Tuesday, April 12, 2005

War News for Tuesday, April 12, 2005 Bring ‘em on: American contractor kidnapped in the Baghdad area. Three people killed and more than 20, including four US soldiers, wounded in truck bombing targeting a US convoy in Samarra. Three US Marines and three civilians wounded in attacks by three suicide bombers in Qaim. Their camp took fire from insurgents and a US helicopter destroyed a car carrying a gunman in the same incident. Bring ‘em on: Turkish truck driver killed in roadside bombing outside of Beiji. Iraqi Kurdish engineer working with the US military kidnapped in Balad. Bodies of three Iraqis found in al-Dujail with a note claiming they had been executed for collaboration. Bring ‘em on: Iraqi deputy interior minister escaped unhurt from a Baghdad ambush by gunmen that killed one bodyguard and injured three other people, including the minister’s son. Two members of a police patrol wounded by gunmen in Kirkuk. Two civilians wounded in Kirkuk when a bomb planted in a doctor’s car exploded. The doctor was uninjured. Bring ‘em on: Iraqi Lieutenant working with the US military assassinated on his way to work in Mosul. Four Iraqi civilians wounded in car bomb attack aimed at a US convoy near Baghdad’s Amiriya district. Bring ‘em on: Twenty Iraqis killed and 22 injured in US helicopter and artillery attack on al-Rummana village near Qaim. Bring ‘em on: Five Iraqis killed, three wounded in car bomb attack targeting a US convoy in Mosul. A second car bomb targeted another US convoy near Mosul hours later, no word on casualties. Bring ‘em on: To date over 200 foreigners have been kidnapped in Iraq. The article lists 16 still being held captive, including one Pakistani, three Rumanians, four Americans, two Egyptians, one Jordanian, one Frenchwoman, one Brazilian, one Turk, one Lebanese, and one Filipino. In addition, two Americans, including one soldier, are listed as missing since their convoy was attacked in April of 2004. Pakistani kidnapping: The kidnappers of a Pakistani embassy staffer in Iraq are demanding half a million dollars ransom for his release, his son said on Tuesday. Javed, 45, disappeared last Saturday when he went to a mosque for evening prayers in Baghdad and did not return. He had been working at the embassy in Baghdad for the last seven years while his wife, four daughters and two sons, live in Islamabad. Anti-guerilla raid: Hundreds of American and Iraqi forces swept through central and southern Baghdad early this morning, capturing at least 65 people suspected of being insurgents in one of the largest raids yet seen in the capital, military officials said. The operation, which began at 3 a.m. and lasted more than six hours, disrupted three insurgent networks and netted men suspected of assassinations, beheadings, kidnappings and attacks on both Iraqi and American forces, American military officials said. (Other articles indicate that one Iraqi soldier and one suspected insurgent were injured in this operation. Let's hope that this operation is netting a higher proportion of actual guilty people than similar efforts have managed in the past) More anti-American protests: In Baqouba, 35 miles northeast of Baghdad, demonstrators chanted anti-American slogans in a third day of protests demanding that U.S. forces go home. Tens of thousands gathered Saturday in Baghdad, and a demonstration was held Sunday in Duluiyah, 45 miles north of the capital. Different next time: Wedged among the chanting, banner-waving crowds that streamed through downtown Baghdad on Saturday, the second anniversary of Baghdad's fall, Yasser Ali Abbas held a poster of militant Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr over his head. “We want (coalition forces) to leave, so we can work,” said Abbas, 19. “We want our next government to rebuild our city like they promised. We are all ready to sacrifice to his holiness Muqtada al-Sadr.” The tens of thousands who heeded al-Sadr's call to march on Baghdad's al-Firdos Square demanded the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq and a speedy start to former leader Saddam Hussein's trial. Despite his efforts to join the political process, al-Sadr's supporters remain hostile to the U.S. presence here. “This time, it was a peaceful demonstration by our hungry and poor followers,” al-Sheikh says. “Next time, these impoverished young guys will act differently if their demands aren't met.” Iraqi Politics Armed to the teeth: It took more than nine weeks, fiery haggling and backroom deals for Iraq's politicians to compose a new government. The president is Kurdish warlord Jalal Talabani of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, who enjoys close ties with both Washington and Tehran. The two vice presidents are: Adel Abdel Mahdi of