Wednesday, March 23, 2005

War News for Wednesday, March 23, 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: One US soldier killed in Kirkuk roadside bombing.

Bring ‘em on: One officer killed and two wounded in roadside bombing in Baghdad. Three Iraqis, including two women, killed, and six others, including two children, wounded in explosion of old Iraqi army munitions in Beiji. Four women and three children killed in Azizya in explosion of bomb believed to be left over from the 2003 US invasion. Iraqi brigadier died in Kirkuk of wounds he received in an assassination attempt last Sunday.

Bring ‘em on: Eighty-five militants and seven Iraqi commandos killed in a joint US-Iraqi raid on a suspected guerilla training camp near Lake Tharthar, according to Iraqi officials. One child killed and three wounded in a mortar or rocket attack on a west Baghdad elementary school. One policeman killed and another wounded while trying to defuse a roadside bomb in Baghdad.

Bring ‘em on: One policeman and one sapper killed, three others wounded, while trying to defuse a bomb outside a Baghdad school. (Note: This may be the same incident described in the entry above)

An indicator: A poignant indicator of how the American occupation is going two years after the initial invasion of Iraq came last week. Iraq’s National Assembly met, a sign that the new transitional government chosen in the inspiring elections of Jan. 30 is beginning to govern. But the meeting was shaken by a volley of mortar fire that fell only a few hundred yards short of the assembly hall.

Baghdad is still one of the most dangerous cities in the world, rocked by daily violence. Mohammed Ghazi Umron, a truck driver who voted enthusiastically Jan. 30, told the Christian Science Monitor the roads leading from Baghdad range from "bad, but I haven’t heard of any drivers being killed there in a few weeks" to "very, very dangerous. We try not to go past Abu Ghraib."

The assembly meeting failed to name a prime minister, president and other top officials. Shiite and Kurd members, who together control about two-thirds of the assembly but have been unable so far to agree on top officials, said they hope to reach agreement by the next meeting, scheduled for Friday or Saturday. Numerous news stories say ordinary Iraqis, who experienced something close to euphoria in the days following the election, are impatient that after seven weeks the elected politicians can’t get their act together.

Sistani losing patience: The most powerful Shiite cleric in Iraq has called for quick agreement on a new government, expressing displeasure with the weeks of drawn- out haggling, which has begun to stir unrest in the Iraqi public.

The cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, appeared to be putting pressure on Kurdish politicians in talks on forming a governing coalition.

Even though he has no constituency in the mostly Sunni Kurdish territory, the ayatollah has proved to be the most influential authority in the new Iraq. He brought together the largest and most successful Shiite bloc in the elections, and he has been able to call up huge street protests and get large numbers of voters to the polls.

Agree on almost everything: Leading Shia politicians said yesterday that they had finally brokered a deal with Kurdish parties to end a debilitating impasse over the formation of Iraq's first freely elected government in decades.

They said Iraq's new parliament, which held its largely ceremonial inaugural session last week, would reconvene on Saturday to try to form a coalition administration.

"We have agreed on almost everything, and expect to present an agreement on a government of national unity to parliament by the end of the week," said Jawad al-Maliki, a senior aide to Ibrahim al-Jaafari, the prime minister in waiting.

But similar positive noises have been made over the past fortnight and negotiators admitted yesterday that the distribution of key cabinet posts, including oil, defence and finance, had yet to be decided.

Might be a bit further along than the above indicates: On the political front, Iraq’s Shiite political juggernaut will take 16 to 17 ministries in the next government, the Kurds will hold seven to eight and the Sunni minority will be awarded four to six, Shiite negotiator Maryam Rayes said.

The cabinet lineup will solidify the grip on power of the election-winning Shiite majority nearly two months after some eight million Iraqis voted in national elections.

The Shiites will take the interior and finance ministries, along with the cabinet post of national security advisor, said Rayes, a negotiator with the United Iraqi Alliance, which won 146 seats in the 275-member parliament.

The second-placed Kurds, with 77 seats, will receive seven to eight ministries, including the foreign ministry and probably oil, Rayes said, echoing similar reports from a Kurdish source.

