War News for Monday, January 24, 2005
Bring ‘em on: Three Iraqi teachers killed by roadside bomb near Beiji
Bring ‘em on: Two Iraqis killed by roadside bomb ambush of ING convoy near Beiji
Bring ‘em on: Insurgents de4molosh police station near Hit
Bring ‘em on: One US soldier killed by small arms fire in Mosul
Bring ‘em on: One Iraqi policeman, one Turkish driver killed in convoy ambush near Samarra
Bring ‘em on: Two Iraqis killed, ten wounded by Baghdad
Bring ‘em on: Insurgents execute two Iraqis, one Egyptian working for US forces in Ramadi
Bring ‘em on: US convoy ambushed near Mosul
, one driver killed.
Bring ‘em on: One Iraqi soldier assassinated in his home near Tikrit
Bring ‘em on: Insurgents kidnap Brazilian engineer after convoy ambush near Beiji
Bring ‘em on: Three US soldiers wounded in mortar attack near Samarra
Bring ‘em on: Iraqi civilians wounded in US convoy ambush near Najaf
. “Registration for overseas absentee voting in Iraq's national election has been extended by two days because the turnout so far in the weeklong campaign has run far behind expectations, organizers said Saturday. As of Thursday, fewer than one in 10 of the estimated 1.2 million eligible Iraqis living abroad in 14 countries had registered.”
? "There are no reliable estimates of how many thousands of Iraqi civilians have been killed or injured since U.S. troops toppled Saddam Hussein's regime in April 2003. The Ministry of Health has stopped making public tabulations of the dead. It is not even possible to judge whether the wave of pre-election violence has caused an uptick in casualties."
Hearts and minds
. "By all accounts, Imaad, 32, was a typical, mild-mannered college graduate who spoke English well and had quietly supported the U.S. presence in Iraq -- until Jan. 5, the night the soldiers came. His story about that night, told days later in his small living room, is the story of how the U.S. military made an enemy of one man during a 20-minute encounter. The U.S. military, along with Iraqi security forces, routinely conducts raids throughout Iraq to try to catch insurgents. For the troops, the missions are often dangerous; soldiers say one of the greatest difficulties they face is figuring out who is a friend and who is an enemy."
Rule of law
. "Pentagon officials said they established the Strategic Support Branch using "reprogrammed" funds, without explicit congressional authority or appropriation. Defense intelligence missions, they said, are subject to less stringent congressional oversight than comparable operations by the CIA. Rumsfeld's dissatisfaction with the CIA's operations directorate, and his determination to build what amounts in some respects to a rival service, follows struggles with then-CIA Director George J. Tenet over intelligence collection priorities in Afghanistan and Iraq. Pentagon officials said the CIA naturally has interests that differ from those of military commanders, but they also criticized its operations directorate as understaffed, slow-moving and risk-averse. A recurring phrase in internal Pentagon documents is the requirement for a human intelligence branch 'directly responsive to tasking from SecDef,' or Rumsfeld….Pentagon officials emphasized their intention to remain accountable to Congress, but they also asserted that defense intelligence missions are subject to fewer legal constraints than Rumsfeld's predecessors believed. That assertion involves new interpretations of Title 10 of the U.S. Code, which governs the armed services, and Title 50, which governs, among other things, foreign intelligence. Under Title 10, for example, the Defense Department must report to Congress all "deployment orders," or formal instructions from the Joint Chiefs of Staff to position U.S. forces for combat. But guidelines issued this month by Undersecretary for Intelligence Stephen A. Cambone state that special operations forces may 'conduct clandestine HUMINT operations . . . before publication' of a deployment order, rendering notification unnecessary. Pentagon lawyers also define the 'war on terror' as ongoing, indefinite and global in scope. That analysis effectively discards the limitation of the defense secretary's war powers to times and places of imminent combat."
Sounds like Rummy
is recruiting Heritage Foundation Rambos. "Internal Pentagon briefings describe Strategic Support Branch members as experienced intelligence professionals with specialized skills, 'military operations backgrounds,' and the training to "function in all environments under adverse conditions." But four special operations soldiers who provided information for this article, directly or through intermediaries, said those assigned to work with them included out-of-shape men in their fifties and recent college graduates on their first assignments. 'They arrived with shiny black kneepads and elbow pads, shiny black helmets,' said one special forces officer who served with Waldroup's men in Iraq. 'They brought M-4 rifles with all the accoutrements, scopes and high-end [satellite equipment] they didn't know how to use.' An older member of Waldroup's staff 'became an anchor because of his physical conditioning and his lack of knowledge of our tactics, techniques and procedures. The guy actually put us in danger.'" Fat-assed fifty-somethings and college kids? Sounds like Rummy’s using the same recruiting pool Bremer used to staff the Coalition Provisional Authority. And why put this super-secret outfit under command of a shady reservist when plenty of trained and motivated professionals are available? We all know the answer because we’ve seen the pattern before. The ideologues don’t like the advice they get from the professionals, so they recruit some ideologically sound True Believers and set up an alternative to the professionals. It’s the pattern they used to create the illusion of WMD when the CIA professionals disagreed, to hype their prescription drug bill when the professionals disagreed about the cost, and, most infamously, to circumvent US and international law in order to justify the use of torture
. "US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld will not attend the Munich Security Conference in February. Some say the cancellation is likely due to a war crimes complaint against him that was filed in a German court."
