War News for Monday 24, January 2005
Bring ‘em on:
Attackers kill Iraqi soldiers, truck driver north of Baghdad
Bring ‘em on:
One US soldier killed in an exchange of fire with rebels in the town of Mosul
Bring ‘em on?
No! Bring your own armour
Last week, as the music was being struck up for the coronation of an American-style emperor, whose administration prides itself in its unilateralist and confrontational politics in dealing with the rest of the world, a still very angry Scott Ritter was decrying, on a CNN interview, the tragically late abandonment by the hawkish Bush Administration of the search for wmd in blood-letting Iraq. In a most illuminating interview with William Rivers Pitt, published in a little book in 2002 - months after the 9/11 terrorist strikes against the USA - Scott Ritter had not only made public his conviction of no threat from weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, but he debunked claims by the Bush Administration of any link between Saddam Hussein and the al-Qadea terrorist network. He also noted that Iraq's chemical, biological and nuclear capabilities had been destroyed in the years that followed the Gulf War that resulted from Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. And he was prophetic in comments then about the killings, destruction, violence, outrage and fears that could result from a war to get rid of Saddam, ostensibly to capture wmd.
Supporting Our Troops?
You do not provide troops with instructions on why and how to "soften up" prisoners at Abu Graib and then support them by denying the illegality of actions high up the chain of command, as Colin Powell, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleeza Rice and others have done in Iraq. You do not invade sovereign nations with thousands of American troops on baseless charges against "the enemy" and wreaking lethal havoc on that country. Lie-mongering in the process of warmongering is not supporting the troops. Bringing home the troops in body bags is not supporting them, either. Condoleeza Rice lied again in order to support the troops in her confirmation hearings as Secretary of State. She called Saddam Hussein our "sworn enemy". I do not recall Saddam Hussein ever declaring war against the United States or instituting offensive operations against our troops or our population. Saddam Hussein swore that he would defend his people against our troops, but only after we put him in the position where he had to fight and thus become our "enemy". Nearly fourteen hundred U.S. troops have perished in the latest manifestation of our manipulation of Saddam Hussein, not to mention many more thousands grievously injured. This is not supporting the troops, it is exploiting them.
Operation Limited Freedom
Over the years, American diplomats have seen it all: They fled Saigon, Vietnam, in 1975, were taken hostage in Tehran in 1979, survived the sacking of the embassy in Pakistan's capital the same year, were caught in civil war in Beirut in the 1980s and in Algiers a decade later. All concur on one point: When it comes to living with danger on a daily basis, the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad is in a category of its own.
"This is an assignment like no other," said Limbert. He was one of 52 Americans who survived the 444-day hostage ordeal in Tehran, where "we moved around freely until the day it all happened. We didn't face conditions like that." Even Soviet diplomats in Afghanistan during the 1980s had greater mobility, said Moscow's current ambassador in Kabul, Zamir Kabulov. A junior officer at the time, Kabulov reminisced about those years, when the Soviet occupation was the target of Afghan militants, including a young Saudi commander named Osama bin Laden.
The Horror of Depleted Uranium
I’m horrified. The people out there – the Iraqis, the media and the troops – risk the most appalling ill health. And the radiation from depleted uranium can travel literally anywhere. Yet, officially, no crime has been committed. For this story is a dirty story in which the facts have been concealed from those who needed them most. It is also a story we need to know if the people of Iraq are to get the medical care they desperately need, and if our troops, returning from Iraq, are not to suffer as terribly as the veterans of other conflicts in which depleted uranium was used.
Testifying before the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee in July 2003 about the rebuilding of Iraq, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz told the story of Jumana Michael Hanna, an Iraqi woman who had recently come to the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad with a tale of her horrific torture at the hands of Saddam Hussein's regime. Hanna's tale -- more than two years of imprisonment that included being subjected to electric shocks, repeatedly raped and sexually assaulted -- was unusual in that she was willing to name the Iraqi police officials who participated in her torture, "information that is helping us to root out Baathist policemen who routinely tortured and killed prisoners," Wolfowitz said. But Hanna's story, which 10 days before Wolfowitz's testimony had been the subject of a front-page article in the Washington Post, appears to have unraveled. Esquire magazine, in this month's issue, published a lengthy article, by a writer who was hired to help Hanna produce a memoir, saying that her account had all but fallen apart.
