Tuesday, May 10, 2005

War News for Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Bring ‘em on: Three Iraqi civilians found shot to death outside their vehicle in western Mosul. One Iraqi civilian killed in roadside bomb explosion directed at an Iraqi army patrol in eastern Mosul. One Iraqi civilian killed in insurgent attack near Tal Afar.

Bring ‘em on: Japanese national apparently kidnapped by militant group in western Iraq and is reported to be seriously injured. Japanese foreign ministry states it has received reports that the individual was traveling in a vehicle with more than ten other people, some of whom reportedly died in the ambush.

Bring ‘em on: Deadline set by militants for the execution of an Australian hostage has passed with no word of his fate.

Bring ‘em on: At least four car bombs exploded in Baghdad on Monday. Some of the casualties listed here may overlap with those reported in yesterday’s post: Two Iraqi policemen and one civilian killed, six policemen and three civilians wounded in suicide attack at a checkpoint in southern Baghdad. Five Iraqis wounded in suicide attack at a checkpoint in eastern Baghdad. One policeman and one civilian killed, one policeman seriously injured in explosion of a booby-trapped car in south Baghdad. In addition, the bodies of a senior Iraqi police official and five members of his family were found in Markab al-Tair. Also, a four kilogram bomb was found and dismantled 150 meters from the residence of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in Najaf.

Bring ‘em on: Six Shiite men kidnapped and killed south of Baghdad while carrying the coffin of a relative to a funeral in Najaf. Their coffins were taken to an office of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr in Sadr City, where hundreds of angry residents chanted, ''Revenge, revenge!''

Bring ‘em on: Seven people killed and at least 16 wounded, including three US solders, in car bombing directed at a US convoy in al-Nasr Square. Three Iraqi policemen wounded in a second car bombing several miles to the south. Fighting continued to rage in the vicinity of Qaim with the US military claiming to have killed over 100 guerillas. At least three Marines have died in this assault, and a fourth Marine was reported killed Monday but it is unclear if this death was related to the offensive. Twenty US troops reported wounded thus far. Fighting reported in Obeidi, Rommana, Sabah, and Karbilah.

Bring ‘em on: At least nine people killed and 30 wounded in car bombing aimed at two US Humvees on Baghdad’s Sadoun Street.

Another record: Total U.S. troop casualties in the Iraq war passed 1,600 Sunday, according to a CNN count, when two soldiers were killed near Khaldiya and a third died in Samarra.

All three were killed by roadside bombs, the U.S. military said.

According to news reports compiled by Pat Kniesler of the Web site iCasualties.org, more than 2,000 Iraqi soldiers, police and guardsmen have been killed since U.S.-led troops began working with Iraqis to build a security force under the Coalition Provisional Authority in 2003.

The number of Iraqi civilians killed in the war remains unclear. Data compiled by the Web site iraqbodycount.org suggests that between 21,000 and 25,000 civilians have been confirmed killed.

Operation Matador: American troops have killed about 100 insurgents in the first 48 hours of a large-scale offensive against the hideouts of foreign militants and arms smuggling routes in a remote border area of western Iraq, the US army said yesterday.

The operation involved marines, sailors (!? just medics or what?) and soldiers backed by US air support. A US military spokesman told the Associated Press the operation began overnight on Saturday in the town of Qaim, near the border with Syria about 200 miles west of Baghdad. At least three marines had also been killed.

A correspondent for the Chicago Tribune, embedded with US forces in the area, reported that more than 1,000 US soldiers supported by jet fighters and helicopter gunships had swept through villages on the edge of the city of Obeidi, near the Syrian border, on Sunday.

The announcement of the offensive came as US forces and Iraqi authorities tried to wrest the propaganda initiative from insurgents who have unleashed a wave of attacks in Iraqi cities in an attempt to destabilise the government of Ibrahim al-Jaafari, which took office last month.

Not so easy: The Marines who swept into the Euphrates River town of Ubaydi confronted an enemy they had not expected to find — and one that attacked in surprising ways.

As they pushed from house to house in early fighting, trying to flush out the insurgents who had attacked their column with mortar fire, they ran into sandbagged emplacements behind garden walls. They found a house where insurgents were crouching in the basement, firing upwards through slits hacked at ankle height in the ground-floor walls, aiming at spots that the Marines’ body armor did not cover.

The shock was that the enemy was not supposed to be in this town at all. Instead, American intelligence indicated that the insurgency had massed on the other side of the river. Marine commanders expressed surprise Monday not only at the insurgents’ presence but also the extent of their preparations, as if they had expected the Marines to come.

