Sunday, January 30, 2005

Note to Readers It’s apparent that today is a particularly violent and bloody day across Iraq. The list of incidents posted below is incomplete and inaccurate due to the confusion generated by such overwhelming violence. Anyone who has ever been in a combat command post will tell you, “The first report is always wrong.” Obviously, the insurgents have long prepared to disrupt this election and the US and Iraqi security forces have long prepared to prevent disruption. I don’t think we’ll get a clear picture of what is happening today for at least a few more days. War News for Sunday, January 30, 2005 Bring ‘em on: Four Iraqis killed by mortar fire at Sadr City polling station. Bring ‘em on: Two Americans killed, four wounded in mortar attack on US embassy in Baghdad. Bring ‘em on: Explosion reported at polling station in Basra. Bring ‘em on: Suicide bomber kills one Iraqi, wounds four at Baghdad polling station. Bring ‘em on: One US Marine killed fighting in al-Anbar province. Bring ‘em on: Eight suicide bomb attacks reported at Baghdad polling stations. Exit Strategy. “The Bush administration has for now ruled out creating a timetable for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq after today's elections, but military commanders have charted a plan to have Iraqi security forces begin taking the lead in combat operations in certain parts of the country as early as spring. U.S. officials have identified areas in southern and northern Iraq that have remained relatively free of violence as the best candidates for a piecemeal shift in military responsibilities over the months ahead. Under this approach, as Iraqi forces take on more of the counterinsurgency mission, some U.S. troops would assume an emergency backup role or shift to training Iraqi units, and others might leave the country, according to administration officials and others familiar with the plan. Under optimal conditions, commanders anticipate possibly being able to withdraw, sometime this spring or summer, three of 20 brigades in Iraq, or about 15,000 troops. That would lower the level of U.S. forces in Iraq to where it was before it was raised to 150,000 troops last month.” Our American media. Boston Globe headline: “Voting held in Iraq's first free election in a half-century, attacks on polling stations kill 31” Wouldn’t the fact that at least 31 voters have been killed in attacks on polling stations indicate that this election is somewhat less than “free.The schools. “Another car bomb in Baghdad. But this time it wasn’t aimed at an American military patrol. Its target: the Moutassim Primary School. Car bombs, rockets and machine gun fire have ripped through dozens of classrooms across Iraq, putting schools that were to be used as polling stations on the front line of insurgents’ efforts to derail today’s landmark elections.” Election coverage. “The media boys and girls will be expected to play along with this. ‘Transition of power,’ says the hourly logo on CNN's live coverage of the election, though the poll is for a parliament to write a constitution, and the men who will form a majority within it will have no power. They have no control over their own oil, no authority over the streets of Baghdad, let alone the rest of the country, no workable army or loyal police force. Their only power is that of the American military and its 150 000 soldiers whom we could all see on the main intersections of Baghdad yesterday. The big television networks have been given a list of five polling stations where they will be "allowed" to film. Close inspection of the list shows that four of the five are in Shi'ite Muslim areas - where the polling will probably be high - and one in an upmarket Sunni area, where it will be moderate.” Al-Anbar. “Election organizers set up two polling centers on Saturday afternoon in Iraq's previously rebel-controlled Fallujah, but only found them bombed shortly after. The two centers, in Fallujah's al-Risala and al-Shurta districts, were installed only hours before election day in an effort to showcase the idea that no place is absent from the elections. The two are among the only four voting centers in Anbar province west of Baghdad, a restive area where elections were thought to be impossible. A third is located in Anbar's capital city of Ramadi and is heavily guarded by US and Iraqi troops. The fourth one is said to be opened early Sunday in Fallujah, a virtual ghost town after US Marines and Iraqi forces stormed it last November. Unlike the south and the north of Iraq, there has been virtually no trace of elections in Anbar despite repeated calls for participation from the authorities.” PTSD. “In an effort to better identify soldiers suffering serious psychological problems as a result of combat duty in Iraq, the Defense Department plans to perform an additional health assessment of servicemen and women three to six months after they come home, officials said on Friday. The new policy, to begin this spring, will add a third health questionnaire to those given to troops before and immediately after deployments. Military health officials have found that soldiers leaving the war zone often minimize or cover up mental issues for fear that admitting any problem could delay their return home.” Commentary Opinion: “Alas, there were no Fox News cameras to capture what may have been the week's most surreal ‘salute’ to the troops, the ‘Heroes Red, White and Blue Inaugural Ball’ attended by Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz. The event's celebrity stars included the Fox correspondent Geraldo Rivera, who had been booted from Iraq at the start of the war for compromising ‘operational security’ by telling his viewers the position of the American troops he loves so much. He joked to the crowd that his deployment as an ‘overpaid’ reporter was tantamount to that of an ‘underpaid hero’ in battle. The attendees from Walter Reed and Bethesda Naval Hospital, some of whose long-term care must be picked up by private foundations because of government stinginess, responded with ‘deafening silence,’ reported Roxanne Roberts of The Washington Post. Ms. Roberts understandably left the party after the night's big act: Nile Rodgers and Chic sang the lyrics ‘Clap your hands, hoo!’ and ‘Dance to the beat’ to ‘a group of soldiers missing hands and legs.’” Opinion: “It is time to enact a draft. This would not be a popular move by President Bush, but it is the responsible thing to do. This is his war and he should take care of it. The discussion of this issue has been monopolized by the wrong people for too long. Now, as much as ever, the saying "Wars are started by old men, and fought by young men" holds true. Senators and other politicians in Washington, D.C., who will be affected in no way other than politically, have been the ones debating whether we need to have a vote on the draft. There should be more voices heard from those whom this would affect most: men between 18 and 25. I am one of them, a 21-year-old college student with graduation looming.” Casualty Reports Local story: Three Louisiana Guardsmen killed in Iraq.


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