Tuesday, April 05, 2005

War News for Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Bring ‘em on: Two civilians killed and 13 wounded in bomb attack on café in Talafar. One US soldier killed, one wounded by gunfire in Talafar.

Bring ‘em on: Five people, including three policemen, wounded and bomber killed in suicide tractor attack on Abu Ghraib prison. One Iraqi motorist badly wounded when “foreign security guards” shot him for failing to make way for their vehicles on a bridge in Baghdad. Offices of the Iraq Communist Party in Sadr City ransacked and torched by masked gunmen.

Bring ‘em on: Prison riot at Camp Bucca confirmed by International Committee of the Red Cross after initial denial by US military.

Bring ‘em on: Four guards and twelve prisoners injured in riot cited above.

Bring ‘em on: One Iraqi civilian killed and two wounded in a roadside bombing targeting an Iraqi military convoy in Amiriya.

Bring ‘em on: One US Marine killed in an explosion during combat operations in Al-Anbar province.

Bring ‘em on: Iraqi general commanding the Interior ministry’s 1,600 strong armored brigade and an undetermined number of bodyguards kidnapped in Mansour neighborhood of Baghdad. Three men and a six-year-old girl wounded in bomb attack on a US military convoy in the Dura neighborhood, one US Humvee reported in flames.

Bring ‘em on: Two Iraqi civilian killed in car bomb attack near Baghdad’s international airport. Two civilians and one US soldier reported killed in the explosion in the Dura neighborhood referenced in the entry above, and one civilian reported hospitalized. One Iraqi soldier and two US soldiers killed in “intense battle” northeast of Baghdad (This may be the Talafar attack referenced in the first entry above). Corpses of 10 Iraqi soldiers found buried in the Jurf al-Sakhr area south of Baghdad.

Bring ‘em on: Member of the Babil provincial council assassinated by gunmen in Hilla, two suspects arrested. Government translator wounded and her father killed in drive-by shooting in Baquba. One prisoner evacuated from an unnamed facility to the 115th field hospital died of gunshot wounds suffered in an attack on coalition forces two weeks ago.

Bring ‘em on: Iraqi soldier apparently executed in video posted on internet. Sunni cleric gunned down in drive-by shooting as he entered his mosque in the New Baghdad neighborhood of Baghdad. Kurdistan Democratic Party official killed in Mosul. An explosion was heard in Mosul and American soldiers sealed off an area where a plume of smoke could be seen. One Iraqi policeman killed and two wounded in roadside bombing in Basra.

Numbers: Guerrillas and criminal gangs have killed 6,000 Iraqi civilians over the past two years and wounded 16,000, according to the first comprehensive government estimate of the toll from the insurgency.

"These people in the insurgency are involved in looting, terrorism, killing, kidnapping, drug dealing, beheading and all that," Human Rights Minister Bakhtiar Amin told Reuters.

"There are around 6,000 Iraqis who have been killed by these people and 16,000 who have been wounded," he said, citing figures compiled from records kept by the health, human rights, interior and other ministries.

"We have also found that around 5,000 Iraqis have been kidnapped since the fall of the regime, which does not include those cases that have gone unreported," he said.

Iraq Body Count, a website run by academics and peace activists and based on reports from two media sources, estimates between 17,316 and 19,696 Iraqis have been killed since the war.

A household survey done in Iraq by U.S. scientists, which was rejected by the British government as unreliable, put war-related civilian deaths at about 100,000 since the invasion -- a figure Iraq's health ministry also dismissed.

Few gains: Intensified military raids in Iraq over the past few months have significantly battered the ranks of mid-level insurgents but have scored few gains against the 30 or so most wanted rebels, according to senior U.S. military officers here.

As much as a third of this group is thought to move in and out of Iraq with some frequency, the officers said. Many have eluded U.S. and Iraqi forces by a combination of moving constantly, avoiding use of telephones and receiving protection from family or tribal connections.

After a lull in the days after the Jan. 30 elections, insurgents have resumed bombings, suicide attacks and assassinations, an increasing share of them directed against Iraqi civilians and security forces. There are now an average of about 60 attacks each day, close to the rate before the elections, according to U.S. military tallies, and most remain concentrated in Sunni Muslim-populated provinces of central and northwestern Iraq.

