Monday, February 28, 2005

War News for Monday, 28 February 2005 Bring ‘em on: More than 100 people have been killed in a massive car bomb attack in Hillah 100km south of the capital. Bring ‘em on: 20 miles north of Hillah in the town of Musayyib, another car bomb exploded at a police checkpoint, killing at least one policeman and wounding several others. Bring ‘em on: Gunmen have killed four people and wounded two in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul. Bring ‘em on: Police Commander kidnapped by insurgents in Baghdad. Bring ‘em on: US soldier killed Sunday evening in attack in Baghdad. Bring ‘em on: Iraqi police find the body of a headless woman in Baghdad, with a note attached denouncing her as a spy. The Police State UK’s anti-terror law goes rushing through Parliament: The government has said no changes will be made to the plans despite facing pressure to make concessions in order to avoid a backbench rebellion. The measures would enable the home secretary to detain terror suspects under house arrest without trial. Under the new orders, people suspected of terrorism could be subject to house arrest or other restrictions on movement, such as electronic tagging or curfews. Association and communication with specified people could be restricted, as could telephone and internet use. While the orders would mean an end to detention of suspects, breach of a control order could lead to imprisonment. The new orders could also be applied to British citizens - the law lords ruled the ATCSA powers that could only be used on foreign suspects were discriminatory. It is proposed that the orders would be imposed by the home secretary, rather than the courts. Digging In Operation Enduring US Bases? When Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld told reporters last December that he expected U.S. troops to remain in Iraq for another four years, he was merely confirming what any visitor to the country could have surmised. The omnipresence of the giant defense contractor KBR (formerly Kellogg, Brown & Root), the shipments of concrete and other construction materials, and the transformation of decrepit Iraqi military bases into fortified American enclaves—complete with Pizza Huts and DVD stores—are just the most obvious signs that the United States has been digging in for the long haul. It's a far cry from administration assurances after the invasion that the troops could start withdrawing from Iraq as early as the fall of 2003. And it is hardly consistent with a prediction by Richard Perle, the former chairman of the Defense Policy Board, that the troops would be out of Iraq within months, or with Iraqi National Congress leader Ahmed Chalabi's guess that the U.S. occupation would last two years. Take, for example, Camp Victory North, a sprawling base near Baghdad International Airport, which the U.S. military seized just before the ouster of Saddam Hussein in April 2003. Over the past year, KBR contractors have built a small American city where about 14,000 troops are living, many hunkered down inside sturdy, wooden, air-conditioned bungalows called SEA (for Southeast Asia) huts, replicas of those used by troops in Vietnam. There's a Burger King, a gym, the country's biggest PX—and, of course, a separate compound for KBR workers, who handle both construction and logistical support. Although Camp Victory North remains a work in progress today, when complete, the complex will be twice the size of Camp Bondsteel in Kosovo—currently one of the largest overseas posts built since the Vietnam War. Such a heavy footprint seems counterproductive, given the growing antipathy felt by most Iraqis toward the U.S. military occupation. Yet Camp Victory North appears to be a harbinger of America's future in Iraq. Over the past year, the Pentagon has reportedly been building up to 14 "enduring" bases across the country—long-term encampments that could house as many as 100,000 troops indefinitely. John Pike, a military analyst who runs the research group GlobalSecurity.org, has identified a dozen of these bases, including three large facilities in and around Baghdad: the Green Zone, Camp Victory North, and Camp al-Rasheed, the site of Iraq’s former military airport. Also listed are Camp Cook, just north of Baghdad, a former Republican Guard "military city" that has been converted into a giant U.S. camp; Balad Airbase, north of Baghdad; Camp Anaconda, a 15-square-mile facility near Balad that housed 17,000 soldiers as of May 2004 and was being expanded for an additional 3,000; and Camp Marez, next to Mosul Airport, where, in December, a suicide bomber blew himself up in the base's dining tent, killing 13 U.S. troops and four KBR contractors eating lunch alongside the soldiers. At these bases, KBR, a Halliburton subsidiary that works in cooperation with the Army Corps of Engineers, has been extending runways, improving security perimeters, and installing a variety of structures ranging from rigid-wall huts to aircraft hangars. Although the Pentagon considers most of the construction to be "temporary"—designed to last up to three years—similar facilities have remained in place for much longer at other "enduring" American bases, including Kosovo's Camp Bondsteel, which opened in 1999, and Eagle Base in Tuzla, Bosnia, in place since the mid-1990s. Al Faux News? The US plans to begin Arab-language television broadcasts to Europe later this year to try and win the hearts and minds of Arab Muslims there. Three-and-a-half years after Islamic activists based in Germany allegedly helped mount the 11 September 2001 attacks, US-backed TV channel Al-Hurra expects to transmit 24-hour programming to European Muslim communities seen as potentially hostile to the US. France and Germany, which have Western Europe's largest Muslim populations, will be a special focus for news and current affairs programmes intended to promote an American ethic of free speech and open debate. "The 9/11 hijackers came largely from Europe. It's a significant gap that we were not broadcasting in Arabic to Europe," said Kenneth Tomlinson, chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, the US agency in charge of US civilian TV and radio broadcasts overseas. "The reason for being [in Europe] is the same as our reason for being in the Middle East: To provide a different perspective ... of America and the world," said Norman Pattiz, who chairs the broadcasting board's Middle East committee. Expect to see adverts for the positions of Abdul O’Reilly and Muhammed Hannity in the Arab press very soon. Election News Many consider Abdel Aziz al-Hakim, the prominent cleric who leads the United Iraqi Alliance, to have emerged as the country's top Shiite power broker after the Jan. 30 elections. In an interview Sunday with The Associated Press, al-Hakim said the new Iraq must be an Islamic state with laws that do not offend the faith. He said Shiite leaders also envision a federal system that would rely on Iraqis to fight insurgents. AP: In the alliance there are some members who have their own agendas and might try to pressure the entire coalition. It is clear that this was the case during the nomination for the post of prime minister. What is your response? Al-Hakim: Yes. There were some people who were trying to make use of the media, and as you know our policy is not to let media interfere in all our issues, and not to let the media give an exaggerated picture of issues. The decision (to nominate al-Jaafari) was taken unanimously and this is very important. The brothers who nominated him vowed to stand by the prime minister to help him succeed. AP: Islamic Sharia and the constitution? Al-Hakim: There are three points: first, that there must be a respect for the Islamic identity. Second, that Islam is the official religion of the state. Third, that there should not be any law that violates Islam. AP: What is the position of the alliance toward federalism? Al-Hakim: We do not oppose the idea, as we said before. ... Our brothers the Kurds believe that federalism will solve their problems, and we see no harm in adopting this system in Iraq. ...


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