Tuesday, May 17, 2005

War News for Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Bring ‘em on: The bodies of at least 21 Iraqi males, blindfolded and with bound hands, have been found in Al-Sha’ab and Ur neighborhoods of Baghdad and in the town of Al-Mada’in. Two survivors were found and reported that they had been arrested and shot by men dressed in Iraqi army uniforms. (These bodies are in addition to the 34 reported in yesterday’s post.) Two Iraqi security contractors killed, two Iraqi and one American contractors wounded in eastern Baghdad roadside bombing. Five Iraqi soldiers killed, seven soldiers and three civilians wounded in bombing in Baquba. One Iraqi security guard killed and two female students wounded in mortar attack at Baghdad University School of Engineering. One Iraqi civilian killed and one wounded in drive-by shooting in Mosul. One of Ayatollah Sistani’s aides and the aide’s nephew killed in Baghdad drive-by shooting.

Bring ‘em on: Three clerics, two Shiite and one Sunni, assassinated in Baghdad in separate incidents. An engineer working for the Commission on Public Integrity, which probes corruption in Iraq, assassinated in Baghdad. Bodies of three Iraqi soldiers, one beheaded, found near Qaim. One US soldier killed, one wounded, in roadside bombing just south of Tikrit. Four Iraqi soldiers killed and three wounded in fighting outside a power plant in Mussayib.

Bring ‘em on: US troops, backed by attack helicopters, battled insurgents in Mosul. Heavy exchanges of gunfire were reported.

Lines in the sand: The morning news from Iraq today brought fresh chronicles of slaughter. Yes, even more than usual. American troops are waging an offensive they call Operation Matador in a remote stretch of desert near the Syrian border, while suicide bombs are going off in Iraq’s towns and cities, including the capital. Who’s winning? Who’s losing? Who knows?

The military and political future of Iraq remains so uncertain that the Pentagon in recent months has gone back to the Vietnam-era practice of citing bodycounts as measures of success. We’re told, for instance, that “as many as 100” insurgent fighters have been killed by the Matador forces. But of course that’s just a guesstimate, while the toll on the Americans and their Iraqi allies is all too concrete. Today alone, the insurgents managed to kill more than 60 would-be Iraqi military recruits and civilian bystanders in urban Iraq. The Americans are drawing lines in the sand, it would seem, while Tikrit and Baghdad are bathed in blood. Meanwhile, the total number of American dead in this war is now more than 1,600. And the Iraqi civilians killed by U.S. troops? Well, we’ll get back to that.

Iraqi sentiment: The occupation of Iraq is today less about rolling back Iraqi military power, dislodging a tyrant, or building a stable democracy than it is about fighting an insurgency -- an insurgency that is now driven substantially by the occupation, its practices, and policies. We can take a first step toward understanding the insurgency by locating it within the broader field of popular Iraqi opposition to the occupation, which is widespread. Iraqi public opinion has been polled repeatedly since the beginning of the occupation by a variety of firms. Their findings leave no doubt about the main contours of Iraqi sentiment regarding the occupation:

- On balance, Iraqis oppose the US presence in Iraq, and those who strongly oppose it greatly outnumber those who strongly support it.

- US troops in Iraq are viewed broadly as an occupying force, not peacekeepers or liberators.

- On balance, Iraqis do not trust US troops, think they have behaved badly, and -- one way or another -- hold them responsible for much of the violence in the nation.

- There is significant popular support for attacks on US forces, and this support probably grew larger during the course of 2004, at least among Sunni Arabs.

- A majority of Iraqis want coalition forces to leave within a year or less. Formation of a permanent government early in 2006 is the "tipping point" after which a very large majority of Iraqis may desire immediate withdrawal.

Although disconcerting, these results provide the most reliable view of Iraqi attitudes available. The fact that they have played little role in the public discourse on the Iraqi mission imperils US policy and contributes to the present impasse.

Warnings and laughter: British defence chiefs have warned United States military commanders in Iraq to change their rules for opening fire or face becoming bogged down in a terrorist war for a decade or more.

The Telegraph has learnt that the warning was issued last month in response to a series of incidents that led to the deaths of Iraqi civilians, mainly at checkpoints, after soldiers opened fire in the mistaken belief that they were being attacked by suicide bombers.

According to senior British officers, US military operations are typified by "force protection" - the protection of troops at all costs - that allows American troops to open fire, using whatever means available, if they believe that their lives are under threat.

By contrast, the British military has a graduated response to a threat and its rules of engagement are based on the principle of minimum force. Troops also have to justify their actions in post-operation reports that are reviewed by the Royal Military Police, and any discrepancy can lead to charges including murder.

The officer said: "US troops have the attitude of shoot first and ask questions later. They simply won't take any risk.

"I explained that their tactics were alienating the civil population and could lengthen the insurgency by a decade. Unfortunately, when we explained our rules of engagement which are based around the principle of minimum force, the US troops just laughed."

Essential services not impeded: Marines said Saturday they "successfully completed Operation Matador," a weeklong hunt for insurgents along the Syrian border that left nine Marines and more than 125 insurgents dead.

The offensive was launched May 7 to counter the escalation in insurgent attacks throughout Iraq. The rise in violence coincided with the period in which the Shiite and Kurdish-dominated transitional government took power. The insurgency is regarded as largely comprised of Sunni Arabs as well as foreigners.

The Marines complimented the hospitality of residents and said essential services and health care were not "impeded" during the operation.

