Saturday, June 04, 2005

War News for Saturday, June 4, 2005 Bring 'em on: Three Iraqi policemen killed, five wounded by car bomb in Mosul. Bring 'em on: Two Iraqis killed in fighting near Samarra. Bring 'em on: Two Iraqi policemen wounded by car bomb in Baghdad. Bring 'em on: Turkoman councilman assassinated in Kirkuk. Bring 'em on: SCIRI politician dies from wounds received in assassination attempt in Baghdad. Bring 'em on: Five Iraqi police killed, seven wounded by car bomb in Tikrit. Bring 'em on: Two Iraqis killed by mortar fire near Tal Afar. Iraqi wounded. After a long period of not reporting casualty figures, the Iraqi Health Ministry said Wednesday that 775 civilians were wounded in May, compared with 598 in April. Many of most seriously injured end up at the Rehabilitation and Rheumatological Center, on a leafy campus in northern Baghdad. A decade ago, most of its patients suffered from polio, vascular disorders or such diseases as diabetes that sometimes require amputations, according to its director, Emad Khudair. Today, more than two-thirds are trauma patients, he said. At the rear of the facility is the rehabilitation center and prosthetics workshop, where Thamir Aziz, a physician, oversees about 40 technicians who craft arms and legs out of aluminum, plaster and polypropylene. His warehouse's shelves are stocked with artificial body parts: hands and feet of varying sizes, titanium knee and elbow joints, and aluminum shafts that will become limbs. 'Most of our equipment was looted during the invasion, so we do the best we can with what we have,' Aziz said in a recent interview. 'We have pages and pages of people waiting for prosthetics, most for at least five months.'" Rummy fears Al-Jazeera. "U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said on Saturday that Arab news channel Al Jazeera was encouraging Islamic militant groups by broadcasting beheadings of foreign hostages in Iraq. Al Jazeera, repeatedly accused by Washington of biased reporting over Iraq, has often shown video of hostages pleading at gunpoint for their government to withdraw its troops. But killings, posted on Internet Web Sites by militants, are not broadcast by the company. 'If anyone lived in the Middle East and watched a network like the Al Jazeera day after day after day, even if he was an American, he would start waking up and asking what's wrong. But America is not wrong. It's the people who are going on television chopping off people's heads, that is wrong,' he said." (Emphasis added.) That's exactly why Rummy, Condi, Big Dick and the rest of the Bush gang hate and fear Al Jazeera, Amnesty International, Newsweek, or anybody else with the capability to wake people up. They are terrified that if people wake up and realize what the Bush gang has done, they will demand accountability. Rummy says Americans don't have a need to know about how well he's doing his job. "The Army and Marine Corps, as they struggle with recruiting shortfalls, will no longer announce their monthly recruiting numbers at the beginning of each month. Instead, the Defense Department will approve the release of recruiting statistics for all four services. Normally, each service releases its monthly statistics at the beginning of each month, but a spokesman for Marine Corps Recruiting Command said on Wednesday that he was no longer authorized to do so." Scraping the bottom of the barrel. "The US military has stopped battalion commanders from dismissing new recruits for drug abuse, alcohol, poor fitness and pregnancy in an attempt to halt the rising attrition rate in an army under growing strain as a result of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. An internal memo sent to senior commanders said the growing dropout rate was "a matter of great concern" in an army at war. It told officers: 'We need your concerted effort to reverse the negative trend. By reducing attrition 1%, we can save up to 3,000 initial-term soldiers. That's 3,000 more soldiers in our formations.' The Wall Street Journal quoted a battalion commander as saying: 'It is the guys on weight control ... school no-shows, drug users, etc, who eat up my time and cause my hair to grey prematurely ... Often they have more than one of these issues simultaneously.'" Just what the Army needs: a brigade of 3,000 Lieutenant AWOL clones. Republicans (heart) veterans. "Advocates for the homeless already are seeing veterans from the war on terror living on the street, and say the government must do more to ease their transition from military to civilian life. Linda Boone, executive director of the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, said about 70 homeless veterans who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan contacted her group’s facilities in 2004, and another 125 homeless veterans from those conflicts last year petitioned the Department of Veterans Affairs for assistance." Support the troops! With thousands of reservists and National Guard members being called to duty, some families are not only left without a spouse's income, but also their health insurance. The military provides Tricare, but with low reimbursement rates, many physicians hesitate accepting the government insurance. That has made access to health care difficult for reservist families. Tricare's $18 billion health plan provides insurance to 9.1 million active-duty military members, their families and military retirees under 65. 'We stopped taking it three or four years ago,' said Dr. Susan Blue, a Fort Worth neurologist and president of the Tarrant County Medical Society. 