War News for Sunday, May 8, 2005
Bring 'em on: Marine killed in bomb attack in al Karmah
Bring 'em on: Bodies of twelve executed Iraqis found in dump in Baghdad
Bring 'em on: Senior transport ministry official assassinated in Baghdad
Bring 'em on: Two Saudis die fighting for the insurgency in Iraq
Bring 'em on: According to Iraqi Coalition Casualty Count
298 Iraqis have perished in the first seven days of May 2005.
: The city of 400,000 has lacked a functioning local security force since last winter, when the police and Iraqi National Guard disbanded wholesale as insurgents blew up all but one of Ramadi's police stations, the mayor's office and other government buildings.
But U.S. commanders worry that the strategy of importing troops to keep the peace also carries the risk of inciting sectarian violence between the outside Shiite forces and the local Sunni population.
"You get a Shiite outsider shooting a local policeman, and with a big incident like that, you can see the whole city rising up," said Capt. Bart Nagle, an intelligence officer with the 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment in Ramadi. "This is the new dynamic, the new stage. I don't expect a quiet summer."
Adding to the volatility in Ramadi is the parochial bent of the Iraqi militia arriving in the city, part of a nationwide phenomenon in which tribes, religious sects and political parties are recruiting armed forces more loyal to their group than to the ideal of an impartial Iraqi military, according to U.S. and Iraqi officials.
"All these units came out of the woodwork after the elections" on Jan. 30, said Col. Edward Cardon, whose 3rd Infantry Division brigade is stationed in central Baghdad. "This is sort of a militia society."
During a previous visit to Iraq, in November 2002 — to make a film for BBC2 showing exactly what was at risk if the unthinkable and insane happened and Iraq became a battlefield — I had visited the museum, met its director of research Dr Donny George, and seen its wonders. Iraq is rightly known as the cradle of civilisation — the land where, 7,000 years or so ago, most things we consider to be the hallmarks of civilisation had their origin: writing, mathematics, urban living, arts, crafts, agriculture. And the Iraq Museum displayed the treasures of the land — quite simply it was one of the most important repositories of culture, history and beauty on earth. My conversation with George was fascinating. He told me that adequate precautions had been — and were being — taken to protect the collection. It also became clear, as I walked around, that many items had been removed. Why, when and where these had gone no-one would reveal. Unlike Polk, who appears to have surveyed the place after me, I did not see the collection “in its breathtaking entirety”. I suppose it is possible that the removed items were returned between November 2002 and Polk’s undated “last-minute” trip, but I doubt it.
What rapidly became clear on my second visit was that the pillaging was a most complex event, with no obvious villains and with truth, as ever, being the first victim in conflict. Stung by the accusation of responsibility, US forces had launched an inquiry, and were initiating attempts to discover and retrieve missing items. I spoke to these investigators and to US forces guarding the building — the same troops that had seized it on April 9.
Tony; Iraq wot did it
This item popped up on an Iraq news search and I thought WTF! It's trivial news but here it is anyway because it stinks to high heaven
Meantime, the Pentagon last week demoted Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, the officer in charge at Abu Ghraib, to the rank of colonel. Karpinski, the highest-ranking soldier punished in the scandal, was cited for dereliction of duty and for an unrelated charge of shoplifting a $22 bottle of perfume in 2002.
Meanwhile a whistleblower
has emerged from Camp Delta.
An American soldier has revealed shocking new details of abuse and sexual torture of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay in the first high-profile whistleblowing account to emerge from inside the top-secret base.
Erik Saar, an Arabic speaker who was a translator in interrogation sessions, has produced a searing first-hand account of working at Guantánamo. It will prove a damaging blow to a White House still struggling to recover from the abuse scandal at Abu Ghraib jail in Iraq.
In an exclusive interview, Saar told The Observer that prisoners were physically assaulted by 'snatch squads' and subjected to sexual interrogation techniques and that the Geneva Conventions were deliberately ignored by the US military.
He also said that soldiers staged fake interrogations to impress visiting administration and military officials. Saar believes that the great majority of prisoners at Guantánamo have no terrorist links and little worthwhile intelligence information has emerged from the base despite its prominent role in America's war on terror.
Saar paints a picture of a base where interrogations of often innocent prisoners have spiralled out of control, doing massive damage to America's image in the Muslim world.
Saar said events at Guantánamo were a disaster for US foreign policy. 'We are trying to promote democracy worldwide. I don't see how you can do that and run a place like Guantánamo Bay. This is now a rallying cry to the Muslim world,' he said.
I know Today in Iraq gets slated for not reporting good news; but there is good news for undertakers because coffin sales are booming.
"A critical victory in the war on terror."
