Friday, April 29, 2005

War News for Friday, April 29, 2005 Bring ‘em on: One US soldier killed, four wounded by car bomb near Hawija. Bring ‘em on: Four Iraqis killed in mortar attack on US position near Musayyib. Bring ‘em on: One Iraqi policemen wounded in police patrol ambush in Baghdad. Bring ‘em on: Fifteen Iraqis killed, 54 wounded in six car bombings in Baghdad. Bring ‘em on: Iraqi general assassinated in Baghdad. Bring ‘em on: Insurgents reportedly execute six Sudanese truck drivers. Bring ‘em on: Five Iraqis killed, 14 wounded by three car bombs near Madain. Bring ‘em on: Two Iraqi policemen killed, five wounded by roadside bomb near Samarra. Bring ‘em on: Three US soldiers, four Iraqi soldiers and nine civilians wounded by car bomb near Tikrit. Bring ‘em on: One Iraqi soldier killed, two wounded by roadside bomb near Basra. Lieutenant AWOL speaks. “U.S. President George W. Bush said on Thursday that despite a violent insurgency, progress was being made in Iraq which just formed a new government, but he refused to set a timetable for withdrawing American troops. ‘I believe we're making really good progress in Iraq,’ Bush said. ‘They saw a government form today. The Iraqi military is being trained by our military, and they're performing much better than the past.’” Desperation. “There are claims that US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld during his last visit to Iraq met with ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. According to a news article based on Iraqi Baath sources in Jordan published in the London based Al-Quds Al-Arabi newspaper, Rumsfeld met with Saddam in his cell in Bagdat (Baghdad) and the US Secretary of Defense asked Saddam to end the insurgence. The paper claims that Rumsfeld asked him on a television broadcast to make a call for insurgents to end the resistence against US and multi-national forces as well as the Iraqi security forces.” Iraqi authorities have arrested five journalists over the last two weeks. Chalabi’s in. “Ahmed Chalabi, a onetime Pentagon ally in Iraq, was named a deputy premier and the acting energy minister, as the Iraqi government seeks a permanent candidate to oversee the world's third-largest oil reserves. Chalabi, 60, who will be one of four deputy prime ministers, replaces Thamir Ghadhban, a veteran of Iraq's oil industry who helped boost oil production to about 1.9 million barrels a day. The total is still about 25 percent lower than levels in early 2003, before the U.S.-led invasion to topple Saddam Hussein.” Now he says he’s sorry. “Former CIA Director George Tenet said he regretted assuring President Bush in 2002 that he had ‘slam dunk’ evidence that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. ‘Those were the two dumbest words I ever said,’ Tenet told about 1,300 people at a Kutztown University forum Wednesday. The theory was a leading justification for the war in Iraq.” Cover-up. “Italy said on Thursday it would not endorse a U.S. report expected to exonerate the U.S. soldiers who shot dead an Italian agent in Iraq if it was unconvinced by the findings. Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, speaking minutes after his new cabinet won a final confidence vote in parliament, told journalists that Italy ‘will not sign off on anything that does not convince us.’ He said both countries were having difficulties reconciling their positions in a joint report into the death of military intelligence officer Nicola Calipari, who was shot dead after a hostage rescue in Baghdad in March.” Guardsman sounds off. “An Iowa Army National Guard commander has complained that incompetent training and other problems at a U.S. Army base in Texas last year shortchanged his unit's preparations for combat in Iraq, according to a report obtained by The Des Moines Register. Capt. Aaron Baugher of Ankeny, whose detachment was the first Iowa infantry unit trained at Fort Hood before being deployed to Iraq, wrote in an ‘after-action report’ that the 2004 training ‘was of very little value and poorly instructed’ by soldiers who typically had never served in Iraq or Afghanistan. Baugher's unit of 58 soldiers, the 194th Long-Range Surveillance Detachment of Johnston, returned to Iowa in late February after nearly a year in Iraq. ‘Having been in Iraq . . . conducting combat operations on a wide spectrum, we can confidently say we did not learn a thing at Fort Hood,’ Baugher wrote.” Abu Ghraib. “Amnesty International on Thursday blasted the United States for failing to launch an independent probe into Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison scandal, a year after images of abused detainees first shocked the world. The organization said there were signs of fresh torture and sexual abuse by the Iraqi prison authorities.” Commentary Editorial: “President Bush offered a rosy assessment Thursday of developments in Iraq, but