War News for Friday, June 24, 2005
Bring 'em on: US convoy attacked by roadside bomb in Baghdad
Bring 'em on: Oil ministry official escapes assassination in Tikrit
Bring 'em on: Three Iraqi policemen wounded by roadside bomb near Kirkuk
Bring 'em on: Five insurgents killed as fighting continues in Baghdad
Bring 'em on: US Marine convoy attacked by car bomb near Fallujah
; casualties reported.
Bring 'em on: Five Iraqis killed, four wounded in three insurgent attacks in Mosul
Dawn had yet to break and Baghdad's biggest police station, like the rest of the city, was quiet. About 80 officers dozed inside the fortress, leaving just a few sentries guarding the walls, razor wire and concrete barriers.
It started with mortars. A series of whooshes from north and south followed seconds later by explosions inside the perimeter. Figures emerged from the gloom and knelt in the middle of Hi al-Elam and Qatar Nada streets, pointing rocket launchers.
More figures materialised on rooftops overlooking the station to spray gunfire and lob grenades. Dozens of gunmen, guerrilla infantry, swarmed from houses and alleys. It was just after 5.30am and the station was surrounded.
The defenders heard engines rev and guessed what was next: suicide car bombers. Baghdad's biggest battle in months -- and possibly the boldest yet by insurgents -- had begun.
They struck on Monday but details of the assault on Baya'a, a vast police complex in the southern suburbs, emerged only on Thursday when United States and Iraqi officers opened the station to reporters. Bullet holes and debris testified to a synchronised and audacious strike by up to 100 rebels in what is supposed to be a locked-down capital.
. "In total, for the year from the handover of sovereignty on June 28, 2004, until June 23, 2005, there were at least 479 car bombs, killing 2,174 people and wounding 5,520. Altogether, the AP count shows that insurgents have killed at least 1,245 people since the government of new Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari took over April 28. Last month was the most violent for Iraqi civilians since the U.S.-led invasion to remove Saddam Hussein from power in March 2003, said Lt. Gen. John R. Vines, commander of the Multinational Corps in Iraq. There were 77 car bombs in May, killing 317 people and wounding 896."
Third long, hot summer
Around Baghdad, neighborhoods were celebrating the return of running water but still lamenting the three-day drought caused when insurgents ruptured a water line north of the city.
And with the temperature exceeding 100 degrees, as it has every day for weeks, people voiced anger at the prospect of spending their third summer since the U.S.-led invasion with only intermittent electricity. Those with generators will be able to power air conditioners and other appliances; the rest will simply bake.
"So many problems are happening in the city," said Mohammed Sarhan, 50, a grocer in the southern Baghdad neighborhood of Dora. "Where do I start -- water, electricity, security, unemployment or health?"
"This is not a life," Sarhan added. "This is hell."
A gathering of representatives from more than 80 countries and organizations in Brussels on Wednesday was marked by statements of support for Iraq and announcements of programs to assist the country's nearly five-month-old interim government. The conference had been billed in large part as that government's debut on the world stage and an opportunity for its leaders to lay out their plans to rebuild the country.
In Baghdad, however, the government's performance was repeatedly cited in interviews as one of the many disappointing aspects of a year that began with promise. Elections on Jan. 30 drew large numbers of voters to the polls despite the threat of insurgent violence. But formal installation of a government and formation of a committee to write Iraq's next constitution were delayed for months, and efforts to bring more Sunni Muslim Arabs into the process after they boycotted the elections continue to sputter.
"We sacrificed our souls and went out to vote. What did we get? Simply nothing," said Karima Sadoun, 56, as she stopped to buy vegetables at a shop in the eastern Baghdad district of Ghadir.
In another eastern neighborhood, Bashar Hanna, 30, said: "We need action, not speeches. . . . Iraqis now are like a car stuck in the mud. Whenever this car wants to get out of the mud, it sticks more in the crater it created."
No end to insurgency
. "The top American commander for the Middle East said Thursday that the insurgency in Iraq had not diminished, seeming to contradict statements by Vice President Dick Cheney in recent days that the insurgents were in their 'last throes.' Though he declined during his Congressional testimony to comment directly on Mr. Cheney's statements, the commander, Gen. John P. Abizaid, said that more foreign fighters were coming into Iraq and that the insurgency's 'overall strength is about the same' as it was six months ago. 'There's a lot of work to be done against the insurgency,' he added."
Executives from BP, Shell, Exxon Mobil and Halliburton, Dick Cheney's old firm, are expected to congregate at the Paddington Hilton for a two-day chinwag with top-level officials from Iraq's oil ministry. The gathering, sponsored by the British Government, is being described as the "premier event" for those with designs on Iraqi oil, and will go ahead despite opposition from Iraqi oil workers, who fear their livelihoods are being flogged to foreigners. The Met will be on hand to secure the venue ahead of the conference.
"This is a networking opportunity for UK businesses involved in Iraqi oil," explained Dr Hussain Rabia, managing director of the consultancy Entrac Petroleum Ltd. "We have the moral support of the UK government. They're bringing the guys over from Iraq, offering them visas. We expect all the big oil companies to be there," he said.
