Wednesday, February 23, 2005

War News for Wednesday, February 23, 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, 14 wounded in Mosul car bombing. One civilian shot dead by US troops in Mosul when he approached their convoy too closely.

Bring ‘em on: One Iraqi police officer killed, one wounded in attack by gunman in Kirkuk.

Bring ‘em on: One US soldier killed in roadside bombing in Tuz Khurmatu.

Bring ‘em on: Two Iraqi civilians killed and one seriously wounded in RPG attack near Kirkuk. Dawa Party local representative assassinated in Moqdadiyah.

Bring ‘em on: Three Iraqis killed in Haqlaniya when they drove toward a building occupied by US Marines during the offensive into Haqlaniya presently being conducted.

Vehicle accidents: One US Marine and one US soldier dead in two separate vehicle accidents.

Operation River Blitz: U.S. Marines fought their way into the insurgent stronghold of Haqlaniya on Wednesday, intensifying a campaign to bring Iraq's restive western province of Anbar under control.

A column of tanks and armoured vehicles rolled into the town, about 240 km (150 miles) west of Baghdad on the Euphrates river, before dawn and were immediately ambushed.

Marines' forces responded with heavy machinegun fire and several tank rounds.

"We were hit by an IED (improvised explosive device), a daisy chain (three IEDs linked together) and then we took a rocket propelled grenade," said Sergeant Larry Long, speaking as occasional shots and blasts echoed across the western desert.

Guerilla profile: Ali (not his real name) tries to appear calm, though he is clearly concerned, his eyes darting apprehensively around my hotel room. It always surprises me how nervous fighters are when I meet them--they assume that if I'm with the US military, I've got unseen backup somewhere. But the man who has set up the meeting is someone we both trust, and he knows that if anything goes awry, things will be very bad for his family. These are the grounds on which we've decided to meet. I try to put Ali at ease, but he makes me nervous. Hiba, the translator I work with, is downright frightened. It's not hard to understand why--without prompting, Ali launches into tales of murder and mayhem.

"We have boys as young as 13 fighting with us," Ali says. "Some of them we use to tell us where American troops are, others we give grenades and they throw them at Humvees and Bradleys. We recently killed a man who owned a uniform company because he was making uniforms for the Iraqi army. We kidnapped a cousin of Mowaffak al-Rubaie [national security adviser for Iyad Allawi's provisional government] and killed him.... There are so many stories of operations. Four days ago we killed four police officers. We warned them three times to quit. We have agents in the government, in the police." Garbage collector: Scott Walton studied government history in college. The U.S. Army trained him as an armor officer. He knew nothing about water-treatment plants or electrical substations. But in his year as a cavalry company commander in Iraq, Capt. Edward S. Walton has spent as much time dealing with electrical power, sewage and garbage collection as he has fighting the insurgency. He's now a resident expert in what the Army calls SWET — sewage, water, electricity and trash.

Soldiers such as Walton are at the forefront of a long, tedious and often frustrating endeavor. Building water-treatment plants and setting up garbage-collection routes is hardly glamorous, and work is regularly brought to a halt by insurgents. But the infrastructure projects are the third pillar of the U.S. exit strategy, along with battling insurgents and training Iraqi forces.

Journalists leave: Italy's foreign correspondents in Iraq left or were leaving the country Tuesday after Rome warned of threats against the media and urged them to return home, a Foreign Ministry official said. "They have all left or they are in the process of doing so," the official said, adding that he believed about 20 Italian journalists had been in Iraq at the end of last month.

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, one of President Bush's key allies in the Iraq war, said the journalists had been urged to quit the country based on information from Italian intelligence services.

Liberated women: Nearly two years after the invasion of Iraq, women there are no better off than under the rule of ousted dictator Saddam Hussein, the human rights group Amnesty International said in a report released today.

The report, ''Iraq -- Decades of Suffering," said that while the systematic repression under Hussein had ended, there was an increase in murder and sexual abuse, including some abuse by US forces.

Washington asserted that Hussein's ouster would free Iraqis from oppression and set them on the road to democracy. But Amnesty International said postwar insecurity had left women at risk of violence and curtailed their freedoms.

Ibrahim al-Jaafari

Profile: He is a soft-spoken general practitioner whose life's work has been guiding a secretive Islamic party in exile in Iran and Britain. It has made him resolute and cautious. He doesn't even use his real family name.

Now the ascetic man in the background, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, will likely end up as the prime minister of Iraq.

The name of al-Jaafari's Dawa party loosely translates as "Islamic Call" or "Islamic Propagation." While his priorities are protecting the rights of all citizens and ending the war that has claimed tens of thousands of lives, Islam is at the center of his party's vision for the country.

As a politician, Jaafari presents a blend of a secular style, human-rights rhetoric, and commitment to Islamic values that sometimes seem contradictory to Western observers.

Potential conflicts: Ibrahim al-Jaafari, a Shiite doctor with an Islamist bent, was chosen Tuesday by the victorious Shiite alliance as its candidate to become Iraq's new prime minister. The decision may well open a period of protracted and rancorous negotiations with a coalition of secular leaders intent on sharply curtailing Dr. Jaafari's powers or blocking him and his clerical-backed coalition.