Gee, d’ya think?: In London, a British parliamentary committee issued a report Tuesday saying excessive use of force by U.S. troops had antagonized Iraqis and made the process of rebuilding the country more difficult. The House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, which scrutinizes Britain’s foreign policy, also suggested that Iraq had replaced Afghanistan as a training ground for international terrorists.

Iraqi Politics

Still no government: A meeting of Sunni Arabs in Baghdad to propose a candidate for vice president in Iraq's next coalition government ended in shouts and curses, underlining the divisions among the community after its loss of power.

"We must be tough, Kurds and Shiites want everything!" shouted one of those in attendance as they took turns to speak.

Shiites and Kurds who dominated the January elections but are still trying to form a government, are trying to reach out to the embittered community, which is accused of leading the relentless insurgency.

Parliament was set to meet again on Wednesday to try to elect a presidency council, made up of a vice president and two deputies.

Threatening noises: The protracted delay in naming a new Iraqi government has alarmed the country's powerful Shiite Muslim clergy, who worry that growing popular frustration may endanger the government's legitimacy, senior clerics and their representatives say. As a last resort, some said they may support mass protests as a way to break the impasse.

For now, the clerics are urging patience, and many said they expect a limited breakthrough as early as this week, perhaps Sunday. But one senior representative, echoing the suspicions of others, suggested the United States was at least partially at fault for the deadlock and warned of more forceful intervention by the most senior clergy, collectively known as the marjaiya, if delays persist.

"In the event they cannot form a leadership for the assembly and a government, the marjaiya will not remain with its hands shackled. It will not simply stand and watch. It must do something," said Ali Rubaii, the spokesman for Grand Ayatollah Ishaq Fayadh, one of the four most senior clerics in Najaf who operate under the leadership of Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani.

"If there was a choice for protests, the protests wouldn't be typical. They would be protests in the millions," Rubaii said Saturday from Fayadh's headquarters in this sacred city.

Walkouts: Iraqi state television said Sunday an unspecified number of legislators have either pulled out or resigned from the National Assembly.

The channel quoted a member of the Shiite bloc in parliament, Hammam Hammoudi, as saying the legislators resigned either for security reasons or to protest their exclusion from the government being formed.

He said the National Assembly would discuss finding others to replace them.


90 families: Compensation for residents of Fallujah city, some 60 km from the Iraqi capital, is happening at a slow pace, local people say.

Government studies suggest that 70 percent of buildings were destroyed in the city during the last conflict between US troops and insurgents.

This left thousands of families still encamped on the outskirts of the city, waiting for a government solution to their problem.

Muhammad Abdul al-A'ani, deputy minister for industry, told IRIN that of the total number of houses damaged in the city, only 90 families had received compensation of around US $1,500 each so far.

Doctor Hafid al-Dulaimi, director of the Commission for the Compensation of Fallujah Citizens (CCFC), established by the government, told IRIN that a study had been carried to assess the scale of destruction. He reported 36,000 destroyed homes in all districts of Fallujah, along with 8,400 shops.

Al-Dulaimi pointed out that 60 children's nurseries, primary and secondary schools and colleges were destroyed and 65 mosques and religious sanctuaries were almost demolished by the attack, with 13 government buildings requiring new infrastructure.

The War To Spread Democracy In The Middle East

Embryonic and fragmentary: In a long-awaited report contested by the United States and Egypt, Arab intellectuals and reformers said they saw no significant advances toward democracy in the Arab world in the year after October 2003.

The third Arab Human Development Report (AHDR), released on Tuesday under U.N. auspices, says most reforms were "embryonic and fragmentary" and did not amount to a serious effort to end repression in the region, which has some of the world's most authoritarian governments.

The United States, which says its policy is to promote democracy in the region, contributed to an international context which hampered progress, through its policy toward Israel, its actions in Iraq and security measures affecting Arabs, it said.

”Overall, there has been no significant easing of the human development crisis in the Arab region," it said.

The Coalition of One

Regardless: President Bush said Monday that seeing Iraq through reconstruction to a stable and secure democracy is a worthy cause that the United States will press regardless of whether its coalition partners remain there.

Two years after the U.S.-led invasion toppled Saddam Hussein, the coalition has been crumbling. Dozens of countries have pulled out or begun bringing home troops.

