Thursday, January 20, 2005

War News for Thursday, January 20, 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: One killed and one wounded in drive-by shooting at Baghdad office of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan. Iraqi police officer killed in car bombing in Hillah.

Bring ‘em on: Two Iraqi police killed and a foreign engineer kidnapped in highway ambush in central Iraq.

Bring ‘em on: Iraqi forces seal off main routes into Baghdad in response to yesterday’s spate of bombings. US troops launch fresh raids in Mosul.

Bring ‘em on: Two men, purported to be Iraqis working to facilitate the elections, killed on video posted to the internet by a militant group.

Bring ‘em on: Several Iraqi civilians and UK military personnel injured in explosion at entrance to base south of Basra. (Thanks to whisker for the link) Finally, a metric: The number two Pentagon official said reducing American casualties in Iraq was more important than bringing US troops back home -- and pointed to the rising Iraqi death toll as evidence this strategy was working.

"I'm more concerned about bringing down our casualties than bringing down our numbers," Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said in an interview with PBS television's "The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer" program. "And it is worth saying that since June 1, there have been more Iraqi police and military killed in action than Americans."

But he said he was not certain whether this will lead to a reduction in the US troop level, which has been boosted to more than 150,000 in advance of the January 30 election. Business, Bush style: An American contractor gunned down last month in Iraq had accused Iraqi Defense Ministry officials of corruption days before his death, according to documents and U.S. officials.

Stoffel's death has prompted new worries about the integrity of the reconstruction effort in Iraq, which has been plagued by accusations of corruption and cronyism almost from the start. Another bright idea: The plan was a hopeful one: Some of those siding with the insurgency in this restive city would be offered a chance to drop their weapons and vow not to sabotage the elections.

U.S. military commanders invited suspected insurgents and religious and tribal leaders sympathetic to the resistance to gather Tuesday for a conference with Iraqi government and military officials. The invitees would be asked to sign a pledge not to support or participate in violent acts against Iraqi or U.S. forces through the scheduled Jan. 30 elections.

But not one Iraqi signed the pledge, and many used the forum to accuse U.S. troops and Iraqi officials of creating a dangerous atmosphere in a region where the insurgency seems to be gaining momentum. Media restrictions: Rarely, if ever, has a war been covered by reporters in so distant and restricted a way. The New York Times correspondents live in Baghdad behind a massive stockade with four watchtowers, protected by locally hired, rifle-toting security men, complete with NYT T-shirts. America's NBC television chain are holed up in a hotel with an iron grille over their door, forbidden by their security advisers to visit the swimming pool or the restaurant "let alone the rest of Baghdad" lest they be attacked. Several Western journalists do not leave their rooms while on station in Baghdad. So grave are the threats to Western journalists that some television stations are talking of withdrawing their reporters and crews. Amid an insurgency where Westerners - and many Arabs as well as other foreigners - are kidnapped and killed, reporting this war is becoming close to impossible. The murder on videotape of an Italian correspondent, the cold-blooded killing of one of Poland's top reporters and his Bulgarian cameraman, and the equally bloody assault on a Japanese reporter on the notorious Highway 8 south of Baghdad last year have persuaded many journalists that a large dose of discretion is the better part of valour They have some reason to worry: By any standards 2004 has been a bad year, perhaps the worst ever, for the killing of journalists and media staff. In a year overshadowed by war in the Middle East and punctuated by ferocious outbursts of civil unrest, regional conflict and gang violence, media casualties have steadily risen to record levels.

By the end of the year there were 129 killings, murders, assassinations, crossfire victims, accidents and unexplained deaths.

On April 8th 2004, the IFJ led a worldwide protest over the failure of the United States to carry out credible and independent investigations of the killings of journalists at the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad and elsewhere in Iraq. We are still waiting. The unconvincing official version of events released in November satisfied no-one except, of course, the report’s authors who exonerated themselves of all responsibility.

Of course, none of this excuses the incredible cowardice of the American media at home...

