Thursday, January 13, 2005

War News for Thursday, January 13, 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: Aide to Ayatollah Sistani killed along with his son and four bodyguards in Salman Pak. Another Sistani aide killed in Najaf.

Bring ‘em on: Six construction workers killed and Turkish businessman kidnapped by gunmen in central Baghdad.

Bring ‘em on: Member of Diyala province local council shot to death in Baquaba. One Iraqi police officer killed and six wounded in roadside bombing in Baquaba. Iraqi National Guard captain gunned down in Quaim.

Bring ‘em on: Five Iraqi soldiers killed and eight wounded in two separate attacks in Mosul. One insurgent killed and one wounded in another incident in southern Mosul.

Bring ‘em on: Assistant to the mayor shot dead in Baquaba.

Bring ‘em on: Two car bombings in Mosul kill two Iraqi soldiers and an unknown number of civilians. Four bank guards burned to death in attack on van carrying coins in Baghdad. Policeman shot dead in Baghdad. Three civilians killed by Iraqi soldiers when their car failed to stop at a checkpoint in Duluiya. Four Iraqi soldiers killed in attacks around Samarra.

Bring ‘em on: One US Marine killed in Al Anbar province.

Bring ‘em on: French reporter kidnapped in Baghdad, Iraqi interpreter disappears in same incident.

Infiltrated: As usual, it was an inside job. Brig Amer Ali Nayef, deputy head of the Baghdad police, and his policeman son, Lt Khaled Amer, were driving to work in an unmarked civilian car, hoping to move through the streets of Dora without being noticed.

But the two carloads of gunmen who approached from behind knew the car, its registration number and its occupants. They blazed away with Kalashnikovs until Nayef, dead at the wheel, drove into a house.

Every day now brings its sinister evidence that the Iraqi security forces - supposedly screened by American military officers - have been infiltrated by the insurgents. Two hours grace: Engineers have repaired a major pipeline linking Kirkuk's oil fields with the northern refinery of Beiji after a sabotage attack interrupted pumping for three weeks, an official with the North Oil Co. said Thursday.

The official said pumping to the refinery resumed two hours before Beiji's reserves would have run out.

The Grand Coalition: Kazakhstan does not consider withdrawing its military mission from Iraq yet, Kazakh Defense Minister Mukhtar Altynbayev said on Thursday.

In August 2003 Kazakhstan sent a 27-man strong platoon of combat engineers to Iraq to be attached to the international stabilization force. The Kazakh unit is tasked with mine-clearing operations, and delivering water to the locals.

Tough sell: With elections less than three weeks away, interim Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi is spending much of his tenure's final days wooing Iraqis and reassuring them of his ability to lead this nation fatigued by war and terror.

It could be a tough sell.

In the six months since the U.S.-backed, tough-talking leader took the helm, things have gotten steadily worse in much of Iraq. An insurgency now nearing its two-year mark has intensified, racial and religious divisions have deepened and discontent has grown over a wide array of problems, from crime and unemployment to power outages and fuel shortages.

Dahr Jamail: During my last trip I interviewed several IP's (Iraqi police) who complained of lack of weapons, radios and vehicles from the occupation forces. Their complaints were centered on the fact that the resistance had better weapons than the police.

Later in my room we watched a press conference on the television with the so-called interim prime minister Iyad Allawi. A journalist asked him if it was true that the cell phone service would be cut on the 15th of this month because of the upcoming "elections."

He dodged the question, deferring it to the ministry of defense. The same ministry of defense who yesterday announced that the Iraqi Army was 50,000 troops and hoped that it would be increased to 70,000. Just today Allawi announced that it was comprised of 100,000 troops.

Lower expectations: The White House sought Wednesday to lower expectations for Iraq's elections, suggesting that there could be little or no voting in the most unstable provinces and that polling is likely to be disrupted in places by violence.

The election carries large stakes for President Bush. With the war a central focus of his presidency, Bush has steadfastly refused to delay the elections and repeatedly promised they will be a key turning point for Iraqis. But insurgents have launched an escalating campaign of violence that is taking its toll, both in U.S. military casualties and in increased risks for Iraqi voters and candidates. Some Sunni factions also are mounting a boycott.