Ayad Allawi, the current prime minister, and Barham Salih, a Kurdish politician and deputy prime minister, said in separate interviews on Tuesday that without guarantees renouncing sectarianism and embracing Western democratic ideals they were poised to block Dr. Jaafari's nomination and possibly peel off enough members from the Shiite's United Iraqi Alliance to form a government of their own.

Indeed, initial indications were that a potentially polarizing battle was possible, one that could expose the deep fissures in Iraqi society that have been held in check since the fall of Saddam Hussein. Those fissures not only cut across sectarian and ethnic lines but also track a wide disagreement about the nature of the Iraqi state: whether it should be religious or secular, centrally led or governed by a federal system, allied to Iran or anchored in ties to the West.


One in six: For 14 months while stationed in Iraq, the battered Illinois National Guard 1544th Transportation Company had endured more than 100 mortar attacks and had driven more than 580,000 hostile miles transporting supplies and ammunition.

But while the 1544th's battles in Iraq are done, the war is still not over for them and this community. Over the next few weeks and even months, in scores of individual homes here and in neighboring towns, returning veterans and their families will be quietly struggling try to deal with the hidden scars of the war. According to the military, one of every six service members will return from Iraq with a mental disorder, and some experts believe the number could be even higher. Twenty-three percent of Iraq veterans treated at Veterans Affairs facilities have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Shoshana Johnson: She often asks herself why her life was spared.

Surviving 22 days as a prisoner of war in Iraq has been a burden to her soul, the impetus to live an honorable life as she raises a child.

Shoshana Johnson, the United States' first black female prisoner of war, spoke boldly Tuesday of her capture after an ambush to her convoy in Nasiriyah on March 23, 2003. Johnson, a cook, was shot in the ankle as she scrambled for cover underneath a truck.

The infamous ambush received national attention, producing two protagonists: Johnson and Jessica Lynch, a 19-year-old soldier who became the nation's most famous POW and a media darling who netted $1 million in a book deal.


Sick: Military police are investigating a hoax in which a man wearing an Army dress uniform falsely told the wife of a soldier that her husband had been killed in Iraq. Investigators are trying to determine why the man delivered the notice and whether he was a soldier or a civilian wearing a uniform. "Whatever motivation was behind it, it was a sick thing to do," Ft. Stewart spokesman Lt. Col. Robert Whetstone said Tuesday.

Heartless: Officials with the Department of Homeland Security are warning the public about two new Iraq-related Internet scams, including one directed at the relatives of fallen U.S. soldiers.

"These new Internet fraud schemes are among the worst we have ever encountered," said Michael J. Garcia, assistant secretary of homeland security for immigration and customs enforcement. "Most troubling is the fact that some are targeting the relatives of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq. We are also concerned about the fact that these criminals are impersonating (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) agents and referring to ICE's official Web site in an effort to steal money from Americans who have lost loved ones."

Foreign Affairs

The diplomat: President George Bush's attempt to heal the rift with Europe on Iraq was marred by fresh differences over the role of Nato.

Tony Blair joined Mr Bush in hailing the alliance as the "cornerstone" of the trans-Atlantic relationship, under repair in the wake of the war.

But French President Jacques Chirac backed German suggestions that Nato should take a back seat to the European Union.

Mr Bush hit back with a warning that the "most successful alliance in the history of the world" must not be taken for granted.

And in an echo of US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's dig at "old Europe", he pointedly said "new" East European members did not do so.

Problems for Blair: The full picture of how the government manipulated the legal justification for war, and political pressure placed on its most senior law officer, is revealed in the Guardian today.

Robin Cook, the former foreign secretary and leader of the Commons, yesterday described the Guardian's disclosure as alarming. "It dramatically reveals the extent to which the legal opinion on the war was the product of a political process." he said.

Sir Menzies Campbell, the Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman, said the government's position had been seriously undermined. "The substance of the attorney general's advice, and the process by which it was partially published, simply do not stand up to scrutiny," he said.

A happy member of the coalition of the willing: Pakistan has issued new rules of engagement permitting its Army to fire at US forces that cross the border from Afghanistan without coordinating first, according to a report contributed to the magazine ‘American Conservative’ by a former CIA officer. Philip Giraldi, now an international security consultant and writer of intelligence matters, writes in the February 28 issue of the magazine’s ‘Deep Background’ column that “President Musharraf has been receiving angry reports from his military that US forces have been engaging in hot pursuit across the border in violation of bilateral agreements. Earlier Giraldi, quoting Seymour Hersch, reported in ‘Intelligence Brief,’ a newsletter he co-edits that the White House has given the Pentagon permission “to operate unilaterally in a number of countries where there is a perception of a clear and evident terrorist threat,” including Algeria, Sudan, Yemen, Syria, Malaysia and Tunisia. The chain of command reportedly includes Donald Rumsfeld and two of his deputies.

