Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Daily War News for Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Bring ‘em on: One Iraqi policeman killed in Baquba. Gunmen open fire on headquarters of the Communist Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan in Baquba.

Bring ‘em on: Joint US/Iraqi patrol in hour long firefight with insurgents in Ramadi, no casualties reported.

Bring ‘em on: Four US Marines killed in combat in Al Anbar province. One US soldier killed, two wounded in insurgent attack near Ad Duluiyah. Four multinational soldiers wounded in car bombing on Baghdad’s airport road. City council leader shot to death in drive by shooting in Baghdad. Three other government employees were shot and killed in attacks on Tuesday. Three Baghdad schools to be used as polling centers were attacked and a bomb was defused at a fourth.

Bring ‘em on: Seven US soldiers wounded in two separate bombing attacks on Baghdad’s airport road.

Bring ‘em on: Four Iraqi police, two soldiers and three civilians killed and at least twelve others wounded in three suicide car bomb attacks on sites in Riyadh, southwest of Kirkuk. Two US soldiers wounded by small arms fire while heading to the scene.

Bring ‘em on: At least 20 people killed or injured in suicide bombing attack on the Sindar office of the Kurdistan Democratic Party.

US Marine helicopter crashes near Rutbah, at least 31 people killed, all believed to be US Marines. At this writing the cause of the crash has not been announced.

Helicopters: The U.S. military has lost at least 33 helicopters since the start of the war, including at least 20 brought down by hostile fire, according to a study by the Brookings Institution.

The Elections That Will Bring Freedom To The Middle East

They got it down: The concept of democracy appears to have taken root in the dusty town of Karma, a predominantly Sunni community of 75,000 people about nine miles (15 kilometers) northeast of Falluja.

Although most say they don't know who the candidates are or where to go to vote, they say they will vote come January 30.

(Nice catch alert reader Cervantes)

That last 20 percent is a bitch: The government said Wednesday it would ban travel between provinces and extend the hours of a curfew as part of heightened security before Iraq's weekend elections.

Interior Minister Falah al-Naqib said security in four tense provinces, where it had been said that elections would be difficult, has improved by 80 percent.

"We have been able to go past this," he added, apparently referring to the provinces of Baghdad, Anbar, Salaheddin and Ninevah.

Someone should tell these guys: The black sedan made its way down Madaris Street, the young men inside tossing leaflets out the window.

"This is a final warning to all of those who plan to participate in the election," the leaflets said. "We vow to wash the streets of Baghdad with the voters' blood."

The leaflets, like many turning up on sidewalks and doorsteps across the capital, were chilling in their detail: they warned Iraqis to stay at least 500 yards away from voting booths, for each would be the potential target of a rocket, mortar shell or car bomb. The leaflet suggested that Iraqis stay away from their windows, too, in case of blasts.

Pity the Sunnis who are peaceful: Mishaan Jubouri does not dare set foot in his home district in Mosul to campaign for a seat in Iraq's National Assembly. His posters are torn down - if anyone is emboldened to put them up. Stores do not sell the newspaper he runs, and some post large signs on their windows saying so. Even in Baghdad, where Jubouri lives now, his wife and family are afraid to leave their home, which is guarded by 54 armed security men.

In another northern city, Kirkuk, things are almost as bad. Ethnic strife looms over the coming vote, politicians have been kidnapped, mortar fire punctuates campaign debate, candidates are scared and their staff members are hunkered down in their homes. A Sunni leader there, Abdul Rahman Asi, took stock of the situation and chose to do the opposite of what Jubouri is doing.

The two men - both leaders of large Sunni Arab tribes - represent the dilemma for Iraq's once-dominant branch of Islam. The Sunnis are the targets of an intimidation campaign by insurgents using violence to disrupt the elections. Under threat of death, they have been warned not to vote, not to run, not to participate. If they stay away from the polls, the attackers' logic goes, the elections will be seen as invalid, the fragile sectarian balance in Iraq will be upset, and Iraq might sink into a civil war among Sunni Arabs, the majority Shiite Muslims and the Kurds, who also are Sunnis but are ethnically distinct from Iraq's more numerous Arabs.

