Tuesday, June 21, 2005

War News for Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Bring ‘em on: Two people killed in two car bombings targeting Iraqi special forces in the Rissalla neighborhood of Baghdad. According to the US military, ten insurgents and four Iraqi police officers were killed and twenty insurgents were captured when the Bayaa police station was stormed in a “highly coordinated assault” using mortars, RPGs, a car bomb and small arms fire. Four officers killed in a roadside bombing in Baghdad’s Mansour neighborhood. Three Iraqis wounded in a checkpoint bombing on Baghdad’s airport road. Three Kurdish pershmerga members killed by gunmen near Hit. The Ansar al Sunna Army militant group claimed to have killed seven people in a convoy near Ramadi. Four suspected insurgents killed, 18 captured, and one kidnapped civilian rescued in various operations in the vicinity of Tal Afar and Mosul. Shops in Tal Afar reported closed due to insecurity, depriving some families of food.

Bring ‘em on: Two Iraqi policemen wounded in battle with gunmen who assaulted the police station in Baghdad’s Aamil neighborhood. US patrol attacked by roadside bomb north of Baquba, no casualties reported.

Bring ‘em on: Four Iraqi army soldiers killed in suicide attack on checkpoint in Kirkuk. Five Iraqi police and soldiers killed and 20 wounded in Baghdad attack (This may be the same incident reported in the first entry above where insurgents stormed the Bayaa police station). At least eight policemen and an eight-month-old baby killed when insurgents launched an assault on a Baghdad police station. (Apparently insurgents, in what seem to be particularly violent death throes, stormed at least two police stations or security complexes on Monday.)

Bring ‘em on: Director general of internal security in the Shahrazouz area of Iraqi Kurdistan and two of his bodyguards killed in suicide bombing between Halabja and Suliemaniya.

Push it in here, it pops out there: Insurgents killed at least 26 people and wounded more than 80 yesterday in a complex series of attacks on Iraqi police stations and army bases across the country, while two large Marine and Iraqi army operations were in progress in the restive al-Anbar province.

The violence - including coordinated car bombs, mortars and heavy machine-gun fire - underscored the apparent strategy of insurgents in Iraq: As U.S. and Iraqi commanders hit hard in one region, insurgents hit back in another.

The U.S.-led assaults so far don't appear to have seriously undermined the long-term ability of insurgents to move forces and launch attacks.

President Bush, in Washington yesterday, acknowledged the dangers facing U.S. troops and vowed that their sacrifices wouldn't be in vain. He said the goal was to have Iraqi troops take over the job now done by U.S. troops, but didn't set any timetable.

''I understand how dangerous it is there,'' he said. ''I understand we've got kids in harm's way, and I worry about their families. And obviously, anytime there's a death, I grieve.''

Yeah. Obviously. You smirking piece of shit.

Far from over: U.S. Marines claimed success on Tuesday in another battle against insurgents in the Iraqi desert but acknowledged that the war was far from over and that guerrillas would soon recover lost ground.

After four days of bombardment and street-to-street gunbattles, the Marines cleared Karabila -- a strategic way station near the main border crossing where the Euphrates flows in from Syria -- of foreign fighters who made it a base.

But U.S. officers and local people in the town, badly damaged by the fighting, said the insurgents would be back.

"That is another in a string of successful operations that continue to disrupt and interdict insurgent activity in west Anbar province," said Colonel Steve Davis, who commanded the 1,000 U.S. and Iraqi troops involved in "Operation Spear".

Battalion intelligence officer Captain Thomas Sibley pointed out, however, that any final victory was still some way off: "If this was the only thing we did, we would lose this war -- quickly. But it's not the only thing we're doing.

"Yeah, in a couple of weeks they'll be back and they'll make up for these losses. But that's fine, because we're not beating them in two weeks. We're beating them in two years."

Remember when they told us this?: This morning on Fox News Sunday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was asked if “the Bush administration fairly [can] be criticized for failing to level with the American people about how long and difficult this commitment will be?” Rice responded:

“[T]he administration, I think, has said to the American people that it is a generational commitment to Iraq.”

That’s not true. To build support for the war the administration told the American people that the conflict in Iraq will be short and affordable.