the United Iraqi Alliance (UIA), a senior Shi'ite leader of the Supreme Council of Islamic Revolution (SCIRI) in Iraq and the interim finance minister, and a former Maoist turned free-marketer who last December promised in Washington to privatize the Iraqi oil industry; and the previous president, Ghazi al-Yawer, a former exile and influential Sunni sheikh of the Sammar tribe. Talabani is finally set to appoint Da'wa Party senior leader Ibrahim Jaafari of the UIA as prime minister. It's emerging that the real meaty matters in Iraq - federalism, who gets oil-rich Kirkuk, and, crucially, what happens to the oil industry overall - will be settled by the constituent assembly. But two developments are ominous. The attribution of ministries for the "new" government once again will be sectarian. And every faction will remain armed to their teeth. The Kurds keep their independent peshmerga militia, and financed by Baghdad. The SCIRI keeps its Badr Brigades. The Da'wa Party also keeps its own militia. None of these will answer to Baghdad - which mobilizes its own, US-trained Iraqi security forces. Cynically, one might add that outside the political process, the Sunni resistance will also keep its thousands of fighters. By the end of the week: On the political front, Iraq's parliament met again amid tight security to discuss internal procedures and to put some order to the often chaotic sessions. Iraqi Vice President Ghazi al-Yawar said a government headed by prominent Shiite leader Jaafari could be in place soon. "I predict a government by the end of the week," the Sunni Arab tribal chief told reporters after a meeting with Shiite spiritual leader Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in the shrine city of Najaf. Proposed amnesty: Iraq's new president called Sunday for extending amnesty to Iraqi insurgents who had killed combatants, possibly including U.S. and Iraqi troops, as part of a drive that he said could help end attacks within months. Jalal Talabani, speaking on his first day of work in the white and gilt presidential offices after his inauguration Thursday, excluded clemency for al Qaeda and other foreign armed groups operating here. As for killings by Iraqi insurgents, Talabani said: "There are two kinds of killing: In battle or in action, this could be covered by the amnesty. Those who are involved in killing innocent people, detonation of car bombs, killing people in mosques and in churches, these would not be covered by the amnesty." US objections: The United States opposed an idea floated by Iraq's new president that could end up extending a proposed amnesty to insurgents who killed US troops. Some 1,540 US soldiers have died in Iraq since the March 2003 military drive to topple Saddam. About 1,170 have been killed in combat during the invasion and the unexpectedly tenacious insurgency launched in its aftermath. A senior State Department official, who asked not to be named, could not say whether amnesty would become an issue between Baghdad and Washington. "We'll try to talk this one through with the government," he said. The Post quoted Talabani as saying those involved in killing innocent civilians would not be covered by the amnesty. (So the guerillas won’t qualify for the amnesty if they kill civilians and they won’t qualify if they kill Americans…hmm. If I was in the Iraqi security forces, I’d be looking for a new line of work…) Face saving device: Saddam Hussein could avoid the gallows under a secret proposal by insurgent leaders that Iraq's new administration is "seriously considering", a senior government source said yesterday. A reprieve is understood to be among the central demands of Sunni nationalists and former members of Saddam's Ba'ath party who have reportedly begun negotiations with the government amid the backdrop of a bloody insurgency which claimed 30 lives during the weekend. "We are trying to reach out to the insurgents," the source said. "We don't expect them to stop fighting unconditionally. Sending Saddam to prison for the rest of his life is not a huge price for us to pay, but it will save them a lot of face." Another light in this well-lit tunnel: Two years after the fall of Saddam Hussein, the American-led military campaign in Iraq is making enough progress in fighting insurgents and training Iraqi security forces to allow the Pentagon to plan for significant troop reductions by early next year, senior commanders and Pentagon officials say. The American military's priority has shifted from waging offensive operations to training Iraqi troops and police officers. Iraqi forces now oversee sections of Baghdad and Mosul, with American forces on call nearby to help in a crisis. More than 2,000 American military advisers are working directly with Iraqi forces. Interviews with more than a dozen senior American and Iraqi officers, top Pentagon officials and lawmakers who have visited Iraq yield an assessment that the combination of routing insurgents from their sanctuary in Falluja last November and the Iraqi elections on Jan. 30 has given the military operation sustained momentum, and put the Bush administration's goal of turning Iraq over to a permanent, elected Iraqi government within striking distance. "We're on track," Gen. Richard B. Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in an interview. But the insurgency "kills virtually every day," he warned. "It's still a very potent threat." (An interesting article. It seems to make the point that everyone who is anyone in the US military – that is, everyone with a vested interest in believing we’re winning – believes we’re winning. Hey.) Foreign Affairs Forget about Poland: Defense Minister Jerzy Smajdzinski indicated Polish forces would start pulling out after the U.N. resolution authorizing their mission expires at the end of the year. He said it would take "a few weeks" for all the troops and equipment to return to Poland. Smajdzinski said his statement reflected the position of the Polish Cabinet, which would need to be confirmed by President Aleksander Kwasniewski. A real Bush accomplishment: In Turkey, heralded as the model of a Westward-looking Muslim democracy, sales records were shattered this spring by a book that imagines a U.S. invasion of this nation, a longtime U.S. ally. Polls show an overwhelming majority of Turks regard that scenario as a real possibility. Mainstream newspapers here routinely mock U.S. troops in Iraq, and many feature breathless but unsubstantiated reports of American atrocities there, including mythical accounts of troops harvesting organs from dead civilians. One paper announced the U.S. offensive against Fallujah in November with a photo illustration of President Bush wearing a swastika. As the Bush administration ramps up efforts to improve the American image in the Muslim world, the magnitude of the challenge is starkly visible in this country of 70 million, long seen as a bridge between East and West. Polls suggest that few countries have turned more dramatically against the United States than Turkey. The latest survey, gathered in February by the private Metropoll organization, found that four in 10 Turks regard the United States as their country's "biggest enemy." That is more than double the number who named Greece, the ancient rival Turkey has come to the brink of war with three times in the last half-century. US Military News Stressed equipment: The war in Iraq is burning through U.S. military equipment at five to 10 times the peacetime training rate, and the services will have to spend $13 billion to $18 billion to replace it, congressional budget experts say. Over the past three years, the Army has deployed about 40 percent of its equipment inventory to operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, said Lt. Gen. C.V. Christianson, the Army’s logistics chief. According to Army stress studies and CBO analyses, Army helicopters are being used at twice their peacetime rate, while tanks and other tracked vehicles are being used at roughly five times their peacetime rates, Christianson said. The Army truck fleet is operating at three to five times its peacetime rate, but the addition of armor plating adds more wear and tear, resulting in a usage rate of roughly 10 times that of peacetime trucking missions, the CBO said. Christianson said Army battle losses include 51 helicopters, 97 tracked combat vehicles, 76 heavy wheeled vehicles, 217 light wheeled vehicles and 62 medium wheeled vehicles. The losses include 12 percent of the entire Army wheeled vehicle fleet. Stressed personnel: Three and a half years have passed since U.S. bombs started falling in Afghanistan, and ever since then, the U.S. military has been engaged in combat overseas. What most Americans are probably unaware of, however, is just how many American soldiers have been deployed. Well over 1 million U.S. troops have fought in the wars since Sept. 11, 2001, according to Pentagon data released to Salon. As of Jan. 31, 2005, the exact figure was 1,048,884, approximately one-third the number of troops ever stationed in or around Vietnam during 15 years of that conflict. More surprising is the number of troops who have gone to war since 9/11, come back home, and then were redeployed to the battle zone. Of all the troops ever sent to Iraq or Afghanistan, one-third have gone more than once, according to the Pentagon. In the regular Army, 63 percent of the soldiers have been to war at least one time, and almost 40 percent of those soldiers have gone back. The highest rate of first-time deployments belongs