Wednesday, June 15, 2005

War News for Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Bring ‘em on: At least 10 people killed and 29 wounded in car bomb attack on an Iraqi police patrol in southern Baghdad.

Bring ‘em on: Two gunmen killed by Iraqi police in Kirkuk. One US soldier killed in roadside bombing in southern Baghdad. One US soldier killed and two wounded in RPG attack in Baghdad. Five Iraqi civilians killed by US Marines and Iraqi soldiers at an entrance to Ramadi shortly after a suicide attack on a military checkpoint left one Iraqi soldier dead. Two Bulgarian soldiers killed and one injured in vehicle accident southeast of Diwaniya.

Bring ‘em on: One US Marine killed in roadside bombing in Fallujah. One US Marine killed in roadside bombing in Rutbah. Unspecified number of guerillas killed in foiled car bomb attack on a security checkpoint in Baghdad. One Iraqi civilian killed by a warning shot when he approached a US Air Force security patrol at Kirkuk Air Base.

Bring ‘em on: At least 23 Iraqi soldiers killed and 28 wounded by a suicide bomber wearing a national guard uniform who had managed to bypass security checks and enter a restaurant inside the Khalis national guard base. Five Iraqi policemen killed in suicide car bomb attack on a checkpoint outside of Baquba.

Bring ‘em on: Oil pipeline blown up between Beiji and Dora. One Iraqi civilian killed and six police wounded in gunbattle between police and gunmen in Baghdad’s Saydiyah neighborhood.

Hostage freed: Iraqi and U.S. forces, acting on a tip, raided a dangerous Sunni neighborhood Wednesday and freed an Australian hostage who was hidden beneath a blanket, officials said.

Douglas Wood, a 64-year-old engineer who is a longtime resident of Alamo, Calif., said he was "extremely happy and relieved to be free again," according to a message read by Australia's counterterrorism chief Nick Warner.

A spiffy new metric: US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has acknowledged that security in Iraq has not improved statistically since Saddam Hussein's fall in 2003.

Mr Rumsfeld told the BBC insurgents crossed Iraq's "porous" borders from Iran, Syria and elsewhere.

But he said Iraq's military forces were growing in numbers and he was confident the insurgency would be defeated.

In an interview for the BBC's Newsnight programme, Mr Rumsfeld said Iraq had passed several milestones, like holding elections and appointing a government.

But asked if the security situation had improved, he admitted: "Statistically, no."

"But clearly it has been getting better as we've gone along," he added.

"A lot of bad things that could have happened have not happened."

This is not good: Police and security units, led by Kurdish political parties and backed by the U.S. military, have abducted hundreds of minority Arabs and Turkomans in this intensely volatile city and spirited them to prisons in Kurdish-held northern Iraq, according to U.S. and Iraqi officials, government documents and families of the victims.

Seized off the streets of Kirkuk or in joint U.S.-Iraqi raids, the men have been transferred secretly and in violation of Iraqi law to prisons in the Kurdish cities of Irbil and Sulaymaniya, sometimes with the knowledge of U.S. forces.

The detainees, including merchants, members of tribal families and soldiers, have often remained missing for months; some have been tortured, according to released prisoners and the Kirkuk police chief.

A confidential June 5 State Department cable, obtained by the Washington Post and addressed to the White House, Pentagon and U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, said the "extra-judicial detentions" were part of a "concerted and widespread initiative" by Kurdish political parties "to exercise authority in Kirkuk in an increasingly provocative manner."

Your Tax Dollars At Work

This should fix everything up: "The U.S. Special Operations Command has hired three firms to produce newspaper stories, television broadcasts and Web sites to spread American propaganda overseas." The contract may run $100 million over the next five years. The work was likely outsourced because there are "only one active-duty and two reserve psyops units remaining" in the U.S. military. The lucky firms are Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC), SYColeman and Lincoln Group. SAIC previously ran the Iraqi Media Network, but "was criticized for problems and exorbitant costs." SYColeman "created the Army's Web site honoring the only Medal of Honor winner so far from the Iraq war." Lincoln Group, formerly known as Iraqex, has done PR work for the Multi-National Corps-Iraq. The firms will produce "print articles, video and audio broadcasts, Internet sites and novelty items, like T-shirts and bumper stickers, for foreign audiences. Video products will include newscasts, hour-long TV shows and commercials."