'Reimbursement rates are not high these days with anyone, but the military was the first one to go to a point that it wasn't feasible financially to accept it anymore.' Access is somewhat easier for families living near a base. But families of mobilized reservists from cities such as Houston may have to search for Tricare doctors." Dr. Blue "stopped taking it three or four years ago" because when Rummy arrived at DoD one of his first priorities was to reduce retiree and reservist health care costs and he did that by reducing Tricare reimbursement. Support the troops! "Nearly every day he was in Iraq, Army Staff Sgt. Steven Cummings would get so shaken by mortar round explosions that, even now, a year after his return home, he drops to the ground at the crackle of lightning. Iraq had a big impact on Cummings in another way — his finances. In his absence, his wife took out two mortgages on their home in Milan, Mich. They fell $15,000 in debt, as the pay Cummings earned during his 14 months overseas was less than he had made as a civilian electrical controls engineer. Looking back, those almost seem like the good times. Cummings has been laid off from two jobs in the year since he left Iraq. While other reasons were given for the layoffs, Cummings thinks both were related to his duty in the Michigan National Guard and the time off it requires. Like some other veterans who have returned from Afghanistan and Iraq, he is struggling to find work. 'I don't know what I'm going to do now. I'm in the exact position I was when I came back from Iraq,' said Cummings, a father of two. 'I'm 50 years old and I have a mortgage payment due. I'm tired of it.'" Guard and Reserve News. "May was the deadliest month of the Iraq war for part-time American servicemen. Thirty-one of them died: 14 members of the Army National Guard, 12 from the Marine Corps Reserve, four from the Army Reserve and one Navy Reserve hospital corpsman attached to a Marine combat unit." Koran abuse. "The U.S. military released new details yesterday about five confirmed cases of U.S. personnel mishandling the Koran at the prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, acknowledging that soldiers and interrogators kicked the Muslim holy book, got copies wet, stood on a Koran during an interrogation and inadvertently sprayed urine on another copy." "Inadvertently sprayed urine" during an interrogation? Bullshit. Some son of a bitch pissed on a detainee. RT over at Bump in the Beltway has the goods on Rummy and Koran desecration. Wolfowitz: still a wanker. In his second day as World Bank president, Paul Wolfowitz sought to assuage doubts over his role as one of the architects of the U.S. war in Iraq and said he would use his White House ties to push for development aid. The former Defense Department second-in-command told a development conference on Thursday the Iraq war was morally justified, in part because of Saddam Hussein's human rights record. 'Would you really prefer to have Saddam Hussein in power?' Wolfowitz responded when asked whether he had regrets about his role in the war." Piss on you, Wolfie. Commentary Editorial: "The reports of the religious climate at the Air Force Academy are unsettling: A chaplain instructs cadets to try to convert classmates by warning that they "will burn in the fires of hell" if they do not accept Christ. During basic training, freshman cadets who decline to attend after-dinner chapel are marched back to their dormitories in "heathen flights" organized by upperclassmen. A Jewish student is taunted as a Christ killer and told that the Holocaust was the just punishment for that offense. The academy's head football coach posts a banner in the locker room that proclaims, 'I am a Christian first and last. . . . I am a member of Team Jesus Christ.'" Editorial: "The fact that a largely Shiite government is pushing Operation Lightning against an overwhelmingly Sunni insurgency highlights a central dilemma for U.S. policy. There now appear to be two kinds of fighting in Iraq. One seeks to drive Americans out of Iraq, and thus targets U.S. soldiers - of whom more than 1,660 have been killed since March 2003. The second involves Sunni efforts to weaken the new Shiite-dominated government, and it will be difficult to control. Even law-abiding Sunnis suspect the Iraqi government is little more than a stalking horse for Iran. Last week, Sunni Arabs did join the government in talks about Iraq's future constitution. Despite that progress, sectarian divisions remain deep and dangerous." Analysis:
The military is to be reorganized at home around huge, multi-force "hub bases" from which the Pentagon, in the fashion of a corporate conglomerate, hopes to "reap economies of scale". This was front page news for days as politicians and communities from Connecticut (the US naval submarine base in Groton) and New Jersey (Fort Monmouth) to South Dakota (Ellsworth air force base) cried bloody murder over the potential loss of jobs and threatened to fight to the death to prevent their specific base or set of bases (but not anyone else's) from closing - after all, those workers had been the most productive and patriotic around. These closings - and their potentially devastating after-effects on communities - were a reminder (though seldom dealt with that way in the media) of just how deeply the Pentagon has dug itself into the infrastructure of our nation. With more than 6,000 military bases in the US, we are in some ways a vast military camp. But while politicians screamed locally, Donald Rumsfeld's Pentagon never thinks less than globally; and, if you throw in the militarization of space, sometimes even the global has proven too small a framework for its presiding officials. For them, the BRAC plans are just one piece of a larger puzzle that involves the projection of American power into the distant lands that most concern us. After all, as Chalmers Johnson has calculated in his book, The Sorrows of Empire, our global base-world already consists of at least 700 military and intelligence bases; possibly - depending on how you count them up - many more. Under Rumsfeld's organizational eye, such bases have been pushed ever further into the previously off-limits "near abroad" of the former Soviet Union (where we now probably have more bases than the Russians do) and ever deeper into the Middle Eastern and Caspian oil heartlands of the planet. The George W Bush administration's fierce focus on and interest in reconfigured, stripped down, ever more forward systems of bases and an ever more powerfully poised military "footprint" stands in inverse proportion to press coverage of it. To the present occupants of the Pentagon, bases are the equivalent of imperial America's lifeblood, and yet basing policy abroad has, in recent years, been of next to no interest to the mainstream media.
