Wednesday, February 02, 2005

War News for Wednesday, February 02, 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 person killed and another injured in clashes between insurgents and ING soldiers in Mosul. Four ING soldiers killed by roadside bomb in Mosul. Two policemen killed when a bomb they were trying to defuse detonated in Irbil.

Bring ‘em on: Two persons killed in mortar and gunfire attacks in Kirkuk. 3 persons killed in car bombing in Khanaqi.

Bring ‘em on: Four civilians killed in a drive-by shooting in Iskandariyah. Iraqi motorist shot dead on the main desert highway west of Baghdad. A witness claimed U.S. troops opened fire when the vehicle tried to overtake an American military convoy

Bring ‘em on: Two Iraqi policemen killed in drive-by shooting in Baquba. One Iraqi soldier killed in Baquba.

Number three: January was the third month since the U.S. invasion of Iraq that U.S. troop deaths reached or exceeded 100, and it was one of the deadliest months for the National Guard and Reserve. According to the Pentagon's latest count, at least 100 died in January. An Associated Press tally put the figure at 102.

The Pentagon also said Tuesday, in its weekly update on the number wounded in action in Iraq, that the total now stands at 10,770, up 152 from a week earlier and up about 500 over the last four weeks. The only months deadlier than January for U.S. troops in Iraq were last November, when 138 died, and last April, with 135.

GI Joe: A Web site posted a photograph of what it claimed was a kidnapped U.S. soldier, but doubts were quickly raised about its authenticity and the U.S. military said no soldiers were missing.

An American toy manufacturer said the figure in the photo resembled one of its military action figures, originally produced for sale at U.S. bases in Kuwait.

Crackdown threatened: The police chief in Mosul has given insurgents two weeks to hand over their weapons ro face a military crackdown by Iraqi security forces.

Mosul, the country's third-largest city, has become the centre of the insurgency after American forces attacked Fallujah in an attempt to flush the militants out.

"Hand over your weapons or we will come and get you," he said on the local TV station.

Election News

Sunni discontent: Tens of thousands of Iraqis, notably in restive Sunni Arab areas, may have been denied their right to vote on Sunday because of insufficient ballots and polling centers, officials said.

Iraq's interim president Ghazi al-Yawar said extra ballots had to be supplied to Iraq's third city of Mosul, which is mainly Sunni Arab, after twice running out on election day.

"Also, tens of thousands were unable to cast their votes because of the lack of ballots in Basra, Baghdad, and Najaf," said Yawar, a Sunni Arab with a large tribal following.

More Sunni discontent: Iraq's leading Sunni Muslim clerics said Wednesday the country's landmark elections lacked legitimacy because large numbers of Sunnis did not participate in the balloting, which the clerics had asked them to boycott.

In its first statement since the balloting, the Association of Muslim Scholars said the vote lacked legitimacy because of low Sunni participation. The association months ago urged Sunnis to shun the polls because of the presence of U.S. and other foreign troops, and insurgents threatened to kill anyone who voted.

Republican style election: Although official sources are claiming voter turnout in the Iraqi elections to be in the 60–70 percent range, my sources in parts of Iraq have painted a distinctly different picture. Perhaps when all the votes are counted the high turnout figures may be correct, but the way some votes were obtained may prove to be highly irregular.

With the closing of the polls in Iraq, a source in northern Iraqi indicated the turnout in the town in which he is situated to be less than 10%. Another military source told me he saw only one Iraqi vote at one of the polling places in Fallujah the entire day and that he had heard similar stories from friends in Samarra.

My source in a northern Iraqi town, population 250,000, said he believed there to be 13,000 to 14,000 votes cast there. He did, however, relate that U. S. military authorities in the area had provided a Sheikh who has been totally supportive of the U.S. occupation, 70,000 blank ballots, supposedly to take to those who were too terrified to come to the polls themselves. Although I have only been told of this practice in one area, one wonders if that activity has been an accepted practice all over Iraq. If this practice is widespread, and blank ballots are only given to those who support the U.S., one could only wonder how many of those ballots will be returned that do not support candidates backed by the Bush administration.

The media falls in line: From the moment the first Iraqis cast their ballots, the administration's supporters and critics were out in force, pushing their preferred story line. True, no one knows yet who won, or how many Sunnis turned out despite boycott threats, and 45 people were killed in a matter of hours. But none of that could stop the message wars.

"Iraq has become part and parcel of American domestic politics, and subject to all the tricks of the trade of American politics," said Kenneth Pollack, an Iraq expert at the Brookings Institution's Saban Center. "Condi, the president -- the administration was definitely out there trying to turn it into something bigger. It was a very good day -- though it may be irrelevant in the long term -- but it could have been catastrophic."

