Saturday, March 12, 2005

War News for Friday and Saturday, March 11 and 12, 2005 Bring ‘em on: Fifty Iraqis killed, 100 wounded in Mosul bombing. Bring ‘em on: Two Iraqi soldiers killed, three wounded in fighting near Diwaniyah. Bring ‘em on: Corpses of 30 Iraqi policemen discovered near al-Romana. Bring ‘em on: Three Iraqi policemen killed in Mosul ambush. Bring ‘em on: Turkish truck driver carrying US supplies killed by roadside bomb near Beiji. Bring ‘em on: Oil pipeline ablaze near Samarra. Bring ‘em on: One Iraqi killed in drive by-shooting at central Baghdad contractor hotel. One US soldier killed in “non-hostile accident” in Al-Anbar province. Baghdad. “By day or night, Baghdad has become a cacophony of automatic weapons fire, explosions and sudden death, its citizens living in constant fear of being shot by insurgents or the security forces meant to protect them. Streets are crammed with passenger cars fighting for space with armored vehicles and pickups loaded with hooded and heavily armed Iraqi soldiers. Hundreds of bombs in recent months have made mosques, public squares, sidewalks and even some central streets extremely dangerous places in Baghdad. On Haifa Street, rocket-propelled grenades sometimes fly through traffic. Rashid Street is a favorite for roadside bombers near the Tigris River. And then there's Sadoun Street, once teeming with Western hotels and home to Firdous Square -- the landmark roundabout in central Baghdad where Iraqis toppled a statue of Saddam Hussein. In the two years since Hussein's ouster, Sadoun Street has become an avenue of blast walls -- thick concrete slabs 6 to 12 feet high -- that protect government buildings and hotels now home to the few Western contractors and journalists who remain.” Crooks. “Mike Battles needed money fast. It was June 2003 and his cash-starved company had just won a contract to guard the Baghdad airport. Battles turned to a lender that had lots of cash and few questions about how it would be spent: the U.S.-led coalition in charge of Iraq. As Battles later told criminal investigators, he descended into a vault in the basement of one of Saddam Hussein's former palaces, where a U.S. government employee handed him $2 million in $100 bills and a handwritten receipt. Battles ‘was informed that the contracting process would catch up’ later to account for the money, according to a statement he gave investigators. By the time it did, the adventures of his fledgling security company, Custer Battles, had become a case study in what had gone wrong in the early days of the U.S. effort to rebuild Iraq, not least the haphazard and often ineffective U.S. oversight of the projects.” Civilian casualties. The US and Britain should to set up a commission to assess the number of civilian casualties in Iraq, an international group of doctors said in a statement on Friday. ‘We believe that the joint US/UK failure to make any effort to monitor Iraqi casualties, is from a public health perspective, wholly irresponsible,’ the doctors said in a statement on the British Medical Journal's Web site.” I'm glad I never briefed this guy. “LTC Ostermiller allegedly assaulted his operations officer at the battalion’s headquarters during an early morning briefing at Logistical Support Area Anaconda, Iraq, nearly choking the officer, the Honolulu Star-Bulletin reported, quoting unidentified family members. Ostermiller was pulled off the officer and thrown to the ground before being placed under arrest by military police, the newspaper said.” Snake oil saleslady. “President Bush will nominate one of his closest confidantes, Karen P. Hughes, to lead an effort at the State Department to repair the image of the United States overseas, particularly in the Arab world, administration officials said Friday. She will also be a leader in publicizing the president's campaign for democracy in the Middle East.” Torture policy. “Most notable about the documents is that they detail severe physical abuse that allegedly occurred at the hands of U.S. soldiers about a year before abuse was documented at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. Parts of the same unit responsible for gathering intelligence at Bagram at the time, the 519th Military Intelligence Battalion, were sent to Abu Ghraib to set up the intelligence-gathering effort there, and Army investigators believe that some of the same tactics migrated with them. The MPs at Abu Ghraib, seven of whom were charged with maltreating detainees, said they were being instructed by MI interrogators to keep detainees awake as part of ordered sleep-deprivation programs preceding interrogations.” No accountability. “A Pentagon official told Congress yesterday that his investigation into detention operations found no evidence of written agreements between the military and the Central Intelligence Agency about ''ghost detainees" who were hidden from the Red Cross. But a military document released separately yesterday refers to the existence of such an agreement. The apparent contradiction between the findings of Navy Vice Admiral Albert Church and the military document, one in a trove made public through a Freedom of Information Act request by the American Civil Liberties Union, underscored complaints by Democrats on the Senate Armed Services Committee that the admiral's investigation was not sufficiently thorough.” No accountability. “Admiral Church makes it clear that his focus was not on senior accountability. In other words, no evidence of complicity by Mr Rumsfeld and other senior officials fell into his lap and that, as far as he was concerned, was that. But this will not be the end of the political debate over whether the White House's decision not to give Geneva Convention protection to fighters captured