Monday, March 14, 2005

War News for Monday, 14 March 2005 Bring 'em on: Two policemen and two civilians killed in car bomb attack in Yusufiya. Bring 'em on: Two civilians killed when a US helicopter opened fire on insurgents in Mosul. Bring 'em on: Twelve bodies found in Babel. Bring 'em on: Two Iraqi troops killed by timed explosion in Baghdad. Bring 'em on: Iraqi policeman killed in mortar attack in Baghdad. Bring 'em on: American soldier killed by small arms fire in Mosul. Bring 'em on: Two Iraqis killed and a third injured in an automobile accident on Saturday, when a fuel tanker traveling fast in an American convoy crashed at 8:30 p.m. along a highway in Baghdad. Forgotten: "He'll be forgotten in five minutes," one man murmured in Arabic after looking at Shalaal's bullet-riddled white compact car. "That's Iraq today." Looting: In the weeks after Baghdad fell in April 2003, looters systematically dismantled and removed tons of machinery from Saddam Hussein's most important weapons installations, including some with high-precision equipment capable of making parts for nuclear arms, a senior Iraqi official said last week in the government's first extensive comments on the looting. Talks deadlocked: Kurdish chieftain Jalal Talabani said Monday talks on forming a new Iraqi government were deadlocked over the matter of Kurdish peshmerga fighters and rights to the ethnically-divided northern oil city of Kirkuk. "There are disagreements about two points. The first is the fate of the peshmerga, and the second one is concerning Kirkuk. Our negotiations with the (Shiite) alliance continue," Talabani told reporters as he announced he was heading to Baghdad for Wednesday's historic first session of the new 275-member national assembly. He added the Kurds wanted to seal an agreement with the election-winning Shiite list, the United Iraqi Alliance (UIA), and then bring other parties into the new government, including outgoing prime minister Iyad Allawi who has so far refused any post other than premier. "We have ... four people charged to negotiate with the Shiite list. After that we need a government with all parties, with Allawi, and our brother Sunnis. We insist all Iraqis have a role." Court Martial: A US army platoon leader accused of ordering soldiers to force two Iraqis into the Tigris River at gunpoint was to face a court-martial today. Lieutenant Jack Saville is charged with manslaughter, assault, obstruction of justice, conspiracy and making a false statement. The 25-year-old West Point graduate faces a maximum penalty of 29 years in military prison if convicted at Ford Hood, Texas. He is accused of ordering troops to push two curfew violators into the river near Samarra last year, resulting in the drowning death of Zaidoun Hassoun, 19. Superman?: Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is planning attacks on "soft targets" in the United States, including "movie theaters, restaurants and schools," according to reported comments by a former top aide to the Islamic extremist. The comments, cited in a restricted bulletin sent out to US security agencies and published by Time magazine on its website Sunday, come two weeks after intelligence officials confirmed that Osama bin Laden had sent a message to Jordanian-born Zarqawi, urging Al-Qaeda's frontman in Iraq to plan attacks on US soil. Analysis New Iraqi Forces: Iraq's fledgling security forces are in danger of collapse if the newly elected government follows through on promises to purge the ranks of former regime members, politicians and analysts here warn. The dismantling of Saddam Hussein's military is widely viewed as one of the gravest mistakes of the U.S.-led occupation, and the Bush administration has worked in the past year to reverse it by helping the interim Iraqi government restore the jobs of some highly skilled troops who served under Saddam. Now, analysts say, the incoming government led by Shiite Muslims is at risk of repeating the error that was blamed for swelling the mostly Sunni insurgency. About half the troops and 75 percent of the officers in the new Iraqi military served under the old regime, said Saleh Sarhan, spokesman for the Iraqi defense ministry. There are about 30,000 troops now, he said, but the goal is to have a force of 120,000 by the end of the year. That goal is in jeopardy under the incoming government's plans. Several Shiite politicians have said another overhaul is necessary to cleanse a security force that's still teeming with Saddam loyalists who act as informants and foot soldiers for the insurgency. Sunnis, on the other hand, predict catastrophe if the military dismisses its most seasoned soldiers and replaces them with new recruits who have little training or battlefield experience. Election Juan Cole writes:
Do you note how if a party has 51% in this parliamentary system, it automatically gets to form a government? So why is the United Iraqi Alliance, the coalition of Shiite parties that can count on about 53% of the members of the Iraqi parliament to vote for it in the wake of the Jan. 30 elections, not able to form a government? If it were the Labor Party in the UK, which is the parliament described above, Ibrahim Jaafari would already be Prime Minister. The US spiked the Iraqi parliamentary process by putting in a provision that a government has to be formed with a 2/3s majority. This provision is a neo-colonial imposition on Iraq. The Iraqi public was never asked about it. And, it is predictably producing gridlock, as the UIA is forced to try to accommodate a party that should be in the opposition in the British system, the Kurdistan Alliance. Likewise, in France, a simple majority of the National Assembly can dismiss the cabinet. Likewise in India. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if the 2/3s super-majority is characteristic of only one nation on earth, i.e. American Iraq. I fear it is functioning in an anti-democratic manner to thwart the will of the majority of Iraqis, who braved great danger to come out and vote. It is all to the good if the Shiites and Kurds are forced to come to a set of hard compromises. But not everything can be decided at the beginning of the process. Some issues (Kirkuk is a good example) must be decided by a long-term negotiation. I perceive this latest Kurdish demarche to consist in a power play where they grab all sorts of concessions on a short-term basis, just because they are needed to form a government, even though no national consensus has emerged on these issues. I think there is also a real chance that Iraqis will turn against the idea of democracy if it only produces insecurity, violence, and gridlock.
Swanker of the Day I've created a new title called "Swanker of the Day", my first nomination goes to none other than J Grant Swank for writing this rubbish. Someone please tell me this is cut and pasted from the Onion. Two virtues strong and ready to be reckoned with. I believe that these two virtues are more widespread than within the security forces alone. It appears that the Iraqi citizenry is becoming more and more confident of its own freedom opportunities. With that arise more and more abilities to creatively govern and make a living. "’I … personally have faith in the Iraqi officers that I’ve met,’ Myers said. He said coalition forces will continue to train Iraqi security forces, and NATO allies are also stepping up their training efforts. "The chairman said he is confident ‘that with our support, our training, our equipping and our mentoring, that they will be a force for good in that country.’"


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