Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Daily War News for Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Bring ‘em on: At least eleven Iraqi police killed in a series of clashes in eastern Baghdad. Secretary general of the judge’s council in the Iraqi Ministry of Justice assassinated, his driver wounded in Baghdad attack. District council worker killed in western Baghdad. Three staffers from Communications Ministry wounded in drive by shooting, one seriously. Son of an Iraqi translator working for the US military shot dead. Police colonel and his 5-year-old daughter gunned down in southern Baghdad. Five US soldiers killed and two injured when their Bradley Fighting Vehicle overturned into a canal near Khan Bani Saad. Another US soldier killed by roadside bomb in Baghdad.

Bring ‘em on: US soldier killed on patrol in Mosul. Insurgents storm police station in Ramadi and blow up polling station near Hillah. Large explosions and heavy gunfire heard in Mosul. Captured Iraqi army colonel executed in Mosul, video posted on web. Egyptian truck driver executed, video posted on web.

Bring ‘em on: Heavy fighting near Baghdad international airport prevents two Jordanian passenger planes from landing.

Bring ‘em on: American contractor kidnapped in November pleads for his life on video released on Tuesday.

Bring ‘em on: Three policemen and two insurgents killed, three police wounded in attack on police station in eastern Baghdad.

Bring ‘em on: 170 foreigners have been kidnapped in Iraq. Eight are held hostage, 32 were killed, two are missing, and the remainder were freed or escaped.

Gee, this is a surprise: Iraqi authorities routinely torture prisoners, a leading human rights group said Tuesday, citing examples of abuse which will sound all too familiar to those who suffered under Saddam Hussein.

Prisoners have been beaten with cables and hosepipes, and suffered electric shocks to their earlobes and genitals, the U.S.-based group Human Rights Watch said. Some have been starved of food and water and crammed into standing-room only cells.

The report also said Iraq's intelligence service had violated the rights of political opponents.

It highlighted the systematic use of arbitrary arrest, pre-trial detention of up to four months, improper treatment of child detainees and abysmal conditions in pre-trial facilities.

Good news but so what: Security forces in Iraq have captured two senior aides to the most wanted militant in Iraq, bringing in his top bombmaker and his propaganda chief in the past 10 days, an Iraqi government spokesman said Monday.

The announcements came hours after a suicide car bomb exploded near the headquarters of Prime Minister Ayad Allawi's political party, injuring at least 14 people, nine of them police officers, the Interior Ministry said. The bomb detonated at a checkpoint guarded by a special unit of the Iraqi police.

This sounds about right: A suicide bomber from Saudi Arabia, who survived a failed attempt to blow up the Jordanian mission Baghdad in December, alleges that Iraqi police may have captured, and then released, the most wanted terrorist in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, two months ago. Both U.S. and Iraqi officials could not confirm the claims made by the suicide bomber.

Our allies lend a hand to the flypaper strategy: Fundamentalist Islamic leaders in Saudi Arabia are telling militants intent on fighting "infidels" to join the insurgency in Iraq instead of taking up Osama bin Laden's call to oust the Saudi royal family at home, say Saudi dissidents who monitor theological edicts coming out of the kingdom. Iraq as a battleground offers the solution to a quandary facing the Saudi clerics who have to both placate the kingdom's rulers and keep their radical base happy. "If they preach that there ought to be absolutely no jihad, they would lose credibility and support among their followers. So what they do is preach jihad -- not in Saudi Arabia, but in Iraq," said Abdul-Aziz Khamis, a Saudi human rights activist in London. "To them, Iraq is the answer to their dilemma."

Our other allies learn to keep their heads down: The helicopter attack sent a wave of dismay throughout the Kurdish autonomous region, where nearly everyone supports the U.S. presence.

Like their leaders, most Kurds are still grateful to the Bush Administration for toppling Saddam Hussein. The vast majority seems to have accepted the U.S. apology. But at the same time, there has been a subtle shift of attitudes here. ”Previously we welcomed the Americans warmly,” says Mohammed Mahmoud, a recent graduate of the university's English department. ”We thought that they had come to liberate us, to help us, and to cooperate with us in governing our region. But now we think the U.S. troops are here just for their own interest. They don't respect the local government of the Kurds..”

GW Bush, friend to fundamentalists everywhere: French journalist George Malbrunot spent 124 days as a hostage of Islamic fundamentalists in Iraq. The experience nearly broke him, but it also offered him stunning insights into the way jihadist groups operate. He returned convinced of one thing: America's policy is doomed.

