Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Note to Readers: In honor of our one millionth site visit here is a classic YD rant from two years ago. With the exception of one single sentence it could just as well have been written today. Yankee's Rant of the Day – July 29, 2003 We have lost this war. It doesn’t matter that the administration redefines success, or finds new factors to blame for their own failures. We have lost. We lost diplomatically before the first shot was fired. Where America once had friends and allies, we are now alone and isolated. We no longer lead the Free World; the Free World treats us as a pariah and we lead a motley assembly of hopeful opportunists and mercenaries. The opportunists will be disappointed and the mercenaries will disappoint us. We lost militarily. We overpowered a conventional army that wouldn’t fight but we created an insurgent army that will fight us where none existed before. We gave the world’s sympathy to people who want to kill us and destroy our nation. People once said Americans lost their innocence in Vietnam. In Iraq we have lost our honor. We justified an aggressive war on conquest based on falsehoods as flimsy as the Nazis justified the conquest of Poland on a fictional incident at Sender Gleiwitz. While the American media believed those lies, the rest of the world did not. It might be worth remembering that in 1939, only the Germans believed Goebbels. We have disgraced our profession of arms. We have a shoot-on-sight policy for our enemies. We kill bystanders, pay blood money and call it “cultural awareness.” We kidnap families as hostages, call them “detainees,” and believe that information extracted under such circumstances is “intelligence.” We have lowered the standards for actionable intelligence to the point where we feel justified to use lethal force in two simultaneous raids, hundreds of miles apart, to kill the same man. We have lost but we don’t know it yet. War News for Tuesday, June 07, 2005 Bring ‘em on: Two US Marines killed in separate roadside bombings near Fallujah. At least 18 people killed and 39 wounded in a coordinated string of four bomb attacks in and around Hawija. The body of a Sunni cleric who had been shot to death found under a bridge in Basra. He had been kidnapped last Sunday by armed men in police uniforms. Twenty-eight people injured in car bombing in Baghdad, no fatalities noted. Bring ‘em on: Six Iraqi soldiers and two civilians wounded in car bombing in Babil province. Four guards and six prisoners suffered ‘minor injuries’ in a disturbance late Sunday at the Abu Ghraib prison complex. Bring ‘em on: Five Iraqi civilians, including two children, killed in mortar attack in Mosul. Translator working with US forces killed by gunmen in Kirkuk. Two Iraqi soldiers killed and four injured in bombing near al-Mahaweel area south of Baghdad. Four Iraqi army soldiers injured in booby-trapped car explosion in Tikrit. Another major operation: U.S. and Iraqi troops on Tuesday launched another major military operation against insurgents in Iraq, a show of force in the northwestern city of Tal Afar -- not far from the huge, porous Syria border that has been navigated with impunity by anti-American foreign fighters. "There is a major military operation under way here in the city of Tal Afar in northwestern Iraq," said Senior Baghdad Correspondent Jane Arraf, who is embedded with U.S. troops. "Dozens of tanks, Bradley fighting vehicles and Apache helicopters have moved in to a neighborhood in the town which is thought to be a stronghold of insurgents." So far, 16 suspected insurgents have been detained, Arraf said. The U.S. military has poured in 4,000 troops into the Tal Afar area in recent weeks. In a report on CNN, Arraf described the start of the offensive as "the worst kind of urban warfare" and said the city resembled a "ghost town" because of populace fears of violence. Closing the door a day late: Iraqi security forces at a new base in the working-class neighborhood of Amil spent Monday belatedly constructing a barrier of bricks and concrete blocks hours after a suicide bomber drove a vehicle packed with explosives straight into the building where the men were housed, witnesses said. Once inside the former factory, the driver detonated his cargo, killing himself and ending a three-day lull in such attacks in the capital. The full extent of the casualties from the Monday morning attack was unclear. Al-Arabiya television reported that five people were killed, but the Associated Press quoted a police official saying three policemen and three bystanders were wounded. Police at the scene declined to comment. The Iraqi forces "only moved there three days ago, so they did not have any concrete barriers or obstacles or any kind of security or reinforcements for the building yet," said Ali Jabur, who works next door to the new base. "That is why this suicide bomber was able to drive directly from the main street to the building. They shot at him - I heard that they tried to stop him - but he did not stop and continued right inside." Bunker: American marines have discovered an elaborate series of underground bunkers used recently by insurgents in central Iraq, with heavy weapons, a kitchen and fresh food, furnished living quarters, showers and even a working air-conditioner, the military said