Sunday, April 03, 2005

War News for Sunday, April 03, 2005

Bring ‘em on: Six Iraqis injured in car bomb attack in Mosul.

Bring ‘em on: “Huge” explosion reported in the vicinity of Iraq’s foreign ministry shortly after the election of the new parliament speaker.

Bring ‘em on: Update - current casualty report for the attack on Abu Ghraib prison first posted yesterday is now 44 US injured, some seriously, and 13 prisoners injured. Other reports state that one attacker was killed.

Iraqi Freedom Guard: During its short life, the Iraq Freedom Guard of maybe 100 fighters had a distinguished record in Anbar province. But on an afternoon last month, the Freedom Guard's fall from grace led to the deaths of two unit soldiers and more questions about how reliable an ally Iraq's nascent armed forces are. Seeking to make a point not fully understood by Marine commanders with whom they worked, guard fighters finished weeks of missions in Anbar by marching without clearance to violent Haqlaniyah, a small town on the Euphrates River.

Just hours before U.S. troops were to attempt to root out an insurgent cell in the town, Iraq Freedom Guardsmen confronted several young men. Then, a roadside bomb blew up next to the Iraqi unit. Besides the soldiers who died, three other Freedom Guardsmen were wounded, and the Americans who followed that night arrived to find the town abandoned.

Local militias: The rumors spread quickly last month around the central Baghdad neighborhood of Sabah Nisan that Salem Khudair's nephew had insulted the name of Imam Hussein, one of the most important historical figures in the Shiite branch of Islam.

It fell to Khudair, the eldest son of a family from the Sunni branch, to meet with local Shiites and explain that his 26-year-old nephew had said no such thing.

A day later Khudair's family received a note insulting them as Sunni Muslims, calling them sons of whores. On March 27, Khudair was kidnapped.

What came next has become typical for Iraq as sectarian tension and violence rise. Khudair's family formed an armed group of more than 20 relatives and neighbors who are demanding Khudair's release and vowing to kill those responsible.

"If something happened to my brother, no Shiite would be safe," said Khudair's brother, Sameer, who's convinced that Shiite militia members are behind the kidnapping.

The political instability in Iraq and the ethnic divides behind it are pushing Iraqis toward ganglike violence that many worry could start a slide toward civil war.

Prisoners: The United States is holding about 10,500 prisoners in Iraq, more than double the number held in October, the military says.

About 100 of those prisoners are under age 18, said Army Lt. Col. Guy Rudisill, a spokesman for detention operations in Iraq.

A human rights group was issuing a report Wednesday saying the rising number of detainees increases the risk that the prisoners will be mistreated.

"We're seriously concerned about overburdening of what the Pentagon has called transient facilities, the field prisons," Human Rights First lawyer Deborah Pearlstein said Tuesday. "These are places where conditions are terrible, where the worst abuses occurred from 2002 to 2004, and ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross) access is limited to nonexistent."

Forward operating bases: The war in Iraq is the first American conflict in which a GI on patrol can risk evisceration from artillery shells rigged to a cell phone, then return to base in time for ESPN’s “SportsCenter,” a T-bone steak, a mocha cappuccino, a gym workout, an Internet surf session, a hot shower and a cold, if nonalcoholic, beer. In Iraq, there is the “fob” - the forward operating base - and there is life outside the fob. A soldier’s existence in Iraq is defined by the fob, and by the concertina wire that marks its boundaries. The war beyond the wire is so draining that each of the more than 100 fobs in Iraq is a hardened refuge for the nearly 150,000 U.S. troops here. Brig. Gen. Karl Horst, a 3rd Infantry Division commander based at the Baghdad airport’s FOB Liberty, calls them “little oases in the middle of a dangerous and confusing world.”

Speaker chosen: Iraq's legislature said Saturday that leaders of various blocs have agreed on naming a Sunni as the speaker of the National Assembly.

Jawad al-Maliki, a prominent member of the powerful Shiite United Iraqi Bloc in the provisional parliament, said the blocs agreed to name Hajem al-Hosni, the interim industry minister, as speaker of the 275-seat National Assembly.

