Wednesday, May 11, 2005

War News for Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Bring ‘em on: Newly elected governor of Al-Anbar province kidnapped by gunmen in Qaim. His son was with him at the time of the kidnapping but it is unclear whether he was kidnapped too.

Bring ‘em on: 30 people killed and 35 injured, about 15 critically, in suicide bombing outside a police and army recruitment center in Hawija. Two civilians wounded in car bomb attack in the New Baghdad area of the capital.

Bring ‘em on: 31 people killed and at least 66 injured in car bombing of a marketplace in Tikrit. Nine people wounded in car bomb attack in Baghdad’s al-Mansour neighborhood.

Bring ‘em on: Three US Marines killed in Al-Anbar province, two as a result of indirect fire in Karmah and one in an IED explosion in Nasser Wa Sallam.

Bring ‘em on: One woman civilian killed and three policemen wounded in suicide car bomb attack on a police patrol in the Yarmouk area of west Baghdad.

Bring ‘em on: Three people killed and 10 injured in suicide car bombing of a police station in the Dora neighborhood of Baghdad. Six people injured in two other bombings, one of them targeting an American convoy in the Jamiaa neighborhood. Nine people killed and scores injured in Tuesday suicide bombings targeting an American convoy and a river police station in Baghdad.

Reuters keeps score: Suicide bombs killed at least 59 people in Iraq on Wednesday, the latest in a blitz of attacks since the formation of a new government on April 28.

Nearly 400 people have died in attacks in the last two weeks.

Here is a short chronology of some of the deadliest bomb attacks since the new cabinet was announced:

May 1 - A bombing hits a funeral for a Kurdish official in Tal Afar, near Mosul in northern Iraq, killing at least 30 people.

May 4 - Suicide bomber kills up to 60 people at Kurdistan Democratic Party office in the northern Iraqi city of Arbil. The militant Army of Ansar al-Sunna claimed responsibility.

May 6 - A suicide car bomb at a vegetable market in Suwayra, south of Baghdad, kills 31 people. A little known Muslim group, Jamaat Jund al-Sahaba (Soldiers of the Prophet's Companions), claimed responsibility.

May 7 - Two suicide car bombs explode beside a foreign civilian security convoy in Baghdad, killing 22 people including two Americans. Al Qaeda's wing in Iraq claimed responsibility.

May 11 - Four suicide bombs kill at least 59 people. A car bomber in the northern town of Tikrit killed at least 28 people among a crowd of mainly Shi'ite migrant workers. In Hawija, southwest of Kirkuk, a suicide bomber killed at least 25 people at an army recruitment centre. Another car bomber killed at least three civilians near a police station in the southern Baghdad suburb of Dora. A suicide car bomb attack on a police patrol in the Mansour district of Baghdad killed two policemen and a civilian.

Stumped: The paradox that stumped the U.S. occupation forces two years ago, shortly after the fall of Baghdad, continues to stump them today. On the one hand, their efforts to provide security won't succeed until they restore essential services. On the other hand, they can't restore essential services until the country's key assets—especially its roads, oil pipelines, and electrical generators—are secure.

Oil revenue was supposed to galvanize Iraq's postwar economy. Yet crude oil production has flattened out at around 2 million barrels a day, well below its prewar level of 2.5 million. Electrical power production hovers around 80,000 kilowatt hours—considerably short of the 100,000 KWH output before the war and far below last summer's declared goal of 120,000. Baghdad homes have electricity for nine to 11 hours a day; in other cities, the figure drops to eight or nine hours.

Iraq's reconstruction was going to be funded by a massive infusion of U.S. aid, $18.4 billion worth. Yet that aid—allocated a year and a half ago—is being directed and disbursed very slowly. Just $12.8 billion (roughly two-thirds) has been appropriated—and a mere $4.8 billion (less than one-quarter) has been spent.

Yet progress in security is moving slowly, too. Of the $5 billion in U.S. aid allocated to security and law enforcement, $2 billion (or 40 percent) has been spent. The inspector general's report cites March testimony by Joseph A. Christoff, director of the Government Accountability Project's international affairs and trade division: "As of mid-December 2004," Christoff told a House government reform subcommittee, "paramilitary training for a high-threat hostile environment was not part of the curriculum for new recruits" to the Iraqi security forces. By early 2005, he continued, multinational training commanders had only "begun work on a system to assess Iraqi capabilities." Moreover, "It is unclear at this time whether the system under development will provide adequate measures for determining the capability of Iraqi police."

Symptomatic: The military offensive now under way in northwestern Iraq, coming on the heels of the November attack on Fallujah, is symptomatic of the limitations of the size of the American force assigned to the region, U.S. military officers said Tuesday.

