Sunday, February 13, 2005
War News Thread February 13, 2005
Bring ‘em on: A car bomb has exploded near an Iraqi security forces checkpoint on the road between Hilla and Kerbala in a mainly Shi'ite area south of Baghdad, killing at least one person, witnesses said on Sunday.
The final election results are expected today and we have Allawi sucking up to the Kurds: “Following on from the principle of equality between all Iraqis, we support the Kurds’ desire to have any post in Iraq,” Allawi said after talks with Talabani, who has said he expects either the presidency or the premiership in a new government. The interim prime minister had been asked whether he supported Talabani’s candidacy for one of the two posts in the light of the main Kurdish alliance’s expected second place showing in January 30 elections. “Against all expectations, these elections were a real success,” said Talabani, who heads the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, one of the two factions in the alliance. “After the results are announced, we will go to Baghdad where we will continue cooperation with our allies... in order to reach our shared goal, which is to build a federal, democratic and independent Iraq,” he said. Allawi already met the leader of the other main Kurdish faction — Massud Barzani of the Kurdistan Democratic Party — in the northern town of Arbil on Thursday.
Watching the Kurds closely are Turkish military troops, located at four different points within the Iraqi borders, mostly at the Barmani Airport, about 25 km south of Turkish border, who will facilitate a possible intervention if the Kurdish administration takes the control of Kirkuk. A news article by the Journal reported that about two millions Kurdish electors voted for independence in an unofficial referendum held during the Iraqi elections and noted that the Kurds' insistence that they want to preserve the independence obtained since 1991 has caused alarm bells to ring in Turkey. According to the Journal, Turkey has warned Kurds not to take control of Kirkuk and deprive the Turkmen of their rights; stating they would facilitate necessary intervention in Kirkuk. The Journal also noted that the Turkish army had formed military bases in Barmani and three others towns in northern Iraq in order to monitor the activities of the terrorist organization the Kurdistan Worker's Party (PKK) eight years ago and asserted that although the PKK was oppressed, Turkey would not withdraw from these bases.
More substantive news on the elections is expected later in the day, I will update Today in Iraq with any breaking stories.
Rumsfeld, who pressed fellow defense chiefs this week to provide more aid for Iraqi troop training, said the U.S. will be unable to sustain the war on terror without outside help. “It must be clear that one nation can't defeat the extremists alone,'' Rumsfeld said. “Neither can any one nation successfully combat the asymmetric threats of this new era. It will take the cooperation of many nations to stop the proliferation of dangerous weapons.” In other words, we’re losing big time in Iraq and we need the help of “Old Europe” to bail us out, but meanwhile there are the drones
Bodor said it's no mystery why the numbers are down. “Iraq,” he said. “Same as Vietnam. When you're in an unpopular war, people question, ‘Is this what I want to be doing?’” These cadets, who get a free education in return for five years of military service, are likely to face two Iraq tours if current projections hold. Their own feelings about the war seem surprisingly mixed. While Erwin and Williams expressed confidence in the effort to establish a democratic society in Iraq, Linnington, Ramos and Jarick Evans sounded less hopeful. "There are cadets who might not want to go, they might not believe we should be over there the same way the American public feels," Linnington said. "But as military people we have a duty."
Exit Strategy News
Training of Iraq's security forces, crucial to any exit strategy for Britain and the US, is going so badly that the Pentagon has stopped giving figures for the number of combat-ready indigenous troops, The Independent on Sunday has learned.
Instead, only figures for troops "on hand" are issued. The small number of soldiers, national guardsmen and police capable of operating against the country's bloody insurgency is concealed in an overall total of Iraqis in uniform, which includes raw recruits and police who have gone on duty after as little as three weeks' training. In some cases they have no weapons, body armour or even documents to show they are in the police. The resulting confusion over numbers has allowed the US administration to claim that it is half-way to meeting the target of training almost 270,000 Iraqi forces, including around 52,000 troops and 135,000 Iraqi policemen. The reality, according to experts, is that there may be as few as 5,000 troops who could be considered combat ready.
CNN chief news executive Eason Jordan quit Friday amid a furore over remarks he made in Switzerland last month about journalists killed by the U.S. military in Iraq. Jordan said he was quitting to avoid CNN being “unfairly tarnished” by the controversy. During a panel discussion at the World Economic Forum last month, Jordan said he believed that several journalists who were killed by coalition forces in Iraq had been targeted.
So he was quitting to avoid CNN being “unfairly tarnished”, but he was right in substance, after all the US military has acknowledged it was responsible for killing two journalists working for Dubai-based satellite channel al-Arabiya who were shot close to a checkpoint in the Iraqi capital earlier this month. Al-Arabiya cameraman Ali Abd al-Aziz died on 18 March from a gunshot wound to the head. Correspondent Ali al-Khatib died from his wounds in hospital the next day. Both were Iraqis.
On another occasion, on April 8 2003, two journalists were killed in Baghdad. By this date, only weeks into the conflict, the death toll for journalists in Iraq was an alarming 10, more than double the total killed in the entirety of the first Gulf War in 1991. But what was especially worrisome about the deaths of Ukraine-born Reuters cameraman, Taras Protsyuk, and Spanish photographer Jose Couso, was that neither man was near the front lines. Both were in their hotels. Alongside roughly 100 other journalists from virtually every major international news outlet in the country at the time, Protsyuk and Couso were recouping in an officially recognized safe zone - the Palestine Hotel. But an American tank on the opposite bank of the Tigris River, roughly three-quarters of a mile away, fired directly at the hotel anyway. The US military stated that the incident was a regrettable though unavoidable mistake.
In the same week that we have the Gannon story, we have the chief news executive of CNN resigning. But the media now are networks like Fox that are simply a PR organ for the administration, and then there are many newspapers who are more worried about their licensed TV holdings and their good relations with the Federal Communications Commission rather than with digging up the news.
Billmon is always worth a visit.