Tuesday, March 01, 2005

War News For Tuesday, March 01, 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: Death toll from the Hillah car bombing now stands at 122 dead, 170 wounded. One police officer was killed and four wounded in a suicide attack on a police patrol in southern Baghdad. One Iraqi civilian was killed and two wounded when they were caught in a firefight between guerillas and police in Baquba. One US soldier was shot to death at a traffic control point in Baghdad. One US soldier died and two were injured in a vehicle accident near Tikrit. Two police officers were killed in heavy fighting with guerillas in Mosul. Gunfire was heard throughout Monday morning in the area of Baghdad around Sadoun Street after police closed several blocks and arrested a number of Sudanese men.

Bring ‘em on: One US soldier killed, four injured in roadside bomb attack on their convoy between Karbala and Ramadi.

Bring ‘em on: Kidnapped French journalist, seized in the Iraqi capital Baghdad more than seven weeks ago, made a desperate appeal for help in a video tape released by insurgents on Tuesday.

Another milestone: As of today, February 28th, 1508 members of the United States military have been killed as a result of their service in Iraq. Additionally, at least 74 American civilians have been killed while performing duties that range from security guard to truck driver.

An issue in question is the Department of Defense's tally of personnel who were wounded, evacuated from the Iraqi theater, and then succumbed to their wounds. According to John Pike of GlobalSecurity.org, the DoD has reported that over 15,000 soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines have been evacuated yet only 10 died of their wounds. Given the severity of combat wounds, many find this statistic hard to believe.

No, They Don’t Love Us - Even After All We’ve Done For Them

We will fight: "Terrible things were happening to all us Iraqi people under that psychopath Saddam Hussein," Ali Mohammed told me after finding the records of two of his four brothers. "I don't want to thank America for that because God is the person who pushed America to liberate us from Saddam Hussein. We are thankful to God."

He added: "God alone has liberated us. The Americans are invaders."

I asked Ali Mohammad if he was optimistic about the future. "Only God knows," he replied. "If the Americans stay here, I don't think the future will be good."

"Why?" I asked.

"We are Muslims," came the answer. "We can't allow other people who are not Muslims to come here and rule us. No man could just let the invaders rule. We will fight against that. Invasion is not the right thing to do for any people. We don't hate the American people, but we don't like invasions, and we will fight."

A victim's question: Lying in his hospital bed, Mr. Ali looked baffled and enraged. "If they are really the resistance, why don't they kill Americans?" he said. "This is nothing but an effort to kill Iraqi people and destroy Iraq."

Biding their time: Shiite mosques, politicians and civilians willing to work for the government have been the target of repeated attacks by the Sunni-based insurgents. So far, at least, the Shiite parties have not sent their gunmen to retaliate.

There are no official figures available, but an Associated Press count found that 234 people were killed and 429 people were injured in at least 55 attacks from Jan. 1 until election day on Jan. 30. The death toll increased in February, which saw at least 38 incidents resulting in at least 311 deaths and 433 injuries.

But the Shiites have so far refused to be baited, biding their time until they can deal with the insurgency in a more institutional way when they lead the government.

Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One Before It’s a great joke, but this is just the buildup: Relatives of Iraqis tortured by British soldiers revealed last night how they were also arrested and brutally beaten simply for asking questions.

The Independent on Sunday can reveal that the Iraqi civilians were punched and kicked after arriving at Camp Breadbasket to find out why friends and relatives had been detained.

Still building up – trust me, it’s great: Human rights lawyers will file a lawsuit in federal court on Tuesday against Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on behalf of eight men who say they were tortured by U.S. forces in custody in Iraq and Afghanistan, sources familiar with the case said.

The lawsuit charges that officials at the highest levels of the U.S. government shoulder ultimate responsibility for the physical and psychological injuries sustained by the men while in American custody.

"The men represented in the lawsuit were incarcerated in U.S. detention facilities in Iraq and Afghanistan, where they were subjected to torture and other cruel and degrading treatment, including severe and repeated beatings, cutting with knives, sexual humiliation and assault, mock executions, death threats, and restraint in contorted and excruciating positions," the two groups said in a statement.

None of the eight men was charged with a crime, the groups said.

Almost there – you’re going to love it: A federal judge ordered the Bush administration Monday to either charge terrorism suspect Jose Padilla with a crime or release him after more than 2 1/2 years in custody

U.S. District Judge Henry Floyd in Spartanburg, S.C., said the government can not hold Padilla indefinitely as an "enemy combatant," a designation President Bush gave him in 2002.

