War News for Saturday, June 18, 2005
Bring 'em on: Two US soldiers killed, one wounded, five Iraqi soldiers wounded in fighting near Buhriz
Bring 'em on: Two US Marines killed by roadside bomb in Ramadi
Bring 'em on: One Iraqi girl killed, two wounded in roadside bomb attack on US convoy in Baghdad
Bring 'em on: Fourteen Iraqi soldiers killed, eight wounded by car bomb in Fallujah
Bring 'em on: Two Iraqis killed, four wounded by car bomb in Baghdad
Bring 'em on: Five Iraqi marines wounded by car bomb near Baghdad
Bring 'em on: Sunni tribal leader assassinated near Mahmoudiya
Bring 'em on: Four Iraqi policemen wounded in small arms attack on US convoy near Baquba
Bring 'em on: Heavy fighting, air strikes continue near Qaim
Bring 'em on: Two Iraqis wounded by car bomb in Baghdad
. "About 1,000 U.S. Marines and Iraqi troops launched a second offensive Saturday against insurgents in restive Anbar province, this time targeting the marshy shores of a remote lake just north of Baghdad. Operation Dagger, or Khanjar in Arabic, aims to uncover insurgent training camps and weapons caches in the southern part of the Lake Tharthar area in central Iraq, some 60 miles northwest of Baghdad. The region was the focus of a major campaign in late March that killed 85 insurgents."
. The U.S. military checkpoints in Iraq lack basic safety measures and endanger civilians and soldiers, Human Rights Watch and the Committee to Protect Journalists said on Friday. In a joint letter to the U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, the organizations demanded the military to immediately implement a series of measures recommended in the army’s internal probe into the checkpoint shooting of an Italian intelligent agent."
. "Doctors at the main hospital in Baquba, north of Baghdad, have gone on strike, saying they are fed up with constant abuse at the hands of aggressive Iraqi police and soldiers. Staff and security guards at the hospital, the largest in the province with more than 100 doctors and 400 beds, handed a petition to the director on Saturday saying they would only handle emergency cases until their grievances were addressed. 'We want the governor and the minister to do something to protect us from the organised terrorism of the police and army,' Mohammed Hazim, a specialist at Baquba General Hospital, said."
Interview with Saddam's attorney
. "Saddam Hussein's lead Iraqi lawyer, Kaleel Dolami, recently sat down with ABC News producers in Amman, Jordan. Hussein's Jordanian lawyer, Ziad Al Khasawneh, was also present. The following report is exclusive to ABCNEWS.com. Dolami would not agree to an on-camera or audio interview. Dolami talks about Saddam's allegations of torture, the dictator's contention that he was not captured in the 'spider hole' and how curious U.S. interrogators have been about his purported weapons of mass destruction." Thanks to alert reader Nechtar
Riverbend's greatest hits
Goopers slime the Red Cross
The International Committee of the Red Cross on Friday accused a Senate Republican policy committee of peddling “false and unsubstantiated” allegations in an attempt to discredit the humanitarian agency.
Jakob Kellenberger, ICRC president, rejected criticisms made by the committee this week that questioned the ICRC's impartiality in its dealings with the US, notably over the treatment of detainees in Guantánamo Bay and Iraq.
He added that he was “very confident” of continued US financial support for the ICRC, which helps victims of war and conflict around the world. The US is the biggest contributor to the ICRC's budget, accounting for more than 20 per cent of the SFr820m ($645m, €530m, £355m) raised last year.
“The paper's purpose appears to be to discredit the ICRC by putting forward false allegations and unsubstantiated accusations,” Mr Kellenberger said on Friday at the launch of the agency's 2004 annual report.
. "Spc. Sean D. Baker, 38, was assaulted in January 2003 after he volunteered to wear an orange jumpsuit and portray an uncooperative detainee. Baker said the MPs, who were told that he was an unruly detainee who had assaulted an American sergeant, inflicted a beating that resulted in a traumatic brain injury. Baker, a Gulf War veteran who reenlisted after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, was medically retired in April 2004. He said the assault left him with seizures, blackouts, headaches, insomnia and psychological problems. In the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Lexington, Ky., Baker asked the Army to reinstate him in a position that would accommodate his medical condition. He said the Army put him on medical retirement against his wishes."
The US attorney-general defended the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, saying the US government would evaluate the detention centre but had no immediate plans of shutting it down.