Support the troops!: An Army National Guard soldier said Tuesday that the inadequate training and equipment he received had led him to abandon his unit rather than face deployment to Iraq

Among his concerns, Jacobo said, was that he had been unable to find anyone at his Texas training base who could fix his M-4 assault rifle, the primary weapon he would carry in Iraq. The weapon jams, he said.

Soldiers in Jacobo's Modesto-based National Guard unit — the 1st Battalion, 184th Infantry Regiment — went public late last month with concerns that they would suffer needlessly high casualty rates in Iraq because of poor training. Military officials have denied the soldiers' charges, voiced in an article in the Los Angeles Times.

The soldiers, who trained at the Army's Ft. Bliss Training Complex, said there were equipment problems, including trucks without adequate armor and a shortage of night-vision goggles. They also said they had received very little "theater specific" training to prepare them for conditions in Iraq. For example, the soldiers said they had learned nothing about convoy protection or guarding against insurgents' roadside bombs.

Good for the LNG!: A US National Guard unit has defied a Pentagon request that sought to stop television news crews filming six flag-draped soldiers' coffins arriving in Louisiana.

The Pentagon has barred US media from filming the coffins of US service members arriving at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.

But the Louisiana National Guard allowed a CBS news crew on Wednesday to film the arrival of six soldiers' coffins at the Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base in Belle Chasse, near New Orleans, Louisiana.


Forensics: Of the 951 combat deaths from the start of the war in March 2003 through the end of November, 486 were caused by blast injuries and 310 by bullets, according to the report by the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, a Pentagon agency charged with investigating deaths during military operations.

The causes of the remainder of the combat deaths include 89 "blunt force" injuries and 66 labeled "other," everything from burns and asphyxia to electrocution and drowning.

Of the 306 noncombat deaths, 225 were caused by accidents, mostly involving vehicles, in particular, Humvees. Forty were attributed to suicide, 27 to natural causes, and two were homicides. Five deaths were due to undetermined causes, and results were pending on seven others, the report said.

Car bombs: Vehicles packed with explosives, often detonated by suicide attackers, have become one of the insurgency's most lethal weapons. An Associated Press tally shows there have been at least 181 of them since Iraq's interim government took over June 28 -- just a handful at first but surging to a rate of one or more a day in recent months.

Those bombs killed about 1,000 people, both Iraqis and Americans, and wounded twice as many. The tally found that 68 bombings were suicide attacks and the rest were detonated by other means. Most involved cars, but some used trucks and even motorcycles.

According to the AP tally, there were two car bombs on the last day of June, 11 in July and 12 in August. The numbers surged in the following months, with 26 in September, 43 in October and 48 in November -- eight of them on a single day, Nov. 6. December saw 27 and January is averaging about one a day -- a dozen in the first 11 days.

Active duty: This week, the Army, Air Force, Marine Corps and Navy announced an increase in the number of reservists on active duty in support of the partial mobilization, while the Coast Guard number remained the same. The net collective result is 4,936 more reservists mobilized than last week.

At any given time, services may mobilize some units and individuals while demobilizing others, making it possible for these figures to either increase or decrease. Total number currently on active duty in support of the partial mobilization for the Army National Guard and Army Reserve is 163,655; Naval Reserve, 3,539; Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve, 11,741; Marine Corps Reserve, 13,473; and the Coast Guard Reserve, 967. This brings the total National Guard and Reserve personnel, who have been mobilized, to 193,375, including both units and individual augmentees.

Non-active duty: An estimated 5,500 men and women have deserted since the invasion of Iraq, reflecting Washington's growing problems with troop morale.

Comedy Clown Corner

Cannabis ‘n Coke Clown: Retired U.S. Gen. Barry McCaffrey said the war against drugs is a bigger problem than the war against terror.

<>McCaffrey -- the drug czar under former President Bill Clinton -- says 52,000 people die from drugs each year compared to the 12,000 U.S. troops that have been killed or wounded in Iraq since the war started. General, maybe you’d better stop doing those drugs you’re so worried about. Because you must be stoned if you think the war in Iraq has anything to do with fighting terrorism.

Couture Clown: Paul Bremer, former U.S. administrator in Iraq, defended the decision by U.S.-led forces to disband Saddam Hussein's army and bar senior Baathists from government jobs after what he called the "liberation" of the country.