Other posts that were locked up for the Kurds included the presidency, to be held by Jalal Talabani, and the post of deputy prime minister, the source said.

We sure do win this war a lot: Two years after he started the Iraq war, President George W. Bush seems ready to once again declare victory, this time in the cause of democratization. But the course of self-rule in Iraq is as complicated and fraught with pitfalls as the war itself. The actors in Iraq are driven by agendas that have little do with the rhetoric in Washington. And they are certain to try American patience in the months ahead. The intense negotiations to form a new government exposed the fissures between the two victors that emerged from the January parliamentary elections -- the Shia Arabs and the Kurds. The other major player, the Sunni Arabs, boycotted the vote and still fuel the insurgency, though there are efforts to bring them into the political tent.

Iraq-Jordan tiff over?: Jordan's King Abdullah ordered Monday his chief envoy to Iraq to return to Baghdad. The move was announced in Algiers by Jordanian Prime Minister Faisal al-Fayez, reported the BBC.

The diplomatic dispute began after Iraq protested over the reported involvement of a Jordanian citizen, Raed Mansour al-Banna, in a suicide bombing that killed some 125 people in Hilla, south of Baghdad, Feb. 28. Friday, protests were held outside the Jordanian embassy in Baghdad and an Iraqi flag was raised over the building while Jordanian flags were burnt.

Now this will piss Bush off: Iraq's interim government is refusing to make payments on some contracts with foreign companies including Raytheon Co. and A.P. Moeller-Maersk A/S because they overcharged or failed to deliver everything they promised, an official said.

``It's a problem all ministries are dealing with because of the lack of paperwork provided by the U.S.-led administration on contracts they signed before handing over power in June,'' Iraq's deputy transport minister, Atta Nabil Hussain Auni Atta, said in a telephone interview from Amman, Jordan, on March 21.

The refusal of interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi's government, which took power June 28, 2004, to pay bills may discourage foreign companies from working in the country, said analysts including Youssef Ibrahim, managing director of Strategic Energy Investment Group, a consulting firm in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

Spreading more liberty, we are: Aamal, a ministry consultant, shot dead. Wijdan, a women's rights activist and election candidate, murdered. Zeena, a businesswoman, kidnapped, shot and dumped on a highway in a headscarf she never wore.

Their crime? Wearing western clothes, having jobs or speaking out to make women's voices heard in efforts to rebuild Iraq, plagued by relentless violence, spiraling crime and creeping religious fundamentalism.

Women in Iraq have increasingly become a target for extremists, criminals or insurgents bent on thwarting efforts to form a new government and forcing out U.S. troops.

Many have been driven into their homes, out of schools and universities and off the streets. Leading women keep a black hijab on the peg by the door to wear when venturing outside. Women who never wore the headscarf turn to it for safety.

Women politicians fear female voices have become a whisper.

Presenting America’s New Face to the World

Dick Cheney, anti-corruption crusader: Vice President Cheney said yesterday that the elevation of White House loyalists and supporters of the Iraq war to key diplomatic posts puts the United States in a stronger position to force changes at the United Nations and improve the U.S. image abroad.

In an interview aboard Air Force Two, Cheney said the nomination of John R. Bolton to serve as ambassador to the United Nations in particular shows President Bush's commitment to ending corruption and changing the culture at the world body.

Critics charge the White House is purging its voices of dissent and sending the wrong signal to the world with Bolton and Wolfowitz, two controversial architects of the Bush foreign policy.

A good point: Racking his brain to think of something positive to say about the nominations of John Bolton as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and Paul Wolfowitz as president of the World Bank, Paul Heinbecker ventured: "At least it gets them out of government."

Heinbecker, Canada's former ambassador to the U.N., usually is more diplomatic than that.

But, like much of the international community, he is reeling from President George Bush's decision to name two of the hardest-line hawks in Washington to pivotal roles in the world's leading multilateral institutions.

The most likely scenario is that those committed to global teamwork will have to work around the U.S for the foreseeable future. "It won't be easy," Heinbecker said. "But we've been doing it for years."

