to shut its offices in the country hastened the exodus of other relief groups from the region. Doctors Without Borders pulled out last month, and the International Rescue Committee (IRC) has decided to phase out its humanitarian assistance programs in southern and northern Iraq before Jan. 1.
: That so many soldiers accept longer service as their duty is a tribute to them. Their sacrifice doesn't obscure two of the Bush administration's costly mistakes. Not enough soldiers were sent to Iraq in the first place. Not enough thought and planning went into building an Iraqi army and police force capable of sustaining security.
The elections, which will choose a national assembly to write the country's constitution, intensify a vicious circle that the apparent victory over insurgents in Fallujah — with minimal help from Iraqi troops — has not managed to break. U.S. troops must establish security before Iraq can become stable enough for homegrown troops to take the lead. But the presence and dominance of U.S. troops provoke attacks, which undermine security.
The most effective insurgent attacks, moreover, are against Iraqis recruited for the police and army units. At least 80 Iraqis, most of them in the security forces or working for the U.S.-led coalition, have been killed in the past few days. The tactic has hurt recruitment and training, which keeps the country dependent on U.S. troops.
: With the departures last week of Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson and Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, it became clear that President Bush will enter his second term with a sharply different team. But what is different pales in comparison to what will remain the same: Donald Rumsfeld will continue as defense secretary, and as long as he stays the neoconservatives who dominated the first term will hold sway over foreign policy.
There remains the matter of an FBI investigation into whether defense officials shared secrets with Iraqi National Congress leader Ahmed Chalabi or with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. But even if the Justice Department brings indictments, the neocons will almost certainly remain the dominant force in foreign policy.
Last week, Bush took pains to emphasize the doctrine of preemption during a good-will tour of Canada. And a string of warnings about Iran's nuclear capabilities spurred calls for greater action.
Iraq is looking less like the past and more like the prologue.
: What Bush and some of his senior advisers have ostentatiously refused to do in the past but must do now is to encourage an unfettered influx of information and analysis. They have to foreswear the destructive habit of basing crucial policy decisions on an assumption that unpleasant realities can be disregarded or wished away.
If Bush is to put an end to the skein of blunders that has led to the current mayhem in Iraq, he will have to begin by making it known throughout the government and the military that he wants honest, unpoliticized reporting of facts and that he is unafraid of analysis that implies his policies are not working.
It will be hard enough to save Iraq from civil war with a realistic understanding of conditions there. It will be impossible if Bush does not demand to hear bad news immediately.
: Has President Bush lost his grip on reality?
In his Dec. 1 speech in Halifax, Nova Scotia, President Bush again declared his intention to pre-emptively attack "enemies who plot in secret and set out to murder the innocent and the unsuspecting." Freedom from terrorism, Bush declared, will come only through pre-emptive war against enemies of democracy.
How does Bush know who and where these secret enemies are? How many more times will his guesses be wrong, like he was about Iraq?
: A thousand Americans have died in combat in Iraq. As a journalist, I have been to three funerals for soldiers killed in action. I have watched children weep for a lost father, sisters bear their grief for a brother with crudely etched tattoos on their arms, teachers mourn the loss of a gifted student who will study war no more.
Only three funerals, but that is three more than our president. He maintains that things are going wonderfully well despite intelligence reports that say he is wrong, despite increasing numbers of attacks on our troops, despite the cities we have destroyed in order to make them safe, despite the toll of November, the bloodiest month so far.
Local story: Funeral for NYC firefighter
killed in Iraq.
Local story: Brooklyn, NY
Army national guardsman killed in vehicle accident in Baghdad.
Local story: Soldier with Nebraska
ties killed in Iraq.