Sunday, April 10, 2005

War News for Sunday, April 10, 2005 Bring 'em on: Pakistani diplomat missing in Baghdad. Bring 'em on: US soldier killed in bomb attack in Hawija. Bring 'em on: Newly appointed local chief of police killed by gunmen in Haditha. Bring 'em on: Tens of thousands protest for the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq in Baghdad. Bring 'em on: Five thousand protest for the end of the occupation in Ramadi. Bring 'em on: Aide to Cleric Muqtada Al Sadr assassinated and two guards wounded south of Baghdad. Bring 'em on: Car bomb explosion kills two policemen and injures 13 civilians in Mosul. Bring 'em on: A least five people killed when gunmen opened fire on their bus in Latifiyah. Bring 'em on: One interior ministry security guard fatally wounded after a fistfight breaks out between traffic policemen and security officials in Fallujah. Bring 'em on: Bodies of ten executed civilians found near Baquba. Bring 'em on: Fifteen Iraqi soldiers killed by insurgents in Latifiyah. Has Iraq improved since the War? This is the title of a BBC survey. Please BBC! Since the war? Get one of your IT correspondents to read this blog. Some comments from the survey; Iraq has been made much worse for the ordinary citizen if news accounts are true. Women and children are especially at risk. Unemployment demoralizes people, as does the violence of war which appears to be never ending. Janet, Saginaw Michigan US No, Iraq is actually worse off. Bombing people and then forcing a puppet government into power has nothing to do with democracy. Kevin Harrison, Northumberland, USA The Bushies, the Blairites, and the Neocons will have you believing that "democracy" is coming to the Great Middle East through Iraq. This is nothing but a fantasy. The Iraqis have suffered long enough. Today, they still have no water, no sanitation, no electricity and no security. Give Iraq back to the Iraqi people. Johnny Franco Arboine, Dhahran, Saudi Arabia Who is Craig Murray? As a straight-talking British Ambassador, Craig Murray unmasked the tyrannical "Karimov" regime, in Uzbekistan. While others kept quiet, our man in Tashkent hit the headlines, working tirelessly to expose the mass-murder at the heart of this Central Asian dictatorship. But Jack Straw tried to silence Craig Murray. The reason? Uzbekistan's dictator is a close ally of George Bush. And these days, any friend of George is also a friend of Jack's. As a British Ambassador, Craig Murray put his job on the line for the sake of the truth. Now he's coming to Blackburn to expose the lies at the heart of Tony, Jack and George's "War on Terror". The Abu Ghraib attack The Observer: To tackle the sprawling complex 20 miles west of the capital, which doubles as a US base, they used almost every type of weapon in their armoury. An internet statement purportedly from the militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi claimed it was the work of his group, al-Qaeda in Iraq, and depicted a heroic, slick engagement which lasted several hours and deployed seven suicide car bombers. 'Then the merciful brigades and Muslim soldiers clashed with the infidels.' This version, according to senior coalition commanders, was aimed at sympathisers in the Gulf who funded the insurgency and expected to see results before stumping up again. The Americans painted a less dramatic picture, saying mortar rounds and rockets were followed by attacks by gunmen on foot. At one point, defenders destroyed a suicide car bomb before it reached the walls and rapid-response troops backed by Apache helicopters and artillery repulsed the rest of the attack after 40 minutes. While conceding its sophistication, a US spokesman said the assault did not breach the walls, free inmates or kill coalition forces and was therefore a failure, costing the insurgents dozens dead and wounded. Only now have those caught in the crossfire given their version. It partly contradicts the US and al-Zarqawi statements by claiming there was chaos and panic on both sides and, in the aftermath, looting by US and Iraqi security forces. Mohammad, one of the adults who sheltered in the toilet with the children, including his three-year-old son, lives in Khan Dhari, a district near the jail inhabited by working-class Arab Sunnis hostile to the occupation. As they do most Saturdays they met in the grounds of a primary school on the south-western side of the jail to play football. Guards in watchtowers would have seen that the group was mostly young children, said Mohammad. When rockets landed around them, guards returned fire wildly, apparently unconcerned about civilian casualties. Even when searchlights 'turned the place into day', US bullets continued hitting the school despite the absence of rebels there, he said. At some point the jail gates opened and Humvees roared out - probably the rapid-response forces - only for a black Opel packed with explosives to slip into the convoy and blow up. 