Wednesday, January 19, 2005

War News for Wednesday, January 19, 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: Two people killed, one Australian and seven others injured in truck bombing outside Australian embassy in Baghdad.

Bring ‘em on: Eighteen people, including five police, killed and one wounded in car bombing of police station in eastern Baghdad. Two Iraqi security guards killed in car bombing near Baghdad international airport. Two Iraqi civilians and two Iraqi soldiers killed in car bombing at a military complex in Baghdad. At least one person killed in explosion at Baghdad bank that targeted police as they collected their salaries.

Bring ‘em on: Two civilians killed by US soldiers in checkpoint shooting in Tal Afar. Six children in the backseat of the car were uninjured. Physically.

Bring ‘em on: US soldier killed in car bombing in Baghdad.

Bring ‘em on: One bystander killed and another wounded in failed assassination attempt against dean of police academy in Irbil. The governor of Dahouk escaped injury in roadside bomb attack. Several people wounded in mortar attack on al-Muthana airport compound. Barber killed by gunmen in Baghdad for giving customers Western style haircuts. Two Iraqis killed when American soldiers opened fire after their convoy was attacked by a car bomb in Mosul. Iraqi police officer killed by car bomb in central Iraq. Two human rights leaders found shot to death in Kirkuk after being kidnapped Tuesday.

Bring ‘em on: Two Iraqi Shiites publicly beheaded by insurgents in Ramadi. Four additional bodies found in Ramadi with notes claiming they were collaborators.

Bring ‘em on: Two British security contractors killed, one missing after attack on their convoy south of Beiji.

Long term plans: On the day of the debate the Christian Science Monitor spotlighted the findings of defense specialist John Pike, whose website, GlobalSecurity.org, located twelve "enduring bases" in Iraq, including satellite photos and names. In March, the Chicago Tribune reported that US engineers were constructing fourteen such long-term encampments--the number Kerry referred to. The New York Times previously placed the number at four.

Now comes a report in the New York Sun by Eli Lake revealing that the Pentagon is building a permanent military communications system in Iraq, a necessary foundation for any lasting troop presence. The new network will comprise twelve communications towers throughout Iraq, linking Camp Victory in Baghdad to other existing (and future) bases across the country, eventually connecting with US bases in Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Afghanistan.

Next time the Bush Administration hints at withdrawing troops, keep these grand plans in mind.

Election News

The invisible election: Less than two weeks before the Jan. 30 vote, Iraqis' frustration is rising as they prepare for the most important election of their lives amid a climate of fear, insecurity and scant information.

There have been no public debates or voter fact booklets to help citizens wade through the 111 lists of candidates for the new national assembly, which will write the country's constitution. Iraqis still don't know where they will vote, what the ballots will look like or, because of assassination fears, the names of more than 7,400 candidates.

Fourteen: The political violence in this ethnically diverse region of Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis has been constant for months, but it has intensified in recent weeks as the election approaches.

At least seven candidates and one poll worker have already been killed in Diyala, said Mr. Jubori, who counts 14 attempts on his own life.

But insurgents have had little problem spreading their message, mounting a steady campaign of violence and intimidation.

Divisions: It was an Iraqi gathering straight out of Bush administration dreams: Educated professionals and businessmen, both Shiite and Sunni Muslims, who wanted to build a new Iraq and had been eager for elections.

But when the heated discussion started in Ghassan Attiyah's living room, you saw how these elections are tearing the country apart.

It is too late now to postpone the Jan. 30 elections. The open question is whether it will still be possible for Iraqis to reconcile with one another after a ballot that divides them along religious and ethnic lines.

Gen. Sattler voices confidence: Thousands of Iraqis have returned to the former insurgent stronghold of Falluja and will be allowed to vote inside the city in Iraq's Jan. 30 national election, a senior U.S. Marine general said on Tuesday.

Lt. Gen. John Sattler, speaking in a videoconference from Falluja with Pentagon reporters, said residents of the nearby city of Ramadi, another restive area of the so-called "Sunni Triangle," will also be allowed to vote there.

"If you're in Falluja, you'll be able to vote in Falluja. If you're in Ramadi, you'll definitely be able to vote in Ramadi ... It will be safe. It will be secure," said the general, commander of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force based in al Anbar Province.

Gen. Sattler is an ass: U.S. military commanders increasingly believe that American troops will never entirely defeat Iraqi insurgents and now plan to reduce offensive operations and focus on training Iraqi security forces.

In recent interviews, officials in Baghdad and at the Pentagon have acknowledged that the insurgency remains potent and resilient despite sustained U.S. assaults.

After the United States cleared fighters from the insurgent stronghold of Fallujah in November, American officials were optimistic that the offensive had inflicted irreparable harm on the guerrilla organizations that targeted both U.S. and Iraqi troops. Marine Lt. Gen. John Sattler said at the time that the Fallujah campaign had "broken the back" of the insurgency.

Yet the violence in the weeks since then has proved that Iraqi insurgents remain capable of a sustained, organized campaign.

U.S. News

Political reconciliation, a real Bush specialty: Condoleezza Rice, President Bush's nominee for secretary of state, refused Tuesday to set any timetable for the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq, but declared that the United States was making "some progress" in training Iraqi security forces.

Under persistent bipartisan questioning at her confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Ms. Rice also declared that beyond strengthening Iraq's fledgling police and military, the most urgent task facing Iraqis after the elections was to overcome differences among Sunni Arabs, Shiites, Kurds and others by seeking political reconciliation among themselves.