in Afghanistan led to abuses in Guantanamo Bay in Cuba that were eventually carried over to Iraq. Admiral Church argues that most of the documented cases of abuse in Iraq happened on the battlefield, where emotions run high, not in the prisons. But it's impossible to know whether this conclusion is accurate because the details of the abuse remain classified.” No accountability. “Vice Admiral Albert Church's review of interrogation policy and detention operations did not place specific blame for the confusing interrogation policies that migrated from Washington to the battlefield, and he told the Senate Armed Services Committee at a hearing that no high-level policy decisions directly led to abuse. But Church said he did not interview top officials, including Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, nor did he make conclusions about individual responsibility, saying it was not part of his mission.” No accountability. “A military investigation has cleared the former top intelligence officer in Iraq of responsibility for the policy and command failures that led to the abuse of detainees there, and the officer will assume a prestigious command next week, the Army said Friday.” No accountability. “Declaring that the CIA is ‘not torturing detainees,’ the Republican chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee said Thursday that he saw no reason for the panel to investigate allegations that the agency abused prisoners or transferred them to countries that engage in torture.” Accountability. “Army reservist Lynndie England, the private shown in notorious photographs from the Abu Ghraib prison scandal in Iraq, will go on trial May third at Fort Hood, Texas.” Commentary Editorial: “Just consider that it took more than a year after the military says it first learned of the nightmare at Abu Ghraib to issue the new rules. And don't ask what they are, because they're classified. The report spoke of the regulations approvingly. But its author, Vice Admiral Albert Church III, now director of the Navy staff, admitted on Thursday that, well, he had not actually read them. This whitewash is typical of the reports issued by the Bush administration on the abuse, humiliation, and torture of prisoners at camps run by the military and the Central Intelligence Agency. Like the others, the Church report concludes that only the lowest-ranking soldiers are to be held accountable, not their commanders or their civilian overseers.” Opinion: “Throughout US history we have defeated brutal enemies, inhumane and monstrous dictators, and met with hideous violence. Our legacy is that we uphold our commitment to justice in the face of terror and war. The test of a nation is found as much in how it wages war as in how it promotes the values of peace and democracy. Our capacity to convince others to take risks for freedom relies on our steadfast dedication to upholding these principles. There will be no victory in this war, if the values of democracy, justice and rule of law are lost in the battle. The symbol of American justice is the Greek goddess Themis, a blindfolded woman, the very image of the equal administration of the law, without corruption, prejudice, or favor. We must not replace the goddess bearing the scales of justice with the images of abuse: shackles, electrical wires, and torture chambers. Abhorring torture, in deed as well as word, is a moral principle in a world yearning for moral footing. The United States should be a proud voice for justice and democracy, not a participant in the stealthy, illegal, and reprehensible practice of ‘outsourcing’ torture.” Book Review: “If rotten intelligence smoothed the path to Baghdad, rotten intelligence also paved the road to Abu Ghraib. Only an occupying power blind to the symbolic landscape of Iraq would have let one of Saddam Hussein's leading torture chambers be turned into a military detention facility in the first place. It should have been razed to the ground (a post-scandal promise by the Bush administration now conveniently forgotten). Only an occupying power blind to the lessons of history would have assumed that torture was a useful instrument in counter-insurgency. Only a occupying power clueless about the real roots of the violence and insurgency preying on it would have turned to the hapless inmates of Abu Ghraib for what is euphemistically known as ‘actionable intelligence.’ The vast majority of the prisoners at Abu Ghraib, it now appears, were innocents caught up in the increasingly random and panicky sweeps by U.S. forces. They knew nothing. The story of Abu Ghraib points toward many uncomfortable truths. The U.S. government has made a terrible mistake in forgoing the Geneva conventions, an error that it may never repair, even if it wished to. The U.S. army in Iraq is wrestling with an insurgency it knows too little about. Ignorance may eventually spell defeat, if it is not overcome, and it will never be overcome by the tactics of prisoner abuse. The United States is struggling in Iraq without the comforts of a ‘just war’ tradition that has sustained quasi-civilized conduct in battle since St. Augustine put pen to paper. It may even be that the United States, finding itself in an unexpectedly degraded Iraq, without flowers certainly, but also without basic services and any degree of security, is reaching that nadir in which the constraints of fundamental respect for an occupied population, and an enemy hidden within it, are lost. With that loss goes some part of the soul of the occupying power itself.” Casualty Reports Local story: Pennsylvania soldier killed in Iraq. Awards and Decorations Local story: Two Fort Campbell, Kentucky soldiers decorated for valor in Iraq.


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