Iraqi Politics

Still no government!: More than 300 people, including American forces, have been killed in a torrent of attacks since Iraq's Cabinet was sworn in April 28 with seven positions undecided.

Parliament approved all six of the nominees placed before it Sunday by Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari.

The position of human rights minister was rejected by its nominee, but once it is filled, only one vice premiership will remain open. Al-Jaafari said he hopes to name a woman to that job, filling out a Cabinet after more than three months of political wrangling since the country's landmark democratic elections.

Less than half of parliament — 112 of the 115 lawmakers present — approved al-Jaafari's nominations. The poor showing underscored the persistent ethnic and religious tensions that have hampered the new government.

No thanks: Iraq's parliament approved six new ministers on Sunday hoping to fill the political void that has stoked the insurgency, but one minister turned down the job, leaving the cabinet still incomplete three months after polls.

Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari had announced the cabinet was complete after months of bickering to agree the balance of power between competing sectarian and ethnic blocs, and vowed to crack down on an escalating insurgency.

But proposed human rights minister Hisham al-Shibli told Reuters he had been picked purely to placate Iraq's restive Sunni Arab minority, and said he was rejecting the post.

"This post was given to me without anyone consulting me. I was surprised when they nominated me. It was just because I am a Sunni," he said. "This is something I reject completely. I am a democratic figure ... and I am completely against sectarianism."

Hot footing it: Former Iraqi ministers are fleeing the country because of reports that the new administration may prevent them going abroad while accusations of corruption are being investigated.

The incoming government of Ibrahim al-Jaafari, who completed his cabinet yesterday, has pledged to fight pervasive corruption among officials. The outgoing administration of Iyad Allawi was regarded as highly corrupt by Iraqis.

Officials say that some former ministers have left Iraq in the past few days because they fear they will be detained if they try to leave later. "I have heard that [the government] are considering preventing any minister of the former government leaving the country," said Adnan Pachachi, a former foreign minister and veteran political leader. The new administration is able to do this under emergency legislation introduced by Mr Allawi.

Speaking of corrupt frauds: Ahmad Chalabi, Iraq's new deputy prime minister, claims he is to be exonerated for his conviction for a fraud which almost caused Jordan's banking system to collapse.

Mr Chalabi, 60, is said to be expecting a ruling from the Jordanian government that will quash his sentence of 22 years' hard labour, passed in absentia after the collapse of Petra Bank in 1989.

Such a ruling would restore the political reputation of Mr Chalabi, an exile from Saddam Hussein's regime who was instrumental in persuading Washington to topple Saddam and was appointed Iraq's interim oil minister last week.

His political stock in the United States plummeted after claims that he had supplied false intelligence about weapons of mass destruction. Mr Chalabi denied the claims.

Accusations of corruption, kidnapping and spying for Iran, which he has also denied, have hampered his efforts to build a domestic constituency. Last week, however, Condoleezza Rice, the US Secretary of State, rang Mr Chalabi to congratulate him on his appointment as deputy prime minister.

This could get ugly: Several members of a Sunni Arab political bloc that had participated in negotiations over a new Iraqi government were carted off during the ransacking of its headquarters early yesterday morning.

Neither Iraqi nor U.S. forces claimed responsibility for the raid, which enraged Sunni Arab politicians and threatened to further stymie the Iraqi government's efforts to reach out to the disaffected minority.

Members of the Iraqi National Dialogue Council spent yesterday investigating overnight raids of a member's home and the group's headquarters at a religious school in Baghdad. More than 20 members were missing after the raid, and the group's office was in shambles.

The Dialogue group was involved in negotiations with Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari to garner cabinet posts for Sunni Arabs. However, the council withdrew from talks after Jaafari's advisers rejected several of its candidates because of their alleged ties to Saddam Hussein's Baath Party.

So could this: The death of a Shiite Muslim student activist last week has convulsed Baghdad University with a chain of protests, threats and recriminations, shutting down classes for several days. Students have staged sometimes destructive demonstrations, demanding the expulsion of professors with ties to Iraq's former Baathist regime and calling some of them out by name. Fearing for his life, the dean of the college of pharmacy left the country and vowed not to return.

"Anyone who benefited from the Saddam regime is a criminal and deserves what they get," said Haidar Mahdi, a 21-year-old pharmacy student who described the unrest as a "student revolution against the Baath." "The college was like a room full of gas, and Masar's death was the spark that ignited it," he said. Classes at the university's Bab Muadham campus resumed Sunday for the first time in five days. But many professors have stayed away, fearing the wrath of the activist, Islamist student union, which some faculty members say is on a witch hunt.

