Tuesday, May 03, 2005

War News for Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Bring ‘em on: Suicide car bomber killed in attack on US convoy near Abu Ghraib, no other injuries reported. One Iraqi national guardsman killed and six wounded in car bombing of a checkpoint south of Baghdad. Nine Iraqi civilians killed and 12 wounded in car bombing in Baghdad’s Karrada neighborhood. Two Iraqi commandos wounded in car bombing in Baghdad’s Hurriya neighborhood in an attack aimed at the convoy of the Maj. Gen. in charge of the commando forces, who escaped injury. Two Iraqi policemen killed and 11 others wounded in car bombing in Baghdad’s Zayouna neighborhood. Four people wounded in car bomb attack on an Iraqi army convoy in the Tarmiya area of Baghdad. One child killed and 15 civilians wounded in two bombings in Mosul.

Bring ‘em on: Three children killed, 22 wounded in car bomb attack against an American convoy in Baghdad’s Zafaraniya district.

Bring ‘em on: Eight Iraqi soldiers killed, 20 wounded in suicide truck bombing at checkpoint near Youssifiyah. Six civilians killed and seven wounded in car bombing in an upscale shopping district in Baghdad. Three Iraqis, including two policemen, killed and six, including three policemen, wounded in car bombing in eastern Baghdad. Two other bombings reported, one targeting a US patrol and the other directed at a top Iraqi security official, no injuries reported. Two bomb blasts in Mosul caused minor injuries to an unspecified number of US soldiers. One civilian killed in a Mosul bombing aimed at Iraqi troops. Another civilian killed by gunfire in Mosul.

Bring ‘em on: At least 12 suspected insurgents killed and one wounded, six coalition troops wounded in clash near Al Qaim. One US soldier killed, one wounded in roadside bombing near Baghdad International Airport.

Jets missing: Two Marine Corps F/A-18 Hornet fighter jets lost while flying in support of the war in Iraq. Body of one Marine pilot found.

Iraqi Politics

Conflicting demands: Iraq's incoming prime minister struggled to find a Sunni Arab to run the key Defense Ministry in time to join Iraq’s first democratically elected government when it takes office Tuesday. A torrent of bloodshed – at least 140 killed in five days – followed the approval of a Cabinet that mostly shut out members of the disaffected Sunni minority. Disputes persisted over the Defense Ministry on Monday after Prime Minister-designate Ibrahim al-Jaafari filled six of the seven Cabinet seats left undecided last week, said al-Jaafari aide Laith Kuba. The defense portfolio – in charge of some 70,000 soldiers and national guardsmen – is destined for a Sunni, part of an attempt to balance the conflicting demands of Iraq’s many religious and ethnic factions.

Last minute: In a bid to ease the fears of Iraq's Sunni Arab minority, Prime Minister Ibrahim Jafari is expected Tuesday to announce that his new government's policy on former members of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party will strictly distinguish between those responsible for crimes and those who were merely members of the now discredited party.

In a sign of the sensitivity of this issue, however, Jafari is facing last-minute increased resistance to making such a declaration within his predominantly Shiite political coalition because some Sunni Arab politicians in press interviews Monday night had described the expected declaration as a concession to them, Kubba said.

Meanwhile, six hours before the 5 pm swearing-in ceremony for members of Jafari's new cabinet, a final decision still had not been made on the Sunni Arab who would occupy the key post of defense minister.

An Iraqi Gen. Myers: A car bomb obliterated a tent packed with mourners at the funeral of a Kurdish official in northern Iraq on Sunday, killing 25 people and wounding more than 50 in the single deadliest attack since insurgents started bearing down on Iraq's newly named government late last week.

The blast capped four exceedingly violent days in which at least 116 people, including 11 Americans, were killed in a storm of bombings and ambushes blamed on Iraqi insurgents, believed largely populated by members of the disaffected Sunni Arab minority.

Despite the unrelenting violence, Iraq's national security adviser said Sunday the fledgling government was making progress against the insurgents.