Italy's prime minister announced plans last month to start draw down his country's 3,000-strong contingent in Iraq in September. Poland is withdrawing about a third of its 2,400 troops. Last year, Spain's new Socialist government withdrew its 1,300 troops.

Ukraine sent some 1,650 troops to Iraq in a move widely seen as an attempt to smooth relations. However, the deployment was widely unpopular at home and Ukraine has begun withdrawing troops.

Exit strategy: Defence chiefs are planning to reduce the size of the British military force in Iraq from 9,000 to 3,500 troops within 12 months as part of a phased withdrawal from Iraq, The Telegraph can reveal.

In the first stage of Britain's "exit strategy", troops will be withdrawn from three of the Army's five military bases in southern Iraq by April 2006.

A senior Army officer said: "Iraq remains a side issue in the war against terrorism although the rise of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's organisation has given Islamic militants a new front. The real war against terror still needs to be won in Afghanistan, where the leaders of al-Qa'eda and the Taliban are still hiding. Their death or capture will be a decisive blow."

I wonder how the families of the 87 British soldiers killed so far in Iraq feel to learn their loved ones gave their lives for a “side issue”.

Breaking The Army; Breaking The Bank

Not enough national cause: The active Army was 2,150 recruits short of meeting its March goal of 6,800 new troops, and the Army Reserve fell 739 short of its goal of 1,600. These shortfalls were worse than those in February, when the Army and its reserve components failed to meet recruiting goals for the first time since May 2000.

Army Secretary Francis Harvey has conceded he expects recruiting to fall short in April as well.

Analysts have been predicting military recruiting problems since the start of the Iraq war. Defense experts say the conflicts there and in Afghanistan, along with other military commitments around the world, have stretched American forces to a dangerous level, while simultaneously dissuading recruits from joining up.

Just as the armed forces are facing their most pressing needs since the end of the Vietnam War, many Americans do not see enough of a national cause to warrant their sons, daughters or themselves joining the military, let alone instituting a draft. That has prompted extraordinary Pentagon outreach efforts, from recruiting campaigns at rock concerts to bonuses up to $150,000 for highly trained, veteran special operations troops who re-enlist.

More PNAC planning: The war-strained all-volunteer U.S. military has a growing manpower problem and a cross-section of Washington policymakers has proposed a solution -- increase the size of the regular military by 30,000, 40,000 or even 100, 000 or more.

While just about all the proponents maintain they want to achieve the increase by offering recruits bigger financial incentives or through appeals to patriotism, lurking in the background is a possibility that for now remains anathema to all but a few. The military draft, which coughed up its last conscript in 1973, could make a comeback if recruiting doesn't pick up and if America's commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan turn into long-term occupations or if the Bush administration's tough-minded foreign policy means military action in places like Iran or North Korea.

A bipartisan group put together by the Project for the New American Century, a group that reflects the thinking of the neoconservatives who have been so influential in determining President Bush's military and foreign policies, sent a letter to congressional leaders in late January. In it, the signatories wrote, "it is our judgment that we should aim for an increase in the active duty Army and Marine Corps, together, of at least 25,000 troops each year over the next several years.''

How much more can we bear?: When Tax Day comes on April 15th, taxpayers should know that 30 cents of each federal income tax dollar they paid supported military and defense, while four cents went to education, according to the National Priorities Project, a non-partisan, nonprofit research group.

The average U.S. household's 2004 federal income tax payment was $6,296. Of that amount, $1,887 went to the military and defense, while $1,171 went to interest on the debt. The breakdown also includes: $1,276 to health care; $231 to education; $216 to veterans' benefits; $135 to housing, and $25 to job training.

Close to one-third of Americans' income tax dollars is spent on national security. This money is divided into military operations, homeland security and preventive measures such as diplomacy, peacekeeping and development aid. Military operations received 91 percent of all national security tax dollars, while homeland security received five percent and preventive measures got three percent.

Take action!: Congress has barely debated the war in Iraq or its aftermath since it voted to authorize the use of force in October 2002. Now, the Bush administration is skipping the normal budget process to ask for an additional $82 billion to fund the American presence in Iraq. So far we've spent at least $200 billion on the Iraq war but the situation continues to worsen and we are less safe. Congress needs to hear from you.

Click the link. Send a letter. Put some pressure on these people!