US Military News

Recruitment woes: The U.S. Army probably will come up well short of the 80,000 new recruits it needs during fiscal 2005, despite adding a thousand more recruiters, boosting enlistment cash bonuses to a record $20,000, spending $200 million on upbeat television ads and beginning to lower its standards.

Easing the strict standards that made the all-volunteer force such a success - in effect, trading quality for quantity - could complicate the Pentagon's ambitious plans to transform the Army into an agile, high-tech force in which ordinary soldiers are better equipped to act fast without waiting for orders from above.

Creating that force "will require more ability and more competence, not less, for the soldier in tomorrow's Army," said retired Lt. Gen. Marc Cisneros of Corpus Christi, Texas.

`"More troubling to me is the fact that lowering standards impacts on a moral issue," Cisneros said. "If young people aren't enlisting, that tells me we are not doing the right thing over there (in Iraq). If our leaders can't see that, the damage will go deeper than it did in Vietnam."

Tell it to the Young Republicans, buddy.

Douchebag: A Kansas preacher and gay rights foe whose congregation is protesting military funerals around the country said he's coming to Idaho tomorrow to picket the memorial for an Idaho National Guard soldier killed in Iraq.

A flier on the Web site of Pastor Fred Phelps' Westboro Baptist Church claims God killed Cpl. Carrie French with an improvised explosive device in retaliation against the United States for a bombing at Phelps' church six years ago.

"We're coming," Phelps said yesterday.

Westboro Baptist either has protested or is planning protests of other public funerals of soldiers from Michigan, Alabama, Minnesota, Virginia and Colorado. A protest is planned for July 11 at Dover Air Force Base, the military base where war dead are transported before being sent on to their home states.

Downing Street

Who’s the source?: Deep Throat now has an English accent.

Reporter Michael Smith of the Sunday Times of London scored an international scoop this weekend with a story about a sensational Iraq war document provided by an anonymous high-level official source who, like W. Mark Felt of Watergate fame, seems to have taken up a mission of helping an investigative reporter probe allegations of misconduct and cover-up.

The document, a British government briefing paper from July 21, 2002, informed Prime Minister Tony Blair's cabinet ministers eight months before the invasion of Iraq that Blair had already committed Britain to supporting an American-led attack and that "they had no choice but to find a way of making it legal."

The eight-page document labeled "PERSONAL SECRET UK EYES ONLY," whose authenticity has been confirmed by British government sources, also served as the basis of a Page 1 story in the Sunday Washington Post. Staff writer Walter Pincus emphasized a different passage in the document, which said "the U.S. military was not preparing adequately for what the British memo predicted would be a " protracted and costly" postwar occupation of Iraq.

The Sunday Times story made headlines from Australia to China to Pakistan. Like the now-famous Downing Street Memo, published by the Sunday Times on May 1, the revelation raises the intriguing question of who is risking jail time by leaking top-secret documents to Smith. Just as students of the Watergate scandal pondered for years the identity of the high-level source who guided Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, students of the Iraq war will wonder about the person (or persons) behind The Sunday Times's reports.

Pissy little fellas: After over a month of scant media attention, mainstream U.S. outlets have begun to report more seriously about the "Downing Street Memo," the minutes of a July 2002 meeting of British government officials that indicate the White House had already made up its mind to invade Iraq at that early date, and that "the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy" of invading rather than seeking a peaceful solution. A June 7 White House press conference with George W. Bush and Tony Blair offered the first public response from Bush to the memo, and with that came an upswing in U.S. media attention. But some in the media took it as a chance to lash out at the activists who have been bringing attention to the story all along. On June 8, Washington Post reporter Dana Milbank referred to Downing Street Memo activists--some of whom were offering a cash reward for the first journalist to ask Bush about the memo--as "wing nuts."

Los Angeles Times editorial page editor Michael Kinsley opted for sarcasm over serious discussion, deriding activists in a June 12 column for sending him emails "demanding that I cease my personal cover-up of something called the Downing Street Memo." Kinsley kidded that the fuss was a good sign for the Left: "Developing a paranoid theory and promoting it to the very edge of national respectability takes ideological self-confidence."

First set a policy, then find reasons for it: In March 2002, the Bush administration had just begun to publicly raise the possibility of confronting Iraq. But behind the scenes, officials already were deeply engaged in seeking ways to justify an invasion, newly revealed British memos indicate.