"There is no shadow of doubt in my mind that by the end of the year, we would have achieved a lot," Mouwafak al-Rubaie said in an interview with CNN's "Late Edition." "Probably the back of the insurgency has already been broken."

Can’t Even Get Their Stories Straight

Limited abilities: The concentration of American troops and weapons in Iraq and Afghanistan limits the Pentagon's ability to deal with other potential armed conflicts, the military's highest ranking officer reported to Congress on Monday.

The officer, Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, informed Congress in a classified report that major combat operations elsewhere in the world, should they be necessary, would probably be more protracted and produce higher American and foreign civilian casualties because of the commitment of Pentagon resources in Iraq and Afghanistan.

General Myers cited reduced stockpiles of precision weapons, which were depleted during the invasion of Iraq, and the stress on reserve units, which fulfill the bulk of combat support duties in Iraq, as among the factors that would limit the Pentagon's ability to prevail as quickly as war planners once predicted in other potential conflicts.

The general's report appears to provide a slightly different assessment than President Bush offered at a news conference last week when he said the number of American troops in Iraq would not limit Washington military options elsewhere.

Mr. Bush said he had asked General Myers, "Do you feel that we've limited our capacity to deal with other problems because of our troop levels in Iraq?"

"And the answer is no, he didn't feel a bit limited," Mr. Bush said. "It feels like we got plenty of capacity."

Foreign Affairs

Britain: The Iraq war came back to haunt Prime Minister Tony Blair yet again on Sunday in a newspaper article suggesting that he had committed himself to an American plan for "regime change" months before he told either Parliament or the British people that British participation in the American-led invasion was all but inevitable.

The article - whose accuracy was not immediately challenged by government officials - could further damage Blair because his opponents may use it to renew their assault on his trustworthiness as Britons prepare to go to the polls on Thursday. It may revive the argument that he secretly promised President George W. Bush that he would support the invasion of Iraq.

Australia: The Australian Government has asked the United Nations to help secure the release of an Australian man kidnapped in Iraq.

Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer met U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan Monday to discuss what could be done to help free 63-year old engineer Douglas Wood.

An extremist group calling itself the Shura Council of Mujahideen has threatened to murder Wood within days if its demands are not met to withdraw Australian troops from Iraq.

Downer said that an Australian rescue team, including the Deputy Secretary of his department Nick Warner, members of the Australian Federal Police and Defense personnel will arrive in Iraq on Tuesday.

Italy: Disputing the conclusions of a U.S. report into the fatal shooting of an Italian intelligence agent, an Italian investigation released late Monday found that stress and inexperience among U.S. soldiers played a role in the shooting.

The Italian report said there were coordination problems among officials in Iraq, but U.S. officials had been told about the plans to rescue Sgrena -- something the U.S. military has denied.

The Italian report also found no evidence the killing was deliberate.

But the Italian report also said no clear warning signs were given to the vehicle -- that flashing warning lights came at the same time troops began firing.

In addition, the report took issue with the American report about the speed the vehicle was traveling, saying it was 20 to 30 miles per hour (30 to 50 km/h) compared with the U.S. military's claim it was around 50 mph (80 km/h).

Uzbekistan: Seven months before Sept. 11, 2001, the State Department issued a human rights report on Uzbekistan. It was a litany of horrors.

The police repeatedly tortured prisoners, State Department officials wrote, noting that the most common techniques were "beating, often with blunt weapons, and asphyxiation with a gas mask." Separately, international human rights groups had reported that torture in Uzbek jails included boiling of body parts, using electroshock on genitals and plucking off fingernails and toenails with pliers. Two prisoners were boiled to death, the groups reported. The February 2001 State Department report stated bluntly, "Uzbekistan is an authoritarian state with limited civil rights."

Now there is growing evidence that the United States has sent terror suspects to Uzbekistan for detention and interrogation, even as Uzbekistan's treatment of its own prisoners continues to earn it admonishments from around the world, including from the State Department.