Martial law: Iraq's transitional prime minister has extended the country's state of emergency for another 30 days.

Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari's decree comes amid a deadly insurgent onslaught that started when the new Shiite- and Kurdish-dominated Iraqi government came to power a couple of weeks ago.

The decree essentially puts the country, except for the Kurdish north, under martial law and allows the prime minister to restrict freedom of movement and impose curfews.

The Downing Street Memo

Ignored: For more than 10 days, the U.S. media nearly ignored it, but finally the so-called “Downing Street Memo” is finally gaining traction in the U.S. press. The Los Angeles Times featured a lengthy report on Thursday, and Walter Pincus of The Washington Post followed on Friday. The memo, obtained by the The Sunday Times in London and published on May 1, became a major issue in the closing days of the British elections but received little attention in the United States until a Knight Ridder report on May 6, which E&P carried. A Knight Ridder editor later told E&P that it received surprisingly little pickup. The New York Times has given it little notice. The Washington Post ignored the memo until Pincus’s article, which appeared Friday on page A18. It arrived five days after Post ombudsman Michael Getler revealed that readers had complained about the lack of coverage.

Excuse me, but WTF? A major paper refuses to cover a major story until its readers complain so much that it has to? Merciful heavens. Remember the NYT just a week or so ago did some articles on why the traditional media has no credibility any more? The one where they concluded they have to increase their religion coverage and spend more print on the red states? Hey guys – here’s a clue for you. Want people to take your news coverage seriously? Try covering the god damned news!

Denied: Claims in a recently uncovered British memo that intelligence was "being fixed" to support the Iraq war as early as mid-2002 are "flat out wrong," White House press secretary Scott McClellan said Monday.

McClellan insisted the process leading up to the decision to go to war was "very public" -- and that the decision to invade in March 2003 was taken only after Iraq refused to comply with its "international obligations."

However, McClellan also said he had not seen the "specific memo," only reports of what it contained.

A Billion Here, A Billion There…

More than the rest of the world together?: A Senate committee has approved a $441.6 billion defense bill for fiscal 2006 that envisions spending an additional $50 billion next year for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Congress had approved on Tuesday an additional $82 billion for war in Iraq and Afghanistan and to combat terror worldwide, boosting the cost of the global effort since 2001 to more than $300 billion.


Opinion: Ray McGovern, a 27-year CIA analyst who is now on the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, wrote a piece last week, arguing that the leaked memo offers solid "proof (that) Bush fixed the facts. As long as our evidence, however abundant and persuasive, remained circumstantial, it could not compel belief. It simply is much easier on the psyche to assent to the White House spin machine blaming the Iraq fiasco on bad intelligence than to entertain the notion that we were sold a bill of goods."

Now, given this latest WMD-hype revelation, coupled with former Bush supporters like Paul O'Neill, Richard Clarke and Scott Ritter trying to warn the American public that something smells fishy, I would say this is one "conspiracy theory" that merits an independent investigation.

And aren't Bush-backers the same ones always railing about "values" and The Ten Commandments? Interesting that the commandment "Thou shalt not bear false witness" doesn't seem to matter much to conservatives when it comes to Bush.

A War Crimes Special Counsel -- Why it is Important

by Congressman John Conyers Sat May 14th, 2005 at 20:15:26 PDT On May 5, 2004, shortly after the Abu Ghraib scandal broke, President Bush pledged a full investigation, stating "That's what we do in America. We fully investigate; we let everybody see the results of the investigation; and the people will be held to account."

One year later - and now that the election is over -- it appears that this statement was just one in a series of unmet Bush promises. There was never a full investigation - just a few sham hearings in the House and Senate and internal Administration inquiries that never went anywhere. The results were never made fully public. And the only ones held to account were low ranking soldiers, even though we all know that the lax controls and atmosphere of intolerance and abuse came from on high in the White House and the Defense Department.

As a result, as those of you who regularly read Raw Story, Buzzflash, Kos (via Apian), and my own blog know, on Friday, 50 House colleagues and I wrote to Attorney General Gonzales asking him to appoint a special counsel to investigate prisoner abuse and torture in Iraq, Guantanamo and Afghanistan. While there is no guarantee that Gonzales will respond, I believe that the sheer weight of having 51 duly elected Members of Congress pose the request makes it very difficult to simply ignore it. Moreover, merely by making the request, it is my hope that additional information can come forward that will help us pursue justice in this matter. For example, I learned of many of the Ohio voting irregularities after I asked GAO to investigate. I have obtained invaluable research and tips concering the now infamous "Downing Street Memo" based on my reading of the comments to these diaries and my own blog.

This is the only Administration since Watergate that has refused to initiate a single independent inquiry into its own misconduct. I asked for special counsels to investigate the Haliburton, Enron, and Valerie Plane matters to know avail. But now that we have allegations that go to the very core of our international credibility - including the recent charges concerning desecrating the Koran -- it is more important than ever that we have an independent investigation. After all, how can any country take our pleas for democracy and accountability seriously, when we won't even conduct a complete, independent, and credible investigation of credible allegations of war crimes by U.S. officials?

President Bush and Attorney General Gonzales, are you listening? Are you finally prepared to "investigate" to "let everybody see the results" and to hold "the people to ... account?"

Note to Readers: My sincere apologies for the lack of local casualty stories today. I simply ran out of time. I’ll try to do a thorough search tomorrow.


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