In an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal, Bremer said a key objective of the war had been to create a "New Iraq" after more than 30 years in which Saddam used the army and intelligence services "to inflict misery, torture and death".

Creepy Clown: "Somebody has been reading too many spy novels."

That reaction came today from Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to reports, published on Newsweek's Web site, that suggest military planners are mulling a so-called "Salvador option" for use against Iraqi insurgents.

Newsweek reports the plan is for American Special Forces units to train Iraqi soldiers to serve as "death squads" to hunt down insurgents. The Newsweek report also suggests the units might even go into places like Syria to hunt down insurgent leaders.

Rumsfeld says "the Pentagon doesn't do things like that."

Killer Clown: On the same day that the White House conceded that its futile search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq was, indeed, finally over, President Bush told Barbara Walters that the invasion of Iraq was "absolutely" worth it.

ABC News reports: "The invasion of Iraq, which ousted Saddam Hussein and has cost the lives of some 1,300 U.S. military personnel and billions of dollars, was 'absolutely' worth it, despite the absence of any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, President Bush told ABC News' Barbara Walters in an exclusive interview that will air this Friday."

American Moral Leadership

Which four?: At the urging of the White House, Congressional leaders scrapped a legislative measure last month that would have imposed new restrictions on the use of extreme interrogation measures by American intelligence officers, Congressional officials say.

The Senate had approved the new restrictions, by a 96-to-2 vote, as part of the intelligence reform legislation. They would have explicitly extended to intelligence officers a prohibition against torture or inhumane treatment, and would have required the C.I.A. as well as the Pentagon to report to Congress about the methods they were using.

But in intense closed-door negotiations, Congressional officials said, four senior members from the House and Senate deleted the restrictions from the final bill after the White House expressed opposition.


Opinion: Americans seem eager to "support our troops" these days. It says so on the bumper of every other car on the road, anyway.

But how our government treats the troops when they come home - as veterans - is no cause for bumper sticker pride.

A trillion-dollar deficit, caused mainly by huge tax cuts during the past four years, has led the VA to impose many economies, small and large. Seven VA hospitals are scheduled to be closed, for instance. The VA is also reviewing the possibility of reneging on a landmark 1996 reform that more than tripled the number of veterans eligible for health-care coverage - from 2 million to 7 million.

Opinion: Terry Jones asks in the Guardian:"Why are there no fundraisers for the Iraqi dead?"

"According to the only scientific estimate attempted, Iraqi deaths since the war began number more than 100,000. The tsunami death toll is in the region of 150,000. Yet in the case of Iraq, the media seems reluctant to impress on the public the scale of the carnage.

"I haven't seen many TV reporters standing in the ruins of Fallujah, breathlessly describing how, in 30 years of reporting, they've never seen a human tragedy on this scale. The Pope hasn't appealed for everyone to remember the Iraqi dead in their prayers, and MTV hasn't gone silent in their memory."

Opinion: One of the most chin-forward letters to the editor ever published in The Sun came in early June 2003, from Victoria Clarke, who at the time was the spokeswoman for Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld. She argued that the reports of looting, murder and disorder in Baghdad following the fall of Saddam Hussein had been greatly exaggerated, and that on a per capita basis, the Iraqi capital was considerably safer and more law-abiding than crime-ridden Baltimore. And every day, she noted, the Coalition Provisional Authority was extending security and order, preparing Iraq for democratic sovereignty.

Well, that was then and this is now. Just yesterday, two oil pipelines, one of them only three days old, were bombed near Kirkuk, a bank truck was stolen and three guards were killed in Baghdad, four civilians and five soldiers died in attacks in Mosul, a Japanese base came under mortar attack, the bodies of eight Ukrainian soldiers were airlifted back to Kiev, and it was reported by an American general that Iraq's electricity supply had fallen to a record low.

Opinion: I wouldn't go calling anyone a liar, but as we say in our quaint Texas fashion, this administration is stuffed with people who are on a first-name basis with the bottom of the deck. They've been telling us only four out of the 18 provinces in Iraq will be too unsafe to vote in. Doesn't sound that bad, does it? Unless you happen to know that about 50 percent of the population lives in those four provinces.