Alberto Gonzales was speaking on the final day of a summit that drew home affairs and interior ministers from the Group of Eight industrialised nations.
US President George W Bush's government is under growing pressure to evaluate the usefulness of the US prison camp in eastern Cuba, where about 520 men accused of links to Afghanistan's ousted Taliban regime or the al-Qaeda terrorist network are being held.
Some have been held for three years without charge.
"We have Guantanamo because there are people that are captured on the battlefield, and we need to hold them somewhere so they do not go back and fight against American soldiers or the soldiers of our allies fighting in Afghanistan," Gonzales said.
The Pentagon capped a week of intense debate on the future of its prison for terrorism suspects Friday with an announcement that Vice President Dick Cheney's old firm will build a new, $30 million 220-cell prison block at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.
Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg, Brown & Root received the work under a $500 million Navy contract from July 2004, according to a Defense Department contract announcement e-mailed to The Herald on Friday.
The $30 million will cover a two-story, air-conditioned building overlooking the Caribbean called Camp Six as well as a security fence. Work should be completed by July 2006 and will include day rooms, exercise areas and space for medical personnel to treat captives.
THE PRESIDENT: "In order for Iraq to be a free country those who are trying to stop the elections and stop a free society from emerging must be defeated.
"And so Prime Minister Allawi and his government, which fully understands that, are working with our generals on the ground to do just that. We will work closely with the government. It's their government, it's their country. We're there at their invitation. And -- but I think there's a recognition that some of these people have to -- must be defeated, and so that's what they're thinking about. That's what you're -- that's why you're hearing discussions about potential action in Fallujah." Lieutenant AWOL, November 5, 2004. I missed this on the first time. (Emphasis added.)
The administration should, as a first step, shut down the Guantánamo prison. Beyond that, Mr. Specter was exactly right when he said Congress must establish legal definitions of detainees from antiterrorist operations, enact rules for their internment and determine their rights under the Geneva Conventions and American law, including what sorts of evidence can be used against them. Those steps would help fix a system in which prisoners have been declared enemy combatants on the basis of confessions extracted under torture by countries working in behalf of American intelligence.
The Bush administration says 9/11 changed the rules and required the invention of new kinds of jails and legal procedures. Even if we accept that flawed premise, it is up to Congress to make new rules in a way that upholds American standards. The current setup - in which politically appointed ideologues make the rules behind closed doors - has done immense harm to the nation's image and increased the risk to every American in uniform.
A trial "says as much about the society that holds the trial as it does about the individual before it," Commander Swift reminded the Senate. "Our trials in the United States reflect who we are."
The detention camps should meet no less of a standard.
It is time for the United States to close the camp. If there's a legal basis on which to charge any of the detainees held there, the U.S. government should lay the charges and make its case in U.S. courts. If it cannot do that, it has to let those people go.
Hundreds of suspected enemy combatants have been held incommunicado, some subjected to abuse and torture, in the nearly four years since the Sept. 11 attacks. More than 100 detainees have died in custody in Guantanamo, which is just one camp in a secret network of detention facilities maintained by the CIA. About 520 people are currently detained Guantanamo, without any charges having been laid against them for the most part.
These "enemy combatants" have been kept locked up under the spurious notion that calling them unlawful fighters and keeping them off U.S. soil exempts the administration from accounting for them under international law. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
Nor can the alternative to Guantanamo be continued "extraordinary rendition," the practice of shipping prisoners to other countries, such as Syria, where they are tortured, allowing the United States to disclaim any mistreatment of prisoners. Canada's Maher Arar knows too well how it feels to be shipped off arbitrarily, by U.S. authorities, to a Syrian jail.
As long as it operates, the Guantanamo Bay camp serves as a priceless propaganda tool for every anti-American orator, not to say government, the world over. The abuse of suspects at Guantanamo Bay and at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq has reinforced the view the United States has abandoned its commitment to the rule of law. This impression is reinforced by the way corrective action at Abu Ghraib has fallen principally on low-ranking personnel, and by the absence of any truly independent investigation.