"These people will not surrender," he said, referring not only to the what he estimated to be the 15,000-17,000 member strong Islamic Army in Iraq which kidnapped him and Chesnot, but also to the dozens of other Islamic fundamentalist groups fighting in the country. "They have time, they have weapons, they have money. And, they are fighting at home. I am afraid it will only get worse, that they will get more and more power. It frightens me." What's worse, he said, is that in US President George W. Bush, "they have a great partner." Neither side is willing to budge.

What 20 billion for infrastructure will buy you: Most of the Iraqi capital - particularly the western districts - has been without water for the past seven days.

Added to a lack of electricity - the national grid is off more than it is on - a crumbling mobile phone network, endless lines to get fuel and a daily dose of bombs and mortars, it has made it next to impossible to even think about the coming election.

Oh, Yeah, The Elections

Love your freedom or we’ll blow your head off: About 2,200 Fallujans daily come through what the U.S. military calls "Dave's Field," a dusty former soccer field in east-central Falluja that has been turned into one of three humanitarian aid sites in the city.

They also line up to get Falluja ID cards, and many talk disparagingly about the upcoming elections. Sunday, Iraqis will cast ballots for the 275-member transitional national assembly, which will be charged with preparing a draft constitution to be put up for a vote.

Abd El-Rahman Al-Zobari, surveying the damage to his house, said he and his friends are not going to vote on Sunday. "Is this what they call democracy?" he said. "We don't want democracy that comes on the back of a tank."

Voting with their feet: So frightened were Iraqi policemen injured in a suicide bomb attack on the offices of the Prime Minister's party yesterday that even in hospital they clutched their sub-machine guns and refused to remove their black ski masks.

Baghdad is increasingly gripped by a mood of terror in the days leading up to the election on 30 January. There are fewer and fewer cars on the streets as people decide to stay at home. The better off have already left for Jordan, Syria and the Gulf.

Well, fear at least: Hope, expectation and fear are the emotions that are coursing through Iraq this weekend. The hope is driven by the fact that opinion polls show that 85% of Iraqis are anxious to vote, balanced by the fact that perhaps only half that number will actually manage to get through to one of the 5000 specially prepared polling stations. The expectation is that, despite all the problems, there will be a sufficiently high turnout to ensure that enough votes are cast to enable the new 275-seat National Assembly to come into being. But everywhere throughout this war-torn country is the fear that insurgents and foreign fighters will attempt to disrupt the process by causing chaos and intimidating the electorate. Speaking after suicide bombers had killed 25 people in two attacks in Baghdad last week, interim prime minister Iyad Allawi admitted yesterday that the attackers would “try to make the political process fail” and that the security forces would be hard pushed to contain them.

The usual Bush competence: Behind the 900 exterior columns and 10-inch-thick granite walls of the ornate Eisenhower Office Building, a senior White House official was holding forth recently on Iraq. After next weekend's election, she explained optimistically, a new assembly will be announced by Feb. 15, a new government by March 1, and a permanent constitution ratified by October. What she did not mention is that this schedule and the painfully negotiated protections for Iraq's minorities that go with it are enshrined in an interim constitution that many experts, and Iraq's most powerful cleric, say will no longer be legally binding once the elections take place.

Rumsfeld’s Raiders

What’s the hurry, it’s just the Constitution burning: The Pentagon sent its top intelligence official to Capital Hill on Monday to explain the mission and makeup of a secret battlefield intelligence group that some lawmakers suggested may have skirted congressional oversight and not been coordinated fully with the CIA.

Some Democrats pressed for hearings, but Republicans said they were in no rush.

John McCain is such a tool: Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said the Senate Armed Services Committee will hold hearings on a Washington Post report that the Defense Department is reinterpreting U.S. law to give the secretary broad authority over clandestine operations abroad.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has created a new espionage unit called the Strategic Support Branch, according to the news report, but McCain, speaking on CBS's "Face the Nation," said he doubts Rumsfeld has broken any laws.

"I'm always sorry to read about things in The Washington Post when they affect a committee that I am a member of," McCain said.

Oh, that’s why they missed it: At the Pentagon, two senior defense officials told reporters that members of Congress had been fully briefed on the intelligence group during last year's budget deliberations. They said lawmakers may not recognize it now because the group's name was changed after their briefings.

The group, now called Strategic Support teams, were previously called Humint Augmentation teams, the officials said, speaking on condition that they not be further identified. Humint refers to human intelligence, or information provided by spies.

Breaking the Army

It’s a problem now: But a deeper look inside the Army National Guard, Army Reserve and Marine Corps Reserve suggests a grimmer picture: At the current pace and size of American troop deployments to Iraq, the availability of suitable reserve combat troops could become a problem as early as next year.