Hosni, a member of interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi's bloc, is a former member of the Iraqi Islamic Party, which withdrew from the interim government to protest U.S. raids on Falluja last year.

A Government of Men or a Government of Law?

Men: America's leading civil liberties group has demanded an investigation into the former US military commander Iraq after a formerly classified memo revealed that he personally sanctioned a series of coercive interrogation techniques outlawed by the Geneva Conventions. The group claims that his directives were directly linked to the sort of abuses that took place at Abu Ghraib.

The ACLU says the documents reveal that the abuse of prisoners in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere was the result of an organised and co-ordinated plan for dealing with prisoners captured during the so-called war on terror that originates at the highest levels of the chain of command. It says that far from being isolated incident, the shocking abuse at Abu Ghraib that was revealed last year was part of a pattern.

"We think that the techniques authorised by Gen Sanchez were certainly responsible for putting into play the sort of abuses that we saw at Abu Ghraib," Amirit Singh, an ACLU lawyer, told The Independent on Sunday. "And it does not just stop with Sanchez. It goes to [Defence Secretary Donald] Rumsfeld, who wrote memos authorising these sorts of techniques at Guantanamo Bay."

Law: Geneva Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War, Article 2:

In addition to the provisions which shall be implemented in peace time, the present Convention shall apply to all cases of declared war or of any other armed conflict which may arise between two or more of the High Contracting Parties, even if the state of war is not recognized by one of them.

The Convention shall also apply to all cases of partial or total occupation of the territory of a High Contracting Party, even if the said occupation meets with no armed resistance.

Although one of the Powers in conflict may not be a party to the present Convention, the Powers who are parties thereto shall remain bound by it in their mutual relations. They shall furthermore be bound by the Convention in relation to the said Power, if the latter accepts and applies the provisions thereof.

Men: A decorated Army captain convicted in the shooting death of a wounded Iraqi was dismissed from the military Friday but will serve no time in prison after insisting at his court-martial that the shooting was intended as a mercy killing.

A relieved Capt. Rogelio ''Roger'' Maynulet, 30, of Chicago threw his arms around his attorneys, wife and parents after the military court spared him a prison sentence. Prosecutors had sought a three-year term along with the dismissal.

Maynulet could have faced 10 years in prison after being convicted Thursday of assault with intent to commit voluntary manslaughter.

Law: UN Convention (I) for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded and Sick in Armed Forces in the Field, Article 12:

Members of the armed forces and other persons mentioned in the following Article, who are wounded or sick, shall be respected and protected in all circumstances.

They shall be treated humanely and cared for by the Party to the conflict in whose power they may be, without any adverse distinction founded on sex, race, nationality, religion, political opinions, or any other similar criteria. Any attempts upon their lives, or violence to their persons, shall be strictly prohibited; in particular, they shall not be murdered or exterminated, subjected to torture or to biological experiments; they shall not willfully be left without medical assistance and care, nor shall conditions exposing them to contagion or infection be created.

Men: Previously secret court testimony indicates an Iraqi general imprisoned by U.S. forces was badly bruised and may have been severely beaten two days before he died of suffocation during interrogation.

References to the alleged beating appear in a transcript, released under court order, from a military preliminary hearing for three soldiers charged with murder and dereliction of duty in the death of Maj. Gen. Abed Mowhoush on Nov. 26, 2003. A fourth soldier faces the same charges but waived a hearing.

During the interrogation, Army prosecutors claim Mowhoush was put headfirst into a sleeping bag, wrapped with electrical cord and knocked down before the soldiers sat and stood on him, prosecutors said. The cause of death was determined to be suffocation.

The defendants have all denied wrongdoing, saying commanders had sanctioned their actions.

Law: Geneva Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War, Article 3, Section 1:

Persons taking no active part in the hostilities, including members of armed forces who have laid down their arms and those placed hors de combat by sickness, wounds, detention, or any other cause, shall in all circumstances be treated humanely, without any adverse distinction founded on race, colour, religion or faith, sex, birth or wealth, or any other similar criteria.

To this end the following acts are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever with respect to the above-mentioned persons:

(a) Violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture;

(b) Taking of hostages;

(c) Outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment;

(d) The passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples.