Torture, Secrecy, Censorship

Why investigate? They swore they were innocent: The Pentagon has refused to reopen an investigation into allegations by three Iraqis working for Reuters that they were abused and mistreated by U.S. forces, saying it stood by an initial probe exonerating American troops. Reuters says the investigation, during which none of the three was interviewed, was inadequate and should be reopened.

The three Iraqis, along with another Iraqi freelancer working for NBC, were detained by soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division on Jan. 2, 2004, while covering the aftermath of the shooting down of a helicopter near Fallujah. When they were released without charge three days later the Iraqis said that during their detention in Forward Operating Base Volturno near Fallujah they were subjected to repeated beatings, torture, and sexual humiliation, similar to the abuse later uncovered at Abu Ghraib prison. A U.S. military investigation said soldiers had sworn under oath that they were not involved in any abuse.

Next time just classify the whole trial: The court-martial of a Navy SEAL lieutenant accused of abusing a prisoner in Iraq is a case full of secrets -- even the defendant's name is classified.

The SEAL is accused of punching an Iraqi detainee in the arm and allowing his men to abuse the prisoner, who later died during CIA interrogation at Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad. He faces a trial set to begin today on charges of assault, dereliction of duty, and conduct unbecoming an officer.

The lieutenant will be referred to only by the first letter of his last name, as will all SEAL personnel in the courtroom -- a step specialists on military law say is virtually unprecedented.

Why America doesn’t need an official censor: Many media outlets self-censored their reporting on the Iraq invasion because of concerns about public reaction to graphic images and content, according to a survey of more than 200 journalists by American University's School of Communications.

One of the most significant findings was "the amount of editing that went into content after it was gathered but before it was published," the study stated. Of those who reported from Iraq, 15% said that on one or more occasions their organizations edited material for publication and they did not believe the final version accurately represented the story.

Of those involved in war coverage who were in newsrooms and not in Iraq, 20% said material was edited for reasons other than basic style and length.

Some 42% of those polled said they were discouraged from showing photographic images of dead Americans, while 17% said they were prohibited.

Coming to What Senses They Have

They’re still an embarrassment to their country: Reversing course on a decision that had drawn sharp protests from students, parents and teachers, South Orange County Community College District trustees Tuesday reinstated a study-abroad program in Spain. Last month, the board had voted to cancel the program, saying Spain was dangerous and objecting to its withdrawal of troops from Iraq.

The district, composed of Irvine Valley College and Saddleback College, voted 5 to 2 reinstate the 14-year-old program.

The Dead

An academic question: For two years now, a new vocabulary has invaded the nightly news shows. We hear the words so often they aren't so jarring anymore. "Another four U.S. soldiers ..." "Two more Marines ..." There's really no need to complete the sentences. They end the same way: "... died in Iraq."

Some nights, the stock market, traffic tie-ups, even the weather get more attention than American casualties in Iraq. Is it war fatigue that diminishes the impact of this death count? The total is now 1,519. On average, two U.S. service members a day have died since the Iraq war began two years ago this weekend.

In the streets of Baghdad, in the corridors of Washington where pundits and politicians meet for conversation, there's still no agreement on whether the conflict has been worth it. The question is academic for most people, including politicians. For those who've lost a family member in Iraq, it's almost cruel. Some of them respond, "yes, the war was necessary," and some say, "no, it wasn't," but they all feel the pain of personal loss.

Well, they wouldn’t want us to feel all icky about ourselves: On the weekend of the two-year anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, media outlets took stock of the war's death toll. But the national newscasts undercounted the most dramatic loss of life: the deaths of Iraqi civilians.

On the March 18 CBS Evening News, reporter Byron Pitts gave these figures: "Today, U.S. deaths number more than 1,500. There are no exact figures for Iraqi fatalities, but estimates are for every American killed, 11 Iraqis died." In other words, more than 16,500 Iraqi deaths. NBC's Brian Williams offered a slightly higher estimate: "So far, 1,513 American military personnel have been killed, 11,344 injured, and many of those are amputees. Estimates of the Iraqi death toll are hard to come by officially, but the civilian toll is thought to range from 17,000 to nearly 20,000 dead and beyond."