Vice President Dick Cheney, 3/16/03: “[M]y belief is we will, in fact, be greeted as liberators. . . . I think it will go relatively quickly. . . (in) weeks rather than months’

Donald Rumsfeld, 2/7/03: “It is unknowable how long that conflict will last. It could last six days, six weeks. I doubt six months.”

Former Budget Director Mitch Daniels, 3/28/03: “The United States is committed to helping Iraq recover from the conflict, but Iraq will not require sustained aid…”

Yeah, I know this is old news but it dovetails so nicely with the story above. I guess CPT Sibley never got the memo though…hope he packed an extra toothbrush.

Tactics reminiscent: The public war on the Iraqi insurgency has led to an atmosphere of hidden brutalities, including abuse and torture, carried out against detainees by the nation's special security forces, according to defense lawyers, international organizations and Iraq's Ministry of Human Rights.

Up to 60% of the estimated 12,000 detainees in the country's prisons and military compounds face intimidation, beatings or torture that leads to broken bones and sometimes death, said Saad Sultan, head of a board overseeing the treatment of prisoners at the Human Rights Ministry. He added that police and security forces attached to the Interior Ministry are responsible for most abuses.

The units have used tactics reminiscent of Saddam Hussein's secret intelligence squads, according to the ministry and independent human rights groups and lawyers, who have cataloged abuses.

"We've documented a lot of torture cases," said Sultan, whose committee is pushing for wider access to Iraqi-run prisons across the nation. "There are beatings, punching, electric shocks to the body, including sensitive areas, hanging prisoners upside down and beating them and dragging them on the ground…. Many police officers come from a culture of torture from their experiences over the last 35 years. Most of them worked during Saddam's regime."

Lots of secrets: Iraqi's justice minister said today that U.S. officials are trying to delay interrogations of Saddam Hussein.

Justice Minister Abdel Hussein Shandal, in Brussels for an international conference on Iraq, also accused the U.S. of concealing information about the ousted Iraqi leader.

"It seems there are lots of secrets they want to hide,'' he told The Associated Press in an exclusive interview.

Is a United Front far away?: Iraqi lawmakers from across the political spectrum called for the withdrawal of foreign forces from their country in a letter released to the media June 19.

The move comes as U.S. President George W. Bush is under increasing domestic pressure to set a timetable for the pullout of American forces in the face of an increasing death toll at the hands of insurgents.

Eighty-two Shiite, Kurdish, Sunni Arab, Christian and communist deputies made the call in a letter sent by Falah Hassan Shanshal of the United Iraqi Alliance (UIA), the largest group in parliament, to speaker Hajem al-Hassani.

(I know Friendly Fire posted an article on this yesterday, but I thought it was worth a second look. After all, this is Iraqi democracy in action! Does anyone know how many deputies would have to vote for a resolution calling for withdrawal for it to become law? I’m afraid my grasp of the mechanics of Iraqi government isn’t all it could be…)

Two stories in one: The new US ambassador to Iraq said Tuesday he would work with the population to crush the insurgency that is throttling much of the country despite massive operations against the rebels.

"I will work with Iraqis to break the back of the insurgency," said Zalmay Khalilzad, who presented his credentials to President Jalal Talabani on the way to Brussels for an international conference on rebuilding Iraq.

"Foreign terrorists and hardline Baathists want Iraq to be in a civil war," Khalilzad told reporters, referring to members of former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein's Baath Party.

"Foreign terrorists are using Iraqis as cannon fodder."


A tribal leader in Karabilah near the border came to Baghdad to beg for medical supplies and called on leaders to stop the fighting.

"We ask (the government) to send medical relief to Qaim and Karabilah," said Osama al-Jadaan al-Sanad, head of the Karabilah tribe. "We must force US forces and the Iraqi defence and interior ministries to stop bleeding the innocent in Karabilah under the pretext that they are terrorists."

Journalism in Iraq: Television channel Al-Arabiya said US military authorities had refused to authorize the evacuation from Iraq of reporter Jawad Kazem, who was wounded by armed men Saturday in Baghdad. In a statement received by Agence France-Presse, the Dubai-based TV station said its attempts to obtain permission for a medical aircraft to evacuate its journalist from Baghdad had met with 'a refusal from the American military authorities'. In 'intensive' contacts with 'the Iraqi government, the Pentagon, the State Department and American Central Command (Centcom) in Qatar' Al-Arabiya had explained 'the gravity of the state of health' of Kazem and 'the need to transfer him out of Iraq in the hope of saving his life,' the statement said.