No, not really. The capture of a supposed Al-Qaeda kingpin by Pakistani agents last week was hailed by President George W Bush as a critical victory in the war on terror. According to European intelligence experts, however, Abu Faraj al-Libbi was not the terrorists third in command, as claimed, but a middle-ranker derided by one source as among the flotsam and jetsam of the organisation. Al-Libbis arrest in Pakistan, announced last Wednesday, was described in the United States as a major breakthrough in the hunt for Osama Bin Laden. Bush called him a top general and a major facilitator and chief planner for the Al- Qaeda network. Condoleezza Rice, secretary of state, said he was a very important figure. Yet the backslapping in Washington and Islamabad has astonished European terrorism experts, who point out that the Libyan was neither on the FBIs most wanted list, nor on that of the State Department rewards for justice programme.
Bush criticises post war planning in Iraq............. no, sorry, post war planning
President George Bush yesterday said the Soviet domination of Eastern Europe was 'one of the greatest wrongs of history' and admitted America's role in allowing it to happen.
He acknowledged that the 1945 Yalta agreement between Josef Stalin, Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt laid the way for the Soviet occupation of Europe, and compared it to the appeasement of Hitler and the 1939 Soviet-Nazi pact.
Ahead of a visit to Moscow for a VE Day ceremony tomorrow, Bush said the US shared some responsibility for the division of Europe because of the agreement signed at the end of the war.
In a speech in the Latvian capital, Riga, Bush seemed determined to pour petrol on the already smouldering diplomatic row between the Baltic states and Russia over the demand that Moscow should apologise for its occupation of Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania. Bush's comments came as the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, writing in a French newspaper yesterday, said that Russia will not answer the demands of Baltic states to apologise for years of Soviet domination.
In a series of extraordinary comments ahead of his attendance at tomorrow's commemoration of the fall of Berlin in Moscow's Red Square, Bush chose largely to ignore the defeat of Nazism at the hands of the US, the Soviet Union and the UK, choosing instead to focus his comments on the Soviet occupation of Eastern Europe that followed, and the Yalta agreement that permitted it.
The pointed exchange between Bush and Putin delivered a sour note ahead of the commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Europe from the genocidal scourge of Nazism in which the United States and the Soviet Union were partners.
Anyway, back to post war planning in Iraq
But to hear President Bush tell it, the war in Iraq is going very, very well. In mid-April, appearing before 25,000 U.S. soldiers at sun-drenched Fort Hood, in Texas, Bush declared that America has succeeded in planting democracy in Iraq, creating a model that will soon spread throughout the Middle East. "That success is sending a message from Beirut to Tehran," the president boasted to chants of "U.S.A.! U.S.A.!" from the troops. "The establishment of a free Iraq is a watershed event in the global democratic revolution." Staying on message, aides to Gen. George Casey, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, later suggested that U.S. forces could be reduced from 142,000 to 105,000 within a year.
In private, however, senior military advisers and intelligence specialists on Iraq offer a starkly different picture. Two years after the U.S. invasion, Iraq is perched on the brink of civil war. Months after the election, the new Iraqi government remains hunkered down inside the fortified Green Zone in Baghdad, surviving only because it is defended by thousands of U.S. troops. Iraqi officials hold meetings and press conferences in Alamo-like settings, often punctuated by the sounds of nearby explosions. Outside the Green Zone, party offices and government buildings are surrounded by tank traps, blast walls made from concrete slabs eighteen feet high, and private militias wielding machine guns and AK-47s. Even minor government officials travel from fort to fort in heavily armed convoys of Humvees.
"I talk to senior military people and combat commanders who tell me that the situation is much more precarious than admitted," says Col. Patrick Lang, former Middle East chief for the Defense Intelligence Agency. "Even inside the Green Zone you are not safe, because of indirect fire. And if you were to venture outside at night, they'd probably find your headless body the next morning."
Car bombs rock Baghdad and other cities virtually every day, and insurgents conduct hundreds of attacks each week on U.S. troops, Iraqi recruits and civilian police. Thousands of Iraqi police and soldiers have scattered or disappeared, and countless others either do no fighting or covertly support the insurgency. The out-of-control security situation means that few reconstruction projects can get off the ground. Transport is crippled, and Iraq's core infrastructure -- its roads and bridges, its power plants, its water-treatment facilities, and its all-important oil fields, pipelines and oil terminals -- remains heavily damaged from the war.
According to U.S. officials, the resistance attacks are being aided by an extensive network of informers. Insurgents, apparently making use of engineers and former insiders, have been able to hit oil installations and power plants expertly, foiling U.S. efforts to sustain Iraqi oil exports and to provide electricity and water to Iraqi cities. "They have tentacles that reach all through the new government and the new military," Lt. Gen. Walter Buchanan, who commands U.S. air forces in the Persian Gulf, admitted recently.
And this morning, May 8, 2005, Juan Cole
Few commentators, when they mention such news, point out the obvious. The United States military does not control Baghdad. It doesn't control the major roads leading out of the capital. It does not control the downtown area except possibly the heavily barricaded "green zone." It does not control the capital. The guerrillas strike at will, even at Iraqi notables who can afford American security guards (many of them e.g. ex-Navy Seals). If the US military does not control the capital of a country it conquered, then it controls nothing of importance. Ipso facto, Iraq is a failed state.