With his "and beyond" comment, NBC's Williams seemed to be referring to an estimate of Iraqi civilian casualties that none of the networks saw fit to mention: According to a study published in the respected British medical journal The Lancet, about 100,000 Iraqi civilians have died as a result of the war. The majority of deaths were due to violence, primarily as a result of U.S.-led military action.

Recent polling indicates that the vast majority of the American public believes that U.S. casualties in Iraq are unacceptable. One can only wonder what Americans think about the level of Iraqi civilian casualties; unfortunately, the media's count dramatically minimizes that death toll.

A tribute: In the Women in Military Service for America Memorial, at the gateway of Arlington National Cemetery, an exhibition opened yesterday that consists of rows and rows of portraits of U.S. military men and women who've died in combat during the country's invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. The more than 1,300 "Faces of the Fallen" portraits are rendered in oil, glass, cloth and clay by more than 200 artists, almost none of whom knew their subjects in life. Yesterday, 1,500 family members gathered to see these strangers' tributes of their loved ones

It was a day of comfort, a day for collective mourning, even if it did make for unlikely allies -- artists, well-pressed military, teary-eyed families. Politics roiled beneath the surface, symbolic of a nation still divided by the Iraq war, launched two years ago this week. During a media briefing yesterday, one artist involved in the project expressed opposition to the war, even as he said he thought it necessary to honor those who'd sacrificed their lives.

Troop Movements

Bye bye: Italy will withdraw its troops stationed in Iraq in September 2005, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian and Dutch troops started their phased withdrawal from the war-torn Iraq.

About 150 Dutch troops arrived in their country on Monday.

There are still about 800 Dutch soldiers in Iraq, and they are expected to leave the country next month, while Ukraine is expected to complete its troops withdrawal by 15 October.

So long, farewell: Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko has signed the order for withdrawing his troops from Iraq, the head of the country’s security council said yesterday — cementing a pledge by the new leadership to bring back its 1650-strong force.

Ukraine began pulling its troops from Iraq last week, and plans to complete the withdrawal of its troops by the end of the year.

The former Soviet republic provided the sixth-largest contingent in the US-led coalition in Iraq. Eighteen Ukrainian soldiers have been killed and more than two dozen wounded in Iraq, fuelling public dismay about the unpopular deployment.

More than 130 soldiers returned home last week. Ukraine planned to withdraw an additional 550 soldiers from Iraq by May 15 and the rest of the original contingent by the end of the year, the defence ministry has said.

Juggling: As the military struggles to find fresh recruits, there is unprecedented strain on individual service members and their families.

Since 2001, the U.S. military has deployed more than 1 million troops for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, with 341,000, or nearly a third, serving two or more overseas tours. Today, an entrenched insurgency in Iraq ties down 150,000 U.S. troops, inflicting upwards of 1,500 deaths so far — more than 10 times the number killed in the major combat operations that President Bush declared ended on May 1, 2003.

Because of spreading violence from the insurgency, coupled with a smaller foreign coalition than was hoped for, the U.S. Army and Marines have in particular scrambled to keep a force of roughly 17 brigades in Iraq until now, rather than draw down to eight brigades or even be out altogether, according to previous military projections.

Lt. Gen. James Lovelace, the Army's operations chief, is a kind of circus master responsible for juggling limited units and equipment and prioritizing who does what. Ringed by organizational charts in his Pentagon office, the West Point graduate from Richmond ticks off the far-flung corners from which the Army has had to muster forces.

"We've deployed units of the Old Guard!" he says, referring to the first-ever deployment of the ceremonial guard from Arlington Cemetery, when a company was dispatched to Djibouti last year. "We've reached up inside of Alaska and grabbed the forces up there," he says. "Korea! Who would have ever thought that we would have deployed a combat formation?" he says, referring to a brigade sent from South Korea to Iraq.

An appeal: The Army expects to miss its recruiting goals again this month and next, Army Secretary Francis J. Harvey said Wednesday, and it is developing a new sales pitch that appeals to the patriotism of parents who have been reluctant to steer their children toward the Army.

In February the Army missed its monthly recruiting goal by 27 percent. That was the first time it had fallen short for any month since May 2000, and it underscored the difficulty the Army faces in signing up young men and women during time of war.

