Monday, January 10, 2005

War News for Monday, January 10, 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: Baghdad’s deputy police chief and his son assassinated. Two Iraqi soldiers killed, one Iraqi soldier and two US soldiers wounded by roadside bomb in Samarra. At least four policemen killed and ten wounded in car bomb attack on a police station in southern Baghdad using a fake police car. Thirteen year old Iraqi girl killed and a fourteen year old boy wounded in Baquaba when a US observation post engaged some unidentified smoke. The US military notes this incident was a tragedy. Two “anti-Iraqi force insurgents” killed in southern Baghdad when the roadside bomb they were planting detonated prematurely. A militant group stated it would deploy 32 snipers to shoot voters in Wasit province.

Bring ‘em on: Two US soldiers killed and four wounded in Baghdad roadside bombing that destroyed a Bradley Fighting Vehicle.

Bubble boy speaks: President Bush today rejected growing pessimism in the U.S. foreign policy establishment about stability in Iraq, asserting that "we're making great progress" there and that elections at the end of the month will be "an incredibly hopeful experience" for Iraqis.

He said that 14 of Iraq's 18 provinces "appear to be relatively calm." The four remaining provinces "are places where the terrorists are trying to stop people from voting," he said. "So I know it's hard. But it's hard for a reason. And the reason it's hard is because there are a handful of folks who fear freedom."

Bush said in response to a question, "I think we're making great progress" in Iraq. He added, "And it's exciting times for the Iraqi people. And it's so exciting there are some who are trying to intimidate people from going to the polls."

The bubble gets lonely: Mr. Bush, asked Friday whether he shared Mr. Scowcroft's concerns about "an incipient civil war," shot back, "Quite the opposite."

But the president's optimism is in sharp contrast, some administration insiders say, to some conversations in the White House Situation Room, the Pentagon and Congress. For the first time, there are questions about whether it is politically possible to wait until the Iraqi forces are adequately trained before pressure to start bringing back American troops becomes overwhelming.

Colin’s not in the bubble, this time: US Secretary of State Colin Powell admitted yesterday the Bush administration was "worried" about the future of Iraq beyond the elections due on January 30.

Mr Powell acknowledged the elections would not put an end to the insurgency or heal rifts between Shi'ite and Sunni Iraqis, but insisted the landmark poll had to proceed.

Exciting times indeed: Attacks on election workers have become increasingly targeted and extraordinarily cold-blooded. Without even bothering to conceal their faces, terrorists allowed themselves to be filmed in broad daylight during an execution in Baghdad's Haifa district in late December. Since then, hundreds of election workers in Mosul and in Anbar province have simply abandoned their positions. Allawi, who had declared 15 of Iraq's 18 provinces to be "stable and peaceful" during his last visit to Washington in September, appears to have abandoned his illusions, now referring to the security situation in Iraq as "our catastrophe." Last Thursday, he extended the state of emergency in Iraq until early February.

Can’t handle the excitement: In another significant blow to Iraq's upcoming elections, the entire 13-member electoral commission in the volatile province of Anbar, west of the capital, resigned after being threatened by insurgents, a regional newspaper reported Sunday.

Had enough excitement: Thameer Jabar doesn't know if he's grateful or angry for the US invasion of Iraq. He was elated when Saddam Hussein's regime fell, and imagined a better future. But now all he's certain of is that this is the hardest winter in memory. Prices have never been so high, life so hand-to-mouth, or fears for his three children so great.

"We don't know who to blame,'' says Jabar, who at 34 looks a good decade older and whose father was executed by Mr. Hussein's regime in 1989 for membership in a Shiite political party. "The problem started with Saddam - he kept the country at war for my whole life. But now we're in the American era, and life has never been so dangerous. I don't want him back, but sometimes I think it was a better time." A little too exciting for the Ukraine, too: Ukraine's outgoing President Leonid Kuchma has ordered a withdrawal of Ukrainian troops from Iraq. He said his government should draw up plans to withdraw the 1,600-strong contingent in the first half of 2005.

Election News

Results of a PR decision: In its struggle to transfer sovereignty back to Iraq last spring, the Bush administration made some tough decisions about the makeup of the political system and how Iraqi elections could occur quickly and fairly. But now a little-noticed decision on election procedures has come back to haunt administration officials, just weeks before the vote is to take place, administration and United Nations officials say.

The fundamental decision set up one nationwide vote for a new national assembly, rather than elections by districts and provinces. With a violent insurgency spreading through the Sunni Arab areas of the country, it now looks as if fewer Sunnis will vote, distorting the balance of the legislature and casting doubt on whether the election will be seen as legitimate.

Iran: As Iraq lurches toward elections this month, its neighbor Iran is emerging as one of the hottest campaign issues.

Iraq's outspoken defense minister fired one of the first salvos last month, charging that the front-running slate, the Shiite Muslim-dominated United Iraqi Alliance, was controlled by Tehran and was determined to "build an Islamic dictatorship and have turbaned clerics rule in Iraq."

Postponement: The Iraqi elections scheduled for January 30 could be postponed for a few weeks to ensure they are held in a more secure environment, it was revealed last night. Interim Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi is reportedly conducting secret talks with the US administration in a bid to agree a joint decision, Iraqi politicians close to Mr Allawi revealed to Akhbar Al Khaleej correspondent in Baghdad Dr Hameed Abdulla.

Unlikely: Iraq's most influential Sunni group will abandon its call for a boycott of Jan. 30 elections if the United States gives a timetable for withdrawing multinational forces, a spokesman for the group said Sunday.

It is extremely unlikely the United States would consider giving a timetable for a withdrawal.