Saturday. The bunkers were built into an old rock quarry north of the town of Karma, an insurgent stronghold in Anbar Province that lies near the city of Falluja. The bunker system is 558 feet by 902 feet, nearly equal to a quarter of the Empire State Building's office space, making it the largest underground insurgent hide-out to be discovered in at least the past year, if not during the entire war, said Capt. Jeffrey S. Pool, a spokesman for the Second Marine Division. No one was in the bunkers at the time of the raid, Captain Pool said. But the fresh food in the kitchen indicated that insurgents had been there recently. The underground lair had been in use for some time, he said, and was built from one subsection of the quarry. In one part of the hide-out, troops discovered machine guns, mortars, rockets, artillery rounds, black uniforms, ski masks, compasses, log books, a video camera, night-vision goggles and fully charged satellite phones, Captain Pool said. Good to see the new government has this whole justice concept down: Saddam Hussein could face up to 500 charges at a tribunal, but he will be tried on only 12 well documented counts because prosecuting him on all would be a "waste of time," the prime minister's spokesman said Sunday. Laith Kuba also said Saddam was likely to be tried within the next two months on a range of charges, including alleged crimes committed in Iraqi Kurdistan. "There should be no objection that a trial should take place within that time," Kuba said during a press conference. "It is the government's view that the trial of Saddam should take place as soon as possible." No date has been set for the trial of Saddam, who has been held in a U.S.-run detention facility in Baghdad since being captured in December 2003. "The number of charges on which he will be tried are 12 and the judges are confidant that he will be convicted of these charges," Kuba said. At least they got a speedy trial: The blacksmith, the builder and the laborer were sentenced to death just before noon. The murder victim's son cried out, "God is great! God is great!" Bowed and unshaven, the murderers were cuffed and quietly led away. Someone said they must be guilty. An innocent man would yell in protest until his voice disappeared. The trial had lasted two hours. It was the third time since the end of Saddam Hussein's regime that the death penalty had been handed down. Iraq is at war and justice is tenuous. The defendants at last week's trial never met the lawyer who argued their case. They weren't allowed to introduce medical or other evidence. There was no cross-examination of prosecution witnesses, because there were none. The little testimony given was mainly the denials of the accused. That freedom of the press stuff might need a little work as well: Iraqi journalists say they are being censored by the US-led Coalition forces and the Iraqi government because of the topics covered by them in newspapers and on television. The Iraqi Association of Journalists (IAJ) said they have been accused of collaborating with insurgents after trying to report on both sides of the ongoing conflict. Based on the IAJ information, eight journalists have been detained since March 2005 by US forces, accused of being a security risk to the Iraqi people and the military. Two of the journalists detained by US forces had written articles on the lives of insurgents, after having spent days shadowing them. "We were living without press freedom during Saddam Hussein's regime and today there is not much difference. Journalists are being held by US forces for doing their job when they write about opposing views," Kamal Aidan, a senior official from the IAJ, told IRIN in Baghdad. In addition, Aidan pointed out that 85 journalists and media staff have been killed in Iraq since March 2003. Of this number, some 62 were Iraqis. The total also included 14 deaths at the hands of US troops, which encouraged the IAJ, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and the US-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) to demand independent reports on the circumstances. A bit painful: Iraqis, who are already dealing with food shortages, daily power blackouts and a deadly insurgency, on Sunday received another dose of bad news: Their newly elected leaders may slash budgets and government jobs. As many as half of Iraq's 6.5 million-strong workforce is employed by the state, thanks in part to ousted President Saddam Hussein, who increased the public payroll to mask unemployment and shore up a faltering economy. Kubba did not say how many jobs could be eliminated, but he warned that budget cuts "will be a bit painful." For months, U.S. and Iraqi officials have said that poor, desperate Iraqi men have been carrying out many of the insurgent attacks in exchange for cash handed out by Hussein loyalists and foreign Islamic extremists. Many Iraqis blame the former U.S. administrator in Iraq, L. Paul Bremer III, for laying the groundwork for the insurgency by summarily dismissing the old Iraqi army's tens of thousands of soldiers, a move that may have swelled the ranks of militant groups. Humam Shamaa, an economist with the Iraqi Institute for Future Studies, a think tank, said that each Iraqi without a paycheck is a potential recruit for well-funded militant groups. Another clash shaping up: Last week Basra