Friday, January 28, 2005

War News for Friday, January 28, 2005 There are some who, uh, feel like that, you know, the conditions are such that they can attack us there. My answer is: bring 'em on. We got the force necessary to deal with the security situation."- George W. Bush, July 2, 2003 Bring ‘em on: The children of Iraq Bring ‘em on: Four Iraqi National Guards abducted and executed in Ramadi. Five civilians and an Iraqi soldier killed in two separate bombings in Samarra. Four polling centers bombed in Ramadi. Three polling centers bombed in Basra. Three policemen and an Iraqi soldier killed by car bomb in Mahmudiya. One US Marine killed and four others wounded in attack in the same area. Car bombing near US base in Ramadi, no casualties reported. Two bystanders killed in firefight between US forces and gunmen in Ramadi. Policeman killed by car bomb in Baquba. Translator working with US forces killed in roadside bombing in Tikrit. Three other policemen were killed in a separate series of attacks. Bring ‘em on: Videotape posted showing the murder of a candidate from Allawi’s party, Allawi threatened with death. Schools designated as polling places attacked by mortar fire in Basra. US troops and gunmen exchange fire on Haifa Street in Baghdad. One US Marine killed, five wounded in mortar attack on their base in Iskandariyah. Three Iraqis killed and seven injured when roadside bomb misses a US convoy in Mahmoudiyah. Three Iraqi civilians killed in car bombing in Samarra. Polling place mortared in Samarra. Seven polling stations in Kirkuk attacked by mortar and machine gun fire, one policeman killed. One Iraqi army soldier killed and seven people wounded in suicide car bombing in Baquba. One ING soldier killed in attack on voting center in a school in Ramadi. Iraqi Army chief reports that Iraqi authorities have detained over 2000 suspected insurgents in the past three weeks. Bring ‘em on: One Iraqi girl killed in mortar attack on police station in Saba Al-Boor. Bring ‘em on: Four Iraqi police killed in Baghdad car bombing. Bring ‘em on: Four people killed in suicide bombing of power station in Baghdad neighborhood of Dura. Some 40 polling stations have been destroyed in attacks as of Thursday. The Elections Sistani: The election in Iraq next Sunday is the result of pressure from Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the 71-year-old cleric, who exercises such immense influence over the Shia community who make about 60 per cent of the Iraqi population. US officials never mention today that in the months after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein they were opposed to an election, citing difficulties in identifying voters without a census and lack of security. The real reason the US was so nervous of an election was that it feared that Shia parties, particularly those very religious and close to Iran, would win a majority. It hoped instead to rule Iraq through direct imperial control supplemented by returning Iraqi exiles acceptable to Washington. It did not work. Gradually, the arrogant neoconservatives holed up in the Green Zone in the centre of Baghdad came to realise that the cleric, who seldom left his house down a narrow alley in Najaf, held them in the palm of his hand. Ghost candidates: For the only time in memory, electoral candidates are afraid to be seen in public and are forced to campaign from underground cells, with many afraid to even link their names to their faces in the media. There are no public rallies where voters might glean some information about candidates' positions. As one voter told CNN, he would prefer to vote for George Michael, since he knows more about the singer than about any of the candidates running for office. Those sages interminably repeating that the success of the election will be determined by the level of the turnout do not understand Iraq, or for that matter, elections. No freedom without security: When American troops entered Baghdad and overthrew the government of Saddam Hussein 21 months ago, Raad al-Naqib felt free at last. But Dr. Naqib, a 46-year-old Sunni dentist who opposed Mr. Hussein, will not vote Sunday when Iraqis will have their first opportunity in a generation to participate in an election with no predetermined outcome. It is, he said, far too dangerous when insurgent groups have warned that they will kill anybody who approaches a polling station. Starkly put, Baghdad is not under control, either by the Iraqi interim government or the American military. In the week that ended Sunday, according to figures kept by Western security companies with access to data compiled by the American command, Baghdad was hit by 7 suicide car bombings, 37 roadside bombs and 52 insurgent attacks involving automatic rifles or rocket-propelled grenades. The suicide bombs alone killed at least 60 people and injured 150 others. Will it be enough?: Iraq clamped tough security measures across the country on Friday, sealing land borders and curbing travel to foil insurgents bent on wrecking Sunday's election, but a car bomb killed four people in Baghdad. Iraq's government is imposing extraordinary security restrictions to try to safeguard the polls. Land borders were closed from Friday and travel between provinces inside the country is also banned. An extended curfew has been announced in most cities, from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. (1600-0300 GMT). Vote of no confidence: Baghdad kicked into panic mode three days before the election, with terrified Iraqis stockpiling food and evacuating homes near polling places Thursday for fear that insurgents would make good on threats to disrupt Sunday's vote with violence.At least 15 Iraqis and a U.S. Marine were killed Thursday. Insurgents blew up six polling places, detonated car bombs in three cities, triggered at least three roadside bombs and gunned down several Iraqi policemen, according to the U.S. military and Iraqi authorities.Iraqis who support the parliamentary election and those who oppose it agreed on one