to the Marine Corps Reserve: Almost 90 percent have fought. The data sheds new light on how all-consuming the post-9/11 wars have been for the U.S. military, and suggests a particular strain on U.S. ground forces. An increasing number of military experts believe those forces -- the Army and Marines -- are months away from being overtaxed to the point of serious dysfunction. An example of serious dysfunction: Emiliano Santiago is a 26-year-old Oregon National Guardsman who signed up as an 18-year-old high school junior. He was scheduled to be finished with his eight year commitment last June, but two weeks before that date his unit was notified of "possible mobilization." Santiago was told at that time that he couldn't be discharged -- in fact, he was presented with a new contract with a discharge date of Christmas Eve 2031, a potential lifetime of involuntary servitude. In October, his unit received notification of mobilization and began training for a mission to Afghanistan. To add further drama to last week's court hearing, Santiago's lawyers also wanted an emergency injunction -- he was scheduled to ship out to Afghanistan in two days. It was all over with remarkable speed: a mere 20 minutes for oral arguments, and, within hours on the same day, the panel's decision. Santiago not only failed to get the injunction, but lost his entire appeal -- a process that usually takes weeks or months. Moreover, the full Ninth Circuit in San Francisco declined to review the panel's decision the following day. By Friday, Santiago was on his way to Afghanistan. The whole exercise underscores how precarious the hope is, carried by many progressives, that the federal courts are the last line of defense against a conservative White House and Congress. Rumsfeld in Baghdad Rumsfeld on corruption: Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, on a surprise visit to Iraq, warned the country's leaders Tuesday against political purges and cronyism that could spark "lack of confidence or corruption in government." After meeting Rumsfeld, Iraq's recently named prime minister, moderate Islamist Ibrahim Jaafari, said he would fight corruption in the transitional government "I don't deny that there are challenges," Jaafari told reporters after the brief meeting. (No, not challenges, Ibrahim - opportunities!) March 16: The Pentagon stood accused of sitting on a damaging report from its own auditors on a $108.4m (£56.6m) overcharge by Halliburton for its services in Iraq yesterday. In a scathing letter to George Bush, Democratic congressmen Henry Waxman of California and John Dingell of Michigan said the Defence Contract Audit Agency's audit was completes last October - before the election. They also note that 12 separate requests to the Pentagon to view the completed audits on the contractor's $2.5bn contract to supply fuel and other services in post-war Iraq had been ignored. In a second public letter yesterday, Mr Waxman accused Bush administration officials of deliberately withholding information on overcharges by Halliburton from UN auditors - at its behest. Some $1.6bn of the $2.5bn Halliburton contract was funded from Iraqi oil revenues overseen by the UN. Yesterday: Pentagon auditors have questioned nearly $122 million in costs claimed by Halliburton under contracts to rebuild Iraq's oil industry and supply fuel to its citizens, according to records released Monday. The Democratic congressman who released the audits said the Bush administration had withheld the amounts of the questioned costs from the U.N. board overseeing Iraq reconstruction. Most of the latest questioned charges — $77 million — came during December 2003 to March 2004 from Halliburton's subcontract with a Kuwaiti fuel supplier that has repeatedly come under criticism by auditors and critics. One of the first audits of Halliburton's Iraq work questioned $61 million in charges for fuel from the same supplier in 2003. Rumsfeld on security purges: US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld warned Iraq's new Shiite elite against a purge of the country's fledgling security forces... Setting the agenda on his flight from Washington, for a one-day visit which was previously kept secret, he urged the Shiite-dominated government in the making to avoid drastic personnel changes to its security forces. It was the bluntest comment to date by a US official over fears that Iraq's election-winning Shiite political bloc aimed to carry out mass purges of the security apparatus and other ministries. UIA members have been calling for a purge of Iraq's security forces, particularly the interior ministry and national intelligence service. It claims those two branches have been overrun by former members of Saddam's Baath party. October, 2004: Porter Goss' initial