"I'm clearly not going to give up," Harvey said. "At this stage we still have six months to go" before the recruiting year ends Sept. 30. "I've challenged our human resource people to get as innovative as they can. And even as we speak we've got a number of new ideas."

One of those is designed to persuade more parents to steer their children to the Army.

"We're going to appeal to patriotism," he said.

People, help me out here. Can you think of anyone who is really Really REALLY patriotic and has military age children? If so, appeal to them! Maybe through your local newspaper or by a letter or phone call to their place of employment. Let’s help Secretary Harvey meet his goals! It’s the patriotic thing to do.


Interview with Seymour Hersh: Q:Is this all attributable to September 11th? How did we get to where we are now?

A: We got panicked by 9/11 – all of us did. The president, the vice president, they all got scared, and they’re still scared. I think there’s a lot of fear; there’s also a lot of anger and a lot of wanting payback – that’s sort of another American tradition. We want to hit back at the people who killed all those people at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The critical decision that Bush made – and that history will judge him very harshly on – is his decision that the road to fighting international terrorism led to Baghdad. It has had horrible consequences – there are well over 100,000 Iraqis killed and we don’t even count them. And there’s the growing death toll of Americans and the destruction of their society and the enmity we’ve created among the world that could lead to huge escalation in the price of oil and a collective attitude of hostility in the Middle East. I think history’s going to judge Bush as one of the worst presidents we’ve had. But he doesn’t think so. He’s convinced that he’s done the right thing, that if it doesn’t work now in Iraq, it’ll work in five, ten years, and fifty years from now, and that there’ll be democracy in the Middle East, Israel will be safe, the oil will be safe, and he will go down in history as one of the great presidents.

Opinion: In America, as in many other countries, the neighborhood barbershop is respected as a wellspring of discourse for average people. It is where one goes to hear one's neighbors debate the affairs of the day -- often with spirited differences of opinion, but usually with good humor. In fact, getting a haircut often seems the least important thing one does in a barbershop. The real draw is the half-hour or so one spends there solving all the world's problems with the fellow customers.

With that in mind, the vitality of barbershops might be viewed as a telling index of democratic spirit.

By that measure, as on other fronts, Iraq is in a world of hurt. The New York Times recently reported that insurgents are walking into barbershops and killing the barbers. The barbers' crime? Giving Western-style haircuts that Islamic fanatics regard as offensive.

As many as 12 barbers have been killed, Iraqi officials say, including five in one day in January. With little hope of police protection, most Iraqi barbers in southern Baghdad now refuse to offer the offending cuts, and they have signs in their windows saying so.

Editorial: Is Iraq better off today than it was two years ago? In potential, yes, undoubtedly. The political change in the country is undeniably for the better when elections are held and pluralism is the aim, even if lip-service is the method and exaggerated accomplishments the proof. The aim is commendable in itself. But translating that aim to reality means defeating a bloody insurgency and actually building an effective, pluralist government with the means to exercise its authority. Those two goals remain elusive, and at a heavy price.

In the day to day lives of ordinary Iraqis, who have traded tyranny for anarchy -- and one kind of danger to life and limb for another -- it's difficult to make the case that life is better today than it was two years ago. Even in the south of the country, where insurgent attacks are rare and a measure of normalcy has returned, the attitude is more wait-and-see than anywhere near the kind of triumphal stance the Bush administration has been projecting.

Meanwhile in the heart of the country Fallujah stands as the apt symbol of what passes for a coalition victory these days. The city had been taken over by insurgents last year. They used Fallujah as a base for operations throughout central Iraq. And they turned the city itself into a Taliban-like bastion of fanatic Islamic rule, the kind of rule some extremists in Iraq would impose on the country, given a chance. A massive assault by the Marines last November drove most of the insurgents out but also effectively destroyed the city. The American military now calls Fallujah "the safest city in Iraq." The exaggeration only underscores the distance between wishful fictions and reality. The city is still under curfew. Schools are being rebuilt, but students aren't allowed to cross checkpoints to attend them. Entire swaths of the city have no electricity at all (as opposed to a few hours a day for residents elsewhere in the country). No one but contractors and residents who can prove they live in the city is allowed in (making the military's claims about safety unverifiable, because journalists aren't allowed in without escorts, either.)