"The enemy is trying very hard to establish a sanctuary somewhere, and the small force structure out west makes it inviting for him," said a commander with significant time spent in Anbar province. "We had been watching that linkage since pre-Fallujah," he told United Press International, a reference to the November battle that ousted insurgents from that stronghold.

The problem, according to other military commanders, is that with such a large area and relatively few troops, there are many pockets where the U.S. security presence is not felt at all.

That was exacerbated during the November Fallujah fight as some 7,000 U.S. forces were pulled from western outposts to carry out the assault. When they leave, even for a short time, it allows insurgents to gain a toehold.

This gives insurgent forces temporary sanctuaries from which they can make good on threats against those who cooperate with American forces, a second senior official said.

The problem, according to other senior officials, is that the insurgency is a mobile one, and without more troops the hunt for them has evolved into an endless cat-and-mouse game. One commander in Iraq last year compared the province to a half-filled water balloon: If you step on one end, the water just squeezes out to the other.

A month before the war in 2003, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric Shinseki told Congress he believed the occupying force could require "several hundred thousand" troops, a figure Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz later called "wildly off the mark."

Last week, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told the Senate Appropriations Committee he considered the matter closed.

"I must say I am tired of the Shinseki argument being bandied about day after day in the press," Rumsfeld said.

Syrian border: Capitalizing on a lull in fighting Tuesday, hundreds of U.S. Marines pushed through a lawless region on the Syrian frontier after intense battles along the Euphrates River with well-armed militants fighting from basements, rooftops and sandbag bunkers.

After intense fighting with militants entrenched on the south bank of the Euphrates River early in the operation, Marines saw only light resistance Tuesday and advanced through sparsely populated settlements along a 12-mile stretch to the border with Syria, according to a Chicago Tribune reporter embedded with the assault, James Janega.

Residents reached by telephone in the area reported some fighting Tuesday in Obeidi and the two nearby towns of Rommana and Karabilah. They said frightened residents were taking advantage of the relative lull to flee the Qaim area.

Foreign fighters (I guess they’re talking about the Arab ones): U.S. Marines rolling though towns on the upper Euphrates River said yesterday that they found dead insurgent fighters in bulletproof armor and wearing foreign clothes. In the towns, they reported finding caches of weapons and suicide-bomb vests, as well as car bombs rigged to explode.

Commanders said they believe the finds are strong indications that foreign fighters make up part of the resistance facing them as they conduct an offensive aimed at rooting out insurgents near the Syrian border.

Iraqi Politics

South American visit: Iraqi President Jalal Talabani appealed to South American nations to support his country's efforts to defeat its bloody insurgency, saying terrorists are indiscriminately killing innocents and hampering reconstruction efforts.

"Terrorism is not limited to Iraq, it is a global curse," Talabani said, addressing Arab and South American heads of state and ministers gathered for the first summit of South American and Arab countries in the Brazilian capital.

Talabani, on his first foreign trip since being elected president of the interim government, said Iraq is on course with its strategy to defeat militants in spite of daily attacks around the country that have limited reconstruction efforts after the U.S.-war that toppled former President Saddam Hussein.

"We hope for your help in this initiative to combat the terrorism that has been carried out against the Iraqi people, against the cause of freedom and democracy," he said, calling on 12 South American nations gathered at the summit alongside 22 Arab and North African nations to step forward with investments and to bolster business contacts.

Strongman: The party of outgoing prime minister Ayad Allawi may have been locked out of power, but many members of the country’s police and National Guard remain fiercely loyal to him. While the Iraqi List head will not be part of the new leadership that was recently sworn into office, Muhsin Kadhim of the Iraqi National Guard, ING, still believes that Allawi is the only person who can solve Iraq’s security problems – and told IWPR that he will remain loyal to him. “He is strong and he worked in the interests of the ING,” said Kadhim. “He is the only person who can establish a strong army that can control the country’s security situation.”

Haider al-Moosawi, spokesman for Iraqi National Congress leader Ahmad Chalabi, also a member of the United Iraqi Alliance, said the government was not in a position to measure the extent of the security forces’ loyalty to Allawi. He said some police and guardsmen are concerned that they might lose their jobs under the new government. “The new security programme for the incoming government involves reorganisation and the elimination of corrupt people, terrorists or those related to the former Saddam regime,” he said. “But we will deal with each case on its own.”

More strains: Meanwhile, a Sunni political group said several of its members were still being held after two joint raids by American and Iraqi troops Sunday night in Baghdad. Mohammed Dayini of the National Dialogue Council, which favors participation in the government, said 17 people had been detained in a raid on council offices but were released. In a simultaneous raid a few miles away, he said, soldiers detained Hassan Zaidau Lihabi, a member of the council; his son; and 13 of his guards. Eight of the guards were released, but the others remained in custody, Dayini said. A U.S. Embassy spokesman denied that Americans were involved.