Here’s where a chunk of that $82,000,000,000 will go: Peter W. Singer, a fellow at the Brookings Institution and author of "Corporate Warriors," estimates that there are 20,000 to 30,000 civilians in Iraq performing traditional military functions, from maintaining weapons systems to guarding supply convoys. If you add foreigners involved in reconstruction and oil work, the total soars to 50,000 to 75,000.

To put this into perspective: All of Washington's allies combined account for 23,000 troops in Iraq. In the latest issue of Foreign Affairs, Singer quips that "President George W. Bush's 'coalition of the willing' might thus be more aptly described as the 'coalition of the billing.' "

There is nothing new or nefarious about privatizing military support functions. But, in Iraq, the contractors aren't just building latrines or staffing mess halls. They're also running around with assault rifles and black body armor performing "tactical" functions.

Many are well-trained U.S. or British veterans, but others are Rambo wannabes or sordid desperados. Among the mercenaries who have surfaced in Iraq are South Africans who were members of apartheid-era death squads and Chileans who served in Pinochet's security services.

When U.S. service members are accused of wrongdoing, they are investigated and, if necessary, court-martialed.

That's not the case with civilians who are generally not covered by the laws of their home countries for crimes committed abroad. The Iraqi legal system could hold them to account, but in practice Baghdad won't do anything that might lead to an exodus of foreign firms.

Dozens of U.S. and British soldiers have been prosecuted for misconduct in Iraq - but not a single contractor.

Fraud And Waste

KBR: Lawmakers investigating claims a Kuwaiti supplier to a Halliburton subsidiary charged too much for fuel deliveries to Iraq are complaining about the lack of support the U.S. military and the American company have provided.

Parliamentarian Ali al-Rashed, who heads the five-member investigative committee, said the lack of cooperation from the U.S. military and Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg Brown & Root ``harmed the investigation.''

``They (KBR) answered questions and we sent them a letter to clarify some points, but we have not received an answer for three months,'' al-Rashed told The Associated Press on Sunday. ``We consider this lack of cooperation.''

An actual good move by the Justice Department- what could be wrong?: Contractors for the former Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq can be sued in U.S. courts under an anti-war-profiteering law, the Justice Department contended in a federal case Friday.

Government lawyers said the federal False Claims Act applies to contracts issued by the CPA, which ran Iraq from shortly after the 2003 invasion until it handed over power to an interim Iraqi government last June.

Although much of the money the CPA used was seized from the former government of Saddam Hussein, U.S. government or military workers distributed it, making fraud against the CPA equal to fraud against the U.S., a group of Justice Department lawyers said in a court brief.

The brief came in response to a judge hearing a fraud lawsuit against the security firm Custer Battles LLC. Two former employees are suing Custer Battles, saying the firm fleeced the CPA out of about $50 million.

The Justice Department brief sided with lawyers for the former Custer Battles employees, saying that the U.S. law applied because U.S. officials were handing out the money. Victor Kubli, one of the former employees' lawyers, said the brief raises the "pregnant question" of why U.S. officials originally said CPA contracts were not covered by the U.S. anti-fraud law.

Mini Rant

This is my nominee for the stupidest statement made in a national press editorial so far this year:

“For many Army units force protection is the most visible U.S. mission in Iraq today. No one can deny the beneficial results for Americans of this emphasis: U.S. casualties are down, and Iraq has ceased to be the center of pitched national debate.”

Begging your pardon, Jim, but the fact that Iraq has ceased to be the center of pitched national debate – was it ever? – is NOT a beneficial result for Americans! The very best thing that could happen in this country would be a pitched, prolonged, and genuine debate about Iraq and how we got there and what we’re doing there and what this wretched conflict is doing to our national soul.

Asininity of this quality is exactly what the Busheviks were counting on when they instituted the Wolfowitz metric – measuring ‘success’ by getting casualty counts off the TV screens and getting people’s minds on Terri and Michael and John Paul. Tools like Jim Hoagland play right into it. Disgusting.