American Moral Leadership

Life without trial: After raids in recent months that captured hundreds of insurgents in Iraq, the United States has significantly increased the number of prisoners it says are foreign fighters, a group the Bush administration contends are not protected by the Geneva Conventions, American officials said.

The administration has asserted an authority to detain such prisoners indefinitely, as unlawful combatants, but officials have acknowledged that they cannot say how or when the war on terrorism might be deemed to have reached an end.

A senior American official said in an interview this week that the vast majority of the 550 prisoners now held at the American detention center at Guantánamo no longer had any intelligence value and were no longer being regularly interrogated. Still, the official said the Defense Department planned to hold hundreds of them indefinitely, without trial, out of concern that they continue to pose a threat to the United States and cannot safely be sent to their home countries.

The Limbaugh defense: Mr Gonzales, who was the president's chief lawyer for the past four years, sought to distance the White House from the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and from similar allegations regarding treatment of detainees at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

While he acknowledged that some US soldiers might have been confused about the US policy on permissible interrogation tactics, he said that the abuses in Iraq "were simply people who were morally bankrupt trying to have fun".

But at the hearing yesterday, he was repeatedly challenged by both Democrats and Republicans on whether he had damaged American moral authority and put US troops in danger by weakening domestic and international prohibitions against torture. The Human Cost

Falling to pieces: A picturesque Scottish hospital is being used by the US military as a base to treat drug and alcohol addicted troops who have fought in Iraq, the Sunday Herald can reveal.

Peter McCann, chairman of Castle Craig, said: “We have been getting [US troops] in dribs and drabs, but there have been more coming over recently. I think they are being sent to all the corners of Iraq and are falling to pieces when they get back to base. ”

McCann’s comments give an insight into the terrible toll the Iraq war is taking on soldiers. There have been more than 30 recorded suicides among US troops in Iraq, a rate nearly one-third higher than the army’s historical average.

A major study published last year also found that up to 17% of surveyed Iraq veterans suffered from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety or major depression.


Opinion: The president prides himself on being a pig-headed guy. He is determined to win in Iraq even if he is not winning in Iraq.

So get ready for a Mohammedan mountain of spin defining victory down. Come what may - civil war over oil, Iranian-style fatwas du jour or men on prayer rugs reciting the Koran all day on the Iraqi TV network our own geniuses created - this administration will call it a triumph.

Opinion: One of the eerie things about Bush's press conference performance was just how divorced from reality he is. Not only is he still claiming we're going to find the WMD and that Saddam Hussein was linked to 9-11, but he actually claimed we went to war to save the credibility of the United Nations. The man is living in Fantasyland.

Denying that Iraq is a rapidly escalating tragedy will do nothing to help us or the Iraqis get out of it. Pointing out that it's a mess does not make one a fan of Osama bin Laden. Let's get a grip here, team.

Analysis: Keeping U.S. troops in Iraq will only provoke fiercer and more widespread resistance, but withdrawing them too soon could spark a civil war. The second administration of George W. Bush seems to be left with the choice between making things worse slowly or quickly.

The beginning of wisdom is to recognize that the ongoing war in Iraq is not one that the United States can win. As a result of its initial miscalculations, misdirected planning, and inadequate preparation, Washington has lost the Iraqi people's confidence and consent, and it is unlikely to win them back. Every day that Americans shell Iraqi cities they lose further ground on the central front of Iraqi opinion.

Analysis: The starting point for the American troubles was that in the process of liberating the Iraqi people, U.S. forces killed far too many of them. When combined with Abu Ghraib and Rumsfeld's tendency to dismiss in an off-hand, "stuff happens" way any criticisms of the developing mayhem in Iraq, it is not surprising that Arab skepticism about U.S. intentions has grown.

Iraq is not an experiment that future U.S. governments will care to repeat. For the moment, even this administration is unable to repeat it, because there are no ground forces to spare for major campaigns elsewhere. Unless it proves possible to gain the upper hand against the insurgents, a bungled war will leave the United States weaker and not stronger. The confidence in American power that led to war being initiated without direct provocation has been shaken. Whenever the possible use of force is raised again, assurances will be sought that this will not be "another Iraq." And future interventionists will worry about how to shake off the Iraq syndrome.

Blog: It figured.

Eventually, an administration willing to embrace torture to fight terror was going to embrace terror as well: especially an administration populated by moral monsters like John Negroponte, who had embraced terror before, and gotten away with it.

Death squad activity is terrorism. Its purpose is never merely the assassination or kidnapping of a small number of leaders, but always the cowing of entire populations.

This case is no different. Note the language carefully:

"One military source involved in the Pentagon debate agrees that this is the crux of the problem, and he suggests that new offensive operations are needed that would create a fear of aiding the insurgency. "The Sunni population is paying no price for the support it is giving to the terrorists," he said. "From their point of view, it is cost-free. We have to change that equation.""

The target isn't a few dead-enders or foreign terrorist; the target is "the Sunni population," which needs to be taught a lesson.

Opinion: Let us do what we can for the victims of the tsunami. But no matter how much we weep for them, no matter what donations we spare, the offerings will not spare us from history's judgment, if not God's. Lugar said his heart goes out to the victims of the tsunami. No hearts have gone out to Iraqi civilians in this heartless coverup.

Powell said of the tsunami, "The power of the wave to destroy bridges, to destroy factories, to destroy homes, to destroy crops, to destroy everything in its path is amazing." He said, "I have never seen anything like it in my experience."

Yes, he has. It was in Iraq. The tsunami was us.

Casualty Reports

Local story: Las Vegas, NV, soldier killed in Ramadi.

Local story: Tucson, AZ, soldier killed in Iraq.

Local story: Williamstown, OH, soldier killed in Iraq. .


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