Thursday, February 03, 2005

War News for Thursday, February 3, 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: Twelve Iraqi soldiers executed and two critically wounded in ambush near village of Zab. Two Iraqi soldiers killed in drive-by shooting in Baghdad. New Baghdad city council member gunned down outside his home in southern Baghdad. Two US Marines killed in combat in Al Anbar province. Oil pipeline attacked near Beiji. Bring ‘em on: Two Iraqi contractors killed by gunmen near Baquba. Two civilians killed and six injured in mortar attack on US base at Tal Afar. Governor of Al Anbar province survived roadside bomb attack in Ramadi but a woman was injured when his guards opened fire. Bring ‘em on: Aljazeera states that an unknown number of US soldiers were killed and wounded when a house used as a US military headquarters was detonated in al-Qaim city in western Baghdad. No other news on this incident found at this writing. Murder charges: Up to seven British Paras are expected to be charged with murder for allegedly beating a youth to death in southern Iraq. The Standard has learned that the Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith, is being consulted over charges in a case involving seven soldiers from the 3rd Battalion, the Parachute Regiment. An official announcement about the case is expected shortly. What I Heard About Iraq Just go read it. Many thanks to alert reader Prime Minister Tony Quisling for the link. Election News Irregularities: As the national euphoria over the high turnout and seemingly smooth operation of Sunday's elections begins to fade slightly, claims of election irregularities are surfacing around the country. In northern Iraq, protests have repeatedly broken out over the last few days in several cities, where officials claim that hundreds of thousands of citizens, many of them Kurdish Christians, were not able to vote because balloting materials arrived inexplicably late. A huge crowd of Shiite Muslims returning to southern Iraq from their holy pilgrimage to Mecca charged Monday that they and hundreds of others like them had been deliberately kept from coming back to their country in time to vote in Sunday's election. Iraq's interim president said a shortage of ballots at some polling places may have kept tens of thousands from voting. More irregularities: Sunni Arab politicians in the ethnically unstable northern Iraqi province of Kirkuk claim that their constituents were shortchanged during Sunday's elections by a scarcity of ballots in their districts. The complaints indicate that local elections, which were held simultaneously with the parliamentary vote, are proving divisive in ethnically and religiously diverse provinces such as Kirkuk, where Sunni Arabs, Kurds and Turkomans are all competing for political advantage. In spite of a national strategy by prominent Sunni organisations to boycott the elections, Sunni Arab voters in Kirkuk were given special dispensation to take part in provincial voting, specifically to thwart Kurdish candidates from dominating the poll. According to Mr Ali, the bulk of some 95,000 Sunni Arabs registered as voters in the Hawija area tried to vote but almost all of them found that they had missed their chance. Of 38 designated polling centres in the Hawija district, only 19 actually opened, he said. But more problematically, the electoral commission had only sent 50,000 ballots to the district, even though more than 100,000 voters were on the rolls. The district's Kurdish minority was able to reach the centres first, he added. Ten percent: With its thriving tribal structure, its serious insurgent violence and its mixed society of Kurds, Arabs and other ethnicities, this city might seem a good benchmark to assess the success or failure of national elections intended to forge a government reflecting Iraq's diversity. Here, where wartime privations continue to take their toll, where "Death to Traitors" and "Long Live the Mujahedeen" were spray-painted on polling centers, where insurgents issued threatening fliers and publicly killed Iraqis they called collaborators with the Americans, many observers questioned whether anyone would vote. With 60 percent of the count completed by Wednesday, the city's overall turnout seems slightly more than 10 percent, somewhat more than 50,000 of Mosul's 500,000 estimated eligible voters. Voting with their feet: Syrian officials say 700,000 Iraqis from various ethnic, religious and economic backgrounds have arrived since the U.S.-led invasion, far more than in any other country in the region. The flow has spiked in the past four months. The first trickle of wealthy Iraqis, who U.S. officials say may now be helping finance the insurgency, has been followed by a larger wave of mostly Shiite Muslims and Christians -- groups targeted by the daily violence. U.N. officials say many are doctors, professors, business owners and recent college graduates, the intellectual core that officials in Washington hoped would rebuild Iraq. As they settle in the old stone buildings of the Christian quarter here and in the southern slums of Damascus 185 miles to the south, the enclaves are experiencing soaring rents, overcrowded schools, rising crime and health problems. U.N. officials say they are witnessing the exodus they had expected 22 months ago, when the United States and its allies invaded. Winning Hearts and Minds Blackwater USA: The arrogant tactics of the private military company that escorted top US officials around Iraq are partly to blame for the rebellion against the US occupation that has taken scores of American and thousands of Iraqi lives, according to a Marine colonel who helped train Iraqi troops in the initial stage of the war."They made enemies everywhere," Colonel Thomas X. Hammes, an expert on guerrilla warfare and a senior fellow at the National Defense University told a conference on military contracting last week. He was referring to the tactics used by Blackwater USA, the North Carolina company that was hired by the Coalition Provisional Authority to provide security for L. Paul Bremer, the US administrator who was dispatched by the Bush administration to run Iraq in 2003. Many thanks to alert reader get your war on for the link. Abu Ghraib: Testifying on behalf of a former Abu Ghraib guard facing jail time for abusing Iraqi detainees, an Army major who oversaw military police at the U.S.