Soldiers’ perspectives: Their faces dusty and streaked with sweat, the soldiers huddle to talk through the incident, raising more questions than answers. Why had the engineers been operating in daylight, when insurgents could easily "template" their position? Why had the infantry left them vulnerable? Why hadn't they caught the sniper who killed Miller?

"What sucks the most," says Miller's platoon leader, Lt. Tom Lafave, of Escanaba, Mich., "is we sweep an area and five hours later an IED goes off in the same spot."

Miller's squad leader, Staff Sgt. Steve "Shaggy" Hagedorn, is more blunt. "We spent three days clearing a route and I guarantee it's worse now than when we started," he says. "So everyone's asking, 'What are we doing it for?' Everyone's asking, 'Am I next?' "

Miller has made his final escape from the war, his body refrigerated and readied for the flight out. But his death will replay in the minds of his platoon mates for a very long time. The shock is compounded by the loss just weeks earlier of the platoon's commander, 2nd Lt. Richard B. Gienau, 29, of Peoria, Ill., and Sgt. Seth K. Garceau, 27, of Oelwein, Iowa, when their Humvee was hit by a large road bomb. For some, it was already too much to bear.

Syrian border: Syrian President Bashar Assad is under intense pressure from Washington and Baghdad, which have charged in the past that the Syrians let militants cross the frontier. His government denies that, arguing it is impossible to seal the 360-mile border.

Seeking to show they are trying to guard the frontier - as Iraqi and American soldiers across the border fight yet another offensive against insurgents believed to have entered from Syria - Syrian officials gave journalists a rare peek Monday at part of the border.

The Syrians did increase their work along the border starting nine months ago, said Lyne-Pirkis. Nevertheless, the border remains "very difficult" to control, especially at night, he said.

The Syrians also need to improve patrols and get better intelligence to understand how the insurgency works, said Lyne-Pirkis, who has surveyed the entire border and went on the tour.

A Syrian border official acknowledged it is difficult to keep insurgents from crossing at night, although he said such crossings are generally prevented during the day.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the border issue, said 15 border guards had been killed either by outlaws crossing the border or by fire from U.S. troops who apparently mistook the Syrians for infiltrators. He did not provide the time span or other details.

Mercenaries: ''Private Warriors" is the closest thing to must-see TV that ''Frontline" has uncorked in ages. Veteran correspondent Martin Smith, on his fourth trip to Iraq for the program, has reported, written, and coproduced a devastating look at the rodeo of private contractors working for the US government there that should trouble all of us.

There are as many as 100,000 civilian contractors and another 20,000 private security forces in the country who exist outside of the military chain of command and who are thus largely unaccountable to military leaders. The security cadre shows up from Russia, South Africa, and Europe, as well as the United States. Some are well-trained, others are disasters. Many are former soldiers, others are debtors desperate for cash.

More troubling are the rules the security types follow: There aren't many. ''They don't communicate in the same networks. They don't get the same intelligence information," one expert says on the program. Adds another: ''They can decide to leave when and where they want. . . . And so what you've done is put a level of uncertainty into your military operation. And military operations are not a place that you want uncertainty."

As pressure mounts on the Bush administration to withdraw troops from Iraq, so does the seductiveness of replacing them with even more contractors.

''Perhaps it is part of their policy to reduce troop members and replace them with private security contractors," offers the head of one such outfit.

June 2005 and we still have equipment shortages?: Marine Corps units fighting in some of the most dangerous terrain in Iraq don't have enough weapons, communications gear, or properly outfitted vehicles, according to an investigation by the Marine Corps' inspector general provided to Congress yesterday.

The report, obtained by the Globe, says the estimated 30,000 Marines in Iraq need twice as many heavy machine guns, more fully protected armored vehicles, and more communications equipment to operate in a region the size of Utah.

The Marine Corps leadership has ''understated" the amount and types of ground equipment it needs, according to the investigation, concluding that all of its fighting units in Iraq ''require ground equipment that exceeds" their current supplies, ''particularly in mobility, engineering, communications, and heavy weapons."

What the hell are they spending this money on? Obviously not the Marines: Lawmakers in the United States were scheduled to vote on Monday to approve $45 billion US in additional funding for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, making the recent Middle East foray more expensive than the entire Korean War.