Uzbekistan's role as a surrogate jailer for the United States was confirmed by a half-dozen current and former intelligence officials working in Europe, the Middle East and the United States. The C.I.A. declined to comment on the prisoner transfer program, but an intelligence official estimated that the number of terrorism suspects sent by the United States to Tashkent was in the dozens.

The Uzbekistan States of America, part 1: The Washington Post quoted unnamed defense and intelligence officials who said in recent interviews that they expect some detainees to be held for life, without trial.

They are known as "ghost detainees" -- people who have disappeared, with no public record and no government acknowledgement of their confinement, and thus are beyond the reach of legal counsel or the Red Cross.

The White House has maintained tight restrictions on any information regarding the CIA-held prisoners, where they are and how they are being interrogated.

The secret detention program was established in 2002, and its activities are known only to those with exceptional security clearances. Only the top Republicans and Democrats on the House and Senate intelligence committees are acquainted with the deportation program. Their silence on this unconscionable practice is deafening.

The Uzbekistan States of America, part 2: A high-level military investigation into accusations of detainee abuse at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, has concluded that several prisoners were mistreated or humiliated, perhaps illegally, as a result of efforts to devise innovative methods to gain information, senior military and Pentagon officials say.

The report on the investigation, which is still a few weeks from being completed and released, will deal with accounts by agents for the Federal Bureau of Investigation who complained after witnessing detainees subjected to several forms of harsh treatment.

The F.B.I. agents wrote in memorandums that were never meant to be disclosed publicly that they had seen female interrogators forcibly squeeze male prisoners' genitals, and that they had witnessed other detainees stripped and shackled low to the floor for many hours.


Return of the Doughy Pantload: The flood of stories in the press marking the 30th anniversary of the fall of Saigon is near its end (the anniversary having passed on Saturday). There have been articles lamenting that we ever set foot in Indochina, others claiming that we could and should have won the war, and every view in between. Then there’s Jonah Goldberg’s Op-Ed in USA Today. He used the occasion not to try to come to grips with that war but denounce those -- mainly, he said, “liberal baby boomers” -- who on a “near-daily” basis link Iraq to Vietnam. He said they are simply filled with "nostalgia" for their glory days of antiwar hedonism.

Green light: The Pentagon has got to be kidding.

It turns out that only those rogue enlisted men and women, and one woman general, are to blame for the horrifying treatment of prisoners and detainees of the Iraqi war, according to Lt. Gen. Stanley Green, the Army Inspector General.

He cleared four senior Army officers of any responsibility for the abuse of prisoners at Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison after reviewing the results of 10 separate inquiries into the prison abuse, some of which the world was able to view though photos.

In effect, his report is the final word unless there are some brave members of Congress who are willing to investigate the role of the military higher-ups who gave the green light for the severe interrogation of prisoners in U.S. custody.

The responsibility ultimately lies with President George W. Bush, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales -- then White House counsel -- who decided that the Geneva Conventions on Humanitarian Treatment of Prisoners of War didn't apply in the "war on terrorism."

No understanding: Mr. Delgado's background is unusual. He is an American citizen, but because his father was in the diplomatic corps, he grew up overseas. He spent eight years in Egypt, speaks Arabic and knows a great deal about the various cultures of the Middle East. He wasn't happy when, even before his unit left the states, a top officer made wisecracks about the soldiers heading off to Iraq to kill some ragheads and burn some turbans.

"He laughed," Mr. Delgado said, "and everybody in the unit laughed with him."

The officer's comment was a harbinger of the gratuitous violence that, according to Mr. Delgado, is routinely inflicted by American soldiers on ordinary Iraqis. He said: "Guys in my unit, particularly the younger guys, would drive by in their Humvee and shatter bottles over the heads of Iraqi civilians passing by. They'd keep a bunch of empty Coke bottles in the Humvee to break over people's heads."

He said he had confronted guys who were his friends about this practice. "I said to them: 'What the hell are you doing? Like, what does this accomplish?' And they responded just completely openly. They said: 'Look, I hate being in Iraq. I hate being stuck here. And I hate being surrounded by hajis.'