Foreshadowing developments in the year before the war started, British officials emphasized the importance of U.N. diplomacy, which they said might force Saddam Hussein into a misstep. They also suggested that confronting the Iraqi leader be cast as an effort to prevent him from using weapons of mass destruction or giving them to terrorists.

The new documents indicate that top British officials believed that by March 2002, Washington was already leaning heavily toward toppling Hussein by military force. Condoleezza Rice, the current secretary of State who was then Bush's national security advisor, was described as enthusiastic about "regime change."

Although British officials said in the documents that they did not think Iraq's weapons programs posed an immediate threat and that they were dubious of any claimed links between the Iraqi government and Al Qaeda, they indicated that they were willing to join in a campaign to topple Hussein as long as the plan would succeed and was handled with political and legal care.

The documents contain little discussion about whether to mount a military campaign. The focus instead is on how the campaign should be presented to win the widest support and the importance for Britain of working through the United Nations so an invasion could be seen as legal under international law.

237 and counting: President Bush and Administration Officials have offered 237 specific claims that intelligence had established not only a threat from Saddam Hussein, but a threat that his ''Weapons of Mass Destruction'' might be given to terrorists. Additionally, the Administration mentioned ''Saddam Hussein'' and ''9/11'' within a few words of each other over 100 times, falsely associating the two in the public's mind. Consequently, even as late as Election Day 2004, a huge majority of Republicans, and a large minority of Democrats and Independents believed one, if not more, of three false things: Saddam had WMD; Saddam was working with al-Qaeda; Saddam was connected to 9/11. In other words, most Americans voted believing that Bush had been acting to protect us from threats, when in fact those threats were known to be either ''weak'' or non-existent by the Administration. To this day, a majority of Americans believe one of these three false things, while huge minorities believe the other two. Nobody in the rest of the world outside of the U.S. does, or ever did.

The Path of War Timeline

Civil Liberties

Just a little public relations problem: Prominent Senate Republicans said Tuesday that closing the Guantanamo Bay prison will not fix a U.S. image tarnished by allegations of American troops mistreating terrorism suspects.

"To cut and run because of image problems is the wrong, wrong thing to do," Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said.

Human-rights activists and some lawmakers — mostly Democrats — want the administration to close the prison because of the allegations of torture and abuse of detainees. The prison holds about 540 terrorism suspects, including some who have not faced charges in three years.

Amnesty International has called the prison "the gulag of our time," and former President Carter also has said it should be closed.

Rendition: It is no secret that the US military operates detention centres around the world for the interrogation of terror suspects.

The treatment of prisoners in these places - including Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan and Abu Ghraib in Iraq - has come in for intense scrutiny and evidence of human rights violations has been widely reported.

But less well-documented is the process by which terror suspects are sent by the United States for interrogation by security officials in other countries.

This is known as "rendition" and is becoming increasingly controversial because many of these countries - including Syria and Egypt - are accused of using torture on prisoners, not least by the US State Department.

Fourteen and in for life?: Five men who were juveniles when captured by US forces were held at Guantánamo Bay while they were under 18, despite statements by the Pentagon to the contrary, a lawyer who visited the prison has claimed.

The US military has admitted in the past to holding three Afghan juveniles in a special camp called Iguana, but said it had released them.

In a January 2004 BBC interview a Pentagon spokesperson said no juveniles were held at Guantánamo, where over 500 Muslim men are detained without charge or trial in conditions that have provoked worldwide concern.

But British lawyer Clive Stafford-Smith, who returned from visiting clients in Guantánamo last week, claims that at least five people held there were taken to the camp after being arrested, despite being under 18 at the time.

One youth, 14 when detained in October 2001 in Pakistan, is still in US custody three-and-a-half years later.

The investment’s been made: Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on Tuesday defended the Guantanamo prison against critics who want it closed by saying U.S. taxpayers have a big financial stake in it and no other facility could replace it.

Asked to explain the advantage of keeping the Guantanamo prison rather than starting over somewhere else, Rumsfeld told a Pentagon briefing, "I don't know any place where we have infrastructure that's appropriate for that sizable group of people. The investment's been made."

The United States holds about 520 detainees from more than 40 countries at the Guantanamo prison camp, which it opened in January 2002 after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on America. Many have been held for more than three years. Only four have been charged.