Since the Sept. 11 attacks, Congress has approved $350 billion, mostly for combat and reconstruction in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The amount, which includes $82 billion approved last month, is equal to the total amount in today's dollars spent on the Korean conflict from 1950-53.

Sleight of hand: By refusing to estimate the costs for the war in Iraq, Bush makes his budget deficits look much smaller than they actually are. With two full years of experience waging war in Iraq, President George W. Bush should have some idea of how much it will cost to continue the fight next year.

But when he submitted his 2006 budget to Congress in February, it didn't contain one penny for combat in Iraq or Afghanistan. Sunny optimist that he is, Bush wasn't operating on the assumption that the mission would actually be accomplished by then.

Instead, Bush insisted it would be impossible to know how much would be needed, so instead of including anything in the regular budget, he plans to continue the tradition of coming to Congress for emergency supplemental appropriations when war funds get low.

Coincidentally, that approach has the side effect of making the federal budget deficit appear smaller than it actually is. Far smaller, considering that spending in Iraq has averaged more than $5 billion a month.

The Times Are Changing, Indeed They Are

If 51% is a mandate, what is 59%?: Nearly six in 10 Americans oppose the war in Iraq and a growing number of them are dissatisfied with the war on terrorism, according to a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll released Monday.

Only 39 percent of those polled said they favored the war in Iraq -- down from 47 percent in March -- and 59 percent were opposed.

The survey of 1,006 adults, conducted by telephone Thursday through Sunday, had an error margin of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Please support this fine citizen: Since Mike Norton, of Layton, began displaying the pictures of American soldiers killed in Iraq on an illuminated sign in his front yard, his home has been vandalized, cars have stopped in front of his home and honked horns in the early morning hours and he has received anonymous harassing phone calls. Now the city of Layton has gotten into the act. Norton, who was told by a city official last winter that the sign in his yard did not violate zoning ordinances, received a letter from the Layton City Attorney's Office recently informing him that, upon further review, the sign does violate the ordinance and he would have 10 days to take it down. The sign currently contains 1,715 postage-stamp-sized pictures of each dead soldier that Norton downloads from CNN's Web site. The number is updated whenever there is a new casualty. Above the pictures is a large bold-faced headline denoting the latest number of Americans killed in Iraq. Next to the sign is an American flag. Norton says that by day, many people, including veterans, stop by and thank him for keeping the sacrifices of the soldiers and their families in the public eye. But by night he is harassed by anonymous antagonists, including one who shined a spotlight into his 6-year-old daughter's window.

The letter, from Layton Assistant City Attorney Stephen Garside, said the city inspector who told Norton six months ago that his sign was OK used the wrong code section in reviewing the sign. Norton responded by telling the city to cite him, because he could find nothing in the code to indicate a violation and, he noted, the city code specifically exempts memorials. His sign is a memorial to the soldiers. Norton has obtained an attorney and is prepared to fight. "I will go to jail before I will pay a fine for displaying a sign that honors the war dead," he said.

You can contact Layton Asst. Attorney Garside at 801-336-3590 or sgarside@laytoncity.org and ask him why Mike Norton can't honor the fallen. Perhaps Garside has a good explanation. Be respectful. (Many thanks to Buzzflash, the best source of news on the internet)

Growing a spine?: The Out of Iraq Congressional Caucus, created last week, will to try to increase pressure on the Bush administration and Congress to end the Iraq conflict and bring American forces home. The group of progressives, led by California Reps. Maxine Waters, Lynn Woolsey and Barbara Lee, has been urging a withdrawal for some time but formalized its effort last week as part of its push to become a more forceful voice on the issue within the broader party Caucus.

Waters said many House Democrats have become increasingly frustrated with the party’s failure to effectively challenge the Bush administration’s policies in Iraq. She said the caucus was needed to help organize a message offensive and ensure that the White House comes up with and presents a plan to conclude the war.

A true British patriot: The prime minister, Tony Blair, is today expected to make an application to avoid a court appearance after he was summonsed by the mother-in-law of a sergeant killed in Iraq, as part of an anti-war protest.

Pat Blackburn called on Mr Blair to be a witness in her case of income tax evasion after she withheld payments in protest at the war.