So not funny you have to laugh: The CIA has so far refused to hand over control of Iraq’s intelligence service to the newly elected Iraqi government in a turf war that exposes serious doubts the Bush administration has over the ability of Iraqi leaders to fight the insurgency and worries about the new government’s close ties to Iran.

The director of Iraq’s secret police, a general who took part in a failed coup attempt against Saddam Hussein, was handpicked and funded by the US government, and he still reports directly to the CIA, Iraqi politicians and intelligence officials in Baghdad said last week. Immediately after the elections in January, several Iraqi officials said, U.S. forces stashed the sensitive national intelligence archives of the past year inside American headquarters in Baghdad in order to keep them off-limits to the new government.

Iraqi leaders complain that the arrangement violates their sovereignty, freezes them out of the war on insurgents and could lead to the formation of a rival, Iraqi-led spy agency. American officials counter that the new leaders’ connections to Iran have forced them to take measures to protect Iraq’s secrets from the neighboring Tehran regime.

Wow. You really need to go back and re-read those three paragraphs a couple times to get the full impact.

Remember the current party line - we never invaded Iraq because of weapons of mass destruction, no sir – we invaded to overthrow a dictator and establish democracy. And we did, right? All those people went out and defied the terrorists to vote and they elected a government (from slates of candidates that we approved) and now they have an elected government, right? That’s the current version of what we were supposed to have fought the war for, right?

And now we don’t trust that government to run its own intelligence functions because they might give secrets away to Iran.


And the Iraqis are threatening to start a rival intelligence organization. You couldn’t make this stuff up.

Words fail. The ineptitude is beyond description.

Irrelevant milestones: Don't ask America's top brass exactly how the Iraq war is going. They don't know. The various U.S. services have never managed to agree on a unified system for gauging successes and failures in the counterinsurgency campaign. Instead, everyone uses a different yardstick. Recently the National Intelligence Council, the information clearinghouse for America's spy services, produced a study of the problem. NEWSWEEK has learned that the document, which remains classified, urges that the present babel of war assessments be replaced with a coherent system, one that would help U.S. forces react faster and more effectively to shifting insurgent tactics and other challenges. The paper's overall tone is "not uplifting," according to a source familiar with its contents. In blunt terms, things are looking grim. How grim? It's anybody's guess.

Good luck finding someone in the administration to make that guess. America's Iraq policy is like a ghost ship these days. The administration has tried to lower its profile in Iraq, hoping to keep the new assembly from looking like a U.S. puppet. But concern is rising that America may have retreated too far. "State is in charge of the game now," says a senior military official, "but it's too much for them."

Nothing is going the way it was supposed to. Almost as soon as the formation of a new Iraqi government was announced on April 28, suicide bombings began again. By the end of last week, the death toll since then had passed 270. "The elections were held up as a milestone," says Tom Donnelly, a military expert at the think tank most closely aligned with the administration, the American Enterprise Institute. "And politically they were. But as regards the insurgency, they're evidently not particularly relevant at all." Nevertheless, other analysts argue that the surge of attacks reflects a growing sense of desperation among the insurgents.

Military News

Recall after the story comes out. Sweet.: The Marine Corps issued to nearly 10,000 troops body armor that military ballistic experts had urged the Marines to reject after tests revealed life-threatening flaws in the vests, an eight-month investigation by Marine Corps Times has found.

In all, the Marines bought about 19,000 Interceptor outer tactical vests from Pompano Beach, Fla.-based Point Blank Body Armor. According to a government memo, the vests failed tests because of "multiple complete penetrations" of 9mm pistol rounds and other ballistics or quality-assurance tests.

After being questioned about the safety flaws for this story, the Marines ordered the recall of 5,277 Interceptor vests on Wednesday. Many of the vests were issued to Marines in Iraq.

Maybe America’s youth aren’t as dumb as they look: The Army missed its goals for signing up recruits in April and expects to do so again in May, and the Marines also fell short, officials said today, as the Iraq war further strained the all-volunteer U.S. military.

The active-duty Army missed its April recruiting goal and was 15 percent behind its year-to-date target, officials said. An internal forecast indicated the active-duty Army and part-time Army Reserve and Army National Guard also will miss their May goals.

The active-duty Army, striving to attract 80,000 recruits in the 2005 fiscal year that ends Sept. 30, has now missed its recruiting targets for three straight months.