Will someone explain to me what earthly good they expect to do by misleading us? If, God forbid, the Iraqi election turns out to be a disaster, will we be better off for not having expected it? How long are Bush and Cheney going to sit there pretending the problem is that the media won't report the "good news" out of Iraq? Be a lot more useful if they paid attention to some of the bad news.

Editorial: "There’s an old saying in Tennessee -- I know it’s in Texas, probably in Tennessee -- that says, fool me once, shame on -- shame on you. Fool me -- you can’t get fooled again." -- George W. Bush, Nashville, Tenn., Sept. 17, 2002.

After almost two years, the search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq has been called off. The 1,200 military and intelligence specialists that comprised the Iraq Survey Group has pored through military installations, factories and laboratories, and interviewed scores of scientists, technicians and Saddam Hussein loyalists. They’ve come up with nothing.

Now, more than 1,100 American troops are dead, uncounted thousands of Iraqis have been killed, and the country is a seething tinderbox that explodes every day. The operation the neocons predicted would be a cakewalk could total more than $200 billion through 2005, by some estimates. Instead of being greeted with flowers and chocolates, U.S. troops face sniper fire and car bombings every day. The sales job that defined the Bush administration’s first term has exploded in its face, and there’s no end in sight.

Opinion: For more than three years, President George W. Bush has been using the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and legal sophistry produced by attorneys appointed to key positions in the White House, Justice Department and the Department of Defense to justify the exercise of essentially unlimited and unchecked presidential power.

Six months before the 2002 torture memo was issued, Bush used opinions from the same legal team in declaring that the Geneva Conventions, treaties signed and ratified by the United States and obeyed by presidents for more than 50 years, were optional obligations to be applied or ignored as he saw fit. Prisoners taken in the course of actions he chose to label as the war on terrorism - whether in Afghanistan, Iraq or elsewhere - would be entitled to Geneva protections only if he judged them deserving of it. And they would be held, questioned and treated as he determined they should be.

For all their bullying assertions of power and moral superiority, these are frightened little men who lack faith in the elemental principles of the most noble and heroic nation in human history. They're afraid that American ideals are too weak to prevail against the ruthless rage of terrorists, afraid that the rule of law is inferior to the rule of violence and intimidation.

In this, they are terribly terribly wrong.

Opinion: While it is tragic that many more American soldiers will die in vain, courtesy of George W. Bush, the future would be infinitely worse had the war gone according to plan. If the United States military had successfully pacified the Iraqis, thereby facilitating an occupation that was relatively easy for America, Iraq would have been just the first domino to fall. Iran would have toppled next, and then Kazakhstan, and then anywhere else Islam and petroleum intersect to provide the pretext for corporate plunder.

That Iraq has become a quagmire should be viewed as a painful yet welcome development by those Americans who do not want our country to be the national equivalent of the Hell’s Angels. Periodically throughout our history, the American majority has had to relearn the importance of what Dr. Phil and international law books term “boundaries”. Having again stormed into a smaller nation that posed no threat, Americans will now pay the excruciating price of having forgotten our most recent lesson in humility.

The invasion of Iraq was classic Soviet-style hegemony, an indefensible crime camouflaged by a blizzard of lies. Despite what red state moralists contend, invading a defenseless country, raping its people, committing mass murder, and then looting the place is not praiseworthy in the commonly accepted definition of the term. It is, in fact, a debasement of Americanism. Given the current zeitgeist of the United States, the Bush crusade to vanquish evildoers by emulating them will end only after the agony of continuing becomes unbearable.

Casualty Reports

Local story: Philadelphia area soldier killed in Ar Ramadi.

Local story: Evening Shade, MO, soldier killed in Taji.

Note to Readers

The editorial staff of Today in Iraq - that would be Yankeedoodle and myself - extend vast amounts of heartfelt gratitude to loyal reader Scaryduck who has most graciously underwritten the cost of expanding the #*%@!!! haloscan comments limit from 1000 to 3000 characters. Speaking as one who has several times used language that made the cat blush when my comments were cut off by that stupid and arbritrary limit, I say "Thank you, o, thank you, Scaryduck!" and I hope all you regular comment writers will raise a glass of your favorite libation to him as well. Oh, and check out his blog - it's just over there to the right.


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