Tuesday, February 08, 2005

War News for Tuesday, February 08, 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: At least 13 Iraqi army recruits killed and at least 11 wounded in car bombing in west Baghdad. Bring ‘em on: Secretary-General of the Democratic Party of the Iraqi Nation survived an ambush by gunmen in which two of his sons were killed. Bring ‘em on: One civilian killed and three wounded in mortar attack in Mosul. Eight year old child killed in mortar attack in Baquba. Five other people killed in separate attacks across the area north of Baghdad. Oil pipeline between northern Iraq and Beiji hit by rocket. Bring ‘em on: Three Iraqi policemen killed in fighting in Baghdad’s Al-Ghazaliyah district. Bring ‘em on: Three civilians killed in mortar attack on Mosul police station. One Iraqi killed and four wounded in mortar attack on city council building in Samarra. Body of an ING soldier found on city street in Ramadi. Bring ‘em on: One insurgent killed, one wounded in two attacks on US troops in Baghdad’s Sadr City. The Elections – Kurds Kirkuk: Turkmen and Arab political parties in the Iraqi city of Kirkuk have accused Kurds of fixing the result of provincial elections held on the 30 January. Official results for the election held on the same day as Iraq's national vote have not yet been released. But Turkmen and Arab parties in the northern city on Sunday said that Kurds from other parts of the country flooded the city on election day to inflate the community's vote. Second place nationally: A Kurdish ticket pulled into second place ahead of U.S.-backed Prime Minister Ayad Allawi's candidates in Iraq's national election after votes were released Monday from the Kurdish self-governing area of the north. Kurds, estimated at 15-20 percent of the population, gave most of their votes to a joint ticket made up of the two major Kurdish parties, which was in second with about 24 percent of the votes reported as of Monday. One of the Kurdish leaders, Jalal Talabani, has announced his candidacy for the presidency. Non-negotiable: ”When someone has the power, he will take everything,” says retired soldier Mohammed Hassan Mohammed in a Shia mosque in the Northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk. Like most Shia Arabs in this oil-rich city, his family came here in the 1980s during Saddam's massive campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Kurds. Like most Shias here, his family came from the Iraqi military. And like most Shias here, he rejects Kurdish claims that Kirkuk is a part of Kurdistan. What about claims that Saddam killed or forcibly removed more than 100,000 Kurds from Kirkuk and replaced them with Arabs, I ask. ”What they say is very correct,” he says, ”but when you see what they're doing, it's like what Saddam Hussein was doing.” But Kurdish leaders are firm. They want all the Arabs who came to Kirkuk since 1975 to leave. Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) chief Jalal Talabani, the Kurdish candidate for president or prime minsiter of Iraq, has made the repatriation of Arabs from Kirkuk a non-negotiable point for a Kurdish-Shia governing coalition in Baghdad. The Elections – Shiites Sistani: Al-Sayid Ali al-Husseini al-Sistani is now indisputably the most powerful man in Iraq. The elections he demanded, on the terms he insisted upon, were an unexpected success; the party he crafted, and then blessed, has won a landslide victory. The United Iraqi Alliance, better known as the Shia List, racked up more than 65 percent of the votes counted as of last weekend. That's at least enough to choose the leaders of the new government, and when final results come in, it may come close to the two-thirds margin necessary to dictate the terms of Iraq's new constitution. But the ayatollah also has insisted that Iraq's new constitution must be in line with Islamic principles, and recognize Islam as the nation's religion. Iraq's women are encouraged to vote as they want but, under Sistani's teachings, they won't be able to shake the hand of any man other than a father, brother or husband. (Sistani also forbids music for entertainment, dancing and playing chess.) "It's the Shiite equivalent of the Christian Coalition," says Cole. "The Christian Coalition doesn't want pastors to rule America, but it does want Christian ideals to govern policy." No compromise: A high-ranking Shiite cleric who helped a coalition of religious parties to apparent victory in Iraq's elections eight days ago said Sunday that the new constitution must embody Islamic law. "We will accept no compromise," said a statement by Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Ishaq al-Fayad, one of the three top Shiite clerics who serve beneath the most senior religious leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. Al-Fayad said separation of religion and state must be "completely rejected." The Elections – Sunnis Scant representation: The vote count for the Salahuddin province, which is still incomplete, confirmed that a boycott of the Jan. 30 elections called for by Sunni clerics kept most Sunnis from the polls, allowing relatively small populations of Shi'ites and Kurds to dominate. Based on the results so far, it seems certain that Sunnis, who account for about 20 percent of Iraq's 28 million people, will have scant representation in the transitional