Wednesday, April 13, 2005

War News for Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Bring ‘em on: US fuel convoy ambushed in Baghdad, at least one tanker truck destroyed, no word on casualties. Additional news on the fighting in Qaim reported yesterday, as the director of the Qaim hospital said his facility had received nine dead and nearly two dozen wounded and that the dead were believed to be civilians. In addition, residents of a small village north of Qaim said that about a dozen more dead had been buried in the area and had not been taken to the hospital.

Bring ‘em on: Seven Iraqis wounded in bombing on Baghdad’s airport road. Joint US-Iraqi convoy targeted by roadside bomb in Baghdad’s Amiriya district, four civilians seriously wounded.

Bring ‘em on: Twelve Iraqi police killed and three wounded when a bomb exploded next to a decoy bomb they were dismantling near Kirkuk.

Bring ‘em on: Man purported to be a kidnapped American contract worker displayed on video aired by Al Jazeera. Two SUVs and five civilian cars damaged in car bomb attack on a DoD convoy in Baghdad, unclear whether anyone was injured. Three Iraqi civilians wounded in a drive-by shooting in Hillah.

Bring ‘em on: Five people killed and eight, including seven children, wounded in car bombing in Talafar. Five civilians killed and four wounded in car bombing in Mosul. (Note: The Mosul incident may be the same as the one reported yesterday.)

Bring ‘em on: High-ranking official in Iraq’s Interior Ministry critically wounded in a Baghdad attack by gunmen where his driver was wounded also. One US Marine killed by small arms fire in Ramadi.

Count the lies: President Bush visited soldiers at the largest U.S. military base Tuesday, marking the two-year anniversary of the end of Saddam Hussein's regime by saying it will be remembered along with the fall of the Berlin Wall as one of history's greatest moments.

Bush thanked the soldiers at Fort Hood who have recently returned from Iraq or are heading there this fall, but said it isn't time to start bringing U.S. forces home.

"If we can start to change the most powerful country in the Middle East, the others will follow," Bush said. "Americans 20 years down the road won't have to deal with a day like Sept. 11, 2001."

"The toppling of Saddam Hussein's statue in Baghdad will be recorded, alongside the fall of the Berlin Wall, as one of the great moments in the history of liberty," Bush said.

(This is a true Bush classic, from the vainglorious comparison of beating up a third world army to the fall of the Berlin wall, to the smug hubristic certainty that we can remodel the entire mideast to our liking by force of arms, then yet another conflation of Saddam Hussein with September 11, and finally the universe-inverting statement that LT. AWOL's excellent adventure has lessened the danger to our country from Islamic terrorism...all in four short sentences. Amazing.)

Warnings and cautions: Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld spent Tuesday in a whirlwind trip of Iraq, which included meetings with U.S. troops and government officials.

Rumsfeld laced his message of U.S. steadfastness with warnings to Iraqi leaders about the dangers that political cronyism and partisan purges posed for the effort to organize, equip and train a security force. He also cautioned against any plans that would delay writing and approving a constitution and electing a new Iraqi government by December.

"What the United States wants to see is what the Iraqi people want to see, and that is an end to the insurgency and the development of the Iraqi security forces to the point where they are capable of assuming responsibility for security for the Iraqi people," Rumsfeld said at one point.

"It isn't so much a matter of continuity as a matter of competence, capability," he said.

(I like the way he assumes he can speak for the Iraqi people, but seriously, having Donald Rumsfeld lecture you about competence is like having the founder of NAMBLA lecture you about the sanctity of heterosexual marriage.)

An example of DoD competence: U.S. Sen. Mark Dayton is questioning the circumstances surrounding the death of Cpl. Travis Bruce, a Rochester soldier who was killed by a rocket-propelled grenade in Baghdad.

The 22-year-old was killed March 23 as he stood on a rooftop guarding an Iraqi police station, relatives and the U.S. Army said.

In a letter sent Tuesday to President Bush and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Dayton said that the day before Bruce died, he told his girlfriend he did not have enough sandbags to fortify his position adequately.

Another visitor: US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's top deputy arrived in Iraq today on an unannounced mission to meet with the country's newly elected leaders, the second high-ranking Bush administration official to drop in this week.

Robert Zoellick's one-day visit follows a trip to Iraq by Defence Secretary Donald H Rumsfeld yesterday.

”Dimensions of our Iraqi strategy have to have political and economic - complete reconstruction - components as well as a military component," Zoellick told reporters yesterday, while travelling to the Middle East.