Contradiction: The strains on the volunteer military from the war in Iraq are now unsettling as many Republicans as Democrats — and exposing an enduring contradiction in President Bush's agenda.

Conservative defense analysts and GOP legislative leaders are raising alarms over the pressures that Iraq is imposing on the military, especially the part-time Army National Guard and Reserve. With growing urgency, these critics argue that the Pentagon is relying too heavily on the citizen-soldiers of the Guard and Reserve in Iraq because the administration has refused to enlarge the size of the full-time military enough to meet new demands.

Ready, aim, spin: As they leave for a yearlong tour in Iraq, soldiers of the 18th Airborne Corps are packing the necessities of modern warfare: M-4 carbines, ceramic-plated body armor and a plastic wallet card that lists talking points for interviews.

Packing every desk in a high-ceiling classroom, and so close to shipping out that most already wore desert camouflage, they got a PowerPoint slide show from Master Sgt. Pam Smith of the Corps public affairs office. She also gave them plastic cards listing talking points on one side and basic guidelines and tips for interviews on the other.

Tailored to fit: As the U.S. military approaches nearly two years in the Iraq conflict, media training for soldiers going into the war zone has been stepped up, becoming mandatory for Army troops since October, E&P has learned.

"Talking point" cards for military personnel, meanwhile, are being updated regularly as the war progresses -- often as much as once a week -- to keep up with the conflict's changing issues and the proximity of embedded reporters. Among the current talking points: "We are a values-based, people-focused team that strives to uphold the dignity and respect of all."

"As situations happen, you will have ever-changing talking points, as much as every week," said Capt. Jeff Landis, a Marine Corps public-affairs spokesman. "They are tailored to the situation."

Fast learners across the puddle: A court-martial jury viewed photos of what prosecutors called ''shocking and appalling'' mistreatment of Iraqis as three British soldiers went on trial Tuesday for the alleged abuse.

Photos taken in May 2003 by British soldiers showed a bound Iraqi being dangled over a loading dock by a forklift, another being subjected to a simulated kick, and both Iraqis stripped and simulating sexual acts together.


Dahr Jamail


Onward to Iran

Seymour Hersh: George W. Bush’s reëlection was not his only victory last fall. The President and his national-security advisers have consolidated control over the military and intelligence communities’ strategic analyses and covert operations to a degree unmatched since the rise of the post-Second World War national-security state. Bush has an aggressive and ambitious agenda for using that control—against the mullahs in Iran and against targets in the ongoing war on terrorism—during his second term. The C.I.A. will continue to be downgraded, and the agency will increasingly serve, as one government consultant with close ties to the Pentagon put it, as “facilitators” of policy emanating from President Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney. This process is well under way.

“This is a war against terrorism, and Iraq is just one campaign. The Bush Administration is looking at this as a huge war zone,” the former high-level intelligence official told me. “Next, we’re going to have the Iranian campaign. We’ve declared war and the bad guys, wherever they are, are the enemy. This is the last hurrah—we’ve got four years, and want to come out of this saying we won the war on terrorism.”


Opinion: According to a Bush interview with The Washington Post, if you have a problem with the war in Iraq, tough. Bush said he saw no reason to hold any administration officials accountable for mistakes or misjudgments made in pre-war planning.

"We had an accountability moment, and that's called the 2004 elections," Bush said. "The American people listened to different assessments made about what was taking place in Iraq, and they looked at the two candidates, and chose me."

And that's Bush's best tack for his massive blunder: put it back on you. If you voted for Bush, it's your war, too. I suppose timing is everything. Had the White House fully acknowledged what it did last week back in November -- if Bush's "accountability moment" came after, not before, that moment of truth -- would you have still voted for Bush?

Editorial: After a costly and painstaking two-year effort by a team of 1,500 military and intelligence specialists, the United States recently shut down its search without finding even one stockpile of chemical, biological or nuclear weapons. Charles Duelfer, the chief U.S. weapons inspector, has concluded that Iraq had not made any WMD since 1991.

The unmistakable conclusion is that the United Nations weapons inspections that Bush derided as ineffective were working precisely as intended. If the administration had given inspectors the time that other members of the Security Council said they needed, that reality might have become evident and the war - and all the chaos, uncertainty and death that it has wrought - might have been averted.

Opinion: But as appalled as I am by Bush's willful misreading of history, I'm even more upset by his hypocrisy. He seems determined to destroy the very foundations of American democracy that he insists are our bulwark against our enemies and the cause of our enemies' hatred of us. He launched a preemptive war against Iraq by lying to the American public. He helped create an atmosphere in which the torture of enemy prisoners in violation of the Geneva accords was tolerated, if not encouraged. And his administration has consistently tried to subvert our free press by masking government propaganda as legitimate news and opinion.

Editorial: The good news from Iraq Tuesday was the release of a Syrian Catholic archbishop who had been kidnapped a day earlier outside a church in Mosul. The bad news was the persistence of lawlessness that makes such terrorism possible.

The bad news, as usual, outweighed the good, as Iraq hurtles toward Jan. 30 elections that are supposed to make history but may just make more trouble.

Casualty Reports

Local story: Blairstown, NJ, soldier killed in Humvee crash in Baghdad.

Local story: Bronx, NY, soldier killed in shooting accident in Mosul.

Local story: Queens, NY, soldier killed in Baghdad.

Local story: Cortez, CO, soldier killed in Ramadi bombing.

Local story: Pineville, LA, soldier killed in Iraq.

Local story: Corpus Christi, TX, Marine dies in “non-combat related” incident in Ramadi. .


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