moves as CIA director appear to herald a post-election purge at the already troubled spy agency, according to current and former top U.S. intelligence officials. Goss, a former Republican congressman, has put at least four former Capitol Hill Republican staffers into top positions in his CIA office and has given them broad authority to make personnel and restructuring decisions, the current and former intelligence officials said. One of the aides, whose identity Knight Ridder is not disclosing because he served under cover, has been "going around telling people they are to fire 80 to 90 people" in the Directorate of Operations, the CIA's covert arm, according to a former official. His account was repeated by several knowledgeable current and former officials who maintain close ties to the agency. November, 2004: Since his appointment, Goss has given his top aides - basically, his former staff from the intelligence committee - the green light to draw up lists of people to fire. The zeal with which Goss' enforcers are exercising their power has led to angry resignations by top CIA veterans like Stephen Kappes, who had taken over as deputy director of operations just this summer, and brought the brutal shakeup onto the front pages. The CIA's case officers and analysts, meanwhile, are extremely distressed by Goss' slashes at the professional staff. "I do nothing but talk to disgruntled and sick people there," says a recently retired senior CIA official. And that suits the White House just fine. Many conservatives in and outside the administration, especially the neoconservatives, view the CIA as a subversive element bent on stymieing Bush's agenda. The last several months of the presidential campaign saw a series of intelligence disclosures concerning Iraq and the war on terrorism that the White House regarded as intended to derail Bush's reelection. Many agency employees believe that administration officials rewarded them for their best efforts at divining the truth about al-Qaida, Iraq, nuclear proliferation and other urgent threats to U.S. national security with derision, political pressure and blame for the mistakes of policymakers. Now, with the arrival of Goss as DCI, they see the Bush administration intent not so much on reforming the CIA as crushing it Just in case you thought everything he said was a lie: The U.S. has no exit strategy or timetable for withdrawing its forces from Iraq and a pull-out depends on the readiness of the Iraqi Security Forces, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said. The Iraqi Police and Army has about 152,000 members, according to Iraq's interim government. Progress is being made in their training, Rumsfeld said today, without indicating how long it would take for them to become fully ``competent.'' ``We have to see the institutional capacity developed so that they can take over the security responsibility,'' Rumsfeld said referring to Iraqi Security Forces. ``As that takes place, the responsibility of the coalition forces will decline and they will be able to move away and leave.' Ethics. Journalism. No Wonder The Freepers Didn’t Get It Sites: Kevin Sites, a freelance photojournalist for NBC, will be awarded the 2005 Payne Award for Ethics in Journalism on May 12 for his decision-making process after he witnessed and taped a U.S. Marine killing an unarmed Iraqi man in a mosque. Sites decided to share the tape with the military, then he worked with NBC to create a "well-nuanced story that aired 48 hours after the incident," according to the Payne announcement. Since he was working as a pool photojournalist at the time, Sites shared the tape with the other news organizations in the pool. When Sites was criticized after other outlets used the footage, he answered the critics and explained his decisions in detail on his Weblog, www.kevinsites.net. Commentary Letter: In a crucial report to President George W. Bush by the US Council on Foreign Relations in April 2001, the president was warned that: "As the 21st century opens, the energy sector is in a critical condition. A crisis could erupt at any time . . . Theworld is currently close to utilising all of its available global oil production capacity, raising the chances of an oil supply crisis with more substantial consequences than seen in three decades." With US oil consumption in 2001 at an all-time high (19.7m b/d), import penetration at 53 per cent, and dependence on Arabian Gulf oil also at an all-time record (14.1 per cent of total US domestic and foreign supplies), the council stated that it was absolutely imperative that "political factors do not block the development of new oil fields in the Gulf" and that "the Department of State, together with the National Security Council" should "develop a strategic plan