The illegal invasion, occupation, and subsequent violence perpetrated on the people of Iraq has lent considerable evidence to the assertion that truth is the first casualty of war. It's hard to get past the US Administration's rhetoric that the siege of Falluja was an operation of pacification to ensure the Iraqi population's participation in free and democratic elections planned for late January. Is it not Orwellian that annihilation and occupation have been redefined to represent pacification and liberation? One wonders if the entire nation of Iraq isn't being destroyed in the name of saving it. Falluja should go down in history as a case study on how truth is subverted, co-opted, buried, and ignored. The first US-led siege of Falluja, a city of 300,000 people, resulted in a defeat for Coalition forces. Prior to the second siege in November, its citizens were given two choices: leave the city or risk dying as enemy insurgents. The people of Falluja remembered the siege of April all too well. They remembered being trapped when Coalition forces surrounded and blockaded the city and seized the main hospital, leaving the population cut off from food, water, and medical supplies. Families remembered the fighting in the streets and the snipers on the rooftops, which prevented movement by civilians. They remembered burying more than 600 neighbors - women, children, and men - in makeshift graves in schoolyards and soccer fields.
Winning Hearts and Minds? – Part 1
Two U.S. soldiers were convicted Saturday on court-martial charges related to the shooting death of a 28-year-old Iraqi woman who was working with them as an interpreter. The soldiers, Spc. Charley Hooser and Spc. Rami Dajani, were both convicted of making a false official statement to investigators after the killing of the translator, Luma, a mother of one daughter. The court requested that the victim's last name be withheld for her family's safety.
Winning Hearts and Minds? – Part 2
At least 20 British soldiers are now facing prosecution after coming under "significant suspicion" of involvement in the "deliberate" abuse of Iraqi civilians, The Independent on Sunday can reveal. The figure is contained in responses by the Ministry of Defence to detailed questions. These also reveal that the total number of cases involving alleged abuse and negligence by British forces in Iraq has gone up from 12 to 16, and include two previously undisclosed cases against Royal Air Force personnel.
Only 1 in 24?
The Foreign Office and Ministry of Defence were dismayed by the assessment of specialists sent out to review the progress of the Iraqi army. Only 5,000 of the 120,000-strong army was classified as being well enough trained to be dependable. According to recent estimates, of some 135,000 recruited Iraqi police officers, only two-thirds report for duty. Lord Boyce, chief of Britain's defence staff at the time of the invasion, said "only a small percentage is up to scratch". A member of the Commons defence committee said on return from a visit to southern Iraq - the quietest area - late last year: "It will take 10 to 15 years at least before troops can be withdrawn. The Iraqis just cannot cope with the security situation and won't be able to for years. It's another Cyprus."
Go Home Yanks!
THE Shi’ite Muslim cleric tipped to become prime minister after next Sunday’s election in Iraq has said it will be the duty of the new government to demand the withdrawal of American forces “as soon as possible”. “No people in the world accepts occupation and nor do we accept the continuation of American troops in Iraq,” said Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, leader of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq. “We regard these forces to have committed many mistakes in the handling of various issues, the first and foremost being that of security, which in turn has contributed to the massacres, crimes and calamities that have taken place in Iraq against the Iraqis.” In comments certain to raise eyebrows in the United States, al-Hakim spoke of a role for Iran and Syria
— both regarded in Washington as enemies in the war on terror — along with Iraq’s other neighbours, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Kuwait, in the security of the country. “These countries have past experiences and good security forces and with good relations we can solve this problem together,” he said.
The unfavourable trends of the war are clear:
- U.S. military fatalities from hostile acts have risen from an average of about 17 per month just after President Bush declared an end to major combat operations on May 1, 2003, to an average of 82 per month.
- The average number of U.S. soldiers wounded by hostile acts per month has spiraled from 142 to 808 during the same period. Iraqi civilians have suffered even more deaths and injuries, although reliable statistics aren't available.
- Attacks on the U.S.-led coalition since November 2003, when statistics were first available, have risen from 735 a month to 2,400 in October. Air Force Brig. Gen. Erv Lessel, the multinational forces' deputy operations director, told Knight Ridder on Friday that attacks were currently running at 75 a day, about 2,300 a month, well below a spike in November during the assault on Fallujah, but nearly as high as October's total.
- The average number of mass-casualty bombings has grown from zero in the first four months of the American occupation to an average of 13 per month.
- Electricity production has been below pre-war levels since October, largely because of sabotage by insurgents, with just 6.7 hours of power daily in Baghdad in early January, according to the State Department.
- Iraq is pumping about 500,000 barrels a day fewer than its pre-war peak of 2.5 million barrels per day as a result of attacks, according to the State Department.
"All the trend lines we can identify are all in the wrong direction," said Michael O'Hanlon of the Brookings Institution, a Washington policy research organization. "We are not winning, and the security trend lines could almost lead you to believe that we are losing."