-run prison said yesterday that the soldiers worked under deplorable conditions made worse by basic confusion over who was in charge. Maj. David W. DiNenna described the notorious Iraqi prison as filthy and overcrowded and said the military police soldiers who worked as guards, including convicted soldier Sgt. Javal S. Davis, received little instruction on how to handle often unruly detainees. "We didn't have a training day. A training day would have meant the prisoners were going to have to watch themselves," DiNenna testified. He said that his e-mail pleas for more help went unanswered and he called the prison's command structure in late 2003 "extremely confusing." Look For This Story On The Warblogger Sites Oil embargo: Documents obtained by CNN reveal the United States knew about, and even condoned, embargo-breaking oil sales by Saddam Hussein's regime, and did so to shore up alliances with Iraq's neighbors. The oil trade with countries such as Turkey and Jordan appears to have been an open secret inside the U.S. government and the United Nations for years. The unclassified State Department documents sent to congressional committees with oversight of U.S. foreign policy divulge that the United States deemed such sales to be in the "national interest," even though they generated billions of dollars in unmonitored revenue for Saddam's regime. Estimates of how much revenue Iraq earned from these tolerated side sales of its oil to Jordan and Turkey, as well as to Syria and Egypt, range from $5.7 billion to $13.6 billion. This illicit revenue far exceeds the estimates of what Saddam pocketed through illegal surcharges on his U.N.-approved oil exports and illegal kickbacks on subsequent Iraqi purchases of food, medicine, and supplies -- $1.7 billion to $4.4 billion -- during the maligned seven-year U.N. oil-for-food program in Iraq. Breaking the Military Painful: Massing enough troops for another rotation in Iraq will be "painful" and may eventually require the Pentagon to adopt policies that would extend the two-year limit on the mobilization of reserves, a senior Army leader told Congress yesterday. The pressure for a broader mobilization comes as demand for troops in Iraq remains unexpectedly high. Cody acknowledged that shortly after major combat operations in Iraq were declared over on May 1, 2003, the Pentagon projected that the number of brigades required to secure the country would fall from 16 at that time to 11 by December 2003 and four last year. There are now 20 U.S. brigades in Iraq, including an increase of about three brigades deployed only for the period surrounding the Iraqi elections held last Sunday. If the recruiting trends and the demand for forces persist, the Pentagon under current policies could eventually "run out" of reserve forces for war-zone rotations, a Government Accountability Office expert warned in a statement submitted for yesterday's hearing. Already, the Pentagon projects a need to keep more than 100,000 reservists continuously mobilized over the next three to five years. More than 412,000 Reserve and Guard members have been mobilized since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Coming up short: The Army is coming up short in its recruiting of National Guard forces, and staffing the next rotation of guardsmen and reservists to serve in Iraq will be difficult, top military officials told lawmakers Wednesday. Gen. Richard A. Cody, the Army's vice chief of staff, said the Guard struggled to staff its second and third rotations for the Iraq war but still met the call for troops. Of the 150,000 U.S. troops in Iraq now, nearly 50 percent are from the Guard and Reserve. The figure is set to drop to 30 percent for the next rotation, beginning this summer, because combat-ready Guard units have been tapped out. Miscellany Counting the dead: 8 December 2004 - Today 46 prominent diplomats, peers, health professionals, religious figures, writers and academics signed an open letter to the Prime Minister, calling on him to commission an urgent inquiry into Iraqi deaths and injuries since March 2003. Together they represent an influential and growing body of opinion that the government's failure to provide estimates of Iraqi casualties is unacceptable. Co-founder of Iraq Body Count, John Sloboda, said: “Having made no effort to count Iraqi casualties at all, the British government now says that reliable figures are not available. We know from our work and the research of others that information from Iraqi hospital, mortuary and other official sources is available and this should be combined with media reports, military contact data and active on-the­ground research to establish the most accurate figures possible. No figures in a war zone are going to be perfect – but that's no excuse for not trying." Shooting people: At a panel discussion in San Diego Tuesday, a top Marine general tells an audience that, among other things, it is "fun to shoot some people." The comment, made by Lt. Gen. James Mattis, came in reference to fighting insurgents in Iraq. He went on to say, "Actually, its a lot of fun to fight. You know, it's a hell of a hoot. I like brawling." "You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap women around for 5 years because they didn't wear a veil," Mattis continued. "You know, guys like that ain't got no manhood left anyway. So it's a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them." Mattis leads Camp Pendleton's 1st Marine Division in Iraq. He is in charge of the Marine