to encourage reopening to foreign investment in the important states of the Middle East". So when, according to the former head of ExxonMobil's Gulf operations, "Iraqi exiles approached us saying, you can have our oil if we can get back in there", the Bush administration decided to use its overwhelming military might to create a pliant - and dependable - oil protectorate in the Middle East and achieve that essential "opening" of the Gulf oilfields. But in the words of another US oil company executive, "it all turned out a lot more complicated than anyone had expected". Instead of the anticipated post-invasion rapid expansion of Iraqi production (an expectation of an additional 2m b/d entering the world market by now), the continuing violence of the insurgency has prevented Iraqi exports from even recovering to pre-invasion levels. In short, the US appears to have fought a war for oil in the Middle East, and lost it. The consequences of that defeat are now plain for all to see. Comment: During the last three weeks, television news -- cable and network -- have spent more time on the dying and deaths of two individuals than they have on all the civilian Iraqi casualties since the beginning of the war. The hope of 24/7 television news is that there is so much time to fill that every once in a while something of substance will be uttered or revealed. Alas, experience has shown that not to be the case. A viewer of the Schiavo and pope's coverage must leave the surface and go to print. The television age has paradoxically left people more informed and more ignorant at the same time. During this period of selective mourning, the White House oversaw the release of yet another not-so-independent commission's report, one reviewing the intelligence failures of all the pre-9/11 spook organizations. It went out of its way to claim -- a point the White House emphasized -- that no political pressure was exercised to gain the faulty intelligence the Bush administration was so eager to spread about and act upon. Most of that scandal was buried under the two death watches on TV, and administration spin was hardly necessary. It isn't an intelligence failure that the number of Iraqi civilian deaths still remains either contested or unknown -- pick your own figure: 10,000 or more than 100,000 -- but a more troubling failure: that so few Americans even want to know. Opinion: Let's face the facts. The game is over and we - the "reality-based community," the believers in genuine democracy and law, the heirs of Jefferson and Madison, Emerson and Thoreau, the toilers and dreamers, all those who seek to rise above the beast within and shape the brutal chaos of existence into something higher, richer and imbued with meaning - have lost. The better world we thought had been won out of the blood and horror of history - a realm of enlightenment that often found its best embodiment in the ideals and aspirations of the American Republic - is gone. It's been swallowed by darkness, by ravening greed, by bestial spirits and by willful primitives who now possess overwhelming instruments of power and dominion. So let's have no illusions about where we are. Gangsters are in charge, and nothing and no one will be allowed to challenge their dominion. They are waging aggressive war to cement their position and that of their allies: the energy barons, the arms merchants, the construction and services cartels, the investment bankers. These power blocs now command monstrous resources and unfathomable profits; they can buy out, buy off or bury any force that opposes them. Meanwhile, they use the loot of the stolen Republic - its blood and treasure - as fuel for their ever-expanding war machine: Bush now has a "secret watch-list" of 25 more countries ripe for military intervention, the Financial Times reported. With more war crimes afoot, last month Bush issued an official "National Defense Strategy" that openly declares "judicial processes" as one of the enemies confronting the United States, actually equating them with terrorism, The Associated Press reported. Law is "a strategy of the weak," says the Bush Doctrine, in a chilling echo of Hitlerian machtpolitik: Might makes right. The judicial process must not be allowed to "constrain or shape" American behavior in any way, the gangsters declared. Think of it: Law is now the enemy. Democracy, as we've seen above, is the enemy. This, the demented code of criminals and tyrants, has become the ruling doctrine of the United States - replacing the Constitution, replacing the noble struggle for liberty and enlightenment with the howl of the beast, with a freak show of avarice and death. Casualty Report Local story: Lewistown, MT, soldier killed in Hawijah.


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