IOKIYAR: When Bill Clinton was faced with incontrovertible evidence that he had misled his family, his friends and the public about his bizarre affair with Monica Lewinsky—that is, semen stains on a blue dress—he had to face the music. He conceded he had acted improperly and had lied about his scandalous behavior. The shouting-heads on the left and the right then only had to argue over the consequences of Clinton's misconduct and the suitable punishment. When George W. Bush has been confronted with evidence that everything—yes, everything—he said before the war about Iraq's WMDs was absolutely false, he has refused to acknowledge that he peddled misinformation (or disinformation). He just keeps on dancing. And many in the media have enabled his sidestepping. While the debate over Bush's use—or abuse—of the WMD argument for war in Iraq should be over and done with, the White House and its allies in the media refuse to admit the undeniable. It's no surrender, no retreat. If they don't stop arguing the point, then they do not have to accept responsibility. But then she still didn't admit responsibility: Secretary of State-designate Condoleezza Rice, in a rare acknowledgment of mistakes, said on Wednesday the Bush administration had made some bad decisions in Iraq and was unprepared for stabilizing the country.

The admission came during her confirmation hearing at the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations committee where she was approved by a 16-to-2 vote as the first black woman to become the top U.S. diplomat despite Democrats' criticism over the Iraq war. The Home Front

Outsourcing: A reliable source tells me that RAND has been contracted by the government to come up with a way to avoid instituting a draft, despite the desperate needs for more combat forces.

The solution? Outsource desk and logistics jobs to private companies while pushing those "chairborne" warriors out of their offices into fighting units.

Logisitic troops make up the vast majority of military personnel (somebody probably has the figure, but it's like 8-1 or 9-1 support to combat forces). The proposal would dramatically increase the number of fighting forces (though many of soldiers in support jobs will have no business being in the front lines), and the Haliburtons of the world would clean up taking over support functions.

American moral leadership: Officers of the Central Intelligence Agency and other nonmilitary personnel fall outside the bounds of a 2002 directive issued by President Bush that pledged the humane treatment of prisoners in American custody, Alberto R. Gonzales, the White House counsel, said in documents released on Tuesday.

Martin Lederman, a former Justice Department lawyer who has analyzed the administration's legal positions on treatment of prisoners, said the documents released Tuesday made it clear that the White House had carved an exemption for the C.I.A. in how it goes about interrogating terror suspects, allowing the agency to engage in conduct outside the United States that would be unconstitutionally abusive within its borders. I can only shake my head: Support for the war in Iraq has continued to erode, but most Americans still are inclined to give the Bush administration some time to try to stabilize the country before it withdraws U.S. troops, the Los Angeles Times Poll has found.

The poll, conducted Saturday through Monday, found that the percentage of Americans who believed the situation in Iraq was "worth going to war over" had sunk to a new low of 39%. When the same question was asked in a similar poll in October, 44% said it had been worth going to war. The Next Front A good question: Two years after invading Iraq, is America about to go to war with Iran?

The issue scarcely featured in the election campaign, but ever since Mr Bush defeated John Kerry last November, it has been clear that the Iran will be a crucial challenge of his second term. Even as US policymakers struggle to find an exit strategy from Iraq, they are obsessed by Iran.

Just as before the Iraq war, the neo-conservatives, especially strongly represented in the Pentagon's civilian leadership, loudly demand action against Iran now. In their view, the EU initiative will fail - just as they were convinced the UN inspection would fail in pre-invasion Iraq. At that point however, the scenarios diverge.

The diplomatic uproar over an attack on Iran would eclipse the Iraq controversy. If the US went into Iran, it would do so virtually alone, with not even the semblance of the "Coalition of the Willing" that unseated Saddam. Even Britain would be missing. Instead Israel - the one country that could never go to war with Iraq - might be America's only ally, inflicting yet more damage, were that possible, to the standing of the US in the Islamic world.

An Iraqi Joe McCarthy?: There has been no abatement of Iraqi defense minister Hazim al-Sha'lan's accusations of Iranian and Syrian interference in Iraqi affairs. The minister's allegations surfaced several months ago, but his rhetoric has increased in recent days, eliciting a sharp response from Iranian officials. Syrian and Iraqi officials have also expressed concern over al-Sha'lan's remarks. The minister's latest accusation came in a 17 January interview with Al-Arabiyah television in which he said he had evidence that Iran was providing financial support to some electoral blocs competing in the 30 January elections. He showed the news channel a notebook that he said contained the names and wages allocated to some Islamic militias that receive support from outside Iraq, specifically from Iran. The notebook appeared empty of any writing. If you can’t blind ‘em with brilliance…: The Pentagon is doing its best to knock down Seymour Hersh's report in the latest New Yorker that covert U.S. teams are already in Iran scouting targets for the next exciting installment of the "global war on terrorism" (or "GWOT," as the boys in brass apparently call it).