Delegate numbers are described as "confidential". Shell spokesman Simon Buerk would not confirm that a representative of the company would be attending, but said he "wouldn't be at all surprised if they were".
"We aspire to establish a long-term presence in Iraq," he said. "We have been helping the [Iraqi] Ministry of Oil and engineers with training."
Those who have purchased their £1,200 tickets can expect access to executives from Iraq's oil ministry, including Salem Razoky, the director general of exploration.
But Iraqi oil workers are furious about the conference. "The second phase of the war will be started by this conference carving up the industry," said an outraged Hasan Juma'a, head of the Iraqi General Union of Oil Employees. "It is about giving shares of Iraq to the countries who invaded it - they get a piece of the action as a reward. The British government will back this action in order to pay its debt in Iraq."
Blame the media
. "Rebel attacks in the capital are expected to rise in coming weeks despite US-Iraqi efforts to stem them, as insurgents try to play up insecurity in the country, a US military official said Friday. 'I think there will be a lot of small attacks in the next couple of weeks with the (Iraqi) prime minister going to the United States,' Lieutenant Colonel Michael Pryor of the US 3rd Infantry Division's Task Force Baghdad told AFP. 'They're trying to influence the international population through the media that Iraq may not be as secure as everyone makes it out to be.'"
About 50 yards away from the funeral, six protesters held signs that said such things as "God blew up the troops." All six were relatives of the Rev. Fred Phelps of Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas. They contend that God is punishing the United States for bombing Phelps' church a decade ago.
The group has held similar protests at soldiers' funerals in Idaho, New Hampshire, Wisconsin and Illinois. It plans to go next to Kentucky.
Dave "Doc" Kittle of Glenwood, who was among 14 Vietnam veterans attending Byers' funeral, blasted the protesters for showing up, especially after the second death in the Byers family.
The Bush administration is revving up its media manipulation machinery with a new push on "winning" in Iraq. In the latest sales pitch for why we are there, President Bush says, in effect, that Americans are fortunate to have drawn terrorists into a fight on somebody else's soil.
His neocon policy advisers have been wrong about almost everything else in Iraq. They foisted this war on the United States and the world with patently false assertions not just about weapons of mass destruction. The increasingly famous Downing Street memo only hints at the scope of mass deception. The neocons also spread absolute fantasies about how we would be greeted in Iraq, how many troops would be needed to establish security and how much time, money and blood would be spent in an occupation.
Whatever elements of truth may exist in the latest PR pitch about foreign fighters in Iraq, U.S. convenience alone can't justify our presence there. As is hard to remember when watching pictures of destruction from Iraq, that land is the home of real people like Awad, Umara, their wives and their children.
Awad and Umara, who had a cousin executed by the deposed dictator, have no doubt that their country can do better at governing and reuniting itself if the United States were to leave immediately. They could be naïve or wrong. But they think that it is the United States that is being misled, again, with the talk of fighting jihadists on their soil. If the United States has good intentions toward Iraq, we must ask ourselves -- and Iraqis -- what the overall effect of occupation is on the Iraqi people.
Abizaid's remarks indicate that the military is not going to let itself become the fall guy for the administration's mistakes, including its refusal to adequately plan for the postwar occupation (which the latest British "Downing Street memos" confirm).
Abizaid and other military officials may also be preparing to request an increase in the size of the Army. With the military woefully overstretched, it's almost inconceivable that U.S. forces can continue at their current levels in Iraq and simultaneously provide support for a conflict with North Korea or elsewhere. Even in an administration that is often reluctant to acknowledge mistakes, Cheney's brazen disregard for unpleasant realities has been shameless. It was the vice president who signaled in August 2002 in a speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars that the administration was headed for war in Iraq by declaring that Hussein might soon be able to construct a nuclear bomb.
The war is not unwinnable, but it will be if Bush and those close to him continue to seek refuge in Panglossian fantasies about its true cost and duration. Before the war, the administration was able to bat down military officials such as now-retired Gen. Eric K. Shinseki, who as Army chief of staff predicted the U.S. would have to keep more than 200,000 troops in Iraq for years to pacify the country. No longer. Abizaid's remarks may loom as a turning point when the military confronts the administration with painful truths that cannot be dismissed as carping from appeasement-minded lefties. If you will.
Still, some of my colleagues insist that we should let bygones be bygones. The question, they say, is what we do now. But they're wrong: it's crucial that those responsible for the war be held to account.
Let me explain. The United States will soon have to start reducing force levels in Iraq, or risk seeing the volunteer Army collapse. Yet the administration and its supporters have effectively prevented any adult discussion of the need to get out.
On one side, the people who sold this war, unable to face up to the fact that their fantasies of a splendid little war have led to disaster, are still peddling illusions: the insurgency is in its "last throes," says Dick Cheney. On the other, they still have moderates and even liberals intimidated: anyone who suggests that the United States will have to settle for something that falls far short of victory is accused of being unpatriotic.
We need to deprive these people of their ability to mislead and intimidate. And the best way to do that is to make it clear that the people who led us to war on false pretenses have no credibility, and no right to lecture the rest of us about patriotism.
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