the reality is that Iraqi politicians spent most of the nearly three months since their widely hailed national election settling old scores and maneuvering for sectarian gains. They dithered as insurgents regained their momentum. This week's declaration by Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, that insurgents are as able to wreak havoc now as a year ago calls into question the credibility of his other assertion that the United States and the Iraqi people are "winning" this fight. More than 100,000 American troops patrol the nation and more than 100,000 Iraqi security forces have supposedly been trained, yet guerrillas show increasing coordination in their attacks. We'd hate to imagine what "losing" this fight would be like.” Editorial: “Our leaders, most notably Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who should have resigned after Abu Ghraib, have decided it is necessary to abandon 200 years of humane and enlightened legal principle to engage with an enemy that has thrown away the rule book. In doing so, we surrendered the moral high ground, to the dismay of our allies and the joy of our enemies. For the public, the pictures from Abu Ghraib, and the sickening descriptions of sexual humiliation, torture and murder were a scandal that challenged our deeply held view of ourselves and our role in the world. For our leaders, it was only a public relations problem, easily solved by the sacrifice of underlings. If in the belief that the ends justify the means we have lowered ourselves to the level of our enemies and become the evil we seek to defeat.” Editorial: “It is interesting to note that the Army, after careful consideration, found that there were no lieutenants, captains, majors, lieutenant colonels, colonels or others complicit in the maltreatment of prisoners. The mistreatment was conceived of and inflicted by privates, specialists and a sergeant, the Army concludes. One could be excused for wondering how the inspector general could reach this conclusion. An independent panel led by former Defense Secretary James Schlesinger earlier noted that Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, senior commander in Iraq during the time of the abuses, failed to ensure his staff was dealing with Abu Ghraib's problems. Another investigation found that Sanchez approved the harsh interrogation practices which led indirectly to some of these abuses.” Editorial: “The Bush administration is still stalling on supplying Levin with documents detailing who ultimately gave the orders to abuse detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. Thursday was the first anniversary of the release of the photos depicting the torture that Levin maintains was ordered from the top, Pentagon assertions to the contrary. Levin should keep after those documents. Levin's Iraq findings haven't generated the outrage they should. There's more than partisan ‘Gotcha!’ involved. Knowing where our intelligence community and policy makers failed is paramount to avoiding a repeat of the situation in Iraq. Recently, he asked Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to seek permission from the new Iraqi government to maintain a U.S. military presence in Iraq, so we no longer seem an occupying force.” Opinion: “Now, all these months later, it is Cheney who has been discredited. Just this week Charles A. Duelfer, the administration's chief Iraqi weapons hunter (head of the Iraq Survey Group), reported that U.N. sanctions and inspections had actually ‘dampened the regime's ability to retain its WMD expertise’ -- just as Blix and ElBaradei had maintained. Oops. But taking the nation to war for false reasons is not a minor blip. It is an unpardonable feat of hubris for which, on a daily basis, Americans die in Iraq. American voters, though, have been oddly forgiving (see the last election), and the Bush administration has neither apologized nor fired anyone for getting things so very, very wrong. The conclusion is inescapable: This was not a war for the wrong reason; this was a war for any reason.” Opinion: “Torture, of course, can occur anywhere. What matters—and what determines whether torture is a mere aberration or state policy—is how a government responds. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld recognized this when, shortly after the first public revelations, he ‘[Said] to the world: Judge us by our actions. Watch how Americans, watch how a democracy deals with wrongdoing and scandal and the pain of acknowledging and correcting our own mistakes and weaknesses.’ Then-Secretary of State Colin Powell recognized this, too, when he told foreign leaders: ‘Watch America. Watch how we deal with this. Watch how America will do the right thing.’ Regrettably, however, the United States is not doing the right thing. Rather, it is doing what authoritarian governments do the world over when their abuses are discovered—loudly proclaiming its respect for human rights while covering up and shifting blame downwards to low-ranking officials and ‘rogue actors.’ Ten investigations by the Pentagon have only looked down the chain of command, while prosecutions have targeted only those privates and sergeants directly involved in abuse. Just last week, the Army cleared Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the former senior U.S. commander in Iraq, of any wrongdoing. Yet just before the worst abuses at Abu Ghraib, Gen. Sanchez authorized interrogators to ‘exploit Arab fear of dogs.’ They did, and we know what happened.” Analysis:
Fitted together with this posture of waiting is a shift in military tactics in Iraq. General Richard Cody, the US Army's second ranking general, told New York Times reporter Eric Schmitt that "a shift from combat operations" to US "leadership" over Iraqi troops has been under way since the January 30 election. Babakr Badarkhan Ziabri, the Iraqi commanding general, told the Arabic-language paper Al-Zaman that US troops would withdraw into bases within six months, emerging only when Iraqi troops needed support, but avoiding offensive operations. While this military strategy could slow or halt the disintegration of the forces stationed there (and lessen the wear and tear on their dangerously fraying equipment), it has already proved quite detrimental for the "pacification" effort. In early April, for example, the Washington Post quoted US officials conceding that "many attacks have gone unchallenged by Iraqi forces in large areas of the country dominated by insurgents". At the same time, the Shi'ite resistance, led by young cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's forces, has re-emerged as a major force in many cities of the south. These new strategies, therefore, are likely in the long run to erode further the US military position and strengthen the resistance, and so may lead - as US president Richard Nixon's Vietnamization program did decades ago - to the increased use of US air power against resistance strongholds. Such a strategy would promise an intolerable rate of civilian casualties, as well as the devastation of homes and neighborhoods wherever the resistance is strong. This, in turn, would, of course, only heighten support for the guerrillas and increase pressure on US forces. The Bush administration is likely to find itself increasingly trapped, wound in an ever-tightening knot of failing policy and falling support, at the heart of which lies a decision about reconstituting a draft. How this will resolve itself will be one of the complex dramas of our time.
The Foxification of US - and global - media has a corollary: the Pentagon considers independent journalism an act of subversion. An investigation by the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders has reached the same conclusions. Most covering the war on Iraq remember how the Pentagon intentionally targeted the media-saturated Palestine Hotel in Baghdad on April 8, 2003, killing a Ukrainian and a Spanish journalist. Four months later, the US Army absolved itself from any possible mistake. Eason Jordan, a top CNN executive for more than a decade, was forced to resign after saying that the Pentagon targeted journalists in Iraq. As far as the Sgrena tragedy is concerned, Reporters Without Borders has called for a UN-led independent investigation - to no avail. Ann Cooper, executive director of the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), said, "We are deeply troubled by the reported disagreement between US and Italian officials." The CPJ calls for "a thorough and credible investigation to determine what happened, who is responsible, and what steps are being taken to prevent similar incidents from occurring again in the future". The CPJ has conclusively determined that at least nine journalists and two media workers have been killed by the US military in Iraq since March 2003. At least four journalists were killed at checkpoints. The Berlusconi government at first said the Pentagon had not been fully briefed on the Italian negotiations to liberate Sgrena. Then Gianfranco Fini, the Italian foreign minister, was forced to acknowledge "differences" between the US and Italian versions. Fini admitted that Calipari was issued US military passes and was in contact with the US military leadership. But he refused the possibility of an ambush as "nonsense". On the night of the shooting, according to Fini, the US military knew about the Toyota (the Pentagon says no) because it had been informed by the top local Italian liaison official, General Mario Marioli. But the military didn't know the car was carrying Sgrena, Fini said.
Casualty Reports Local story: New York Marine killed in Iraq. Local story: Pennsylvania soldier wounded in Iraq.


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