Another happy ally: The hottest selling book in Turkey is a thriller that portrays a fictional war between the United States and Turkey. The book describes a surprise U.S. attack on its longtime ally and fellow NATO member touched off by a clash between American and Turkish troops in northern Iraq. Staggered by the simultaneous bombing of Ankara and Istanbul, Turkey turns to the European Union and Russia for help. The novel, "Metal Storm" or "Metal Firtina," has proved popular even among senior Turkish government officials and has sparked its own war of words between the two countries, striking a nerve at a time when relations are strained over real events. "The fact that it is being read so widely among the military and Foreign Ministry quarters is of concern to us," said a high-ranking U.S. diplomat in Ankara, the Turkish capital. "It reflects a certain underlying attitude, a hostility to the U.S."

(Link via War and Piece. Thanks!)

The American System of Justice

Sibel Edmonds: The Department of Justice has abandoned its claim that allegations made by a fired FBI translator are secret, paving the way for a court case that will air embarrassing allegations about incompetence, poor security and possible espionage in the translation unit of the Bureau's Washington Field Office.

At issue are the claims of Sibel Edmonds, a contract translator for the FBI hired in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.

Edmonds reported that many of those hired to work in the unit could barely speak English; that they left secure laptop computers lying around while they went to lunch; that they took classified material home with them; and -- even more disturbing -- that one co-worker had undeclared contacts with a foreign organization that was under FBI surveillance.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Sibel Edmonds case, this article is well worth reading (and in the Moonie Times, too! Will wonders never cease?). If our pathetic excuse for a media gives this case the airing it deserves a whole bunch of Bush’s 9-11 derelictions will come into public view. But it is equally important for the panalopy of sins it spotlights in the aftermath of 9-11: the abuse of power to cover up mistakes, improper classification of embarrassing documents, the attempt to declare information already released to the public domain retroactively classified, usurpation of powers belonging to the legislative branch…

Ahmed Abu Ali: Attorneys for the Justice Department appeared before a federal judge in Washington this month and asked him to dismiss a lawsuit over the detention of a U.S. citizen, basing their request not merely on secret evidence but also on secret legal arguments. The government contends that the legal theory by which it would defend its behavior should be immune from debate in court. This position is alien to the history and premise of Anglo-American jurisprudence, which assumes that opposing lawyers will challenge one another's arguments.

Ahmed Abu Ali was arrested in June 2003 in Saudi Arabia. He and his family claim the arrest took place at the behest of U.S. officials who, though unable to bring a case against him, have encouraged the Saudis to keep him locked up. The facts are murky, and Judge John D. Bates refused in December to dismiss the case, writing that he needed more information before he could decide whether a U.S. court has jurisdiction.

Since then, the U.S. government has acted to frustrate all reasonable searches for answers. It has moved to stay discovery based on secret evidence. It has proposed adding to the facts at Judge Bates's disposal by submitting secret evidence that Mr. Abu Ali's attorneys would have no opportunity to challenge. Most recently, it urged that the case be dismissed on the basis, yet again, of secret evidence -- this time supplemented with what a Justice Department lawyer termed "legal argument [that] itself cannot be made public without disclosing the classified information that underlies it."

This one’s a honey too. Here the Bush administration is essentially trying to eliminate a basis of our judicial system – the right to know of what you are accused and to challenge those accusations with arguments of fact. It is simply astonishing that these cases are so little known, much less discussed. Commentary Editorial: There is a new government taking shape in Iraq, and that is important. But it cannot overshadow the violence that continues to plague the land.

The impressive turnout in the Jan. 30 election, while in direct defiance of terrorists trying to prevent a new government from forming, does not appear to have discouraged them. More than 90 people were killed last weekend during holy days for Shi'ite Muslims, who through the elections have replaced the minority Sunnis as the nation's leaders.

These kinds of things will not magically halt when a constitution is written and put to a vote in October. The Sunnis show no sign of accepting defeat, either militarily or democratically. There are now 155,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, and it appears they will be there in like numbers for years to come.

Comment: Jim Wilson understands how it is for most of us. We're busy. We're not being directly affected by what's going on in far-off Iraq.

"Most are just living their lives," he said. "Maybe they catch a blurb at the end of the newscast about some kid who's been killed. They stop for a second and say, 'That's a shame.' Then they're off to go out for dinner or to a Timberwolves game."

That's not the way it is for people such as Jim and Gayle Wilson of Wayzata. Their son, Cpl. John Wilson, is somewhere in Iraq. There's not a day that goes by that the Wilsons aren't offering up "a million prayers" for his safety. Not a meal that goes by that they don't talk about their son. Where is he? Is he safe? How much longer before he comes home?

Casualty Reports

Local story: Elk Grove Village, IL, Marine killed in Al Anbar province during his third tour of duty in Iraq.

Local story: North Little Rock, AK, soldier who died in Iraq of non-combat related injuries is laid to rest.

Local story: Phoenix, AZ, soldier killed in bomb attack in Tal Afar while serving his second tour of duty in Iraq.

Local story: Hardin County, KY, soldier killed in non-combat related incident north of Baghdad. .


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