saw its first conference on the threat of privatisation, bringing together oil workers, academics and international civil-society groups. The event debated an issue about which Iraqis are passionate: the ownership and control of Iraq's oil reserves. The occupation forces and their allies in the Iraqi government see things differently. Plans are now afoot for sweeping changes to Iraq's oil sector, to give western oil majors access to its reserves for the first time since 1972. But they will face a challenge. While the workforce has shown itself to be quite capable of running the industry, it has been equally effective at shutting down that industry when threatened by the authorities. Powderkeg: As Iraqi officials prepare to draft the country's new constitution, fierce debate is expected over the status of Kirkuk, the center of northern Iraq's oil industry. Formerly known for its ethnic harmony, Saddam Hussein's policy of forced population shifts, called Arabization, has torn the fabric of the province. Now the Kurds want it back. The group, Human Rights Watch, estimates that more than a quarter-million Kurds and non-Arabs were forcefully expelled from their homes in Kirkuk. Since 2003, tens-of-thousands of Arab settlers have left the region, but tens-of-thousands of others have chosen to stay in towns and villages they now think of as home. Meanwhile, local officials estimate more than 100,000 Kurds have returned. Many of them are living in miserable conditions, in camps for the internally displaced, and in villages with little running water or power. Rights groups report that there have been attacks on leaders from all three predominant ethnic groups. They also report tit-for-tat killings across ethnic lines in communities across the province. Kirkuk has also suffered from insurgent attacks on oil and gas pipelines, plus car-bombings and other terrorist activity. Your tax dollars at work: Two years after the invasion of Iraq, the United States has spent $990 million on U.S. "embassy" operations there, but none of that has been put toward building a permanent home for the U.S. diplomatic presence, according to a report for Congress. That project will cost taxpayers another $1.3 billion, only $20 million of which has been put toward the project so far, according to an April report from the Congressional Research Service. By comparison, the new U.S. Embassy in Beijing cost $434 million, according to Congress. The embassy in Iraq will be three times that expensive because it includes not just offices and living spaces but also a power plant. Iraqi electricity remains unreliable, far below demand and vulnerable to sabotage. Muqtada: Scores of supplicants filed slowly past Muqtada al-Sadr, kissing his hands in a show of loyalty to this fiery young anti-American cleric who has created one of the most dynamic religious and political movements in Iraq. But despite the support he enjoys, al-Sadr told the Associated Press in a rare interview he would steer clear of Iraqi politics as long as U.S. troops remain in the country, and warned the current government legitimizes the occupation instead of preparing for its end. "As long as the occupier is here, I will not interfere in the political process," he said, adjusting himself on a brown cushion lying on the floor of a long hallway. "I would like to condemn and denounce the last Iraqi government's decision to legalize the occupation. Legalizing the occupation is rejected from any angle." Progress In Iraq Deepening misery: The Bush administration continues to insist that progress is being made in Iraq, but the last two years have brought deepening misery for Iraqis. That is the inescapable conclusion of a report released in May by the UN Development Program (UNDP) and the Iraqi Ministry of Planning and Development Cooperation. The "Living Conditions in Iraq" study is based on a 2004 survey of more than 21,000 households. It shows the Iraqi people are suffering widespread death and war-related injury, high rates of infant and child mortality, chronic malnutrition and illness among children, low rates of life expectancy, and significant setbacks for women. Iraq's alarmingly high child mortality rate translates into thousands of 'excess' deaths every year. These are the quiet, unseen victims of the continuing tragedy in Iraq. The new report also sheds light on the number of Iraqi deaths directly attributable to the US-led invasion and occupation. As of mid-2004 the war had caused 24,000 Iraqi deaths, the study estimated. This is the number for all deaths, civilian and military, in the immediate aftermath of the 2003 invasion. The death toll in Iraq has continued to climb, of course, especially in recent weeks, so these numbers are larger now than when the survey was conducted last year. A complex mix: More than two years after the fall of Saddam Hussein, Iraq remains a complex mix of tragedy and hope. To give a sense of the ebb and flow, this chart shows data for three key months: May 2003 (the first full month after the fall of Baghdad), June 2004 (the last month before the Coalition Authority gave way to the interim Iraqi government) and May 2005. The chart referred to is a java pop up. It’s worth going to the story and taking a look at the chart, maybe as much for what it tells us about our news media as what it tells us about Iraq. This