"The court finds that the president has no power, neither express nor implied, neither constitutional nor statutory, to hold petitioner as an enemy combatant," Floyd wrote in a 23-page opinion that was a stern rebuke to the government. He gave the administration 45 days to take action.

Here it comes - the punch line!: The State Department on Monday detailed an array of human rights abuses last year by the Iraqi government, including torture, rape and illegal detentions by police officers and functionaries of the interim administration that took power in June.

In the Bush administration's bluntest description of human rights transgressions by the U.S.-supported government, the report said the Iraqis "generally respected human rights, but serious problems remained" as the government and U.S.-led foreign forces fought a violent insurgency. It cited "reports of arbitrary deprivation of life, torture, impunity, poor prison conditions — particularly in pretrial detention facilities — and arbitrary arrest and detention."

The report did not address incidents in Iraq in which Americans were involved, like the abuse at Abu Ghraib, which came to light in 2004,

Damn, that's a good one.

Idiots and Scallywags

Scallywag: John Negroponte, President Bush's choice for intelligence chief, is a multimillionaire who promised last year to sell stock in companies that have business stakes in Iraq's reconstruction, according to his financial disclosure reports.

It is unclear from two April reports, Negroponte's most recent filings, whether he followed through on sales of General Electric and other companies helping to rebuild Iraq, where he is U.S. ambassador. The White House did not immediately comment Monday.

Because many national security-related contracts are classified, it is impossible to pinpoint all conflicts of interest that might arise should the Senate confirm him as national intelligence director, as expected. Yet some seem apparent.

Idiot: Now we know where Rep. Sam Johnson (R-Texas) thinks the weapons of mass destruction are buried: in Syria, which he said he'd like to nuke to smithereens.

Speaking at a veterans' celebration at Suncreek United Methodist Church in Allen, Texas, on Feb. 19, Johnson told the crowd that he explained his theory to President Bush and Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas) on the porch of the White House one night.

Johnson said he told the president that night, "Syria is the problem. Syria is where those weapons of mass destruction are, in my view. You know, I can fly an F-15, put two nukes on 'em and I'll make one pass. We won't have to worry about Syria anymore."

The crowd roared with applause.

Take a minute and read the Carpetbagger's commentary on this little gem. It's spot on. Link via Eschaton.

Veterans’ Affairs

First thought: When Army Sgt. Peter Damon woke up in a hospital bed in Iraq, he didn't remember that the tire he had been changing on a Black Hawk helicopter exploded, killing his buddy next to him.

He did, however, know right away what lay ahead: that he would have to find a new way to provide for his wife and two children.

"My biggest fear was that I was going to be out in the street somewhere, when I first woke up and noticed I had these injuries," said Damon, 32, a Brockton electrician, who lost both arms in the explosion. "The first thing that was going through my head was pretty much, how am I going to take care of my family?"

More scars: As the United States nears the two-year mark in its military presence in Iraq still fighting a violent insurgency, it is also coming to grips with one of the products of war at home: a new generation of veterans, some of them scarred in ways seen and unseen. While military hospitals mend the physical wounds, the VA is attempting to focus its massive health and benefits bureaucracy on the long-term needs of combat veterans after they leave military service. Some suffer from wounds of flesh and bone, others of emotions and psyche.

These injured and disabled men and women represent the most grievously wounded group of returning combat veterans since the Vietnam War, which officially ended in 1975. Of more than 5 million veterans treated at VA facilities last year, from counseling centers like this one to big hospitals, 48,733 were from the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Homelessness: Veterans account for nearly one-third of all homeless men in America, even though the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs says they comprise only 13 percent of adult males in the general population. In West Virginia, where Marsh now struggles to rebuild his life, one in nine people is a veteran - the highest per capita rate in the nation in the 2000 census.

Pete Dougherty, the VA's director of homeless programs in Washington, says there are two kinds of homeless people: Some are short-timers, driven to the streets by pure economics. Others have psychiatric or substance abuse problems that contribute to chronic homelessness, meaning they are homeless for more than a year or four times within three years.

Veterans are twice as likely as other people to be chronically homeless.

Many who are now homeless were successful soldiers, sailors and Marines. ``They've not simply been incapable of getting along in society,'' Dougherty says.