The Marines also missed their goal for signing up new recruits in April for the fourth straight month, said Marine Corps Recruiting Command spokesman Maj. David Griesmer. He said 2,711 recruits signed contracts in April to begin serving within a year, but the Marines now trailed their year-to-date goal by 2 percent.

Good comment on this article here.

Whew! That’s a relief! Now we can get back to American Idol: The United States said in a report on Friday it was abiding by global anti-torture rules and any abuses of detainees in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars were not systemic but critics charged the report was a whitewash.

"The United States is well aware of allegations that detainees held in U.S. custody pursuant to the global war on terrorism have been subject to torture or other mistreatment," said the 95-page report by the State Department, submitted to the U.N. Committee Against Torture, which is based in Geneva.

"When allegations of torture or other unlawful treatment arise, they are investigated, and if substantiated, prosecuted," it said.

Jumana Musa, an advocacy director for the human rights group Amnesty International, said the report "denied or minimalized allegations against the United States."

"We've seen examples of short punishments or administrative punishment for what amount to serious war crimes," she said.

"This is an exculpatory document that hardly represents coming clean," said John Sifton, a military affairs and counter-intelligence researcher at Human Rights Watch.

Winners and Losers

Some are getting hurt by this whole endless war bit: The US is losing billions of dollars as international tourists are deterred from visiting the US because of a tarnished image overseas and more bureaucratic visa policies, travel industry leaders have warned.

“It's an economic imperative to address these problems,” said Roger Dow, chief executive of the Travel Industry Association of America, tourism's main trade body, which concluded its annual convention this weekend in New York.

Mr Dow stressed that tourism contributed to a positive perception of the US, which spread across to business. “If we don't address these issues in tourism, the long-term impact for American brands Coca-Cola, General Motors, McDonald's could be very damaging,” he said.

Others are doing ok: On the second anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, Bechtel, the gargantuan global construction firm based in San Francisco, issued its revenue numbers for 2005. While the situation continued to deteriorate for the US military forces in Iraq, Bechtel reported more fragrant news.

For the year 2004, Bechtel brought in more than $17.4 billion, a record haul for the company. That makes two record years in a row. Last year Bechtel earned more than $17 billion for the first time. Both peaks were all the more impressive given the senescent condition of the economy.

Much of that robust income stream is coming from its operations in Iraq, where Bechtel is the king of contractors. A few days after the war began, the US Agency for International Development handed Bechtel a $680 million contract for the reconstruction of Iraq infrastructure, a by-invitation-only deal awarded in a secret process. That number has been jacked up twice and now totals more than $1.8 billion and may eventually reach as much as $50 billion.

Really ok: As Americans struggle at the pump, oil companies are raking in record profits and giving their executives fat raises. According to the Wall Street Journal, Exxon Mobil and Royal Dutch/Shell Group "both reported huge increases in first-quarter income, benefiting from the industry wide bonanza also swelling the coffers of their peers: high prices for the oil they pump and high margins for refining it." Of course, those profits do have their drawbacks: Exxon's "soon-to-retire CEO suddenly has a new anxiety: how to spend the windfall wrought by $55-a-barrel oil," Fortune Magazine reports. "If oil simply stays where it is now, Exxon's cash could approach $40 billion in 12 months. By then [Exxon's CEO] is expected to have handed off the top job – and the headache of what to do with all that cash." And the recent Wall Street Journal compensation survey found that oil and gas executives' total direct compensation (2004) averaged about $16.5 million (median). The median percent change from 2003 to 2004 was 109.1 percent, by far the highest of the industries profiled.

Iraq’s Neighbors

Doomsday plan: Saudi Arabia, bracing for the possibility of an attack either by an outside power or restive Shiite residents, implemented an intricate doomsday plan in the 1980s giving officials the power to blow up their own oil wells, according to a new book by journalist Gerald Posner. In the event of an attack, says Posner, the Saudis would trigger a series of "dirty bomb" explosions designed to destroy use of the kingdom's oil supplies for decades. Posner's account, related in his new book, Secrets of the Kingdom (Random House), which is due out on May 17, is based on both Israeli and American intelligence.

The doomsday scenario, dubbed by the National Security Agency, Petroleum Scorched Earth (PSE), would give the Saudis the ability to fend off attacks by threatening to blow up the prized oil facilities and oil supplies which the attackers presumably would want to get their hands on. In the event an attack was carried out, the Saudis would be able to guarantee that little of value fell into the hands of their enemies. The Saudis reportedly were worried about attacks from both Iran, Iraq and the United States as well as internal attacks staged by the oppressed Shiite minority.