Mrs Blackburn has said that she has given the outstanding £15,000 she owes to "an independent stakeholder" but is refusing to hand over the money to the Inland Revenue until Mr Blair resigns or shows her evidence of Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction.

Dickheads: A radical Midwestern hate group plans to protest at the funerals of two local soldiers killed in action, claiming the slain heroes ``were cast into hell to join many more dishonorable Americans.

The Westboro Baptist Church, proclaiming ``thank God for IEDs'' or roadside bombs, claims the 9/11 attacks and American deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan are God's vengeance on a nation that is tolerant of homosexuality.

``It's going to shock and enrage every person who sees it. That is our goal,'' said Margie Phelps, daughter of WBC leader Fred Phelps. The group is based in Topeka, Kansas, and has made headlines protesting homosexuality at school events, graduations and mainstream churches.


Analysis: The U.S. military strategy in Iraq has been consistent for months now: Use aggressive military operations to disrupt the flow of foreign fighters entering the country and the insurgent support lines that run along the Euphrates River west to the Syrian border. Simultaneously, the U.S. is training Iraqi troops to fill the security vacuum that persists in the center and north of the country.

By any metric of tactical military success, it's working, say analysts. U.S. forces have strung together victory after victory. Marine and Army operations from Najaf in the south to Fallujah in the heart of the Sunni triangle and on to Mosul in the north have ended with thousands of insurgents killed and captured and tons of enemy munitions destroyed with minimal U.S. casualties.

But if another measure of success is used - a reduction in the number and lethality of insurgent attacks - the U.S. and the new Iraqi government are failing. In the past two days, for example, U.S. Marines and Army soldiers carried out Operations Spear and Dagger (designed to disrupt insurgent capabilities between Baghdad and Syria). At the same time, separate suicide attacks killed 20 policemen in the Kurdish city of Arbil and 23 people in a Baghdad restaurant popular with policemen, while insurgents overran a police station in southern Baghdad, killing eight officers.

U.S. commanders and soldiers in Iraq frequently complain they don't have the manpower to deal anything resembling a decisive blow. Soldiers operating in tough Iraqi provinces like Anbar say they feel as if they're watering the desert: They can win any neighborhood or mid-sized city they care to and make it "bloom" for as long as they're present in strength, but their efforts wither when they inevitably leave and move on to the next engagement.

"We've won every fight they've given us, but there always seem to be just as many people fighting us as when we got here," says one career Marine officer, who recently finished a tour in Iraq.

Editorial: The president is deluding himself if he believes the nation must stay the course. He and his administration must acknowledge what has become obvious for more than two years -- it's time to start withdrawing U.S. troops and give full control of Iraq back to the Iraqis.

As U.S. forces withdraw, Iraq should be put under some form of United Nations trusteeship. The UN can put together an international peacekeeping force to maintain civic order. It can start the negotiation process with the Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis for how they will share power.

It can also start shipping in food and medicine as well as engineers and construction supplies. It can throw Haliburton and the rest of the war profiteers out and give the jobs to Iraqis so they can rebuild their own country and take control of their economic destiny.

We can't do anything about what has already happened to put our nation into this mess in Iraq. We can, however, do something to prevent it from getting worse. Without an honest timetable to internationalize the political and economic rebuilding of Iraq that will keep U.S. involvement to a bare minimum, we can expect to see more chaos and death in Iraq and American troops bogged down in a tragic, unwinnable war.

Interview with Wesley Clark

What should the Democrats be doing and saying now about Iraq?

First of all, we've got to support the troops that are there, their families at home, the military as an institution that's fighting the war, and our veterans. We have to do that because it's a duty for Americans, and if we're going to be the leading party in America, then we have to lead. There's nothing more important for a government than protecting the safety and security of its people, and that requires a strong and ready armed force. So that's the first thing that Democrats have to do. I think we've done a good job at that, and I think we're getting increasing recognition for that.

It's been Democrats who have supported and proposed measures to make sure every vehicle has the appropriate armor, to make sure every solider has body armor and adequate ammunition and training, to make sure that our veterans and our returning soldiers can be taken care of. Democrats have a long-standing reputation for being more interested in the people than in the weapons systems.

So Democrats have to pull off being critical of the administration's Iraq policy -- and articulating a better policy of their own -- while not being perceived as denigrating the troops.