writers really seem to be reaching for reasons for optimism. Ok, so there are now 160,000 internet subscribers and the researchers claim that 75 percent of Iraqis support the government (a claim I find suspect), but the chart shows that both oil and electricity production have fallen since last June, that the death rates for US troops, Iraqi security personnel, and Iraqi civilians were all almost double in May 2005 what they were in June 2004, and that the average number of daily insurgent attacks has increased sevenfold since May 2003. This may represent a complex mix, but it strikes me that there’s a hell of a lot of tragedy in it and precious little hope. An Iraqi point of view: It is hard for a piece of news to grab a lot of attention in Iraq today as many Iraqis say conditions can never be as worse as they are now. Car bomb attacks in which at least 700 innocent Iraqis have lost their lives in only two months are part of their news menu, which is not very surprising. For this reason, there was no popular reaction, whether negative or positive, to news reports that Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari shook hands and exchanged greetings with former Israeli Defense Minister Binyamin Ben Eliezer. No one took to the street in protest and the National Assembly (the parliament) ignored what many saw as “an important political event.” But for many Iraqis the impact of the unexpected encounter is less than that of a traffic incident on the congested streets of Baghdad. In the past two years Iraqis have grown to ignore or better disdain their politicians and their actions because the paradise they and the U.S. had promised to build on arriving here has turned into real hell. The Dreams of Sparrows: In a makeshift cemetery in Iraq, one group of men diligently chips away at rock-hard dirt, carving out trenches. Another carries shrouded bodies and lays them down for burial. Jagged pieces of slate, with lettering in chalk, serve as gravestones. "A big man with a blue robe and a set of keys," reads one -- some of the dead haven't been identified. You won't see this moving, vivid and revealing footage -- shot after the U.S. attack on Fallujah last November -- on your evening news. The scenes come from The Dreams of Sparrows, one of several recent documentaries about the war in Iraq. Shot by a team of Iraqi filmmakers, Dreams is part of an independent, digitally enabled new wave of war reportage. Along with bloggers and independent journalists, Iraq-based filmmakers are transmitting stories they believe have been neglected by mainstream media outlets. "Americans are missing a lot," said Aaron Raskin, the U.S.-based producer of Dreams who spent a month filming in Iraq. Bush Morality Belated recognition: The Bush administration appears to have opened a whole new front in its war on terror: a forceful, full-scale defense of the morality of its detention-camp policies. First came harsh criticism of Newsweek magazine for its since-retracted charge of Koran abuse at the US prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. More recently top officials have pushed back - hard - against Amnesty International's use of "gulag" to describe Guantánamo's conditions. The intensity and coordination of administration remarks on this issue may reflect a belated recognition of the stakes involved. Rightly or not, to much of the world the abuse of prisoners in US custody may now be emblematic of American foreign policy as a whole. More Ancient History Manipulating America into war: John R. Bolton flew to Europe in 2002 to confront the head of a global arms-control agency and demand he resign, then orchestrated the firing of the unwilling diplomat in a move a U.N. tribunal has since judged unlawful, according to officials involved. A former Bolton deputy says the U.S. undersecretary of state felt Jose Bustani "had to go," particularly because the Brazilian was trying to send chemical weapons inspectors to Baghdad. That might have helped defuse the crisis over alleged Iraqi weapons and undermined a U.S. rationale for war. "Many believed the U.S. delegation didn't want meddling from outside in the Iraq business," said the retired Swiss diplomat, Heinrich Reimann. "That could be the case." Are We Finally Getting An Opposition Party? Free pass: Rep. John Conyers, the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, says big media, especially cable news channels, are giving the Bush Administration a free pass by focusing on celebrity news and other “trivial matter” rather than examining White House policies. Conyers based his assertion on a new survey of cable news treatment of important or high-profile stories by the Congressional Research Service, which gathers data at lawmakers’ request to help them write bills or prepare for hearings. Conyers used the CRS sampling to charge that cable news outlets gave big play to some inconsequential stories while largely ignoring a lot of news casting Bush Administration policies in a negative light. For instance, according to the study, April 28 revelations of a British government memo indicating intelligence services had concluded prior to the start of the Iraq war that Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction were ignored by CNN’s Wolf Blitzer Reports and Anderson Cooper 360, MSNBC’s Countdown with Keith Olberman and Fox’s