Rumsfeld said U.S. taxpayers have invested more than $100 million in military construction for the Guantanamo prison, and taxpayers are spending $90-$95 million annually to operate it.

This is America?: Updating our coverage of last Friday's shameful performance by the U.S. House Judiciary Chairman, Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), when he cut witness testimony short in the additional day of hearings on the Patriot Act as requested, under House Rule 11, by the Democrats on the Judiciary Committee. Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) is introducing a resolution to rebuke the Chariman for his outrageous behavior. Included in Nadler's resolution, is condemnation of Sensenbrenner's gaveling of the hearings to an early close without hearing unanimous consent, debate or even a second; his refusal to allow witnesses to respond to questions; cutting questioning by minority Congressmen short; unprecedented convening of the hearings when Congress was not in session and other actions less-than-honorable for a United States Congressman.

Two Little Blurbs From The Washington Times

This is curious. I’m sure most of you know that UPI and the Washington Times are owned by the Unification church, headed by Korean whacko Sun Myung Moon, who subsidizes its money losing operations to keep a voice in Washington. He has longstanding ties with both the Bushes and has been praised by the elder Bush as a ‘man of vision’. So why would his little house organ run these two stories, one right after the other, in a single feature entitled “UPI Hears”? Hmm…

A former Bush team member during his first administration is now voicing serious doubts about the collapse of the World Trade Center on 9-11. Former chief economist for the Department of Labor during President George W. Bush's first term Morgan Reynolds comments that the official story about the collapse of the WTC is "bogus" and that it is more likely that a controlled demolition destroyed the Twin Towers and adjacent Building No. 7. Reynolds, who also served as director of the Criminal Justice Center at the National Center for Policy Analysis in Dallas and is now professor emeritus at Texas A&M University said, "If demolition destroyed three steel skyscrapers at the World Trade Center on 9/11, then the case for an 'inside job' and a government attack on America would be compelling." Reynolds commented from his Texas A&M office, "It is hard to exaggerate the importance of a scientific debate over the cause of the collapse of the twin towers and building 7. If the official wisdom on the collapses is wrong, as I believe it is, then policy based on such erroneous engineering analysis is not likely to be correct either. The government's collapse theory is highly vulnerable on its own terms. Only professional demolition appears to account for the full range of facts associated with the collapse of the three buildings."


Two years after President George W. Bush proclaimed "mission accomplished" in Iraq, some thoughtful officers are beginning to question who the insurgents actually are. In a recent interview the head of the US 42nd Infantry Division which covers key trouble spots, including Baquba and Samarra Major General Joseph Taluto said he could understand why some ordinary Iraqis would take up arms against U.S. forces because "they're offended by our presence." Taluto added, "If a good, honest person feels having all these Humvees driving on the road, having us moving people out of the way, having us patrol the streets, having car bombs going off, you can understand how they could (want to fight us). There is a sense of a good resistance, or an accepted resistance. They say 'okay, if you shoot a coalition soldier, that's okay, it's not a bad thing but you shouldn't kill other Iraqis.'" Taluto insisted however that the other foreign forces would not be driven out of Iraq by violence, observing, "If the goal is to have the coalition leave, attacking them isn't the way," he said. "The way to make it happen is to enter the political process cooperate and the coalition will be less aggressive and less visible and eventually it'll go away." Taluto's comments are sure to raise hackles at the Pentagon, which insist that all insurgents are either Baathists or al-Qaida. Taluto observed that "99.9 per cent" of those captured fighting the U.S. were Iraqis.


Comment: Read the following 225 words from a Tuesday news story in the Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader, and ask yourself: Would these honest, hard-hitting words appear in one of the major newspapers, such as The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post or USA Today? The story, by the Herald-Leader’s Frank E. Lockwood, covers a local appearance by Cindy Sheehan, president of Gold Star Families for Peace, an organization whose membership includes relatives of more than 50 soldiers who died in Iraq. Here are the 225 words: “Cindy Sheehan of Vacaville, Calif., accused President Bush of lying to the nation about a war which has consumed tens of billions of dollars and claimed more than 1,700 American lives -- including the life of (her son) Army Specialist Casey Austin Sheehan.