Dahr Jamail: "There is not a split between Sunni and Shia here; we are all Iraqi," says Intisar Hammad. The 21-year-old physics student, who is a Shi'ite, adds, "There are enemies of Iraq who want us to be separate, but we are all Muslims and our constitution is the Koran."

Such declarations of national unity aside, the specter of civil war looms in the back of Iraqi minds as the political machinations grind forward. Tensions continue to swirl over Kirkuk, the oil-rich city claimed by the country's Kurdish minority, whose power was emboldened by its strong showing in the recent elections. The lack of Sunni representation in the National Assembly, meanwhile, could set the stage for a reinvigorated insurgency, threatening the new government. The Bush administration declared the elections a success simply because they occurred, but their success or failure will truly be decided as these possibilities unfold in the coming months.

Even before the National Assembly drafts the new constitution, debate over U.S. withdrawal is likely to intensify, with Sadr and Sistani staking out distinct positions: while Sistani appears to favor allowing more time for withdrawal, Sadr announced just days after the elections that an immediate timetable for U.S. withdrawal was the only solution.

Whatever their views on the timetable, one theme most Iraqis seem to agree on, whether Shi'ite or Sunni, religious leaders or ordinary people, is that the foreign power in Iraq must depart, leaving Iraqis to sort out their sectarian and ethnic differences.

As Wamid Nadhmi says, "It will take Iraqis something like a quarter of a century to rebuild their country, to heal their wounds, to reform their society, to bring about some sort of national reconciliation, democracy, and tolerance of each other. But that process will not begin until the U.S. occupation of Iraq ends."

Helena Cobban: It is now 26 days since I wrote this about Iraq:

It is 24 days already since the election. It took the authorities an inordinately long length of time to certify the election. And now, where is the presidential council?

Since then, I've increasingly been wondering-- what with Negroponte first of all preparing to leave Iraq, and then leaving for his big new intel-management job in Washington... And what with the continued failure of the Iraqi parties to reach agreement on forming a government...

So I've been wondering: who the heck, on the US side, has been responsible for shepherding along the political process there?

Look, we might not like the fact, but under the international law of military occupation the US does have overall responsibility for the good governance (hah!) of Iraq, pending conclusion of a final peace agreement between Washington and a representative Iraqi government.

And hey, it's not just that Neroponte was up and leaving the place, but don't you remember, some time back, we were all assured that National Security Advisor Condi Rice was going to be "in charge of running Iraqi affairs from Washington"?? But since then she too has been given new responsibilities and now she's off tooling around various parts of the world in her dominatrix jackboots...

So who is in charge of the Iraq "file"? Maybe just Rumsfeld? Maybe purely the military?

Or how about...nobody?

Personal statement: Over the past weeks, my wife and I painted a few hundred of these in our kitchen. Last Saturday we started putting labels on them with the name, age, rank and home state of each G.I. killed. As we sat on our living room floor, surrounded by stacks of tombstones representing so many young men and women, we listened to an old Dire Straits album. The track titled "Brothers in Arms" came on with these telling lines: "Every man has to die/But it's written in the starlight/And in every line on your palm/We're fools to make war/On our brothers in arms."

Sue looked at the tombstone with a 19 year-old soldier's name on it she was holding and dissolved into sobs crying, "He was someone's baby"

We are here today to recommit ourselves to ending this slaughter of someone else's babies, whether American or Iraqi. We are here to demand an end to George Bush's criminal war.

We must end Bush's war to prevent more deaths and traumatic amputations of arms and legs, more quadriplegics who will be bedridden the rest of their lives. We must end Bush's war because every day it continues, it produces more injuries we will never see until they explode years later at home. I'm talking about thousands MORE soldiers who will return from Iraq with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), the injury that leaves minds riddled with flashbacks, anxiety, unpredictable outbursts of anger, depression, addictions and suicide.

Representative Cynthia McKinney: Two years ago we gathered all across America to say no to war.

We were joined by people all over the planet who know that there is an alternative to war.

But war is about the only option available when the real motive is to steal natural resources that belong to someone else.