thing: They expect such attacks to grow much, much worse. I’ll bet he does too know: U.S. President George W. Bush says he would withdraw troops from Iraq if the new government that is elected on Sunday asked him to do so. But Bush said he expected Iraq's first democratically elected leaders would want the U.S. to remain as helpers — not as occupiers. "I've heard the voices of the people that presumably will be in positions of responsibility after these elections, though you never know," Bush said yesterday in an interview. PR elections: To some extent, Bush's growing challenge in rallying public support for the war could be seen in last week's inaugural speech, which offered what was intended to be an idealistic case for the administration's Iraq policy - casting the spread of democracy as the ultimate antidote to terrorism - but which also never mentioned Iraq by name. Polls taken in the wake of the speech showed it had little impact on public views on the war. Still, the upcoming elections could change all that - either vindicating Bush's policies, or else making success there look unattainable. "As far as the war is concerned, I think Jan 30 is the ultimate tipping point," says independent pollster John Zogby. Exit Strategy But will the UN take it?: The United States must begin to withdraw militarily and politically from Iraq to prevent worsening violence and hand over full responsibility to the United Nations, Sen. Edward Kennedy said on Thursday. "There may well be violence as we disengage militarily from Iraq and Iraq disengages politically from us, but there will be much more violence if we continue our present dangerous and destabilizing course," Kennedy said in a speech to be delivered to the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. No guarantee: The top American commander in Iraq on Wednesday said U.S.-trained Iraqi security forces were still not ready to take over the counterinsurgency and there was no guarantee they will ever be able to defeat it on their own. Gen. George Casey said the 130,000 Iraqi police and soldiers still lack leaders to direct them in a fight against rebels, and local police forces who've deserted in the thousands in the face of intimidation and withering assaults by guerrillas remain a key weak point. Support the Troops Five years: The Bush administration is facing new calls from Democrats and Republicans, including some of its staunchest allies, to expand the size of the Army and Marines by tens of thousands of active-duty troops over the next several years. The bipartisan calls reflect burgeoning concerns that the Iraq conflict has so strained U.S. ground forces that the United States could find itself short of forces in the event of an unexpected crisis in the near future. The start-up costs alone of manning and equipping two new divisions -- about 34,000 soldiers -- as favored by some lawmakers, would run as high as $19 billion, according to a September 2003 study by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. That amount is roughly the equivalent of 20 percent of the annual budget of the Army, which has 10 divisions. It would take up to five years to train and equip the new divisions, which would cost about $6 billion per year to maintain, according to the CBO study. Suck it up, wounded guys: Most patients at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington have a lot on their minds: the war they just fought, the injuries they came home with, the future that lies ahead. The last thing a wounded soldier needs to worry about is where the next meal is coming from. But for hundreds of Walter Reed patients, that's a real concern. Starting this month, the Army has started making some wounded soldiers pay for the food they eat at the hospital. Suck it up, veterans: With the combination of aging veterans living longer and new veterans coming home, there are more than 300,000 VA claims still waiting to be processed. Some VA patients wait up to a year to see specialists. "Funding has increased, but it hasn't increased at the same level the veterans themselves are increasing," says Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La. "And so healthcare is being basically rationed to our veterans." It's a system under growing pressure, at a time when a new generation of veterans hope the sacrifices they made at war will be remembered — and the promises made to them at home will be kept. Suck it up, soldiers: "The fiscal 2005 Defense appropriations bill contains funding cuts for the Army and other programs that defense analysts say were made to cover the cost of nearly $9 billion in congressional pork projects added to the bill." While Congress was larding on the pork, "Defense appropriators trimmed $300 million from the Pentagon's procurement accounts, including those that fund armor for Humvees and other vehicles in Iraq, and another $411 million was taken from the Defense Department's operations and maintenance and research and development accounts," according to the report. The article quotes Winslow Wheeler, a former Senate Budget Committee staff member: "We know from the proportionate, across-the-board cuts (required to cover congressional pork spending) that body armor and armor kits for Humvees and trucks were affected." Anger builds, part 1: US military officials are becoming increasingly vocal in their criticism of the war in Iraq, telling Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld that more troops are needed to prevail over the insurgents. Moreover, recruitment is down and more reservists and members of the National Guard are being sent to Baghdad. A revolt seems to be taking place within the ranks. Even though daily bomb attacks in Iraq and the latest death toll of 1,361 US soldiers have yet to trigger any significant reversal in US public opinion, and even though President Bush reiterated last week that the world is a safer place without Saddam Hussein, Bush's soldiers and officers seem increasingly convinced that the opposite is true. Almost without