Corps combat development and is based in Quantico, Va. But we only invaded to spread freedom: China and India are locked in an increasingly aggressive wrangle with the United States over the world’s most critical economic commodity: oil. More than any other issue, this tussle will shape the economic, environmental and geopolitical future of these three countries, and the world. Ensuring a steady flow of cheap oil has always been one of the central goals of U.S. foreign and economic policy, and Washington’s preeminent position in the world is based in large measure on its ability to do this. But China and India are increasingly competing with the United States to secure oil exploration rights in Africa, Southeast Asia, Central Asia and Latin America. Some Timely Information for US Marines in the Individual Ready Reserve Mobilization/Deployment and Family Readiness Information Delay, Deferment, and Exemption Members of the Ready Reserve and Retirees who have been involuntarily ordered to Active Duty have the option of request a delay, deferment, or exemption based on their situation at the time of mobilization. Members will be permitted a mandatory minimum delay of three full calendar days following the date of notification. Exemption: A situation which necessitates cancellation of a member's mobilization orders and precludes re-issuance of orders but does not warrant the member's separation. 1 - Confirmed HIV Positive member. 2 - Theology or Divinity School students. What Is Happening To My Country? Yoo claims US public supports torture: After a year of near-constant revelations and allegations, the controversy over the use of torture in the war on terror is reaching its crucial moment in the Senate debate over whether to confirm Alberto Gonzales as attorney general. If Gonzales is confirmed, which appears likely, the Bush administration is likely to claim that Congress has given a firm mandate for its interrogation policies, just as President Bush said his re-election victory in November was a new mandate for his policies on Iraq. "People who wanted a public discussion of this issue of interrogation methods have had it, for almost a year now," said John Yoo, a UC Berkeley law professor who played a key role in helping craft the administration's policies on torture when he was a Justice Department official from 2001 to 2003. "There has been debate, press leaks, hearings. Sen. (John) Kerry could have attacked President Bush on torture during the election campaign, but in fact, he tried to outflank the president on the right on terrorism. Congress could have expanded the statute on terrorism to tighten interrogation rules, but it hasn't. The election and the confirmation of Gonzales are a sign of general support of the administration's anti-terrorism policies, which include interrogation and the Patriot Act." Commentary Opinion: If college students knew they might have to patrol Fallujah or Mosul in onion-skinned Humvees, you can bet they'd be organizing around the clock to burn draft cards, churn out posters and round up loudspeakers for some of the biggest demonstrations you ever saw. But nowadays, we draft only those men and women who at one time or another were sufficiently naive, desperate or selfless to volunteer for the armed forces. As long as they expect that someone else will get stuck with the losing hand of death, disfigurement or lifetime emotional trauma, college students, who were the most dependable foot soldiers of the Vietnam War protests, figure they might as well turn over and go back to bed. Comment: Deprived of promised security, reliable electricity, jobs, proper sewage treatment, water and gasoline, the Iraqi people took charge in Sunday's election after nearly two years of disastrous and incompetent mismanagement of their country by the Bush White House. While the Bush administration and the mainstream American media lather themselves in congratulatory self-adulation over the election, let us not forget that it was the threat of full-scale, armed rebellion from Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani and the Shiite community that brought about Sunday's direct election. The original White House plan was to appoint a constitutional assembly made up of members selected by U.S.-approved committees in regional districts. Yet, in the same alternate reality that gave us phantom WMDs, bogus Iraqi ties to Sept. 11 and a war that was supposed to cost only $60 billion, the Bush administration and the mainstream media now would have us believe the election was the exclusive work of George Bush. Opinion: While it's always heartwarming to see a brutalized and disheartened people flex their newfound freedom for the first time, the costs of this teetering, fragile, force-fed, implode-at-any-moment democracy are nauseating and appalling. You already know the numbers: $300 billion, over 1,400 dead U.S. soldiers and over 10,000 permanently wounded and countless thousands of dead innocent Iraqi civilians -- and many, many more to come. And let us not forget the biggest disclaimer of all: Not a single one of BushCo's alleged reasons for dragging our fractured and bankrupt nation into one of the most brutal wars since Vietnam has actually proved valid or justifiable. The disgusting array of WMD/nuclear/biotoxin lies and deceptions are not suddenly erased because we set up some polling places. How quickly we forget: A democratic Iraq was never the reason Bush forced us into this war. Iraq's fledgling democracy is a pleasant side effect, a bonus PR move, a heartstring-tugging and patriotic patina of bogus humanitarianism BushCo is now trying to slather over one of the most disastrous and inept military efforts in recent history. It makes for terrific photo ops. It makes for miserable and debilitating foreign policy. Casualty Report Local story: La Grande, OR, soldier dies of ‘non-combat injuries’ in Kirkuk. .


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