national assembly. In the province, the Shi'ite coalition backed by Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the United Iraqi Alliance, came in first, with 22 percent of the votes cast, followed by the Kurdish Alliance, with 15 percent, based on results from 80 percent of the polling stations. The apparently low turnout in Salahuddin province -- just 124,000 votes -- also suggests few Sunnis cast ballots. The results raised further concerns about the extent to which Sunnis will be prepared to accept the assembly and the constitution it writes. Rummy News Now he tells them: Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, on CNN's Late Edition, said he doubted Iraq would become an Islamic government. "But look, Iraq is for the Iraqis. It's not for Americans. We're not going to decide what kind of a country they're going to have." Totally unfair: Rumsfeld Rips Newspapers for Distorting "Armor" Quote The Pentagon chief now says the press was totally "unfair" in quoting from his now-famous exchange with a U.S. soldier in December. The Pentagon chief predicted that by mid-February "there will not be a vehicle moving around in Iraq outside of a protected compound with American soldiers in it that does not have an appropriate level of armor." Will we ever know?: Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Sunday he does not know when the United States will have trained enough Iraqis so they can adequately secure the country and begin replacing American troops now helping provide protection. "It's interesting to me that some people think they know that because it's not knowable," Rumsfeld said. Damn those pesky national caveats: Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld will lobby NATO allies at a meeting in France this week to chip in more to help train Iraqi security forces, a U.S. official said on Monday. Rumsfeld also wants some allies to drop restrictions that may undercut the training mission, the official added. The defense official said Rumsfeld would press NATO allies to scrap "national caveats" limiting what their military personnel can do in NATO missions, saying those restrictions had hurt alliance missions in Kosovo and Iraq. DoD News 1.8 billion: The pace of training and combat required of U.S. troops in Iraq is prompting the Army to quadruple its production of small-arms ammunition compared with prewar levels, a move intended to stave off an ammunition shortage like the one the Pentagon faced last summer. Production of 5.56 mm and 7.62 mm rounds will jump to 1.8 billion rounds this year from 400 million in 1999. Most of those will be made by Alliant Techsystems at the Lake City arsenal, where many of the 465 buildings used in production were mothballed after the Vietnam War. Up to 500 million rounds of the 1.8 billion will be made by other manufacturers, and the contracts are expected to be awarded in June.The budget for ammunition and expanded production has more than doubled to $285 million this year, including $100 million in supplemental funds provided by Congress directly for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, from $124.5 million in fiscal year 1999. An additional $185 million in supplemental funds for ammunition is expected this year. Geopolitics Bear and dragon: Sources say, Russia and China have formally joined hands to stop expanding American and European military as well as economic global influences. The strategic partnership can be very significant in providing a combined counter effect to the only Super Power of the world – America. Russian and Chinese military are having secret joint sessions to create the strategy of self defense in case of any invasion from other countries. China's creation of a mechanism to consult with Russia on security issues marks the first time China has ever entered into such a venture, a senior Chinese official visiting the Kremlin said. Iran reaches out: For the first time in years, Iran has reported defense and military relations with Russia. Iran's ambassador to Russia reported defense and military cooperation between the two countries. It was the first time a senior Iranian official asserted that the two countries were engaged in defense and military projects. Hell no we won’t go: Prime Minister Paul Martin has hinted that Canada is ready to offer long-term help to train Iraqi soldiers — as long as it's not in the war-torn country. Martin was unequivocal yesterday in declaring that Canada would not reverse its decision to stay out of the U.S.-led war and deploy Canadian soldiers to Iraq, as a source had told the Toronto Star last week. "We refused to send Canadian troops to Iraq two years ago. That decision stands. Canadian troops will not be going to Iraq," Martin told the Commons. Soldier’s Stories Vanishing hearts: The story of Marine Staff Sgt. Robert Arellano's wound is not exactly heroic. He was sitting in a tent in southern Iraq when the 9mm handgun he was repairing went off, sending a bullet through his left leg. That's why his heart sank in spring 2003, when he heard that he would receive the Purple Heart as he recovered at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda. "I told them I didn't think I deserved it," said Arellano, 38, of Oceanside, Calif. The thought of wearing a medal he didn't earn "was eating me alive." Then a letter arrived two months ago making