The Iraqi people gave them a wonderful chance-- on a plate, as it were!-- by virtue of their participation in the January 30 elections... There could have been a political process of integrity and hopefulness that emerged from the election of that day. But no. The Bush administration cared only for the "form" of having one single democractic "exercise"... the vote of that day. They seemed to care not one whit for the true nub of democracy in Iraq.... That is, the institution of empowered and accountable self-government there. Indeed, looking at the wilful recklessness with which the Bushies have treated political affairs inside Iraq since January 30, you'd have to conclude that they've been actively hostile to the emergence of any empowered self-government there. I think I've written someplace before-- here or elsewhere-- that the Bushies have been handed two great chances inside Iraq. The first was in the immediate aftermath of the toppling of the Saddam regime, when the country was, effectively, theirs to remake. As we know, they blew that chance-- badly. The second was with the amazing (even if not universal) level of trust that the Iraqi people put in the electoral process of last January 30. And now, the Bushies have blown that chance, too. This time, the repurcussions-- inside Iraq, and for the Washington's whole broader Potemkin-project of encouraging "democratization" in the Middle East-- will be even worse. They were very lucky indeed to get even a second chance. No-one can realistically expect that they will ever now be given a third.
What I find more disturbing than this cycle of tit-for-tat violence is the very strong sense that ordinary Iraqis are for the first time being infected by the sectarian bug. Western correspondents in Baghdad rely heavily on local staff for reporting. Even a few months ago it did not matter whom you sent on an assignment. Shias and Sunnis felt free to travel the country and speak to representatives of all communities. Now Sunni reporters insist on covering only Sunni areas and Sunni issues, and the same applies for the Shias. When a reporter returns with details of the latest sectarian outrage, there is a distinct tension in the office between the two sides. This is repeated across society. Baghdad University has always been one of the few havens in the capital where young people from every background have managed to coexist peacefully. But the calm was shattered recently when Masar Sarhan, a Shia student, was murdered after he threw a party to celebrate the election of the new Government. The killing sparked unrest on the campus and some Sunni professors are too afraid to return. The paranoia in the Sunni community is palpable. For centuries the ruling class in Iraq, they were swept aside by the US-led invasion and are now a vulnerable and angry minority. Few will openly criticise the insurgency, in spite of its brutal methods. The Americans, who still dominate politics in Iraq, remain adamant that civil war is still only a remote possibility and that everyone who matters is committed to putting “the genie back in the bottle”. Sunni leaders recently formed a new group dedicated to co-operating with the Shia Government on drawing up a new constitution. Even rabble-rousers such as Moqtadr al-Sadr, the Shia cleric who led a failed uprising last year, are now mediating between the two sides. Every political and religious leader is appealing for restraint.
Opinion: "Becky’s son was career military. He really liked to fly helicopters. He had finished one tour in Iraq and had volunteered for a second tour. He knew what he was getting into. As is so frequently quoted 'He died doing what he liked best.' So why get so worked up about a soldier who was being paid to do what he chose to do? Because the whole Iraq affair has no discernible end. We will continue to fly fatal missions. The Iraqis who were in control under Hussein and who now see themselves possibly consigned to the back of the bus are going to continue shooting down helicopters in a desperate attempt to maintain control. We view these Iraqis as outlaws and criminals. They are seen by their group as valiant fighters standing up to the invaders." Casualty Reports Local story: North Carolina soldier killed in Iraq. Local story: Florida soldier killed in Iraq.


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