First, it's still true that the war in Iraq was a strategic blunder. Even had the intelligence been proven to be correct, it wouldn't have established a compelling necessity to go to war when we did. Second, the intelligence wasn't correct. That said, once we're there, we want to succeed.

The administration's overall strategy is sort of unarguable in the broadest sense. The problem is that it is not executing it well.

"Unarguable" in the sense that the United States has to stay in Iraq until the job is done?

"Unarguable" in the sense that you have to create an Iraqi government that people can have confidence in, that has legitimacy. You also have to have the ability to train the Iraqi military and security forces to take over an increasing proportion of the burden. And you have to deal with Iraq's rough neighborhood.

As far as creating an Iraqi government, the administration essentially did very little for more than a year. And even today, we're having a great deal of difficulty bringing that government together. Then, on the military side, we also wasted a year [before] getting serious about training the Iraqi military and security forces. And the administration hasn't ever really talked about how to deal with Iraq's neighbors other than to threaten them; and it doesn't talk to some of the neighbors, like Syria and Iran.

So it's not that there's no way out. It's that the administration isn't doing a very good job of making a success of what it got us in to.

(This whole interview, and especially these passages, strike me as a worthy discussion topic. I admire General Clark but I’m not sure I agree with him here. I’d really appreciate it if one of these muckymucks would define for me in plain language just what ‘victory in Iraq’ would constitute.)

Opinion: "He was thinking about invading Iraq in 1999," said author and Houston Chronicle journalist Mickey Herskowitz. "It was on his mind. He said, 'One of the keys to being seen as a great leader is to be seen as a commander-in-chief.' And he said, 'My father had all this political capital built up when he drove the Iraqis out of Kuwait and he wasted it.' He went on, 'If I have a chance to invade…, if I had that much capital, I'm not going to waste it. I'm going to get everything passed that I want to get passed and I'm going to have a successful presidency.'"

Bush apparently accepted a view that Herskowitz, with his long experience of writing books with top Republicans, says was a common sentiment: that no president could be considered truly successful without one military "win" under his belt. Leading Republicans had long been enthralled by the effect of the minuscule Falklands War on British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's popularity, and ridiculed Democrats such as Jimmy Carter who were reluctant to use American force. Indeed, both Reagan and Bush's father successfully prosecuted limited invasions (Grenada, Panama and the Gulf War) without miring the United States in endless conflicts.

Herskowitz's revelations illuminate Bush's personal motivation for invading Iraq and, more importantly, his general inclination to use war to advance his domestic political ends. Furthermore, they establish that this thinking predated 9/11, predated his election to the presidency and predated his appointment of leading neoconservatives who had their own, separate, more complex geopolitical rationale for supporting an invasion.

Comment: Although official administration spokesmen have for some time been saying things like ''We have turned a corner in Iraq'' or ''We have broken the back of the insurgency'' or ''The insurgents are in a last-gasp campaign,'' the truth seems to be otherwise. A brief quiet followed the Iraqi election, but it has been broken by a sustained round of insurgent attacks. Iraqi civilian casualties in May were up by 33 percent over April, while Iraqi police deaths were up 75 percent over the same period. American military dead in Iraq more than doubled last month over the lull in March. Because the need for large numbers of troops there has remained much longer than originally planned (some reports suggest that Pentagon civilian planners anticipated a force of only 30,000 by 2004; we now have more than four times that number in Iraq), many of the active-duty Army units in Iraq are on their second deployments.

In addition to the thousands of American and Iraqi casualties, one victim of this slow bleeding in Iraq is the American military as an institution. Across America, the National Guard, designed to assist civil authorities in domestic crises (like the pandemic of a lethal avian flu that some public-health planners fear), is in tatters. Re-enlistments are down, training for domestic support missions is spotty at best, equipment is battered and many units are either in Iraq or on their way to or from it. Now the rot is beginning to spread into the regular Army. Recruiters are coming up dry, and some, under pressure to produce new troops, have reportedly been complicit in suspect applications.

The implications for the all-volunteer military are significant. With almost every unit in the Army on the conveyor belt into and out of Iraq, few units are really combat-ready for other missions. If the North Korean regime that is often called crazy were to roll its huge army the few kilometers into South Korea, significant American reinforcements would be a long time coming. This raises the possibility that the United States may have to resort to nuclear weapons to stop the North Koreans, as has been contemplated with increasing seriousness since the last Nuclear Posture Review in 2002.

