War News for Sunday, June 5, 2005
Bring 'em on: Three Iraqi troops killed and one injured in checkpoint attack north of Baghdad
Bring 'em on: Egyptian contractor shot dead in Baghdad
Bring 'em on: Three Iraqi civilians killed in gun battle between insurgents and Iraqi security forces in Baghdad
Bring 'em on: Iraqi police commander escapes assassination attempt in Bahraz
Bring 'em on: Iraqi soldier killed and three injured in suicide attack on convoy near Mosul
An Iraqi army unit has been disbanded after it refused to attend a U.S. training course in Baghdad
: Kurdish rebels have killed four Turkish soldiers in a clash in southeastern Turkey, officials said Sunday. The clash occurred near the city of Tunceli, the Anatolia news agency reported, citing the governor's office. It was not clear when the fighting took place. Troops reinforced by planes and an attack helicopter were pursuing the guerrillas, it said.
Al Jazeera responds
: TV channel Al Jazeera rejected yesterday as unfounded US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s accusations that it was encouraging militant groups by airing beheadings of foreign hostages in Iraq.
"Al Jazeera... has never at any time transmitted pictures of killings or beheadings and... any talk about this is absolutely unfounded," the television said in a statement.
: But an Islamic mufti, or spiritual leader, living near Fallujah offered a different take: He said the bunkers were proof that the insurgency is unbowed. "This shows the failure of the Marines. It was close to their base and they could not see it," said the mufti, who formerly sat on the council that directed insurgents in Fallujah. He spoke by phone Saturday evening. "The Americans think they know everything. But when they came to Iraq, they thought the people would receive them with flowers. Instead of flowers, they found these bunkers."
Haitham al-Dulaimi, who works at a garage in Ramadi, had a similar reaction. "Are you sure they found it near Fallujah?" he asked, laughing. "It shows you how much the Iraqi resistance has insulted the Americans."
It was not clear who built the bunkers. The entrance to the underground system was discovered by a patrol of Marines and Iraqi army soldiers who were searching a house in the desert when they found a passageway beneath an electric freezer.
Soldier faces murder charges
: A second British soldier could face charges over the death of an Iraqi civilian as senior army commanders brace themselves for damaging new revelations about army behaviour in Iraq. A formal military hearing on Friday will consider evidence against Lance Corporal Barry Singleton, 23, following an investigation into claims that he fired his gun 12 times at a driver who tried to speed through a checkpoint.
Opinion and Commentary
Believing your own bullshit
The disconnect between Rose Garden optimism and Baghdad pessimism, according to government officials and independent analysts, stems not only from Bush's focus on tentative signs of long-term progress but also from the shrinking range of policy options available to him if he is wrong. Having set out on a course of trying to stand up a new constitutional, elected government with the security firepower to defend itself, Bush finds himself locked into a strategy that, even if it proves successful, foreshadows many more deadly months to come first, analysts said.
Military commanders in Iraq privately told a visiting congressional delegation last week that the United States is at least two years away from adequately training a viable Iraqi military but that it is no longer reasonable to consider augmenting U.S. troops already strained by the two-year operation, said Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.). "The idea that the insurgents are on the run and we are about to turn the corner, I did not hear that from anybody," Biden said in an interview.
Rep. Curt Weldon (R-Pa.), who joined Biden for part of the trip, said Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and others are misleading Americans about the number of functional Iraqi troops and warned the president to pay more attention to shutting off Syrian and Iranian assistance to the insurgency. "We don't want to raise the expectations of the American people prematurely," he said.
Good Intentions Gone Bad
Living and working in Iraq, it's hard not to succumb to despair. At last count America has pumped at least $7 billion into reconstruction projects, with little to show for it but the hostility of ordinary Iraqis, who still have an 18 percent unemployment rate. Most of the cash goes to U.S. contractors who spend much of it on personal security. Basic services like electricity, water and sewers still aren't up to prewar levels. Electricity is especially vital in a country where summer temperatures commonly reach 125 degrees Fahrenheit. Yet only 15 percent of Iraqis have reliable electrical service. In the capital, where it counts most, it's only 4 percent.
The most powerful army in human history can't even protect a two-mile stretch of road. The Airport Highway connects both the international airport and Baghdad's main American military base, Camp Victory, to the city center. At night U.S. troops secure the road for the use of dignitaries; they close it to traffic and shoot at any unauthorized vehicles. More troops and more helicopters could help make the whole country safer. Instead the Pentagon has been drawing down the number of helicopters. And America never deployed nearly enough soldiers. They couldn't stop the orgy of looting that followed Saddam's fall. Now their primary mission is self-defense at any cost—which only deepens Iraqis' resentment.
The four-square-mile Green Zone, the one place in Baghdad where foreigners are reasonably safe, could be a showcase of American values and abilities. Instead the American enclave is a trash-strewn wasteland of Mad Max-style fortifications. The traffic lights don't work because no one has bothered to fix them. The garbage rarely gets collected. Some of the worst ambassadors in U.S. history are the GIs at the Green Zone's checkpoints. They've repeatedly punched Iraqi ministers, accidentally shot at visiting dignitaries and behave (even on good days) with all the courtesy of nightclub bouncers—to Americans and Iraqis alike. Not that U.S. soldiers in Iraq have much to smile about. They're overworked, much ignored on the home front and widely despised in Iraq, with little to look forward to but the distant end of their tours—and in most cases, another tour soon to follow. Many are reservists who, when they get home, often face the wreckage of careers and family. You should note this report was written by a journalist who supported the war.
Come on: Share your Oil Wealth!
The fabled wealth of the oil-rich Gulf states is to be targeted in an attempt to salvage a major debt relief deal for Africa ahead of the G8 summit in Gleneagles.
Although Chancellor Gordon Brown is now confident of a breakthrough deal with the White House on debt relief, which could be worth up to $1 billion a year, he is still seeking to plug a £20bn hole on aid.
Brown will challenge the Arab world to stump up more money - increasing the moral pressure at the same time on President Bush to give more generously. Despite their riches, boosted by oil, the Gulf states have had little tradition of donating overseas aid.
Ties that Bind
Two weeks after this statement was released, and just prior to the US presidential election, Beijing's position against US unilateralism was again made explicit by China's former foreign minister Qian Qichen - arguably China's most distinguished diplomat.
In an opinion piece published in the state-controlled China Daily, Qian ripped Washington's unilateralism: "The United States has tightened its control of the Middle East, Central Asia, Southeast Asia and Northeast Asia." He noted that this control "testifies that Washington's anti-terror campaign has already gone beyond the scope of self defense". Qian went further, stating that: "The US case in Iraq has caused the Muslim world and Arab countries to believe that the superpower already regards them as targets [for] its ambitious democratic reform program."
To China and Russia, Washington's "democratic reform program" is a thinly disguised method for the US to militarily dispose of unfriendly regimes in order to ensure the country's primacy as the world's sole superpower. The China-Iran-Russia alliance can be considered as Beijing's and Moscow's counterpunch to Washington's global ambitions. From this perspective, Iran is integral to thwarting the Bush administration's foreign policy goals. This is precisely why Beijing and Moscow have strengthened their economic and diplomatic ties with Tehran. It is also why Beijing and Moscow are providing Tehran with increasingly sophisticated weapons.