warning, America's armed forces, superior to any of the world's other militaries but faced with severe personnel shortages, are suddenly encountering almost insurmountable obstacles -- politically, strategically and financially. Anger builds, part 2: Soldiers recently returned from Iraq gave an unfiltered and unflattering assessment of the war's human toll as they detailed their war experiences to a crowd of Oakton Community College students and faculty Wednesday in Des Plaines. One officer lost more than 38 pounds in the Iraqi desert when his unit ran low on food and water. Another was sent to the front lines without body armor. They witnessed soldiers blown to bits and mourned the loss of others who killed themselves when they returned home -- often excluded from the government's official body count. And they've been frustrated with buddies who have had to wait months for medical services or for their claims to be decided by the Veterans Affairs Department. Anger builds, part 3: The Pentagon doesn't like to talk about it. But as the war in Iraq becomes ever more violent and prolonged, an increasing number of soldiers are opposing the war -- up to and including refusing to fight. Thus far, the numbers, compared to Vietnam, are still small. The Pentagon estimated in 2003 that nearly 3,000 soldiers had deserted -- that is, had been AWOL for more than a month -- and the number has since grown. The Pentagon says it is not actively trying to track the cases down. A number of things have changed since Vietnam: the volunteer army replaced the draft, conscientious objector criteria are much narrower, Canada is not (yet) an option (although at least a half-dozen soldiers are petitioning for refugee status there; in one case, an effort to have the Iraq war declared illegal has already failed). But what is the same as Vietnam is a growing sense among soldiers that the civilian politicians making the decisions are prosecuting a pointless, unjust war -- and lying about their reasons for it. Due Process 500 more: While anti-terrorism police were yesterday interviewing the four Britons released from Guantánamo Bay further details emerged of the alleged treatment of the men by their US captors. The US lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith, who saw his client, Moazzam Begg, in Guantánamo Bay this month, said the captive had alleged persistent beatings, death threats and psychological torture first at Bagram airbase in Afghanistan, then at the Cuba base. The US-based Centre for Constitutional Rights welcomed the news of the men's release last night but said there were hundreds more being held without charge. The centre's spokeswoman, Rachel Meeropol, a lawyer, said: "It's very important that people understand the implications of this release. The fact that they have been released indicates there was no justification for holding them in the first place. These men lived for three years in torturous conditions, and there are still some 500 being held." Commentary Opinion: Operation Iraqi Freedom. I sometimes wonder who came up with that name for the invasion of Iraq because it certainly doesn't seem like that is the case. In fact, why didn't they start out calling it Operation Oust Saddam because that's certainly all the Bush administration cared about. Or, how about Operation Devastation? Because Iraq is left in shambles now. Furthermore, Operation Oops We Messed Up seems appropriate, but the Bush administration will never fess up to making a mistake. (Note to readers: It is always good to see examples of young people who are involved in the critical issues of the day and are unafraid of speaking their minds. If you have a moment, please visit this article and leave some feedback. All young writers need encouragement. Thanks!) Is the world safer now? As war ended, correspondents examined key questions about Iraq's future. With the elections looming, the updated answers highlight the global impact of the conflict. Viewpoint: "The story today is going to be very discouraging to the American people," President Bush said at a news conference Wednesday, hours after 37 American troops died in Iraq. "I understand that. We value life. And we weep and mourn when soldiers lose their life." How long will the U.S. news media continue to indulge that sort of pious talk from the White House without challenge? The evidence is overwhelming that the president and his policy team are quite willing to devalue -- in fact, destroy -- life when it gets in their way. And if they "weep and mourn when soldiers lose their life," the grief is rigorously selective. Opinion: After the body bags are removed from the tarmac and the dead are buried; after children have said farewell to a father or mother and parents bid goodbye to a son or a daughter; after seriously injured soldiers are shuffled off to understaffed rehabilitation facilities and others are left to deal with their wounds on their own; and after soldiers that escaped physical harm return home with severe mental health problems, America will reap a whirlwind it hasn't seen since the end of the Vietnam War. A report in the New England Journal of Medicine claimed that 17 percent of troops returning from Iraq "met the screening criteria for major depression, generalized anxiety, or PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder]." The New England Journal's figure may be on the low side. According to the San Francisco Chronicle's Julian Guthrie, "Military officials and mental health providers predict that up to 30 percent of returning soldiers will require psychiatric services -- a number not seen since the end of the Vietnam War." Speech by Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX): America’s policy of foreign intervention, while still debated in the early 20th century, is today accepted as conventional wisdom by both political parties. But what if the overall policy is a colossal mistake, a major error in judgment? Not just bad judgment regarding when and where to impose ourselves, but the