things even worse. The Purple Heart pinned on him nearly two years earlier had been "an administrative error" because his wound was not "caused directly or indirectly by enemy action." Ten other Marines who sustained noncombat injuries got the same news, from the office of the commandant of the Marine Corps. A choice of conscience: His sergeant called him a coward to his face. His chaplain sent him an e-mail saying he was ashamed of him. His commanders had him formally charged with desertion. Sgt. Kevin Benderman, who has served one tour of duty in Iraq, is refusing to serve another. When his fellow soldiers of the 3rd Infantry Division packed their gear and left nearby Ft. Stewart for Iraq last week, Benderman stayed home. He says he has chosen to follow his conscience — not his commanders. Suck it up, retirees: A federal judge on Monday dismissed a lawsuit challenging the Army's right to force soldiers to serve past the dates of their enlistments, the so-called ``stop loss'' policy that can keep men and women in uniform during war or national emergencies. The enlistments of an estimated 7,000 active-duty soldiers have been extended under the policy, which the Army says is needed to provide experienced soldiers for battle. As many as 40,000 reserve soldiers could be ordered to stay longer. More fraternity hijinks: Female soldiers stripped to their skivvies for a mud-wrestling bout, and sergeants allegedly were lending their rooms to G.I.s for sex last year at the Army's Camp Bucca prison in Iraq. Photos of a wild Oct. 30 party at the camp show women soldiers baring their breasts to male onlookers, and other female G.I.s clad only in bras and panties wrestling and cavorting in a mud-filled plastic pool as men cheer, leer and snap pictures. The episode, which experts called a serious breakdown of military discipline, prompted a probe in Iraq and still is under investigation by stateside military authorities. The soldiers involved had been assigned to guard Iraqi prisoners being transferred to Camp Bucca from the scandal-scarred Abu Ghraib prison. Suck it up, veterans: President Bush's budget would more than double the co-payment charged to many veterans for prescription drugs and would require some to pay a new fee of $250 a year for the privilege of using government health care, administration officials said Sunday. The government had no immediate estimate of how many veterans would be affected if the user fee and co-payment proposals were adopted. But veterans' groups said that hundreds of thousands of people would end up paying more and that many would be affected by both changes. Buying hearts and minds: The Camp Pendleton-based 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, a 2,000-member unit that began returning to North County in waves on Sunday, has paid nearly $10 million in condolence payments since the Marines clashed with Shiite militia in August, officials said. For several months, the unit has paid cash to compensate Iraqis for deaths, injuries or property damage that resulted from weeks of brutal fighting that ravaged this city of 600,000 last summer. The payments, which have been used in past wars, are known as solatia. Antiwar Activists More to come: They failed to prevent the invasion of Iraq, to unseat President Bush or, so far, to extract U.S. troops from Iraq. One might expect anti-war activists to feel defeated. They don't. National activists say they have gained ground with tactical triumphs, that their fight to force America from Iraq is not lost. More mass protests are on the way, they say, including many on the second anniversary of the war's March 19 onset. The only way: Two veterans of the ongoing Iraq war addressed 150 people in the Science Center Friday, criticizing the purpose and progress of the war and calling for the immediate withdrawal of American troops. “The only way you can support the troops is by demanding they be brought back now and they be given the care they deserve when they get home,” said Michael Hoffman, a former Lance Corporal in the Marines and a co-founder of Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW). Hoffman and IVAW co-founder Kelly Dougherty, who was a Sergeant in the National Guard, asked the audience to follow the precedent of Vietnam protests and take to the streets en masse so American civilians and soldiers alike come to realize that it is not unpatriotic to oppose the war. “That’s what’s going to end this war—mass movement,” Hoffman said. Nobody’s Fault Another big surprise: The White House-ordered inquiry into the intelligence failures about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction won't blame individual officials for the errors that contributed to President Bush's decision to start the war almost two years ago. Critics of the White House investigation say this approach is a prescription for a whitewash -- avoiding accountability by failing to delve into who was behind the wrong intelligence assessments that lie at the heart of the controversy over whether the invasion of Iraq was necessary to protect the United States and whether it was worth the lives of more than 1,400 GIs and the cost to taxpayers of more than $300 billion. Commentary Letter: This administration's saber rattling and threats of pre- emptive strikes (Is Iran next?) have managed to alienate most of the free world and