Men: The U.S. military said on Friday it has held since last year an American citizen without charges in Iraq as a suspected top aide to militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, drawing condemnation from civil rights activists. The man, who U.S. officials at the Pentagon and in Iraq refused to identify by name, possessed dual U.S.-Jordanian citizenship, the military said.

Air Force Lt. Col. John Skinner, a Pentagon spokesman, said the man, deemed an enemy combatant, had personal ties to Zarqawi and was believed to have served as his personal emissary in several Iraqi cities. The man has not been allowed to have a lawyer, Skinner said. "I think it's extremely high on the outrageous scale. This is a direct violation of a Supreme Court decision," said lawyer Rachel Meeropol of the New York-based Centre for Constitutional Rights. The justices ruled last June that the government cannot hold an American citizen indefinitely in a U.S. military jail without providing a chance to contest the case against him.

Law: United States Constitution, Amendment XIV, Section 1: All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

The WMD Whitewash Report

Routinely dismissed: Of all the claims U.S. intelligence made about Iraq's arsenal in the fall and winter of 2002, it was a handful of new charges that seemed the most significant: secret purchases of uranium from Africa, biological weapons being made in mobile laboratories, and pilotless planes that could disperse anthrax or sarin gas into the air above U.S. cities.

By the time President Bush ordered U.S. troops to disarm Saddam Hussein of the deadly weapons he was allegedly trying to build, every piece of fresh evidence had been tested -- and disproved -- by U.N. inspectors, according to a report commissioned by the president and released Thursday.

The work of the inspectors -- who had extraordinary access during their three months in Iraq between November 2002 and March 2003 -- was routinely dismissed by the Bush administration and the intelligence community in the run-up to the war, according to the commission led by former senator Charles S. Robb (D-Va.) and retired appellate court judge Laurence H. Silberman.

Absurd: It is absurd to have yet another investigation into the chuckleheaded assessments on Saddam's phantom W.M.D. that intentionally skirts how the $40 billion-a-year intelligence was molded and manufactured to fit the ideological schemes of those running the White House and Pentagon.

As the commission's co-chairman, Laurence Silberman, put it: "Our executive order did not direct us to deal with the use of intelligence by policy makers, and all of us were agreed that that was not part of our inquiry."

Huh? That's like an investigation into steroids in baseball that looks only at the drug companies, not the players who muscled up.

No official inquiry: So two years after Bush launched the invasion of Iraq, there still has been no official inquiry into how he and his lieutenants handled the prewar intelligence. The question is whether Bush and other administration officials exaggerated the intelligence community's overstatements. And the evidence suggests they did. Bush claimed Saddam Hussein was "dealing with" al Qaeda before the war, but the CIA had not reported that. Bush said Hussein had amassed a "massive stockpile" of biological weapons, yet the intelligence community had only reported (errantly) that Iraq had an active research and development program for biological weapons. Bush and his Republican allies in Congress have so far succeeded in keeping his role in the WMD scandal out of the picture. (Democrats, where are you?)

The right conclusions: The latest commission looking into intelligence failures on Iraq reports a certain consistency in the performance of the intelligence community. We are informed that we also "know disturbingly little about the weapons programs" of other countries – such as Iran. One might think this would counsel caution for a Pentagon planning to "take out" Iran's fledgling nuclear capability.

Think again. The recent reassertion of administration policy on preemptive war in the "National Defense Strategy" just promulgated by Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld, together with his well-known insistence that "the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence" suggest that Iran may well be the next target – intelligence or no. The more so, since many of the malleable analysts who, according to the commission, were "dead wrong" about Iraq's "weapons of mass destruction" are now putting the finishing touches to a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran.

I find myself wondering if it is also the case that Vice President Dick Cheney has resumed his frequent visits to CIA headquarters – this time to help the analysts come to the right conclusions on Iran?

He’ll Look You In The Eye And Lie Through His Teeth

Rumsfeld: US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said that he did not criticise Turkey for not passing the motion that would have opened a second front in the north of Iraq. Although Rumsfeld did not deny statements made last week that Ankara’s not allowing the opening of the north front had resulted in a greater level of insurgency in Iraq following the March 2003 invasion he said that Turkey had made its own decision in as independent country.