Big Story. Days later, those same shows were leading or devoting a lot of time to the runaway bride saga. Get some spine: Senator Hillary Clinton castigated President Bush and Washington Republicans today as mad with power and bent on marginalizing Democrats during a speech to 1,000 supporters at her first major re-election fund-raiser, which netted about $250,000. "There has never been an administration, I don't believe in our history, more intent upon consolidating and abusing power to further their own agenda," Mrs. Clinton told the audience at a "Women for Hillary" gathering in Midtown Manhattan this morning. "I know it's frustrating for many of you; it's frustrating for me: Why can't the Democrats do more to stop them?" she continued to growing applause and cheers. "I can tell you this: It's very hard to stop people who have no shame about what they're doing. It is very hard to tell people that they are making decisions that will undermine our checks and balances and constitutional system of government who don't care. It is very hard to stop people who have never been acquainted with the truth." Abetting the Republicans, she said in some of her sharpest language, is a Washington press corps that has become a pale imitation of the Watergate-era reporters who are being celebrated this month amid the identification of the anonymous Washington Post source, Deep Throat. "The press is missing in action, with all due respect," she said. "Where are the investigative reporters today? Why aren't they asking the hard questions? It's shocking when you see how easily they fold in the media today. They don't stand their ground. If they're criticized by the White House, they just fall apart. "I mean, c'mon, toughen up, guys, it's only our Constitution and country at stake," she said. "Let's get some spine." Commentary Opinion: Most Iraqis do not consent to the open-ended military occupation they have been living under for more than two years. On Jan. 30, a clear majority voted for political parties promising to demand a timetable for U.S. withdrawal. Washington may have succeeded in persuading Iraq's political class to abandon that demand, but the fact remains that U.S. troops are on Iraqi soil in open defiance of the express wishes of the population. Lacking consent, the current U.S.-Iraqi regime relies heavily on fear, including the most terrifying tactics of them all: disappearances, indefinite detention without charge and torture. And despite official reassurances, it's only getting worse. A year ago, President Bush pledged to erase the stain of Abu Ghraib by razing the prison to the ground. There has been a change of plans. Abu Ghraib and two other U.S.-run prisons in Iraq are being expanded, and a new 2,000-person detention facility is being built, with a price tag of $50 million. In the last seven months alone, the prison population has doubled to a staggering 11,350. The U.S. military may indeed be cracking down on prisoner abuse, but torture in Iraq is not in decline — it has simply been outsourced. In January, Human Rights Watch found that torture within Iraqi-run (and U.S.-supervised) jails and detention facilities was "systematic," including the use of electroshock. An internal report from the 1st Cavalry Division, obtained by the Washington Post, states that "electrical shock and choking" are "consistently used to achieve confessions" by Iraqi police and soldiers. So open is the use of torture that it has given rise to a hit television show: Every night on the TV station Al Iraqiya — run by a U.S. contractor — prisoners with swollen faces and black eyes "confess" to their crimes. Rumsfeld claims that the wave of recent suicide bombings in Iraq is "a sign of desperation." In fact, it is the proliferation of torture under Rumsfeld's watch that is the true sign of panic. Editorial: There are no guarantees that militarily withdrawing from Iraq would contribute to stability or would not result in chaos. On the other hand, we do know that under our occupation the violence will continue.We also know that our occupation is one of the chief reasons for hatred of the United States, not only in the Arab world but elsewhere. Wars are easy to get into, but hard as hell to get out of. After two years in Iraq and the loss of more than 1,600 American soldiers, it is simply not enough to embrace the status quo. We are not suggesting a ''cut-and-run" strategy. The United States must continue to finance security, training, and reconstruction. But the combination of stubbornness and saving face is not an adequate rationale for continuing this war. This is not a liberal or conservative issue. It is time for lawmakers in Washington -- and for concerned citizens across the nation -- to demand that this sad chapter in our history come to an end and not be repeated in some other hapless country. The path of endless war will bankrupt our treasury, devour our soldiers, and degrade the moral and spiritual values of the nation. It is past time to change course. Casualty Reports Local story: Former Oklahoman West Point professor killed in Iraq. DoD news release: Caldwell, ID, soldier killed in IED blast in Kirkuk. She was 19 years old. Local story: Racine, WI, soldier killed in Iraq. Local story: Fort Smith, AK, soldier killed in Iraq memorialized.


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