Opinion: In his June 18 weekly radio address last Saturday, Bush again lied to the American people when he told them that the U.S. was forced into invading Iraq because of the Sept. 11 attack on the WTC. Bush, the greatest disgrace that America has ever had to suffer, actually repeated at this late date the monstrous lie for which he is infamous throughout the world: "We went to war because we were attacked, and we are at war today because there are still people out there who want to harm our country and hurt our citizens."

Whoever the "people out there who want to harm our country and hurt our citizens" might be, they were not Iraqis, at least not until Bush invaded their country, killed tens of thousands and maimed tens of thousands more, detained tens of thousands others, destroyed entire cities, destroyed the country's infrastructure, and created mass unemployment, poverty, pollution, and disease.

The only reason Iraqis want to harm the U.S. is because George W. Bush inflicted, and continues to inflict, tremendous harm on Iraqis.

If the Bush administration has its way, the Iraqi insurgents will be joined by the Iranians, Syrians, Saudis, Egyptians, Pakistanis, Jordanians, and Palestinians. The "people out there who want to harm our country and hurt our citizens" will increase exponentially.

Editorial: Another day, another round of bombings, electricity cuts, death and destruction in Iraq. Monday's grim tally included a suicide attack in northern Iraq that killed at least 15 traffic policemen and wounded 100. Insurgents' sabotage of water pipes left 2 million sweltering Baghdadis without water.

Nothing, in other words, out of the ordinary. Just more evidence that the United States is bogged down in Iraq, battling a fierce insurgency with the outcome uncertain. More than two years after Saddam Hussein's regime was toppled, no end is in view for the 140,000 U.S. troops. More than 1,700 U.S. soldiers have lost their lives.

Not surprisingly, public support for the war in Iraq is slipping. Almost six in 10 Americans, in a Gallup poll this month, want some or all troops to come home. For the first time, a bipartisan group of congressmen is beginning to press for an exit deadline.

The White House response? A series of speeches starting this week intended, according to spokesman Scott McClellan, as an "update" for the American people. But far more is needed than another hopeful scenario, or a set of idealistic goals without a hard assessment of the realities on the ground and what has brought the USA to this point.

Opinion: President Bush planted the seeds of the destruction of his Iraq policy before the war started. Salvaging the venture will require an unprecedented degree of candor and realism from a White House that was never willing to admit -- even to itself -- how large an undertaking it was asking the American people to buy into.

The notion that the president led the country into war through indirection or dishonesty is not the most damaging criticism of the administration. The worst possibility is that the president and his advisers believed their own propaganda. They did not prepare the American people for an arduous struggle because they honestly didn't expect one.

How else to explain the fact that the president and his lieutenants consistently played down the costs of the endeavor, the number of troops required, the difficulties of overcoming tensions among the Sunnis, the Shiites and the Kurds? Were they lying? The more logical explanation is that they didn't know what they were talking about.

Opinion: Though Mr. Bush doesn’t do nuance and he often fights a losing battle with syntax and pronunciation, he somehow makes it all work to potent political effect. “See, in my line of work,” he has said, “you got to keep repeating things over and over and over again for the truth to sink in, to kind of catapult the propaganda . . .”

This folksy bit of arrogance helps explain his talent for communication. While FDR insisted that repetition does not transform a lie into a truth, Bush has persevered, brazened out and repeated lies that meeker men might have buckled under. He has hidden the truth in plain sight, wrapped in the cult of personality and patriotism and been rewarded for his efforts. His hand-picked audiences respond with thunderous applause. They relish the president’s jovial delivery, happy just to let the propaganda sink in and work its magic. Cares be gone. God bless America.

The confluence of religious fanaticism, war, fear and corporatism, have indeed proven ripe for catapulting his propaganda. The Iraq war has cost the lives of 1,683 soldiers and the lives of untold numbers of civilians. More than 12,000 Americans have been wounded and the war has a price tag of $300 billion and counting.