Mr. Delgado said he had witnessed incidents in which an Army sergeant lashed a group of children with a steel Humvee antenna, and a Marine corporal planted a vicious kick in the chest of a kid about 6 years old. There were many occasions, he said, when soldiers or marines would yell and curse and point their guns at Iraqis who had done nothing wrong.

He said he believes that the absence of any real understanding of Arab or Muslim culture by most G.I.'s, combined with a lack of proper training and the unrelieved tension of life in a war zone, contributes to levels of fear and rage that lead to frequent instances of unnecessary violence.

25,000 more: Last fall, a major public-health study appeared in The Lancet, a prestigious British medical journal, only to be missed or dismissed by the American press. To the extent it was covered at all, the reports were short and usually buried far from the front pages of major newspapers. The results of the study could have played an important role in future policy decisions, but the press’s near total silence allowed the issue to pass without debate.

The study, though scientifically robust, had several elements working against it. One was its subject matter: Researchers had done a door-to-door survey of nearly 8,000 people in thirty-three locations in Iraq to estimate how many people had died as a consequence of the U.S.-led invasion and occupation. Americans, and their media, were reluctant to accept the study’s conclusions — that the number was likely around 100,000; that violence had become the primary cause of death since the invasion; that more than half of those killed were women and children.

Had the U.S. and UN responded as they did to the lead author’s similar studies in the Congo a few years ago, tens of millions of dollars in humanitarian aid might have gone to Iraq, and military decisions could have been altered. But without a nudge from journalists, the government has managed to ignore the paper. Even though it tries not to harm civilians, the military makes no attempt to quantify its “collateral damage.”

In the meantime, five months have passed since the paper came out. If the death rate has stayed the same, roughly 25,000 more Iraqis have died.

Non-recognition: Laura's racy act was the talk of the town. But there was something more strange and discomforting about the evening than her channeling of Ellen DeGeneres. Neither she nor her husband once referred to the Americans serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, particularly those who had recently lost their lives implementing Bush's policy and (according to the Bushes) defending the United States from evil. At a high-profile event of this nature, it certainly is customary for a president to joke, but he also often concludes with a serious sentiment. At the radio and television correspondents' dinner several weeks ago, Vice President Dick Cheney, standing in for Bush (who was on his way to the Pope's funeral), took a few stabs at humor then devoted most of his remarks to the deceased Pope. Last year, at one of these galas, Bush joked about his inability to find WMDs in Iraq--yeah, he made fun of the mission for which Americans had lost their lives--but then he saluted troops stationed overseas, noting their sacrifices.

His--and Laura's--non-recognition of the American troops (those dying and those doing the real hard work) was not a one-time phenomenon. Two nights earlier at Bush's first primetime news conference in a year, Bush said nothing about the Americans risking their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan. Not a word of thanks. Not a word of tribute for those recently killed in action. He did mention troop levels and said, "I believe we're making really good progress in Iraq." But nada regarding the men and women he had dispatched into harm's way. Is this a pattern? Of course, Bush does not have to remind people that Americans are being shot to death and blown up in Iraq and that the violence in Iraq has increased lately. But recent polls disclose that a half of Americans now believe that Bush deliberately misled the public about the (nonexistent) WMDs in Iraq and that a slight majority have concluded that the war was not worth it. With most Americans down on the war as the insurgents mount more deadly attacks and military experts in the United States predict this conflict may last for five to 30 years, is Bush consciously not referring directly to the soldiers and, especially, the fallen Americans? Or has he just forgotten to do so when he has appeared in public?

Casualty Reports

Local story: Roseburg, OR, soldier killed in Tal Afar.

Local story: Sparks, NV, soldier killed in Tal Arar.

Local story: Lyndhurst, MI, soldier killed at checkpoint south of Baghdad.

Local story: Redding, CA, soldier killed near Kirkuk.

Local story: Reitz, IN, soldier killed in Baghdad.

Local story: Columbia, MO, soldier killed in Tal Afar.

Local story: Westfield, IN, soldier killed in Tal Afar.

Local story: Pontiac, MI, native soldier killed at checkpoint south of Baghdad.


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