Suck it up, soldiers: Today, nine of 10 regular Army divisions are either in Iraq and Afghanistan or back and preparing for the next deployment. During fiscal year 2004, 19,301 regular soldiers were kept on active duty involuntarily, some up to 18 months past their contractual obligations through "stop-loss" orders. As of Dec. 15, 185,732 Reservists and National Guardsmen from all services are currently mobilized. They are the tip of the iceberg: As of Sept. 30, 247,181 reservists and guardsmen have been deployed in Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom; 90,041 of those troops more than once. These figures do not include temporary duty, which can last for up to three months, overseas.

Suck it up, soldiers: The third rotation of American soldiers and Marines into Iraq is under way. The Pentagon is doing the old robbing-Peter-to-pay-Paul thing to boost total troop strength temporarily to 150,000 for the coming Iraq elections.

What that means is some outfits find themselves on their way back over after only nine months at home since their last combat tour. In other outfits where they were expected home for Christmas, the troops instead got a two-month extension on top of their "standard" 12-month combat tour.

Suck it up, soldiers: After losing a limb, mobility or eyesight to bullets or bombs in Iraq, some of the most gravely wounded U.S. soldiers face financial devastation.

Some 200 soldiers have lost at least one limb in the Iraq war, veterans' advocates said.

Many of them left the hospital in dire financial straits. In many cases, family members had to quit jobs to be with the disabled soldier, and overextended their credit cards to pay for airfare to Walter Reed and other expenses. Houses were lost, cars repossessed.

Suck it up, America: The Bush administration will announce as early as Tuesday that it will seek about $80 billion in new funding for military operations this year in Iraq and Afghanistan, pushing the total for both conflicts to almost $300 billion so far.

Administration and congressional officials said on Monday that the new request would come on top of the $25 billion in emergency spending already approved for this fiscal year. That means funding for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan will total nearly $105 billion in fiscal 2005 alone -- a record amount that shatters initial estimates of the cost.


Richard Clarke looks back from 2011: The several years without an attack on U.S. soil lulled some Americans into thinking that the war on terror was taking place only overseas. Few corporations increased security spending. Americans increasingly questioned President Bush's security policies, the Patriot Act, and Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge's ridiculed color codes. In the 2004 presidential election George W. Bush won a second term in part by dismissing such issues as whether the mishandling of the Iraq War had made us less secure, whether we had paid enough attention to al-Qaeda, and whether we were adequately addressing our vulnerabilities at home.

Then the second wave of al-Qaeda attacks hit America. Since then we have spiraled downward in terms of economic strength, national security, and civil liberties. No one could stand here today, in 2011, and say that America has won the war on terror. To understand how we failed to win, and exactly what has been lost along the way, I want to look at the past seven years in some detail.

Commentary – Ramsey Clark: The United States, and the Bush administration in particular, engineered the demonization of Hussein, and it has a clear political interest in his conviction. Obviously, a fair trial of Hussein will be difficult to ensure — and critically important to the future of democracy in Iraq. This trial will write history, affect the course of violence around the world and have an impact on hopes for reconciliation within Iraq.

The intention of the United States to convict the former leader in an unfair trial was made starkly clear by the appointment of Chalabi's nephew to organize and lead the court. He had just returned to Iraq to open a law office with a former law partner of Defense Undersecretary Douglas J. Feith, who had urged the U.S. overthrow of the Iraqi government and was a principal architect of U.S. postwar planning.

Opinion – Scott Ritter: It is hard as an American to support the failure of American military operations in Iraq. Such failure will bring with it the death and wounding of many American service members, and many more Iraqis.

As an American, I have hoped that there was a way for America to emerge victorious in Iraq, with our national security and honour intact, and Iraq itself a better nation than the one we “liberated”. But it is far too late for this to happen.

We not only invaded Iraq on false pretences, but we perverted the notion of liberation by removing Saddam and his cronies from his palaces, replacing them with American occupiers who have not only kept open Saddam's most notorious prisons, but also the practice of torture, rape and abuse we were supposed to be bringing to an end.

Faced with our inability to come to grips with a popular-based resistance that has grown exponentially over the past year, the best the American policy planners can come up with is to embrace our own form of terrorism, supporting death squads we cannot control and which will only further debase the moral foundation of our nation while slaughtering even more Iraqis.

Casualty Reports

Local story: Kailua, HI, soldier killed by sniper in Mosul.

Local story: Wakefield, VA, Marine killed in northern Iraq.

Local story: Terre Haute, IN, soldier killed in Balad.



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