Yet another critical victory. Yay team.: 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-Libbi’s 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 FBI’s most wanted list, nor on that of the State Department “rewards for justice” programme.

I’ll Bet The Saudis Loved It Too

How stupid do you have to be?: Pakistani officials say they are "deeply dismayed" over reports that the Koran was desecrated at the US detention facility in Guantanamo Bay.

The latest edition of the American Newsweek magazine said such tactics were used to rattle suspects.

It says that US personnel on one occasion flushed a copy of Islam's most holy book "down the toilet".

Insulting the Koran and Islam's Prophet Mohammed is regarded as blasphemy and punishable by death in Pakistan.

Maybe it was General Boykin’s idea. His god is bigger: Thousands of Afghans took to the streets Tuesday, May 10, to protest against US interrogators in the notorious Guantanamo Bay, who reportedly had desecrated the Noble Qur'an.

US magazine Newsweek said in a recent edition that US investigators probing claims of abuses against detainees in the US military prison in Cuba had discovered that interrogators “had placed copies of the Noble Qur’an on toilets, and in at least one case flushed a Noble Book down the toilet”.

Holding up an effigy of US President George W. Bush and shouting “Death to Bush”, the protestors called for bringing to justice the perpetrators of such a grisly act, Reuters reported Tuesday.

“Americans should apologize for this,” one student at the protest in Jalalabad city, about 130 km east of the Afghan capital, Kabul, told Reuters.

“Whoever has done this should be brought to justice and the Afghan government should condemn it.”


Untidy: The Blogs on Rumsfeld Selected and with an introductory essay by Tom Sumner

This collection of critical commentary examines Rumsfeld’s oversight of the U.S. military, dissects his speech patterns, look at the effects of privatizing the military, examines the ongoing prisoner abuse/torture scandal, and exposes the effects of Rumsfeld’s policies.

Taken as a whole, these blog posts tell a lively and informative story of one of the most powerful men in the country.

This can’t be a perfect collection because our own Yankeedoodle is conspicuous by his absence on the blogroll on the front cover – still, it looks like good stuff and it’s great to see our fellow bloggers getting more of the attention they deserve. Let’s hope this is the first of many such collections.


Editorial: In March, the Pentagon conceded that it was investigating 25 other inmate deaths it has classified as homicides in American custody in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2002. If that many inmates have been killed in prisons and detention centers under American supervision in the two countries, it is unlikely that the beatings, the abuses, the tortures that lead to such homicides would be limited to a few bad apples.

Yet that's the upshot of 11 investigations and reports of what went wrong. Some of the reports judged the Pentagon severely and called for corrective action and punishments. But it was up to the Army to act, because President Bush refused to give anyone else authority to do more than advise.

So the Army judged (and protected) its own. The Army has cleared four of the top five officers overseeing prisons in Iraq. It isn't clear whether it has investigated officers supervising prisons in Afghanistan (with at least two reported inmate deaths) or Guantanamo Bay. Of 353 cases of abuse the Army investigated (the number alone belies any suggestion of a limited problem), 225 are closed. Of 124 soldiers who faced disciplinary action, virtually all were the small fry of enlisted personnel. While 17 have been thrown out of the Army, seven low-ranked soldiers have faced punishment that range anywhere from forfeiting half a month's pay to -- in one case -- 10 years in prison. One general, Janis Karpinski, was demoted and given a written reprimand. She was in charge of Abu Ghraib prison.

That's it. That's where U.S. accountability ends. Condoleezza Rice, Powell's successor at the State Department, told Europeans during her visit a few weeks ago that "bad things happened at Abu Ghraib that, as the president said, make us sick to our stomach. But the real test of a democratic country is how one deals with those." The sickening test result is the scandal has been lumped on the back of just a few lowly soldiers.

Interview: The voices of veterans who have served in Iraq is among the most important in convincing the public and government officials that the war in Iraq is wrong and the occupation must be ended. The interview below is with Patrick Resta of Iraq Veterans against the War. Patrick, who served as a combat medic in Iraq, is 26 years old and been married for five years. He grew up in central New Jersey and now lives in Philadelphia. He is a full time nursing student at the Community College of Philadelphia. His aunt and uncle were killed in the World Trade Center on September 11th and about three weeks later he was called to active duty as part of homeland security. He served for one year at Ft. Jackson, SC. Then when he began to get his life back to normal and less than one year after leaving Ft. Jackson he found out that he was being deployed again, this time to Iraq.