Compare and contrast:


Low minority turnout

Premature announcement of turnout

Wealthier candidates have the advantage

Media are a corporate subsidiary of the chief executive

Massive, confusing ballot

Counting done out of sight, with no media


The use of proportional representation

Proof of voting

Hand counting

Voting on the weekend

Everybody uses same voting method

No poll watchers

Absentee balloting done in person

Ex-felons allowed to vote

Exit Strategy

Know when the job is done: In a pre-State of the Union challenge to President Bush, Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid intends to call Monday for the administration to outline an exit strategy for Iraq.

"The president needs to spell out a real and understandable plan for the unfinished work ahead: defeat the growing insurgency, rebuild Iraq, increase political participation by all parties, especially moderates, and increase international involvement," Reid will say, according to his prepared remarks.

"Most of all we need an exit strategy so we know what victory is and how we can get there; so that we know what we need to do and so that we know when the job is done."

Emphasis on gradual: Ghazi al-Yawar, Iraq's interim president, said U.S. and other military forces in the country may be reduced by the end of this year.

``It has to be according to the expedition of training,'' al- Yawar told television interviewer Charlie Rose in a program broadcast late yesterday on Bloomberg television in New York. ``Maybe by the end of the year we can see a gradual decrease in foreign forces in Iraq.''

Some Revisions

A “reallocation”: The United States is revising its $18.4 billion Iraq rebuilding plan and in a major policy shift will hand over some contracting power to Iraqi ministries for U.S.-funded work, said U.S. officials on Tuesday.

A senior State Department official said a "reallocation" of U.S. funds to rebuild Iraq should be completed in the next month and it was hoped this would be the final reshuffle of monies agreed by Congress in 2003 for Iraq's reconstruction.

"This is called being agile, responding to the conditions on the ground," said the official.

So far, big contracts have been awarded by U.S. government agencies which follow strict procurement rules that critics say are ill-suited to a conflict zone like Iraq.

No Presidential review necessary: The CIA is publishing a series of classified reports revising its prewar intelligence assessments of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, an intelligence official said on Tuesday.

A Jan. 18 report, titled "Iraq: No Large-Scale Chemical Warfare Efforts Since Early 1990s," concludes that Saddam Hussein abandoned major chemical weapons programs after the first Gulf War in 1991.

A Jan. 4 CIA report addressed Baghdad's Scud missile and delivery system, while forthcoming reports are expected to revise prewar estimates of Iraq's biological and nuclear capabilities.

The intelligence official, who asked not to be named, said the latest report was not considered a high-level document for review by President Bush.

Benefits of Death

I hope they set aside a big reserve: Lawmakers and military officials said Tuesday that President Bush's proposal to boost government payments to families of U.S. troops killed in Iraq, Afghanistan and other war zones was a good start but too narrow.

Republicans suggested that those who die while training for combat missions also should be eligible for the increased death benefits. Democrats argued that the benefits should extend to all military personnel who die while on active duty.

Death discrimination: Military leaders took issue yesterday with a Pentagon plan that would limit higher death benefits to troops killed in designated combat zones or operations, saying the extra payments should apply to all troops who die on duty.

In testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, the vice chiefs of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps welcomed the recommended rise in government payments and life insurance proceeds, calling it a step in the right direction. But each also expressed concern that the Pentagon plan announced Monday is discriminatory, establishing different death benefits for troops based simply on where the deaths occur.

Is Chu a vet?: The leader of the nation's largest military veterans organization has reacted strongly to comments made by the Pentagon's undersecretary for personnel and readiness, Dr. David Chu.

Chu was quoted in a Wall Street Journal article Tuesday, pitting veterans from past wars against those currently serving in the war on terrorism, alleging veterans' benefits were taking away funds from national defense.

"His remarks about veterans' pay and benefits that 'the amounts have gotten to the point where they are hurtful...they are taking away from the nation's ability to defend itself' is a slap in the face to every veteran who took the oath to uphold and defend the constitution against all enemies," Cadmus wrote in a letter to the editor of the Journal.

Foreign Affairs

Think they’ll get it?: A majority of Britons have said they want an investigation into the number of Iraqis killed since the 2003 invasion by US-led forces, according to a recent poll.

The research, commissioned by the Count the Casualties campaign, found that the number of British people who wanted an inquiry outnumbered those who did not by nearly four to one.