Down The Rathole

$300 billion pissed away: Congress on Tuesday approved an additional $82 billion for Iraq and Afghanistan and combating terrorism worldwide, boosting the cost of the global effort since 2001 to more than $300 billion. The Senate approved the measure by a 100-0 vote. The House easily approved the measure last week. It now goes to President Bush for his signature.

The fifth such emergency spending package Congress has taken up since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the bill includes sweeping immigration changes, a nearly tenfold increase in the one-time payment for families of troops killed in combat and money to build a sprawling U.S. Embassy in Iraq. Most of the money — $75.9 billion — is slated for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, while $4.2 billion goes to foreign aid and other international relations programs.

Japanese Troops

Pushing for a more aggressive Japan: After kissing their babies and hugging their wives, 200 Japanese soldiers in combat fatigues lined up at a base in central Japan last weekend under the "Rising Sun" flag for what has become a familiar ritual — the send-off for troops on their way to Iraq.

But this batch of soldiers may be among the last.

Nearly 18 months into its most ambitious overseas military operation since World War II, Japan is now considering whether to join a growing list of countries pulling out or scaling back their operations in Iraq in the coming months.

A pullout by Japan would be a blow for President Bush, who is struggling to keep such coalition supporters as Italy and Poland on board. Like many coalition partners, however, the troops' fate has presented Tokyo with a difficult dilemma.

Despite the strong backing of the deployment by popular Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, public opinion remains deeply divided over whether the troops should have gone at all. Washington, meanwhile, is pushing hard for Japan's tightly restrained military to assume a more aggressive role overseas, meaning the Iraq mission's legacy will likely loom large for years to come.

American Moral Leadership

A lightstick for this man, hold the KY: Despite reports of widespread abuse of prisoners in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales on Friday said much of the abuse falls short of the legal definition of torture.

Gonzales, who grew up in Houston, said many of the widely publicized incidents of abuse by the military and civilian contractors cannot be prosecuted as torture.

"Torture, as a matter of prosecution, is defined by Congress as the intentional infliction of severe physical and mental pain or suffering," Gonzales said in an interview at the offices of Houston U.S. Attorney Michael Shelby.

Gonzales, who took office Feb. 3, was criticized by Democrats during his confirmation hearing for approving a memo in August 2002 while he was White House counsel saying that laws prohibiting torture do "not apply to the president's detention and interrogation of enemy combatants."

The memo also said that to qualify as torture, the pain must include "injury such as death, organ failure, or serious impairment of body functions."

A January 2002 memo by Gonzales said the war against terrorism "renders obsolete" the Geneva Convention treatment of prisoners of war.


Opinion: Gen. Gary Jones of the Army Special Operations Command recently released a report on Tillman's death and the Army's follow-up investigation. He said that there was no official desire to hide the truth. But why would the Pentagon persist in lying about the death of a well- known and highly admired soldier, sticking to that lie for a full year?

Is it for the same reason that they have singled out enlisted men and women for punishment as scapegoats for their own failures in preparing for and executing much of the aftermath of the Iraq War? Why would they focus on a National Guard brigadier general as the cause of the torture at Abu Ghraib if not to protect her superiors from potentially devastating disclosures? Why would they lie about the death of a celebrity soldier except to limit criticism of the war that cost his life?

The Bush administration knows the answers to these questions just as it believes that you and I will forget its lies. The tragedy is that Bush and company think they can get away with it. Do you think they should?

Opinion: We haven't seen too many pictures of our valiant military men and women returning in flag-draped coffins from Iraq. For the past year, the Bush administration maintained that releasing such photographs would be undignified and that the blackout was out of respect for the privacy of soldiers' families.

Then last month the Defense Department released hundreds of images of caskets, apparently in response to a legal challenge by Ralph Begleiter, a University of Delaware professor who once reported for CNN. A nation's war dead, he rightly argued, is of critical public concern. The human cost of any war must always be factored into the policy-making equation.

In a democratic republic that puts freedom of the press at the top of its list of constitutional demands, there's no way of getting around the reality of suicide bombers and escalating U.S. casualties (1,592 Americans dead as of last week) - or the mounting death toll for Iraqi civilians.

On the 30th anniversary of the end of another U.S. war that killed more than 58,000 Americans, the lessons of Vietnam weigh heavily on this nation's national psyche. We want democracy to triumph in Iraq and in Afghanistan, but some Americans also seem to fear the truth and prefer to sugarcoat the reality of war.

Casualty Reports

Local story: Roseburg, OR, soldier killed by roadside bomb in Iraq.

Local story: St. Mary Parish, LA, soldier killed by roadside bomb near Mosul.

Local story: Queens, NY, Marine killed in Al-Anbar province.


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