The VA sees hundreds of thousands of veterans each year, and their skill levels and intelligence are, in Dougherty's words, ``sometimes amazing.''


Opinion: The United States is grinding up its soldiers not just in Iraq and Afghanistan, but here at home as well by improperly interrupting pay, medical care and other benefits due injured and sick Army Reserve and National Guard troops and their families. Despite attempts to fix the problem, the Army can't "provide reasonable assurance" that it can deliver what it owes those soldiers. This state of affairs cannot be tolerated.

The source of the problems is the Army's system for dealing with those wounded or otherwise injured in Iraq or Afghanistan. Soldiers due to be released but needing medical care have been dropped from active-duty status when they shouldn't have been. That has translated into the loss of benefits and pay. The GAO found one case in which an injured soldier was eliminated from the active-duty roster four times and missed almost $12,000 in pay. Eventually, the Army made good on the money, but not before his family suffered financially.

The GAO's assessment and congressional testimony suggests the Army was simply not prepared to deal with the level of casualties from Iraq, despite ample planning time. Instead, the Army relied on a system designed to deal with peacetime injuries and two weeks of annual training.

Comment: Who would have thought that 13 pages of paper would so come to haunt Tony Blair? Yet the full version of the opinion drawn up by the attorney general, Lord Goldsmith, about the legality of a military attack on Iraq will, I suspect, come to rank in recent British history only with the protocol enshrining the Anglo-French-Israeli collusion before the invasion of Suez in 1956. Sir Anthony Eden instructed his cabinet secretary to burn the British copy of that protocol.

Opinion: As a nation, does the United States have a conscience? Or is anything and everything O.K. in post-9/11 America? If torture and the denial of due process are O.K., why not murder? When the government can just make people vanish - which it can, and which it does - where is the line that we, as a nation, dare not cross?

President Bush spent much of last week lecturing other nations about freedom, democracy and the rule of law. It was a breathtaking display of chutzpah. He seemed to me like a judge who starves his children and then sits on the bench to hear child abuse cases. In Brussels Mr. Bush said he planned to remind Russian President Vladimir Putin that democracies are based on, among other things, "the rule of law and the respect for human rights and human dignity."

Someone should tell that to Maher Arar and his family.

Mr. Arar was the victim of an American policy that is known as extraordinary rendition. That's a euphemism. What it means is that the United States seizes individuals, presumably terror suspects, and sends them off without even a nod in the direction of due process to countries known to practice torture.

Opinion: In a world aflame with war and terrorism, George W. Bush’s second inaugural address was a match flung onto an oil slick. By the time his 17-minute peroration reached midpoint, it was clear that was his intention:

“Because we have acted in the great liberating tradition of this nation, tens of millions have achieved their freedom. And as hope kindles hope, millions more will find it. By our efforts we have lit a fire as well, a fire in the minds of men. It warms those who feel its power; it burns those who fight its progress. And one day this untamed fire of freedom will reach the darkest corners of our world.”

“A fire in the mind”—such a felicitous phrase. It aptly and succinctly describes the feverish mental state of our neoconservative policymakers, who set out to build an empire in the Middle East and now, with this speech, clearly envision much more. It also describes the mental state of some of the characters in Dostoyevsky’s The Possessed (or The Devils), from which the fiery metaphor is taken.

The defining characteristic of what Ryn calls the “imperialistic personality” is a monumental conceit: it is the same will to dominate that drove the Jacobins, the Bolsheviks, and the 19th-century followers of the nihilist Sergei Nechaev, upon whom the author of The Possessed modeled his characters. That American policymakers will likely end up like Dostoyevsky’s revolutionary conspirators —increasingly committed to state terrorism in pursuit of some utopian vision—seems horribly and tragically inevitable.

Casualty Reports

Local story: Peoria, IL, soldier killed in roadside bombing between Karbala and Ramadi. Four other soldiers from Iowa and Illinois wounded in the same attack.

Local story: Four Stryker Brigade soldiers killed in separate incidents in Iraq.

Local story: Wagener, SC, soldier killed in explosion in Taji.

Local story: Two Fort Riley soldiers killed in Taji bombing.

Local story: El Paso, TX, Marine killed in vehicle accident in Al Anbar province.

Awards and Decorations

Local story: Detroit area Marine awarded posthumous Bronze Star.


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