Interesting times: The anticipation is palpable. After more than 80 years on the margins, the Shiites of Iraq will finally get their due: a controlling stake in the government commensurate with their majority status.

Now the question is: What will the Shiites do when they finally ascend to power? King Abdullah II of Jordan and interim Iraqi Defense Minister Hazem Shalaan, himself a Shiite, have issued dark warnings of a hidden agenda to establish an Iran-style theocracy — one that would only reveal itself once it's too late.

Shiite politicians dismiss the charges as either unfounded hysteria or electoral scare tactics.

A man on the street speaks: Remarkably, over the course of seven weeks of interviews throughout Iraq, not one Sunni Arab, other than those in secular political parties such as those led by Mukhlis, bin Hussein and former exile Adnan Pachachi, said they would definitely participate in the vote.

"Let them have their elections and win," said a Sunni Arab engineer of 38 who insisted on going by the name Abu Abdullah.

"It will be an illegitimate government. Legitimate elections cannot be held because the previous government has not yet stepped down. I voted for Saddam. When he says he has resigned, I'll take part in elections."

Turks, Kurds, Arabs, and Kirkuk

Kirkuk: In the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk, where Turkish and Kurdish interests collide, provincial elections that are part of Sunday's polling could trigger an ethnic war and wider regional instability, an international conflict-resolution group has warned.

In a report scheduled for release on Wednesday, the International Crisis Group, an independent organization that tries to prevent and resolve global conflicts, described Kirkuk as a powder keg set to explode if Kurds sweep the election for a new regional council, creating a situation that might tempt Turkey to intervene to protect the city's ethnic Turkmen population.

Ethnicities: The ethnic mix - Kirkuk also contains a Turkoman minority - makes the city volatile ground ahead of the poll. Leaders of the semi-autonomous Kurdish provinces of Erbil, Sulaymaniyah and Dohuk threw in their lot with the Americans and now want Kirkuk included as part of a federal state. The stakes are high. The province yields 40 per cent of Iraq's oil and 70 per cent of its petroleum products.

But the passions aroused by the poll are already proving volatile. Hana al-Sawaf, of the Iraqi Republican Gathering, said: "We don't object to the original people of Kirkuk returning. We object to people coming here who are not from here and squatting in buildings."

Ishraq Hassan Ali, who is married to a Kurd who fought against Saddam, said: "These people are coming back and squatting as their houses have been stolen and they've been kicked off their land. Where were Arabs when Kurdish children were fleeing Saddam's wrath and froze to death in the snow?"

Warnings from Kurds: Iraq's Kurds are not actively seeking independence but will be unable to remain Iraqis if the Baghdad government fails to observe their key demands, a top Kurdish official has warned.

"There are three red lines for us... If they are crossed, we will no longer be Iraqis," Noshirwan Mustafa, an aide of Patriotic Union of Kurdistan leader Jalal Talabani, told AFP in an interview.

"If the Arabs do not accept the principle of federalism, we will no longer be Iraqis. If they insist on a theocratic regime, we will no longer be Iraqis. And Kurdish terrorists must be returned to Kurdistan," he said.

Warnings from Turks: Turkey's military warned Wednesday that the migration of large numbers of Kurds into the oil rich Iraqi city of Kirkuk could sway the results of the upcoming elections and possibly lead to clashes that could draw Ankara into the dispute.

Turkey has repeatedly warned that Kurdish control of the city would make an independent Kurdish state more viable, a development that Ankara has repeatedly said it won't accept. Turkey fears that a strong Kurdish entity in northern Iraq could inspire Kurds in Turkey, where Kurdish rebels have battled the Turkish army since 1984.

Another man on the street speaks: Iraq's two main Kurdish political parties have put aside their differences for the January 30 election. Like the Shi'ites in the south, they have organized a single, sectarian ticket for which they hope all Kurds will vote. Surprisingly, that list includes some prominent members of the Ba'ath Party of Saddam Hussein's regime. Ask any Kurds in northern Iraq whom they plan to vote for and they will give you the same answer as peshmerga (Kurdish paramilitary) Ali Karem Mohammed, who lives in a refugee shantytown on the edge of Kirkuk in the Kurdish north of Iraq. Like so many refugees around Kirkuk, Ali is a victim of Saddam's brutal campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Kurds. "I am Kurdish," he told Inter Press Service, as he cocked the pistol in his left hand. "Till I die I'm Kurdish and I vote for Kurds."