But like a failed test of the missile defense system, the DoD's protests notably miss the heart of Hersh's claims.


Opinion: There will always be things even the most energetic executive cannot come even close to controlling. Conservatives used to warn us about the dangers of such utopianism—of the unintended consequences of hubristic attempts to "socially engineer" brave new worlds conjured in the heads of liberal intellectuals. Now Americans are once again learning that lesson, but the perpetrators are . . . conservatives.

And their utopia, heaven help them, is Iraq. Opinion: Why are we there? Do you know? I don't know anymore. And no one on either side of the political spectrum will tell us why, from our Republican president to one of our own Democratic senators, to many of our congressmen - no one's got an answer. All are silent.

Some things never change. The ancient Israeli prophet Jeremiah lived in a time of war and upheaval among his people. The leaders then also justified the wars and all the deaths by insisting that everything instead was OK. As Jeremiah mourned to anyone who would listen, "From the least to the greatest, all are greedy for gain; prophets and priests alike, all practice deceit. They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. 'Peace, peace,' they say, when there is no peace. Are they ashamed of their loathsome conduct? No, they have no shame at all; they do not even know how to blush." No shame at all: It is a happy new year for the Bush administration, and this week we'll see the loveliest of parties in downtown Washington. Afterwards, sated and smiling, they will say, "we could have danced all night."

Others, not far from the festivities in Washington, at Bethesda Naval Hospital and Walter Reed and Fort Belvoir, and in military and civilian hospitals across the country and in Germany, won't be having the same happy New Year. The half a million serving soldiers and Marines who have already seen time in Iraq, many with more than one tour in hell, and the almost 160,000 there now, are not having such a great year.

The 25,000 mentally or physically injured who have been returned from what we now understand as the unnecessary but politically-demanded recreational fields of battle in Iraq are not dancing on air. The over 11,000 seriously injured are spending their time learning how to adapt to crippling, blinding and disfiguring injuries, and how to use their new prosthetics instead of perfecting their waltz, rumba, and line-dance technique. The almost 1,500 soldiers and marines who have died in Iraq, like the 100,000 dead Iraqis, are blessedly unaware of the gala celebrations in Washington. Comment: My brother was Sgt. Sherwood Baker. He was a member of the Pennsylvania National Guard deployed a year ago with his unit out of Wilkes-Barre.

He said goodbye to his wife and his 9-year-old son, boarded a bus and went to Fort Dix, N.J., to be hastily retrained. His seven years of Guard training as a forward observer was practically worthless because he would not face combat. All he needed to do was learn how to not die.

He received a crash course in convoy security, including practice in running over cardboard cutouts of children. We bought him a GPS unit and walkie-talkies because he wasn't supplied with them. In Iraq, Sherwood was assigned to the Iraq Survey Group and joined the search for weapons of mass destruction.

David Kay, who led the group until January 2004, had already stated that they did not exist. Former U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix had expressed serious doubts about their presence during prewar inspections. In fact, a cadre of former U.N. inspectors and U.S. generals had been saying for years that Iraq posed no threat to our country. On April 26, 2004, the Iraq Survey Group, at the behest of the stubborn administration sitting safely in office buildings in Washington, was still on its fruitless but dangerous search. My brother stood atop his Humvee, securing the perimeter in front of a suspect building in Baghdad. But as soldiers entered the building, it exploded; the official cause is still not known. Sherwood was struck by debris in the back of his head and neck, and he was killed

The Iraq Survey Group's final report, which was filed in October but revealed only last Wednesday, confirmed what we knew all along. And as my mother cried in the kitchen, the nation barely blinked.

Casualty Reports

Local story: New Haven, CT, soldier killed in Ramadi.

Local story: Phoenix, AZ, soldier killed in Mosul.


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