The Rude Pundit: On and on this sad, sordid tale continues, with its unraveling of Curveball's stories when they were actually checked. When the weapons inspectors did their jobs after the invasion. All Curveball's words unverified. All "fabrications," all lies. But still, because intelligence officials "believed" (or were told to believe) that Iraq had to have weapons, they clung to Curveball like a wet rat clings to the debris of a sinking ocean liner. It became a farce, really: Former co-workers said he had been fired before the times he claimed he had been involved in any programs. "By January 2004, however, when CIA obtained travel records confirming that Curveball had been out of Iraq during the time he claimed to have been working on the mobile BW program, most analysts became convinced that Curveball had fabricated his reporting."

In March 2004, the CIA finally met Curvey and, indeed, quickly discovered he had punked them. Tenet didn't want to admit "error," and, indeed, "Only in May 2004, more than a year after the commencement of Operation Iraqi Freedom, did CIA formally deem Curveball’s reporting fabricated and recall it."

And there's your April Fool's joke for the day. The real question is who gets the credit for the joke? Just poor drunken Curveball? Just the miserable Intelligence community who, strangely, were able to offer caveats in their reports prior to Bush coming to office? Or perhaps those who needed Curveball desperately to be right and did not want to know otherwise until they were forced to know? Or, most ominously, those who knew it was all lies and wouldn't let the rest of us in?

See? That's how pranks are played. No, it's not "ha-ha" funny. It's more like "bang-bang-you're-dead-soldier" funny.

Press release: During the Gulf War, Saddam Hussein and his Iraqi secret police subjected American POWs to savage beatings, starvation, electrocution, mock execution, threatened dismemberment, use as human shields against allied bombing, and confinement in freezing, disease-ridden filth.

Seventeen of these American POWs, and 37 of their family members, won an historic judgment in federal district court against Iraq for their torture, only to have a court of appeals erase their judgment. The POWs, who endured the agonies of hell in support of their nation's fight for freedom, have now petitioned the Supreme Court to hear their case, the most important case to date in seeking to deter the torture of POWs.

Whether the Supreme Court decides to take this case is of the utmost importance for the rule of law and the national security interests of the United States. At stake in this case is:

-Deterrence against future torture and mistreatment of American servicemen and women who go in harms way on behalf of the United States, particularly poignant in light of the Abu Ghraib scandal.

-The U.S.' commitment to the rule of law in wartime. Will the reconstruction of Iraq prevail over the laws written by Congress to give American victims of torture and murder the opportunity to hold the state sponsors of terrorism accountable?

-The historic leadership of the United States against torture, and its legal obligation under the Geneva POW Convention (adopted by 192 countries) never to absolve a state that tortures POWs.

-The truth of the President's post Abu Ghraib statement that this nation will adhere to the obligations of the Geneva Conventions.

-The irony of Secretary Rumsfeld's pledge to pay the Iraqi detainees abused at Abu Ghraib because "it is the right thing to do" while the American POWs, tortured in that same prison are cast aside.

-What White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan really meant when he said about the POWs: "No amount of money can truly compensate these brave men and women for the suffering that they went through at the hands of a very brutal regime, at the hands of Saddam Hussein."

-The national debt of honor owed to our service men and women who suffer for the Nation in the cause of freedom and the rule of law. Will we rebuild Iraq at the expense of principles and doing the right thing for these Americans?

Casualty Reports

Local story: US Marine, a Tibetan refugee and ex-Utahn, killed in Al-Anbar province.

Local story: Two US soldiers from Mississippi who lost limbs in a bombing outside of Baghdad have returned to the USA.

Local story: Rochester, MN, soldier killed in Baghdad.

Local story: Department of Defense identified two Fort Lewis, WA, soldiers killed in separate incidents in Mosul.

Local story: Pago Pago, American Samoa, soldier killed in Mosul.

Local story: Ekron, KY, National Guardsman killed in Iraq.


Maupin: Right after "How ya doin'?" and before "Have a nice day," people in this southwest Ohio community are likely to ask, "Have you heard anything new about Matt?"

Army Reserve Spc. Keith "Matt" Maupin, the only soldier the U.S. Army lists as captured in Iraq, has become part of the social fabric that binds this town of about 2,000 residents.

Maupin, 21, has been missing since last April 9 when his fuel truck convoy was ambushed by insurgents west of Baghdad.

Maupin is known to have been captured alive. A week after he disappeared, Arab television network Al-Jazeera released a videotape showing him sitting on the floor surrounded by five masked men holding automatic rifles.

Since then, there's been nothing identifiable.


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