Freedom on the march
. “Security costs were eating up 43 percent of Research Triangle International's contract to promote democracy in Iraq as of late 2004, and that pressure forced RTI's managers to shut down many previously approved reconstruction grants, a Journal investigation has found. Monthly progress reports obtained in a Freedom of Information request show that security had become such an issue that RTI didn't start a single rapid-response grant in the second year of its $236 million government contract for democracy building in post-war Iraq.”
on the march. “The multibillion-pound project to build Britain’s biggest ever warships will be placed under the control of controversial American military firm Halliburton, under an extraordinary deal to be announced this week. The Ministry of Defence is expected to confirm that the controversial firm, closely linked to US vice-president Dick Cheney, will be installed to manage the construction of the two ‘super-carriers’, in a move that will have far-reaching implications for Scottish shipbuilding.” Via Melanie at Bump in the Beltway.
. “The bodies turn up at night. Pulled from the trunks of cars, throats slit and dropped off in a cemetery. Or shot in the back of the head and dumped in the middle of the road. There's no official tally, but interviews with U.S. Army officers and soldiers in Mosul indicate that hundreds of the corpses - calling cards of the insurgency - have turned up during the past several months. It's part of a vicious guerrilla campaign of murder and intimidation in the northern Iraq town that's killed not only hundreds of police, national guardsmen and contractors, but also interpreters working for the U.S. military. U.S. troops have proved unable to stop it.”
Max Boot defends torture
. "Rougher methods have been employed on the worst of the worst. It is alleged, for instance, that 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was tied to a board and temporarily submerged in water to induce a feeling of drowning. "Waterboarding" may well meet the United Nations' definition of torture: the infliction of 'severe pain and suffering, mental or physical.' Should this be permitted? I'm not sure. It's hard to know exactly where to draw the line. But I am sure that I reject the absolutist grandstanding of so many of the president's critics, who would turn international law into a suicide pact. That such views are now espoused even by some supporters of the war on terrorism is a sign of how complacent we have become. I hope it doesn't take another 9/11 to alert us to the mortal danger we still face." This is the kind of claptrap that reveals the moral degeneracy of conservatives like Max. He’s not sure if torture is permissible. But he’s quite sure that anybody who questions his hero, Lieutenant AWOL, is turning “international law into a suicide pact.” In another age, Max would have been quite comfortable justifying the Nurnberg Laws in a column for Der Sturmer. Gee, Max, should you be sodomized with a wood file? I’m not sure
The minimizing - and in some cases outright elimination - of Abu Ghraib and its aftermath from network news coverage is in part (but only in part) political. Fox News, needless to say, has trivialized the story from the get-go, as hallmarked by Bill O'Reilly's proud refusal to run the photos of Graner & Company after they first surfaced at CBS. (This is in keeping with the agenda of the entire Murdoch empire, whose flagship American paper, The New York Post, twice ran Prince Harry's Nazi costume as a Page 1 banner while relegating Specialist Graner's conviction a day later to the bottom of Page 9.) During the presidential campaign, John Kerry barely mentioned Abu Ghraib, giving TV another reason to let snarling dogs lie. Senator John Warner's initially vigilant Congressional hearings - which threatened to elevate the craggy Virginia Republican to a TV stardom akin to Sam Ervin's during Watergate - mysteriously petered out.
Since the election, some news operations, most conspicuously NBC, have seemed eager to rally around the winner and avoid discouraging words of any kind. A database search of network transcripts finds that NBC's various news operations, in conscious or unconscious emulation of Fox, dug deeper into the Prince Harry scandal than Specialist Graner's trial. "NBC Nightly News" was frequently turned over to a journalism-free "Road to the Inauguration" tour that allowed the new anchor to pose in a series of jus'-folks settings.
But not all explanations for the torture story's downsizing have to do with ideological positioning and craven branding at the networks. The role of pictures in TV news remains paramount, and there has been no fresh visual meat from the scene of the crime (or the others like it) in eight months. The advances in the story since then, many of which involve revelations of indisputably genuine Washington memos, are not telegenic. Meanwhile, the recycling of the original Abu Ghraib snapshots, complemented by the perp walks at Fort Hood, only hammers in the erroneous notion that the story ended there, with the uncovering of a few bad apples at the bottom of the Army's barrel.
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