Take the case of Murat Kurnaz, a German-born Muslim Turkish citizen who was traveling in Pakistan shortly after the September 2001 attacks. He'd gone there to study Islam. He was arrested by Pakistani police during a routine bus check on evidence that he had attended a mosque in Germany that fomented anti-American feelings, and that he was friends with a man who conducted a suicide bombing. On that evidence, Kurnaz has been at Guantanamo for three years. Except that the suicide bomber never actually was a suicide bomber. He's alive and well, and free, and living in Germany, as German authorities told the American military. German investigators also found out that the mosque in question was just another mosque. Nothing to worry about. Even a federal district court judge who reviewed Kurnaz's file this year, including the secret document supposedly proving his guilt, was bewildered by the flimsiness of the case: "Not only is the document rife with hearsay and lacking in detailed support for its conclusions," the judge said, "but it is also in direct conflict with classified exculpatory documents."
Still, Kurnaz remains at Guantanamo. Cases like that have led even some Republicans, Sen. Mel Martinez among them, to call for closing the prison, albeit with caveats as alarming as Cheney's "for the most part." Martinez is worried about the "cost-benefit ratio" of the prison. He asked: "Is it serving all the purposes you thought it would serve when initially you began it, or can this be done some other way a little better?" The question was only a rewording of Rumsfeld's suggestion that if Guantanamo didn't exist, it would have to be invented elsewhere -- if not in an American jurisdiction, then at least in the prisoners' home countries. But returning the prisoners to their country is not necessarily a good thing if they're exchanging one extra-judicial prison system for another, especially when the prisoners might be rendered into the hands of torturers, out of sight of all scrutiny.
Whatever may be said about Guantanamo's shame, it is at least in part in the public eye, focusing attention on the Bush administration's problem with due process in ways that similar prisons under the CIA's or the American military's control do not. Those prisons exist in Afghanistan, in Iraq, on the militarized island of Diego Garcia, but are virtual no-go zones for public scrutiny. That's no reason to keep Guantanamo going. But closing it would not be the end of the story. It would only bury the story for thousands of similarly held individuals in numerous prisons elsewhere.
The madness of King George and his courtiers may have finally prodded many American royal subjects and peasants out of their stupor.
That's because so much evidence has mounted over the past three years concerning the kingdom's scruples.
Let's recount some and add a few to the scrolls.
No evidence linked Iraq to 9/11. No weapons of mass destruction were in Iraq. But we know from the Downing Street memo that the war against Iraq was planned anyway.
Because of these deceits, more than 1,700 Americans and 100,000 Iraqi civilians have lost their lives.
Whatever he's been fed by his courtiers works wonders for King George's sleeping habits. As he has admitted, he sleeps well. His only top worries are for the princesses. But they're not serving in Iraq or Afghanistan now, are they?
His worries don't include our troops or the civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan. Or finding Osama bin Laden.
He has been deluded into believing Iraq is (once again) at a turning point toward "democracy." Time and time again, news headlines from the Pentagon declare, "U.S. troops launch a new offensive in Iraq."
American generals already are saying it could be two years or more before the Iraqi army is skilled enough for the United States to withdraw some of its troops. It's no wonder that recent polls show most Americans are coming around to Jones' point of view.
But we can't stop now. The time to turn back was before the first shot was fired. Too many good men and women have died to bring us here.
We can't turn around and walk back over their bodies to avoid what's ahead. This is something we have to finish, something we have to get right to make sure they didn't all die in vain.
So, thanks for the change of heart, Jones. I only wish it had been two years sooner.
More important, however, is the fact that the Downing Street Memo does suggest that the British government did not believe the evidence of Iraq's WMD programs was strong. As the memo states, "the case was thin. Saddam was not threatening his neighbors, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran."
The case for the politicization of intelligence is not difficult to make -- it merely involves citing evidence the media ignored at the time. In its March 3, 2003 issue, Newsweek reported what should have been a bombshell: The star defector who supplied some of the most significant information about Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction had told investigators that those weapons no longer existed.
Iraq defector Hussein Kamel -- Saddam Hussein's son-in-law, who ran Iraq's unconventional weapons programs -- was debriefed in 1995 about the status of those programs. Some of what Kamel said to the weapons inspectors would become very familiar: 30,000 liters of anthrax had been produced by the Iraqi regime, for example, and four tons of the VX nerve agent. These specific quantities were cited repeatedly by White House officials to make the case for war, and were staples of media coverage in the run-up to war.
Local story: California
Marine killed in Iraq.
Local story: California
sailor killed in Iraq.
Local story: Colorado
Marine killed in Iraq.
Local story: Nevada
Guardsman dies in Iraq.
Note to Readers
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