Good Thing Those Elections Are Going To Plant Freedom in The Middle East

Err…well…: Regardless of the turnout for Sunday's election, U.S. officials are no longer predicting the swift vanquishing of the insurgents, who have stymied the world's most potent military machine with bombings, assassinations, abductions and infrastructure attacks.

"I think it is unlikely that these elections will do much to bring violence down; let's be honest about it," said one Western official here, who, like several others interviewed, declined to be named because of the sensitivity of the issue. "I think the elections are a huge step for the credibility of the government, the legitimacy of the government, and will contribute to a solution over the medium and long term. But there's not going to be a short-term answer in March or April…. Ending the violence is going to take a long time."

Zowie! Only 185,000 to go!: U.S. and Iraqi forces have killed or captured 15,000 people over the past year in their fight against an insurgency ravaging Iraq, the commander of U.S. forces in the country said Wednesday.

Speaking on the deadliest day for U.S. troops since the invasion in 2003, Casey said the insurgency was limited to just four of Iraq's 18 provinces.

But he conceded that the number of car and suicide bombs had increased and that Iraqi security forces were not capable of dealing with the violence themselves.

But it’s 80 percent safer!: After two years of war and hundreds of U.S. deaths on Iraqi highways and streets caused by roadside bombs and suicide car bombings, the simple task of driving from point A to point B has become a forbidding challenge

Along the long desert stretches of Al Anbar province or the clogged streets of Ramadi, travel by convoy is a highly choreographed event conducted at high speed. As Sunday's election approaches and rumors spread of insurgent plans for mass attacks, attention to detail is at its height.

The Wolfowitz metric, part one: In this city south of Baghdad, the Marine-led training program illustrates what the future of U.S. military involvement in Iraq may look like: Marines not only helping draw growing numbers of recruits, but eating, sleeping, working and fighting alongside the newly trained Iraqi police and National Guard building Iraqis' expertise and confidence to do the jobs themselves.

However, the great majority of those filling the ranks nationwide are members of Iraq's long-suppressed Shiite Muslim and Kurdish communities, with relatively few Sunni Muslims joining up.

The lopsided security force in the making raises questions about whether the U.S. military inadvertently and maybe unavoidably might be arming factional armies for any future civil strife.

The Wolfowitz metric, part two: The Iraqi force's performance has been inconsistent at best. They are typically trained in weeks rather than months, and many are poorly equipped. In Mosul, Iraq's third-largest city, the 5,000-member security force dissolved under an insurgent assault Nov. 10. It has yet to reconstitute. The police force in restive Ramadi also collapsed under attack. About half of the 1,600 officers reportedly have returned. In one January week, more than 80 Iraqi security troops were killed.

Whose fault is this?

A recent report by the independent Center for Strategic and International Studies puts much of the blame on the Pentagon. Iraqi forces, the report says, were given "grossly inadequate training, equipment, facilities, transport and protection."

Suck It Up

Suck it up, reservists: One reason that the National Guard and Reserve have been used so heavily over the past three years is that the active-duty Army is too small to meet the demands of war — particularly in Iraq, where troop levels have far exceeded original predictions — while also maintaining a presence in traditional areas of influence such as Europe and the Korean peninsula.

The Army now has about 660,000 troops on active duty, of which about 160,000 are members of the Guard and Reserve.

The Army wants them to be eligible for an unlimited number of call-ups, so long as no single mobilization lasts more than 24 months, the official said.

Suck it up, ladies: The U.S. Army for the first time is placing women in support units at the front lines of combat because of a shortage of skilled male soldiers available for duty in Iraq and is considering repealing the decade-old rule that prohibits women from being deployed alongside combat forces, according to Pentagon officials and military documents.

The army maintains that it has not changed the overall Pentagon policy regarding women in combat, which limits women to serving on surface ships and in attack aircraft. But internal army documents indicate the service is ignoring a 1994 regulation barring women from serving alongside units that conduct offensive operations.