'It was a hell of fire,' said Mohammad, a tall, wiry Islamic scholar, who said he saw charred Humvee engines and a human hand and leg. Under the Cover of Darkness The Independent: The Pentagon has been accused of smuggling wounded soldiers into the US under cover of darkness to avoid bad publicity about the number of troops being injured and maimed in Iraq. The media have also been prevented from photographing wounded soldiers when they arrive at hospital. Records show that flights from military bases in Germany arrive in the US only at night. Officials say this is purely the result of flight-scheduling pressures and is not a deliberate tactic to minimise detrimental publicity. They also say that by leaving Europe later in the day soldiers are given a better chance to sleep well the night before. But many campaigners believe otherwise. Just as the Bush administration has banned the media from taking photographs of the coffins of American troops killed in Iraq as they arrive in the US, opponents say it is now trying to cover up the number of wounded. "The American public has very limited information about the real impact of this war," said Ellen Taylor, a spokeswoman for Code Pink, a peace group that has been protesting outside the Walter Reed military hospital in Washington, where the bulk of the wounded are taken. "I think that a lot of information about this war is being kept from the public. That is what we are protesting about." Mismanagement of Reconstruction Funds Down the Drain: Iraqi officials have crippled scores of water, sewage and electrical plants refurbished with U.S. funds by failing to maintain and operate them properly, wasting millions of American taxpayer dollars, according to interviews and documents. Hardest hit has been the effort to rebuild Iraq's water and sewage systems, a multibillion-dollar task considered to be among the most crucial components of the effort to improve daily life for Iraqis. Of more than 40 such plants run by the Iraqis, not one is being operated properly, according to the Bechtel Group, the contractor at work on the project. The power grid faces similar problems. U.S. officials said the Iraqis' inability to properly operate overhauled electrical plants contributed to widespread power shortages this winter. None of the 19 electrical plants that have had U.S.-funded repair work is being run correctly, a senior American adviser said. An internal memo by coalition officials in Iraq obtained by the Los Angeles Times says that throughout Iraq, renovated plants "deteriorate quickly to an alarming state of disrepair and inoperability." 30 IEDs a Day Army troops encounter about 30 IEDs a day, the highest level since the U.S.-led invasion two years ago. IEDs are typically made from artillery shells and other ordnance. But as many as 12 IEDs a day — or about 40 percent — are rendered inoperable before they can injure troops. "Because of a combination of better training, technology and intelligence, we are able to find these things and destroy them in place or disarm them," Bridges said. Insurgents, which U.S. Central Command officials estimate number around 20,000, have placed bombs in roads and vehicles, on telephone poles and inside trash cans and dead animals, cars or trucks. In the months after the U.S. invasion, insurgents had ready access to hundreds of Saddam Hussein's weapons caches, which have supplied explosives for IED strikes. IEDs are the top killer in Iraq, blamed for more than half of coalition forces killed or wounded. How quickly we forget! How quickly we forget. How quickly priorities change. Less than a year later, as Bush was preparing to invade Iraq, in search of weapons of mass destruction that we now know never existed, bin Laden was officially removed from the priority list. On March 13, 2002, Bush declared, “I don’t where (bin Laden) is. I have no idea and I really don’t care. It’s not that important. It’s not our priority.” No, at that time, the priority was selling the nation on the need to attack Iraq, lest we fall victim to another such attack. Bush rationalized that bin Laden’s terrorism network had effectively been dismantled, rendering him ineffective. Evidently, the desire to bring the mastermind of the most terrible attack on U.S. soil to justice wasn’t very important anymore. We had new terrorist threats to worry about: Hussein. Bush and his colleagues sold us on the idea that Hussein was developing all sorts of terrible weapons, including nukes, that threatened us all. Who cares about the one man who actually planned such an attack, and succeeded? Even if the Bush administration really believed its rhetoric about Hussein — which is dubious at best in light of recent revelations of how the CIA was pressured to shape its findings to justify a predetermined conclusion — how could it just cast aside any serious effort to capture bin Laden? Do you remember how you felt on Sept. 11, 2001? Do you remember how you felt upon learning that Osama bin Laden had planned the attacks, and then celebrated their success? So why doesn’t anyone seem to remember that he’s still at large? Why isn’t capturing bin Laden still a priority? I wish I had an answer.


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