War News for Wednesday, March 16, 2005
Matt is travelling today and I volunteered to stand in for him. May I say that Matt's posts, and I am sure that all will agree with this, are absolutely brilliant in terms of the depth and quality of the material he finds on the days he posts. Matt's research and diligence show that news from Iraq could fill a broadsheet newspaper every day.
Bring 'em on: Suicide car bomb attack kills three Iraqis soldiers in Baquba
Bring 'em on: Deputy commander of Iraqi Forces in Al Anbar Province shot dead by US troops at checkpoint west of Ramadi
Bring 'em on: Italian soldier killed during routine target practice session in Nasseriyah
Bring 'em on: Casualties feared after bomb attack on English language newspaper in Baghdad
Bring 'em on: As the Iraqi Parliament convenes for the first time more than half a dozen bomb explosions occur near the Green Zone in Baghdad
Bring 'em on: Oil pipeline attack in Fatha
: Iraq's new parliament has met for the first time more than six weeks after it was elected in historic polls, but the country is still without a government as rival blocs bicker over a coalition deal. The National Assembly's 275 members, elected during Jan 30 elections, convened amid tight security in the heavily-guarded Green Zone with US helicopter gunships hovering overhead. The delay in forming a government has angered many Iraqis, after more than eight million people defied suicide bombers and mortar attacks to vote.
: The reconstruction of Iraq risks turning into the world's biggest corruption scandal, Transparency International has said in a report focused on a worldwide problem of bribery in the building industry.
"If urgent steps are not taken, Iraq will not become the shining beacon of democracy envisaged by the Bush administration, it will become the biggest corruption scandal in history," the independent anti-graft group wrote in its annual Global Corruption Report on Wednesday.
The 2005 report refers to the scandal-tainted United Nations oil-for-food programme and complaints of bribery affecting almost all Iraqi government operations. It criticised the United States for its poor handling of procurement and said calls for rapid privatisation to reduce debts were misguided.
? At least 26 prisoners have died in U.S. custody in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2002 in what Army and Navy investigators have concluded or suspect were acts of criminal homicide, the New York Times reported on Tuesday, citing military officials. Investigators have closed their inquiries in 18 of those cases reviewed by the Army and Navy and have recommended them for prosecution or referred them to other agencies for action, the Times said.
Eight cases are still being probed but are listed by the Army as confirmed or suspected criminal homicides, the paper reported, citing officials.
! Insurgents trying to overthrow Iraq's U.S.-based government are increasingly targeting checkpoints, often with suicide attacks. U.S. and Iraqi officers say this shows progress in the battle against the insurgency because guerrillas are finding it harder to attack other targets.
will not be defeated for many months, Britain admitted today. Senior Foreign Office officials said attacks were widespread and becoming increasingly sophisticated. It had been hoped January’s elections would deal a major blow to the insurgents, but officials said troops and citizens still faced months of bloodshed. "The insurgency is still very strong," said one official. "It is not going to be dealt with in a matter of months."
Thanks to Dana for this story
Berlusconi's decision to start a phased withdrawal of Italian is being widely reported in the media. Whether this is a clever piece of electioneering in the face of the forthcoming regional elections, awaits to be seen. However, there are now some reports in the media that British troops will probably be asked to go to Iraq to help fill the void left by Italy's proposed withdrawal. This could now become a major issue in the May 2005 British General Election.
See also these reports of Bulgarian, Ukrainian, Dutch and, I almost forgot, Polish troop withdrawals.
Counting the Dead
Counting the dead is intrinsic to civilised society. Understanding the causes of death is a core public health responsibility. The government's white paper on public health emphasises the vital role of assessing the impact on health of all public policy. This is well recognised, and yet neither the public nor public health professionals are able to obtain reliable and officially endorsed information about the extent of civilian deaths attributable to the allied invasion of Iraq. Estimates vary between tens and hundreds of thousands.
These estimates come from reports in the press, or counting bodies admitted to hospitals, as well as surveys. The former are likely to be inaccurate and to underestimate the true numbers and do not easily allow for reliable attribution between, for example, violent and natural causes. Public access to reliable data on mortality is important. The policy being assessed—the allied invasion of Iraq—was justified largely on grounds of democratic supremacy. Voters in the countries that initiated the war, and others—not least in Iraq itself—are denied a reliable evaluation of a key indicator of the success of that policy. This is unacceptable.
Instead the UK government's policy was first not to count at all, and then to rely publicly on extremely limited data available from the Iraqi Ministry of Health. This follows US government policy; famously encapsulated by General Tommy Franks of the US Central Command "We don't do body counts." Its inadequacy was emphasised after the publication of a representative household survey that estimated 100 000 excess deaths since the 2003 invasion. The government rejected this survey and its estimates as unreliable; in part absurdly because statistical extrapolation from samples was thought invalid. Imprecise they are, but to a known extent. These are unique estimates from a dispassionate survey conducted in the most dangerous of epidemiological conditions. Hence the estimates, as far as they can go, are unlikely to be biased, even allowing for the reinstatement of Falluja. To confuse imprecision with bias is unjustified.
Swanker of the Day!