Monday, May 02, 2005

War News for Monday, May 2, 2005 Bring 'em on: Bomb attack on funeral kills twenty five and wounds thirty in Talafar. Bring 'em on: Australian kidnapped in Baghdad. Bring 'em on: Two Iraqis working for a company that supplied US forces gunned down in Baghdad. Bring 'em on: One Iraqi killed and two injured in bomb attack on US convoy in Baghdad. Bring 'em on: Turkish driver gunned down in Baghdad. Bring 'em on: One Iraqi soldier killed and two injured in bomb attack in Samarra. Bring 'em on: Three injured in car bomb attack targeting police chief in Baghdad. Bring 'em on: Four Iraqis killed and eight wounded in car bomb attack in Baghdad. Bring 'em on: British soldier killed in action in Basra. Bring 'em on: Iraqi policeman gunned down in Baghdad. Italians are stung by a U.S. report it felt put much of the blame on Rome for a "friendly fire" killing in Iraq, will publish its own version of events Monday that is likely to question the testimony of American troops. Relations were strained when U.S. troops at a roadblock shot an Italian agent who had just rescued a hostage in Baghdad on March 4; they soured further this weekend when Washington blamed the Italians for poor communications and not heeding warnings. The United States said it would not discipline the U.S. soldiers although it called the roadblock set-up "less than optimal" and made a string of recommendations for improving warnings to drivers. "The latest slap in the face by the United States," was the verdict of the authoritative Corriere della Sera newspaper, which quoted an Italian official rejecting the testimony of the soldiers on which the U.S. military report was largely based. "The soldiers' evidence was contradictory and in some cases totally untrustworthy," the investigator told the paper. The U.S. military report, released late Saturday, said forensic evidence was patchy, in part because troops had moved vehicles and disposed of spent cartridges after the incident. Italians have refused to accept the US report's findings and will publish its own version of events later this week. Details of the official report were published in newspapers on Sunday with censored material restored in full. A Greek medical student at Bologna University who was surfing the web early on Sunday found that with two simple clicks of his computer mouse he could restore censored portions of the report. He passed the details to Italian newspapers which immediately put out the full text on their own websites. The missing text contains the names and ranks of all of the American military personnel involved in the killing of Nicola Calipari, the Italian agent who was given a state funeral and awarded Italy's highest medal of valour. It also reveals the rules of engagement in operation at the military checkpoint near Baghdad airport which have been contested by the Italian authorities. The censored sections include recommendations that the American military modify their checkpoint procedures to give better and clearer warning signs to approaching vehicles. The official Italian report on the incident expected to be published this week will accuse the American military of tampering with evidence at the scene of the shooting. Recruitment Crisis: As the Iraq war becomes increasingly unpopular in Britain, defense chiefs have seen its toll in a recruitment crisis. Some 90 percent of the fighting units of the British army are under-strength, the Sunday Telegraph revealed. Senior officers fear that some regiments will be incapable of taking part in operations in Iraq without significant reinforcements from other parts of the army. According to the officers, 38 of the army's 40 infantry battalions are under-strength, including all three battalions of the parachute regiment, all six infantry regiments that make up the Scottish Division and the center Guards division. Large parts of the Royal Artillery and the logistic units are also undermanned. Recent controversy over the legality of the Iraq War and prisoner-abuse incidents have fueled the decline following the deaths of some 90 British soldiers in Iraq. The army predicts that only 1,400 recruits will join the infantry this year, a decrease of 35 percent. There are also similar shortfalls in the artillery, the cavalry and the Royal Marines, all the which have joined in service in Iraq. Wrong Remains: The U.S. embassy has asked two Fijian families to postpone the funerals of their sons who died in a helicopter crash in Iraq because they are believed to have been sent the wrong remains, the embassy said Monday. In an apologetic statement the embassy said that a forensic expert was being sent to Fiji immediately to work with the ministry of health in obtaining DNA samples for testing in the United States. No Power: When his lights and television go dark, as they regularly do, Khalid Qasim Ali flips a switch in his living room to bring back the power. This electricity is not state-supplied. Instead, it comes from a generator three blocks away that is connected to Ali's home by a wire strung in the air. All told, 107 families in Baghdad's working-class neighborhood of Topchi are hooked up to the generator. The arrangement gives them power during the long blackouts that are routine in Iraq. It also darkens the skies over Topchi with a tangled skein of unsightly, dangerous cables. Like everyone else, Ali is billed by the ampere. He pays the generator's owner around $10 a month. "We should enjoy electricity without using a generator because Iraq is a wealthy country," said Ali, a 65-year-old retired truck driver. "Regretfully, the Americans did nothing since they came." Axis of Oil: For six decades, one of the few fixed stars in American foreign policy has been the special relationship with Saudi Arabia. Bluntly put, America has offered military protection to the Saudi royal family in return for the free flow of relatively cheap oil from the desert kingdom. Every president since Franklin Roosevelt has stuck by this deal, and the Saudis have mostly done so as well. Within the OPEC oil cartel, the Saudis are usually the voice of moderation. Alas, things seem to have gone wrong on George Bush's watch. Despite his family's famous closeness to the Saudi rulers, oil prices have shot past $50 a barrel, up from barely $10 in 1998. The price of gasoline, which Americans still expect to cost just a buck a gallon, now touches $3 in some places.


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