A mother’s story: "My only child, Lt. Ken Ballard, was 26 years old when he was killed in Najaf, Iraq, on 5-30-04. My son saved the lives of 60 men that horrible night – they all got to go home to their families. He was one of three soldiers in his battalion killed after they were extended with the First Armored Division. "After I read the notes from the meeting at Downing Street, I knew that his fate was decided and he was a dead man in July 2002, when that meeting took place. "How sad that I didn't know then – just two months after he was commissioned an officer in the U.S. Army, just two months after he took an oath to obey the orders of the President of the United States – that his fate was already determined by a corrupt administration. Members of the Bush Administration lied repeatedly to this country when they told us time and again that no decision to go to war had been made. "And how devastating to know that if the administration had planned for more ground strength, my son might be alive today.”

Opinion: Bush lied, and Americans died. And continue to die. But politically - at least so far - it has worked out well for Bush.

It was a lie of political expediency, with the war resolution carefully timed just before the 2002 elections to help the Republicans take back the Senate.

It was echoed and amplified and repeated over and over again to help him and other Republicans get elected in 2004.

It wasn't a war for oil - cheap oil was just a useful secondary benefit.

It wasn't a war against terrorism - that was just a convenient excuse.

It wasn't a war to enrich Bush's and Cheney's cronies - those were just pleasant by-products.

It wasn't a war to show Poppy Bush that Junior was more of a man than him - that was just a personal bonus for Dubya.

It was, pure and simple, well planned years in advance, a war to solidify Bush and the Republican Party's political capital.

It was a war for political power. That had to be first. Everything else - oil, profits, ongoing PATRIOT Act powers, easy manipulation of the media - all could only come if political power was seized and held through at least two decisive election cycles.

The Bush administration lied us into an invasion to get and keep political power. It's that simple.

An open letter to Fred Hiatt: Men and women of good faith cannot any longer deny that the preponderance of evidence points to one conclusion, and one conclusion only: The President of the United States and much of his cabinet are guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors against the US Congress and against its citizens, and those crimes were motivated by a deadly brew of political opportunism, and an arrogant and destructive neoconservative foreign policy.

Mr. Hiatt, you made one other assertion that has proven to be patently false. You said that Bush "...inherited a failing strategy with regard to Iraq."

Here again, the facts point to a different conclusion. One of the most important implications of the Kay Report, the Senate Intelligence Committee Report, the 911 Commission’s Report, and the Duelfer Report is the clear evidence that Clinton’s policy – which was begun by Bush’s father -- was, in many ways, a stunning success. Hussein had been completely deterred from developing WMD and totally contained.

Which, of course, brings us to your last point – that "What Kennedy has laid out for the Democrats is a powerful critique; it is not yet a policy." Call it what you will, Mr. Hiatt – we now know that the strategy of containment and deterrence worked, just as it had in defeating the far more dangerous Soviet Union. On the other hand, Mr. Bush’s policy of preemption has, in fact, weakened the US in all the ways Mr. Kennedy outlined – a set of issues you wisely choose not to rebut.

And neither purple-fingered ex-post facto justifications about democratization nor any of the other 22 separate retroactive rationalizations ginned up by a White House desperate to justify breaking the law and lying to Congress and the American people undermines the case for impeachment.

It’s time, Washington Post. We all make mistakes. And it’s very hard to admit them. Particularly when papers in the Knight-Ridder chain and the Guardian got it right all along, while you and your editorial page clung to increasingly transparent lies.

But your current editorial position wouldn’t hold up against a highschool debater. Quit embarrassing yourself and insulting your reader’s intelligence.

By your own logic, the Post’s next editorial on the administration’s Iraq policy should be calling for impeachment proceedings to begin.

Casualty Reports

Local story: Two Georgia soldiers, one from Ellijay and one from Liliburn, killed June 17 in Buritz.

Local story: Fowlersville, MI, Marine killed near Fallujah.

Local story: Soldier with western Pennsylvania ties killed in vehicle accident in Nippur.

Local story: Two Mississippi National Guardsmen killed in bomb attack in Iraq.

Local story: Montrose, CO, Marine killed in roadside bombing near Ramadi.

Local story: Antigo, WI, Marine who was killed in Iraq buried with full military honors.

Local story: Chicopee, MA, Marine killed in Ramadi.

Local story: Charleston, WV, Marine killed in Karabilah.

Notice To Readers: I see alert reader zig posted a bunch of interesting articles in yesterday's Comments. I didn't see them in time to incorporate them in this post, but if your eyeballs aren't already falling out, go take a look. Thanks, zig!


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