March 20, 2005: Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on Sunday used the second anniversary of the American-led invasion of Iraq to answer the most tenacious criticism of the war effort - that the Pentagon did not commit sufficient troops to the major offensive or to stability efforts after Baghdad fell.

The fault, Rumsfeld contended in two television talk-show appearances, rests with Turkey, a NATO ally, which refused to give permission for the 4th Infantry Division to cross its territory and open a northern front at the start of the war.

"Given the level of the insurgency today, two years later, clearly, if we had been able to get the 4th Infantry Division in from the north through Turkey, more of the Iraqi Saddam Hussein Baathist regime would have been captured or killed," Rumsfeld said on "Fox News Sunday."

Had that happened, "the insurgency today would be less," Rumsfeld said.

With the 4th Infantry blocked from entering from the north, "by the time Baghdad was taken, the large fraction of the Iraqi military and intelligence services just dissipated into the communities," Rumsfeld said. "And they're still, in a number of instances, still active."


PTSD: Marines from the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, now coming home after a seven-month deployment in Iraq, are being given health exams to detect early signs of post-traumatic stress disorder, among them, memory loss, intolerance, anger, sleep problems and "hyper-vigilance." Every Marine and sailor is also required to see the chaplain. The meetings can take five minutes, an hour or more, depending on how much the person wants to say, said Navy Cmdr. Bill Devine, head chaplain of the 1st Marine Division, who was with Marines during fighting in Fallouja and Ramadi.

A Department of Veterans Affairs study published this week in the New England Journal of Medicine found 17% of 3,671 soldiers and Marines who saw combat in Iraq or Afghanistan reported early symptoms of depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder.

Radicalization: Before the Sept. 11 attacks, the thousands of militants from around the world who flocked to Al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan, and to the wars in Chechnya and Bosnia-Herzegovina, were mostly in their 20s and 30s. In his book profiling 172 jihadis of that era, "Understanding Terror Networks," Sageman found a median age of 26, as "most people joined the jihad well past adolescence." In the aftermath of Sept. 11 and the Iraq war, however, the process of radicalization has spread and speeded up. At an age when angry teens in Los Angeles drift into street gangs, some of their peers in Europe plunge into global networks that send them to train, fight and die in far-off lands. "Iraq is the motor," said a senior French anti-terrorism official, who asked to remain anonymous for security reasons. "It's making them all go crazy, want to be shaheed [martyrs]. The danger of suicide attacks in Europe and the United States increases as you have younger guys who are fervent and easily manipulated."

War Stories

Charity: One of the children, 12-year-old Rakan Hassan, was shot in the stomach, the bullet exiting through his spine, damaging vertebrae. Doctors have told him that only medical care outside Iraq can help him walk again. Mead, 37, researched the photos and learned that the unit involved in the shooting, the 25th Infantry Division, was stationed at Ft. Lewis, Wash., not far from his home in Kingston. He contacted the unit's chaplain, Col. Henri Fischer, and the civil affairs officer in charge of community-based missions in Tal Afar to say he wanted to set up a fund to help that exceeded the Army's standard death compensation payment of a few thousand dollars. He offered $7,500 to kick off his efforts. But Mead quickly learned that charity work in war-ravaged parts of Iraq is far from a simple undertaking. For starters, banks aren't operating in Tal Afar, so a wire transfer of money was impossible. The region has been deemed too dangerous for non-governmental groups, so they couldn't act as a conduit.

Media critics: Some of the media's toughest critics on Iraq war coverage are soldiers themselves. Paul Rieckhoff, 29, as a U.S. Army first lieutenant and junior officer, was a rifle platoon leader in Iraq last year. Returning home, he founded Operation Truth, aiming to tell the public the truth of the war from a soldier's perspective, often through the media. "I came back from Iraq a year ago and was frustrated with the way the dialogue was going in this country," Rieckhoff says at his New York City office. "Mainly, there weren't any soldiers represented. You had four-star generals or policy wonks and people on TV who had generally never been to Iraq. Rarely involved in the dialogue were people who had actually been there, especially lower-level people."