This could get sticky: Turkey slammed the United States Tuesday for failing to rein in Kurdish moves in Iraq at the risk of fanning regional turmoil, despite assurances from Washington that Ankara's concerns over its conflict-torn neighbor are being addressed.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused the United States of ignoring "certain developments (in Iraq) which our nation has deeply regretted," almost simultanously as a senior Pentagon official visiting Ankara pledged that Turkish-US ties remained strong despite their differences over Iraq.

More whacked than Bush: Former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and the coalition invasion of Iraq was legal, (Australian) Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said in Paris today. The search for WMD ended late last year, nearly two years after the invasion of Iraq, with the Iraq Survey Group declaring Saddam had the intent but not the capacity to make the weapons.

Speaking in Paris after a meeting with French counterpart Michel Barnier, Mr Downer maintained the former Iraqi regime had the deadly weapons.

Evil Speaks In Such A Reasonable Tone

A slippery slope indeed: A treaty like the Geneva Convention makes perfect sense when it binds genuine nations that can reciprocate humane treatment of prisoners. Its existence and its benefits even argue for the kind of nation-building that uses U.S. troops and other kinds of pressures in places like Somalia, Afghanistan and Iraq; more nation-states make all of us safer. But the Geneva Convention makes little sense when applied to a terrorist group or a pseudo- state. If we must fight these kinds of enemies, we must create a new set of rules.

In that important respect, the Geneva Convention will become increasingly obsolete. Rather than attempting -- as Gonzales' shrill critics do -- to deny that reality, we should be seeking to address it.

Robert J. Delahunty is a law professor at St. Thomas University Law School in Minnesota. John C. Yoo, a law professor at UC Berkeley, is a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. They were attorneys in the George W. Bush administration Justice Department.


Comment: In their Jan. 25 op-ed, Henry A. Kissinger and George P. Shultz argue against setting any American exit strategy to a calendar. That is an argument the Bush administration has, at least for now, itself endorsed. Kissinger and Shultz's logic would be right for the Balkans, or Germany and Japan after World War II, or any nation-building effort not challenged by a strong insurgency. But such logic does not apply in Iraq, where the resistance appears to be gaining most of its growing strength from indigenous hostility to the foreign military presence.

Opinion: Questioned last week, Bush said the U.S. would withdraw if asked by the new government. Really?

Earlier in the week, the Pentagon acknowledged plans and budgets to keep 120,000 troops there for at least two more years.

It sure looks like Washington plans to go on calling the shots in Iraq, but now there will be a plausible government to show off to the world. If Iraq's oil industry is put on the chopping block and ends up in the hands of U.S. oil companies, Washington will be off the hook; the decision will have been made by the "elected" Iraqi government.

At last — mission accomplished.

Comment: The Iraqi elections have been "the big news" around the world -- at least until people found out that Michael Jackson was going to be making a courtroom appearance.

Expectations have been very high since it was announced last year.

Could this really be the beginning of the democratic system in Iraq?

I suspect that the outlook for such a scenario is much higher in the United States than it is here in the Middle East.

I've yet to hear one Jordanian speak confidently about the development of democracy in Iraq.

Opinion: Iraq is a train wreck. The man who caused it is not in trouble. Tomorrow night he will give his State of the Union speech, and the Washington establishment will applaud him. Tens of thousands of Iraqis are dead. More than 1,400 Americans are dead. An Arab nation is humiliated. Islamic hatred of the West is ignited. The American military is emasculated. Lies define the foreign policy of the United States. On all sides of Operation Iraqi Freedom, there is wreckage. In the center, there are the dead, the maimed, the displaced -- those who will be the ghosts of this war for the rest of their days. All for what?

Tomorrow night, like a boy in a bubble, George W. Bush will tell the world it was for "freedom." He will claim the Iraqi election as a stamp of legitimacy for his policy, and many people will affirm it as such. Even critics of the war will mute their objections in response to the image of millions of Iraqis going to polling places, as if that act undoes the Bush catastrophe.

Casualty Reports

Local story: Iraqi policeman killed by suicide bomber in Baghdad.

Local story: Houston, TX, Marine killed in helicopter crash in Rutbah.

Local story: Covina, CA, Marine killed in helicopter crash in Rutbah.

Local story: Weymouth, MA, Marine killed in Iraq.

Local story: Stuarts Draft, VA, Marine killed in Babil province.

Local story: Degollado, Mexico, Marine killed by bomb in Iraq.

Local story: Long Beach, CA, soldier dead from ‘non-combat related’ injury in Mosul.

Local story: Chicago, IL, Marine killed in Babil province.

Local story: Tucson, AZ, native sailor killed in rocket attack on US Embassy in Baghdad.



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