Suck it up, you Republican bozos: Some of President Bush's bedrock supporters -- Southerners and rural residents -- have lost confidence in the likelihood of a stable, democratic Iraq.

Some of the larger declines in optimism came among Southerners, Northeasterners, rural Americans and women 45 and over. Other groups that showed a significant decline were those with incomes between $25,000 and $50,000 a year, young men, those without college educations -- groups very likely to know people serving in Iraq.

I Love This Headline

Bush Urges Iraqis to Vote, Lowers Expectations

George, my expectations for you couldn’t get any lower if we were at the center of the earth.


Editorial: Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld did more than step on the CIA’s toes when he set up his own espionage branch two years ago to collect human intelligence.

In conveniently neglecting to inform Congress, Rumsfeld turned what should have been a public decision made by elected leaders into an administrative decree issued in private. That should prompt Congress to hold hearings and reassert control.

Whether the Defense Department or the CIA conducts most of the human-intelligence missions might seem like small potatoes. Nothing could be further from the truth. U.S. law requires the executive branch to provide Congress with timely notification of all intelligence activities, with the exception of intelligence supporting routine military activities. It’s that clause Rumsfeld is spinning in his own favor.

The result is an espionage branch effectively operating beyond Congress’ purview.

Comment: The added $80 billion the White House wants to fight the wars in Iraq and on terrorism would bring the total to more than $300 billion. When adjusted for inflation, that's about half what the United States spent on the Vietnam War. In truth, with security in Iraq still more a dream than reality and with terrorism all too real a threat, Congress has little choice but to approve some spending. The troops in the field deserve it; the people trying to rebuild Iraq and Afghanistan need it; the war on terrorism demands it.

But Congress must also demand that the White House deal with the war costs in a realistic manner. That means, for one thing, including them in budget estimates. For another thing, it means providing Americans with a clearer picture of the administration's goals in Iraq and the estimated cost. There can be no free ride on this for the president, not with so many Americans being killed or wounded daily

Comment: I've just had an email from a friend in the Green Zone. He has not set foot outside the compound since he's been there, and probably never will. Helicopter to and from the airport only. Welcome to free Iraq, and especially to liberated Falluja.

The New York Times reported that "Residents trickling back to Falluja . . . enter a desolate world of skeletal buildings, tank-blasted homes, weeping power lines and severed palm trees. Sullen and anxious, tens of thousands of residents have passed through stringent checkpoints to find out . . . whether their homes and shops were reduced to rubble or merely ransacked . . . people have to file through huge coils of razor wire and a gantlet of armed marines to pick up their supplies. On the road . . . Lt. Col Patrick Malay . . . watched the scene with satisfaction. "This is how I like it, just like Disneyland," he said. "Orderly lines and people leave with a smile on their face".

Thanks to alert reader bob for the link.

Opinion: What if the war in Iraq were happening here—say, in New York State? What would it be like? In reality, the numbers are roughly comparable. The state has 19 million people. Iraq has 25 million. Baghdad's population is about 6 million. New York City's is 8 million.

Place such a guerrilla war in New York State, which has about 80,000 state and local police, and apply the military casualty rate. The result would be 800 police killed in the line of duty in the state since the invasion in late March 2003, and 5,530 wounded. If this had taken place, we, like the Iraqis, would be living under martial law, with a night curfew and restricted movement by day, frightened all the time and guarding our children closely—maybe sending them to Canada for the duration. Few Iraqis have the ability to seek asylum anywhere. No reliable count of Iraqi civilian casualties has been kept. But relief workers estimate that it is, at the very minimum, in the low tens of thousands.

Incidentally, the actual police deaths in New York in that time frame were less than 20.

Casualty Reports

Local story: Orange, CT, soldier killed in Ramadi.

Local story: Gaylord, MI, soldier severely wounded in Ramadi.

Local story: Cortez, CO, soldier killed in Ramadi.

This section is going to get even more depressing than usual over the next few days. Please take a quiet moment to reflect on all the young men and women, American and Iraqi, who have died and are going to die in this despicable conflict.



This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?