Or to restack the deck in the Middle East with today's generation of coups and assassinations, following the likes of the US 1949 ouster of Syria's elected government, the US 1953 ouster of Iran's elected government; US 1958 landing of Marines in Lebanon; and its 1963 support for a coup in Iraq after an assassination attempt against its leader failed.

They tell us we're at war for democracy.

But that's a joke; George Bush came to power by stopping democracy at home--denying the opportunity to vote to blacks and Latinos in Florida.

They built on that fine record last year with hackable voting machines that don't accurately tally our votes.

While they purport to cherish democracy, they really have a disdain for it.

But one thing I guarantee to you and to them: we won't be fooled!

We know the truth. And we won't stop.

Cindy Sheehan: This past weekend was the two year anniversary of the beginning of "shock and awe" of the US Government’s aggression in Iraq. If all you did was watch CNN, FOX News, or MSNBC, you would never know.

There were protests all across our nation. CNN called the over 800 protest events "barely a ripple." I spoke at a protest in Fayetteville, North Carolina where there were right around 4000 people. 4000 people full of energy and committed to the task of peace and justice and reclaiming our country from the socio-pathic maniacs who are in power right now.

As far as I am concerned, the amazing hypocrites in our Government are not making up for killing thousands of innocent Americans and Iraqis by passing emergency legislation to save one life. Every member of Bush’s executive branch (past and present) and every member of Congress who voted to give George the authority to invade Iraq have innocent blood on their hands. For the next State of the Union address, maybe the hypocrites in Congress should shamefacedly display blood soaked hands, instead of proudly wriggling fingers stained with ink to symbolize sham Iraqi elections.

Mr. Tom ("We should investigate every avenue before we take the life of a living human being") DeLay should be outraged for the soldiers who have been murdered for the cowardice of he and his colleagues. He should shed real tears for the soldiers’ families whose lives have been destroyed by their murders. DeLay should search for a homeless Iraq Vet and pass legislation to find him a job and an apartment. Mr. Tom (who cried over Ms. Schiavo’s hunger pains) DeLay should go to Walter Reed hospital and find one of our kids who has been horribly maimed by the betrayal of his government and pass legislation to pay for his meals. After 3 months, the wounded soldier has to pay for his meals with his own money. Maybe Mr. Tom (Crocodile Tears) DeLay should find a soldier who has returned from this abomination of a war who is suffering from PTSD and pass a law to get him the help he needs before the soldier's dad finds him hanging by a garden hose in the basement.

William Rivers Pitt: The greatest strength of the Republican majority in Congress and their allies in the White House is their unfailing ability to say and do anything, no matter how hypocritical or brazen or wrong, in order to win.

These people will say anything, and use anyone as a pawn, no matter how gross or disrespectful or hypocritical or flatly illegal it may be. They do this, ultimately, because they want everything their own way, with no room for compromise whatsoever. It is their greatest strength. It may also come to be their greatest weakness.

Only dictators, tyrants and fools believe they can have it all their way. Every dictator, tyrant and fool in history who has tried to have it all his way has failed in spectacular fashion. Often, that failure brings about the destruction of their family, their army, or their entire nation. Yet the lessons of history do not resonate with dictators, tyrants and fools. That, more than anything else, is why they always fail.

What we have seen in these last years is mushmouthed dictators in the Executive, petty tyrants in Congress, and fools in between trying to have it all their own way. They will fail, as ever. The backlash comes. Mahatma Gandhi once said, "When I despair, I remember that all through history, the way of truth and love has always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time they seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall. Think of it, always.”


Casualty Reports

Another liberal traitor Democrat: A Tennessee lawmaker on National Guard duty in Iraq suffered head wounds but is expected to make a full recovery, his mother said.

State Rep. John Mark Windle, D-Livingston, was wounded Friday and has been hospitalized at an Air Force Base in Iraq, his mother, Onita Windle, told the Cookeville Herald Citizen in a story published Tuesday.

<>Windle, 42, is a major in the Tennessee Army National Guard's 278th Regimental Combat Team. Local story: Clark County, OH, Marine killed in Al Anbar province.

Local story: Fort Worth, TX, soldier killed in Tamin.


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