“Sheehan ridiculed Bush for saying that it's ‘hard work’ comforting the widow of a soldier who's been killed in Iraq: ‘Hard work is seeing your son's murder on CNN one Sunday evening while you're enjoying the last supper you'll ever truly enjoy again. Hard work is having three military officers come to your house a few hours later to confirm the aforementioned murder of your son, your first-born, your kind and gentle sweet baby. Hard work is burying your child 46 days before his 25th birthday. Hard work is holding your other three children as they lower the body of their big (brother) into the ground. Hard work is not jumping in the grave with him and having the earth cover you both,’ she said ... "’We're watching you very carefully and we're going to do everything in our power to have you impeached for misleading the American people,’ she said, quoting a letter she sent to the White House. ‘Beating a political stake in your black heart will be the fulfillment of my life ... ,’ she said, as the audience of 200 people cheered.”

Opinion: Forty-three years ago last weekend, on June 11, 1962, President John Kennedy addressed the graduating class of the Yale University. In his speech he said: "For the great enemy of truth is very often not the lie -- deliberate, contrived and dishonest -- but the myth -- persistent, persuasive and unrealistic. Too often we hold fast to the clichés of our forebears. We subject all facts to a prefabricated set of interpretations. We enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought."

At this moment in our country's history, it is appropriate -- indeed, necessary -- to reflect on the wisdom of his words. Recently, the secret "Downing Street memo" has proven what many Americans long suspected and what a few former Bush administration insiders (Dick Clarke and Paul O'Neill) have been publicly saying: President Bush -- contrary to pronouncements to the American public suggesting otherwise -- "had made up his mind to take military action" against Iraq as early as July 2002 and then worked to make sure "the intelligence and facts were being fixed" around this controversial policy.

The president's "deliberate, contrived and dishonest" comments about his desire to wage war deserve to be treated as "a great enemy of truth" by both Congress and the American public.

However, it is not enough to simply hold Bush accountable for his blatant disregard for the truth. We, as citizens, must also take to heart the second part of Kennedy's prescient advice and challenge the many myths that still shroud our policy in Iraq because they are just as insidious -- if not more so -- than the president's deliberate lies.

Two myths are especially troubling. The first is that we sought to overthrow Saddam Hussein to establish a democracy in Iraq. The second is that this war is making the world and America a safer place.

A soldier’s story:"We were out of breath when we got to the gun-truck nearest to the black civilian truck. There were four Iraqis walking towards us from the black truck. They were carrying a body, a small boy no more than 3 years old. His head was cocked at the wrong angle and there was blood. So much blood. The Iraqi men were crying and asking me WHY?

"Someone behind me started screaming for a medic. It was the young soldier who had fired. He screamed for a medic until he was hoarse. A medic came just to tell us what we already knew: The boy was dead.

"I stood there looking at that little child, someone's child just like mine, and seeing how red the clean white shirt of the man holding the boy was turning. Then I realized I was speaking to them, speaking in a voice that sounded so very far away. I heard my voice telling them how sorry we were. My mouth was saying this but all my mind could focus on was the hole in the child's head. The white shirt covered in bright red blood. I couldn't stop looking even as I kept telling them how sorry we were.

"I can still see it all to this day. There were no weapons found and we accomplished nothing besides killing a child. I stayed as long as I could, talking to the man holding the child. I couldn't leave because I needed to know who they were. I wanted to remember. The man was the child's uncle, minding him for his father who had gone to the market. They were carpenters and what the soldier who had fired on the truck had seen was one of the Iraqi men standing in the truck bed, holding a piece of wood.

"Before I left I saw the young soldier who had killed the boy. His eyes were unfocused and he was just standing there, staring off into the distance. My hand went to my canteen and I took a drink of water. That soldier looked so lost, so I offered him a drink. In a hoarse voice he quietly thanked me.

"Later that day we were filling out reports about what we had witnessed. The captain who had led the raid was angry: 'Well, this is just great! Now we have to go give that family bags of money to shut them up ... '

Casualty Reports

Local story: Sellersville, PA, Marine killed outside Fallujah.

Local story: Chapmanville, WV, soldier killed near Baghdad.

Local story: Citrus County, FL, soldier killed in Baghdad.

Local story: Manzanola, CO, soldier killed near Baghdad.

Local story: Janesville, MN, soldier killed near Tikrit.

Local story: Williams Township, PA, Marine killed in Al Anbar province.

Local story: Las Vegas, NV, soldier killed in Baghdad.


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