entire premise that we have a moral right to meddle in the affairs of others? Think of the untold harm done by years of fighting-- hundreds of thousands of American casualties, hundreds of thousands of foreign civilian casualties, and unbelievable human and economic costs. What if it was all needlessly borne by the American people? If we do conclude that grave foreign policy errors have been made, a very serious question must be asked: What would it take to change our policy to one more compatible with a true republic’s goal of peace, commerce, and friendship with all nations? Is it not possible that Washington’s admonition to avoid entangling alliances is sound advice even today? (And why is it that the only Congressman asking these questions is a Republican from Texas?) Comment – Scott Ritter: The White House's acknowledgement last month that the United States has formally ended its search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq brought to a close the most calamitous international deception of modern times. When one looks at the situation in Iraq today, the only way that it would be possible to justify the current state of affairs - a once secular society now the centre of a global anti-American Islamist jihad, tens of thousands of civilians killed, an unending war that costs almost £3.2bn a month, and the basic principles of democracy mocked through an election process that has generated extensive violence - is if the invasion of Iraq was for a cause worthy of the price. The threat to international peace and security represented by Iraqi WMD seemed to be such a cause. We now know there were no WMD, and thus no justification for the war. And yet there are no repercussions. Interview with John Lee Anderson: It was in 1963 that Allawi, then about eighteen years old, formed a relationship with Saddam Hussein, who was about eight years older and had returned to Iraq after several years in exile following an abortive assassination attempt against the former President. As Allawi describes it, the relationship was formed while Allawi was in a group whose members were mostly wellborn and well educated, and Saddam Hussein was the thug, the enforcer, the guy they sent to go buy kebabs when they were having a clandestine meeting. Saddam was also a killer; he was a triggerman for the Party. Now, Allawi denies having had anything to do with some of the more hallmark and well-known atrocities committed by the Baathists at the same time that he was one of them. But there are people who dispute that. Interview with Naomi Klein: The first task is to develop a positive agenda with progressive forces in Iraq — to support deep democracy and genuine sovereignty in that country, which would make the demand for troop withdrawal credible. The second goal is to have an international strategy to increase the pressure on the U.S. military so that continued U.S. presence becomes increasingly untenable. That means trying to further break the coalition and identifying points of vulnerability. The coalition is very vulnerable – particularly in countries like Italy, Japan and even the UK, where a majority of the population is clearly against the war. Increasing the pressure there for withdrawal then increases the burden on U.S. troops and makes the demand for troop withdrawal stronger. In Canada I think we have a role to play by supporting the war deserters who have come here, particularly the push for a legal precedent to be set for American soldiers claiming refugee status in Canada. If we win a couple of these legal cases, there will be many more American soldiers who will want to come. The goal should be to get the Bush administration to the point where they have to choose between staying in Iraq and bringing in the draft. Interview with Seymour Hersh: There's a lot of anxiety inside the -- you know, our professional military and our intelligence people. Many of them respect the Constitution and the Bill of Rights as much as anybody here, and individual freedom. So, they do -- there's a tremendous sense of fear. These are punitive people. One of the ways -- one of the things that you could say is, the amazing thing is we are been taken over basically by a cult, eight or nine neo-conservatives have somehow grabbed the government. Just how and why and how they did it so efficiently, will have to wait for much later historians and better documentation than we have now, but they managed to overcome the bureaucracy and the Congress, and the press, with the greatest of ease. It does say something about how fragile our Democracy is. You do have to wonder what a Democracy is when it comes down to a few men in the Pentagon and a few men in the White House having their way. Casualty Reports Local story: Twenty-six Marines and one Navy medic based in Hawai’i killed in helicopter crash near Rutbah. Local story: Canyon Lake, TX, Marine killed in helicopter crash. Local story: Four Ohio Marines killed in helicopter crash. Local story: Six Texas Marines killed in helicopter crash. Local story: Three Ohio Marines killed in helicopter crash. Local story: Two Illinois Marines killed in helicopter crash. Local story: Simi Valley, CA, sailor killed in helicopter crash. Local story: San Diego, CA, Marine killed in helicopter crash. Local story: Merrimack, NH, Marine killed in helicopter crash. Local story: Bethlehem, NJ, Marine killed in helicopter crash. Local story: Salt Lake City, UT, Marine killed in helicopter crash. Local story: Roseburg, OR, Marine killed in helicopter crash. Local story: Orange County, FL, Marine killed in helicopter crash. Local story: Carmel Valley, NC, Marine killed in helicopter crash. Local story: Clinton Township, MI, Marine killed in helicopter crash. Local story: Pitman, NJ, Marine killed in helicopter crash. Local story: Clinton County, IA, soldier critically injured for the second time in RPG attack in Duluiya. Local story: Hendersonville, NC, soldier killed in RPG attack in Duluiya. .


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