Complete reconstruction component: Serious cost overruns and "poor performance" have plagued the Halliburton Co.'s continuing $1.2 billion contract to repair Iraq's vital southern oil fields, a new State Department report says.

The news about Kellogg, Brown & Root, a subsidiary of Texas-based Halliburton, adds an additional layer of troubles to the company's multibillion-dollar operations in Iraq.

Among guerrilla attacks, the unexpectedly decrepit state of oil facilities and delays in repairs, Iraq's oil output of 2.1 million barrels a day in February was lower than it was last fall, says the report, a quarterly update on Iraqi reconstruction that was delivered to Congress last week. Disappointing oil exports are worsening the Iraqi transitional government's budget deficit, which the report estimates could reach $5 billion this year.

The report does not detail what it called the poor performance and excess spending. But it said that on Jan. 19, the U.S. Embassy took the unusual step of issuing a "Cure Notice," a threat to terminate the contract. Kellogg, Brown & Root replaced some senior managers but the government remains dissatisfied, the report says.

Iraqis react to their patronizing foreign overlords: Iraqis are increasingly calling on U.S. forces to leave their troubled nation, emboldened by a newly elected parliament and the growing presence of their blue-uniformed police forces -- even though the new Iraqi leaders say it's too early to talk about a U.S. pullout.

The calls gained momentum when Shiite and Sunni religious clerics called for protests to mark the two-year anniversary of Baghdad's fall, prompting four days of demonstrations across the country.

Tens of thousands of mostly Shiite protesters, largely followers of militant cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, filled central Baghdad's streets Saturday, holding the largest anti-American protest since the invasion. Demonstrations have continued, all echoing the same demand: It's time for U.S. troops to leave.

Meanwhile, in the rest of the world: India and China announced a new "strategic partnership" Monday, pledging to resolve long-standing border disputes and boost trade and economic cooperation between two rising powers that together account for more than a third of the world's population.

The agreements signed Monday mark an important shift in relations between the Asian giants, which fought a brief border war in 1962 and have long regarded each other with suspicion. The prospect of a more cooperative relationship has significant global implications, given the vast economic potential of India and China and their voracious appetites for energy and other natural resources.

"India and China can together reshape the world order," Singh said at a ceremony welcoming Wen to India's presidential palace.

In geopolitical terms, the consequences of a rapprochement between the world's two most populous countries could be profound. "In the same way that commentators refer to the 1900s as the American Century, the early 21st century may be seen as the time when some in the developing world, led by India and China, come into their own," said a December 2004 study by the U.S. National Intelligence Council.


Comment: Speaking before U.S. troops in Iraq yesterday, President George Bush bragged of the transitional government's accomplishments. "Iraqis have laid the foundation for a society built on the rule of law," he proclaimed, referring to the court that has been created to try the senior leadership of the former Iraqi government.

This court, called the Iraqi Special Tribunal, will prosecute at least a dozen and probably many more high officials from the Baathist era, chief among them, of course, being Saddam Hussein. It will, promised President Bush, give Hussein "the trial that he did not afford his fellow citizens when he was in power."

Saddam Hussein's justice was a cruel travesty. No doubt the upcoming proceedings will be immeasurably fairer than trials carried out during his repressive government. But evaluated against fundamental international standards, the planned Iraqi trials raise serious due process concerns.

Interview: Zeese: So often God is invoked in war -- God is on our side, God bless the United States, God protects our troops -- can you discuss generally, your view of how Christianity and other religions should relate to the question of war?

Sekou: The biblical narrative has powerful critique of empire. Equally, the text takes seriously the poor in opposition to power over them. I think the call for prayer should be centered on our troops not being in harms way. The idea that God is only interested in America is deeply problematic. Moreover, there have been a number of religious folks who spent a lot of time discussing the just war theory. When St. Thomas Aquinas distills just war theory in Sum Theologica, he does so at a moment when there are a number of warring tribal groupings within the empire that do not possess quantity and quality of weapons of mass destruction. With a lone superpower, United States, and its unfettered access to weapon of mass destruction, the very notion that there can be a just war is obsolete.

Zeese: The Iraq War and occupation is being defined by some commentators as a war between Muslims and Christians. What is your reaction to this?

Sekou: While there are those who believe that the greatest threat to the earth is "Muslim terrorists". I do not believe that. The greatest challenge to democratic freedom and the heart of gospel is the way in which the Bible is being used to justify unbiblical aims.

Casualty Report

Local story: Memorial service held for nine Fort Carson soldiers killed in Iraq.


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