squander the outpouring of good will and concern received following the tragedy of 9/11. The thousands of Iraqi civilians we've killed and the inhumane treatment we've used on prisoners in Iraq and Gitmo have further stained our already tarnished image. Perhaps we need to retain a battalion of public relations experts to convince the world that we are not a nation of violence-crazed thugs, but actually good people struggling to do the right thing. At the moment, it would be a tough sell. Richard Clarke: President Bush's democracy-promotion policy will be appropriate and laudable at the right time in the right nations, but it is not the cure for terrorism and may divert us from efforts needed to rout Al Qaeda and reduce our vulnerabilities at home. The president is right that resentment is growing and that it is breeding terrorism, but it is chiefly resentment of us, not of the absence of democracy. The 9/11 Commission had a proposal similar to the president's, but more on point: a battle of ideas to persuade more Muslims that jihadist terrorism is a perversion of Islam. Most Middle East experts agree, however, that any American hand in the battle of ideas will, for now, be counterproductive. For many in the Islamic world, the United States is still associated with such acts as having made the 250,000 person city of Falluja uninhabitable. Because of the enormous resentment of the United States government in the Islamic world, documented in numerous opinion polls, we will have to look to nongovernmental organizations and other nations to lead the battle of ideas. Opinion: The Geneva Convention is hardly a quaint relic of some kinder era. It's revered worldwide. It has been ratified into U.S. law by the Senate as provided by the U.S. Constitution. It forbids torture of captured military personnel, making it a pretty important insurance policy for members of the U.S. armed forces in harm's way more often than other foreign nationals in uniform around the globe. But the Gonzales Doctrine allowed some U.S. civilian and military personnel, including U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, to establish practices at jails in Iraq, Afghanistan and at Guantanamo Bay that would be illegal in jails or anywhere else in the United States. On the eve of his appearance, the administration withdrew the original Gonzales thinking about torture in favor of something a bit less inflammatory. After all, how would it look, sending up to Capitol Hill an attorney general selection who had been the legal architect of the kinds of things that would put Graner in prison for 10 years? Comment: In his State of the Union address, Bush denounced Iran as "the world's primary state sponsor of terrorism." At the same time, he celebrated an Iraqi election that handed power to Shiite ayatollahs who were sponsored for decades by their co-religionists in Iran and who share much of Tehran's vision of religion and politics. Does this make sense to anybody outside of the White House? What we are witnessing here is a startling application of the law of unintended consequences: A U.S. president who is intent on breaching the wall between church and state in his own country on issues such as birth control and the "sanctity of marriage" has now used the world's most powerful military to pave the way for a new Muslim theocracy in the heart of the Arab world. Furthermore, Bush has unwittingly strengthened the hand of Iran, a nation allegedly developing weapons of mass destruction and supporting global terrorism. Washington has crashed against the limits of foreign military power as an instrument for crafting a culture of freedom for another people. It does not help that our motives are corrupted by a rapacious thirst for petroleum, our vision blurred by an insufferable ignorance of the complexity of local cultures and our presumption exaggerated by the effrontery of our own leader's claims to the wisdom of God. Woops – How Did This Slip In? This Is An Iraq War Blog... Exxon's fourth-quarter net income of $8.4 billion widely is considered the biggest quarterly profit ever for a U.S. public company. It exceeded Wall Street's prediction by 21%, according to Thomson Financial. Now the question is what Exxon will do with its loot. The company has amassed a cash hoard of $23 billion, leading some analysts to predict it will continue raising its dividend and rate of share buybacks in 2005, and perhaps even issue a special one-time payout to shareholders. The long-term challenge is for the company to find enough new oil and gas so it can keep its operation growing. Finding significant new energy sources is a challenge for the entire oil industry. But it is a particular challenge for a behemoth such as Exxon, which is operating off such a large base. Casualty Reports Local story: West Bend, WI, Marine killed in Babil province. Local story: Ocean Springs, MI, soldier killed in Iraq. Local story: Granville, MA, Marine killed in helicopter crash in Iraq. Local story: Soldier from the Tri-state region of Ohio killed in bomb attack in Ramadi. Local story: Milford, DE, Marine killed in Al Anbar province. Local story: Perry Township, OH, soldier killed in Mahmudiya. Local story: Roland, AR, soldier killed in Baghdad. Local story: Pflugerville, TX, Marine killed in Fallujah. .


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