Few journalists, he says, seek new leads or launch investigative stories from inside Iraq. Too many reporters, he adds, "are afraid to leave the compound and they only leave the compound under military guard — and they're not running around undercover with cameras aggressively covering the Iraqi side of things. We don't hear from Iraqi civilians very often." American reporters would face grave threats but also get true scoops and provide a very necessary service, he says. As it is, he asserts, "you have to go look to Al Jazeera to get that side represented."

Your Best Bet - Hire A Vet

But don't fire him for serving his country: A federal judge Friday awarded a military veteran nearly $500,000 for having been fired illegally from his civilian job shortly after returning from two tours of combat duty in Iraq.

Marine Reserve Lt. Col. Steve Duarte was fired by Agilent Technologies, where he had worked for more than 19 years, in November 2003 - just four months after completing his second combat tour.

"I'm thrilled by the ruling," Duarte said. "I just hope that the people of Agilent think of me every time they see the American flag.

"I have a tinge of anger, but this is much bigger than me. This is about all the younger vets coming back who can't afford to fight their employers."


Editorial: A new generation of American war veterans is being born of the combat in Afghanistan and Iraq, and it is high time Congress crafted a new GI Bill with the same enhanced benefits that were provided for their grandfathers in World War II and Korea, and for their fathers and uncles who fought in Vietnam.

The original GI Bill, signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in June 1944, provided educational benefits to 8 million veterans. It also provided low-cost guaranteed loans for veterans to buy homes or farms, as well as medical assistance after they were discharged. Similar benefits were provided to veterans of the Korean War. In 1966 a new GI Bill was passed providing the same benefits for veterans of the Vietnam War.

In the peacetime year of 1984, with an all-volunteer military emerging from the shadow of Vietnam, Congress passed a stripped-down version of veterans' benefits known as the Montgomery GI Bill Program. It was a temporary program made permanent in June 1987.

It is that program that now applies to America's new war veterans, and it provides little enough.

Opinion: The US-British occupation of Iraq is poisoning all political processes in my country and across the Middle East. The elections held under the control of the occupying forces in January were neither free nor fair. Instead of being a step towards solving Iraq's problems, they have been used to prolong foreign rule over the Iraqi people.

Only when the occupiers withdraw from the country can Iraq take the first secure steps towards peace and stability. Once a strict timetable for withdrawal is set, Iraq's political forces could freely agree and set in motion a process of genuinely free and fair democratic elections, a permanent constitution, and a programme that meets the demands of all the Iraqi people.

Comment: Given the realities of the war in Iraq -- shock and awe, death and destruction, a continuing guerrilla insurgency -- it is easy to overlook what in Hollywood is called "the back story," what our government also brought to Iraq when it invaded: We're not just bringing "democracy" to Iraq, we are bringing, without objection, unchecked free-market ideology.

When Paul Bremer, fresh from Kissinger Associates, first arrived in Iraq, the Coalition Provisional Authority made a lot of changes other than just disbanding what was left of the Iraqi army. He annulled all of Saddam Hussein's rules and regulations overseeing the Iraq economy, except one: He kept Saddam's laws banning labor unions.

Wars might be hell, but they have their up side for business. Bechtel and Halliburton might be impeded in the way they do business here in the States, but in Iraq, anything goes. One of the first edicts Bremer signed gave immunity from Iraqi laws to U.S. contractors and other Western firms doing business in Iraq.

Americans are concerned with the suffering of their soldier children, dead and injured and in peril. It is hard to get exercised over spending tax money for other purposes, beyond that of the tardily produced body and Hummer armor -- all the equipment and infrastructure large armies require. The last thing on most minds is the fact that the Bush administration has attempted, however ineptly, to remake Iraq in its chosen image: a triumphal business-friendly, free-market paradise, a future Banana Republic, where those in-the-know profit and those on the ground try to figure out what happened to their lives.

Casualty Reports

Local story: Soldier killed in Ramadi laid to rest in Tulsa, OK.

Local story: Illinois-born soldier killed in Mosul.

Local story: Lewiston, MT, soldier killed near Hawijah.


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