Zeese: What did you see in Iraq that convinced you that the U.S. should leave?

Resta: Pretty much everything I saw in Iraq convinced that US forces needed to leave. The in your face hypocrisy of this occupation was the most disturbing thing for me. Being told I was risking my life to help the Iraqi people and then getting over there and being told the Pentagon had set policy so no Iraqi could be treated unless they were about to die. The hypocrisy of the occupation was evident when I was told we were going to help rebuild Iraq and then watched as the only things being rebuilt were Saddam's military bases to prepare for a permanent US military presence. Every reason this administration gave to justify our presence in Iraq was the exact opposite of what was going on. While in the towns I would talk to Iraqis hoping to hear something that would make the sacrifices of my fellow soldiers worth it. What I found is that we are neither wanted nor welcome. The Iraqi people don't trust us and they don't want us there. Poll after poll has made that clear.

Comment: Americans seem incapable of grasping our enemies' concept of time. We are an impatient people; they are not. We want results fast; they please Allah by simply carrying on the struggle, leaving results in his hands. To Americans, "oldies" are ten years old; Osama bin Laden muses about the loss of Spain in the 15th century.

In his new book, The Fourth Power, which argues that America today has no grand strategy and needs one, former Senator Gary Hart hits this nail on the head:

"The war in Iraq shortly led to guerilla operations against U.S. and UN presences but did not immediately stimulate retaliation against the U.S. homeland. It is necessary to recall, however, that al Qaeda documents captured in Afghanistan substantiate the connection between the stationing of American troops in Saudi Arabia following Gulf War I in 1991 and the wave of terrorist attacks that began with the first attack on the World Trade Center two years later. It will take some time before we know whether initiating a war against a major Arab state makes us safer or more in danger, more secure or less. Terrorists have proved to be patient."

Patient indeed, as you can be when you have, literally, all the time in the world. It could be years before a suitcase nuke goes off in an American city. It may be several decades before America gets hits with a genetically engineered plague that kills millions or tens of millions of Americans. But so long as we continue pursuing an offensive grand strategy, the goal of which is world domination, it is only a question of when, not whether, such events will happen. The paradise of fools turns into the purgatory of fools' successors.

Home from Iraq: How many other American journalists, perhaps not as secure in their position as I, have thought to do a story and decided that it's too close to the bone, too questioning of the American government or its actions? How many times was the risk that our own government might come in and rifle through our apartment, our homes or take us away for questioning in front of our children a factor in our decision not to do a story? How many times did we as journalists decide not to do a story because we thought it might get us into trouble? Or, as likely, how often did the editor above us kill the story for the same reasons? Lots of column inches have been spent in the discussion of how our rights as Americans are being surreptitiously confiscated, but what about our complicity, as journalists, in that? It seems to me that the assault on free speech, while the fear and intimidation is in the air, comes as much from us -- as individuals and networks of journalists who censor ourselves -- as it does from any other source.

We need to wake up as individuals and as a community of journalists and start asking the hard and scary questions. Questions we may not really want to know the answers to about ourselves, about our government, about what is being done in our name, and hold the responsible individuals accountable through due process in our legal or electoral system.

Beautiful, important column. Strongly recommended.

Comment: When Bob Woodward asked President Bush if he had consulted with his father about the decision to go to war in Iraq, the president famously replied, "There is a higher father that I appeal to."

It might have been better if Mr. Bush had stayed in closer touch with his earthly father. From the very beginning the war in Iraq has been an exercise in extreme madness, an absurd venture that would have been rich in comic possibilities except for the fact that many thousands of men, women and children have died, and tens of thousands have been crippled, burned or otherwise maimed.

The United States is now stuck with a war it should never have started. The violence continues to rage out of control. The latest fantasy out of Washington is that somehow, miraculously, Iraqi troops will be able to take over and win the war that we couldn't.

If President Bush had consulted with his father before launching this clownish, disastrous war, he might have gotten some advice that would have pointed him in a different direction and spared his country - and the families of the many thousands dead - a lot of grief.

Casualty Reports

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

Local story: Sylvania, OH, soldier killed in Iraq roadside bombing.

Local story: Greenville, PA, Marine killed in Haditha.

Local story: Phoenix, AZ, area Marine killed in Haditha.

Local story: West Hartford, CN, Marine killed near Qaim. Parents receive news on Mother’s Day.

Local story: Murray, UT, contractor killed in Baghdad.


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