Wednesday, June 22, 2005

War News for Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Bring ‘em on: Three Iraqi civilians killed and seven wounded in bomb attack on US armored patrol in Mosul, unclear if there were any American casualties. Several Iraqi civilians injured in car bomb attack on a security checkpoint in Ramadi. One US soldier shot dead near Ramadi. Loud explosion heard on Baghdad’s airport road, police said that insurgents may have attacked an Iraqi army patrol with a rocket.

Bring ‘em on: Former judge and current Baghdad University law professor assassinated along with his son in Baghdad’s Shula neighborhood. Filipino hostage released after almost eight months in captivity. Two Iraqi policemen killed and two wounded in roadside bombing in Madain. A nine-year-old boy killed and a six- and seven-year-old wounded when they ran their bicycles over a bomb in Baquba. One Iraqi civilian killed and three wounded in roadside bomb attack on a US convoy west of Ramadi.

Foreign fighters: An NBC News analysis of hundreds of foreign fighters who died in Iraq over the last two years reveals that a majority came from the same country as most of the 9/11 hijackers — Saudi Arabia.

The NBC News analysis of Web site postings found that 55 percent of foreign insurgents came from Saudi Arabia, 13 percent from Syria, 9 percent from North Africa and 3 percent from Europe.

The U.S. military also says Saudi Arabia and Syria are the leading sources of insurgents. An Army official provided a list of the top 10 countries to NBC News but would not release the numbers of foreign fighters from each. The top 10, alphabetically, are: Egypt, Iran, Jordan, Lebanon, the Palestinian territories, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia and Yemen.

Are we winning yet?: Someone is lying. You decide who. Option A: Military officials who are on the ground in Iraq.

Option B: Scott McClellan, Bush and Cheney.

Big Conference

Good vs. evil: Leaders of Iraq's transition government appealed today to a gathering of 74 nations and an array of international organizations for technical and financial assistance to help them built a democratic state and defeat a virulent insurgency. Iraq's prime minister, Ibrahim Jafari, told delegates to the conference that his country was locked in "a struggle of wills between good and evil." He urged them not to abandon the fight and to come to Iraq to help.

Debt forgiveness: Rice is co-chairing the conference with European and Iraqi leaders. The session of about 80 nations in Brussels is intended to match the practical needs of the new Iraqi government with international donations of expertise and other support.

The conference is addressing three main issues: the political process, the economy and reconstruction, and security and rule of law.

The gathering is not a donors' conference, but an Iraqi government spokesman said the country will ask nations to forgive Iraq's heavy debts and to encourage investment in the country.

In recent days, European Union officials have said they would push Iraq's remaining creditors to forgive most of the approximately $70 billion that Iraq owes.

Ahead of Wednesday's session, however, Rice suggested that real progress on debt relief would be left for a separate donor conference. That session is planned for July in Jordan.

Neighboring Conflicts

Turkey: A Turkish soldier was killed and three others wounded in the southeast of the country on Wednesday after two mines were detonated by suspected Kurdish guerrillas, officials said.

The soldier was killed in Sirnak province, a remote area bordering Iraq. Separately, three members of the Turkish security forces were wounded when another remote-controlled mine exploded in Siirt province, local governor offices said.

Tensions have risen in the mainly Kurdish southeast amid an upsurge in violence between Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) fighters and the Turkish military after the PKK called off its unilateral ceasefire last year.

On Tuesday, Kurdish demonstrators clashed with paramilitary police in Van province, leaving one protester dead and eight people hurt after police fired into the air, the state-run Anatolian news agency said.

Afghanistan, part 1: American warplanes pounded a suspected Taliban safe haven in the mountains of southern Afghanistan during an assault that killed up to 60 insurgents and 12 security forces, officials said Wednesday. Five American soldiers were wounded.

The bodies of those killed in Tuesday's fighting littered a rugged Afghan mountainside. The surge in violence has raised fears that an Iraq-style quagmire is developing here, just months ahead of key legislative elections.

Two American CH-47 helicopters were hit by small arms fire. One made an emergency landing and was repaired, while the other managed to fly back to a nearby base, U.S. military spokesman Lt. Col. Jerry O'Hara said.

He said 49 rebels had been killed, but Gen. Salim Khan, commander of about 400 Afghan policemen who took part in the fighting, said his men had recovered the bodies of 60 suspected insurgents from the battlefield on the border between the provinces of Kandahar and Zabul.

"Their camps were decimated. Bodies lay everywhere. Heavy machine-guns and AK-47s were scattered alongside blankets, kettles and food," he said. "Some of the Taliban were also killed in caves where they were hiding and U.S. helicopters came and pounded them."

Khan said hundreds of insurgents were in the mountains and his forces were locating them before giving the information to American officials on the ground, who called in air strikes. Many of the rebels have started to flee the area, he added.

Afghanistan, part 2: In view of the steady stream of bad news from Iraq – five dead Marines in Saturday’s paper, two more in Sunday’s and four soldiers in Monday’s, along with the Baathist element of the resistance so “weakened” it is now striking targets in Iran – it is easy to forget that we are fighting, and losing, not one Fourth Generation war but two. Five U.S. troops were killed in Afghanistan last week. On June 9, the Washington Post reported that:

Insurgents linked to the former Taliban regime have set off a wave of violence in Afghanistan, launching a string of almost daily bombings and assassinations that have killed dozens of U.S. and Afghan military personnel and civilians in recent weeks . . . a virtual lockdown is in effect for many of the . . . roughly 3,000 international residents of Kabul . . .

As recently as April of this year, the senior U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Lt. Gen. David Barno, said he envisioned “most of (the Taliban) collapsing and rejoining the Afghan political and economic process” within a year. He seems to have projected the winter’s quiescence as a trend, forgetting that Afghan wars always shut down in wintertime, as war did everywhere until the 19th century. Afghanistan is not so much Iraq Lite as Iraq Slow, the land that forgot time. Our defeat will come slowly. But it will come.

Downing Street

A clear hierarchy of decision-making: What the Downing Street memo confirms for the first time is that President Bush had decided, no later than July 2002, to "remove Saddam, through military action," that war with Iraq was "inevitable"—and that what remained was simply to establish and develop the modalities of justification; that is, to come up with a means of "justifying" the war and "fixing" the "intelligence and facts...around the policy." The great value of the discussion recounted in the memo, then, is to show, for the governments of both countries, a clear hierarchy of decision-making. By July 2002 at the latest, war had been decided on; the question at issue now was how to justify it—how to "fix," as it were, what Blair will later call "the political context." Specifically, though by this point in July the President had decided to go to war, he had not yet decided to go to the United Nations and demand inspectors; indeed, as "C" points out, those on the National Security Council—the senior security officials of the US government—"had no patience with the UN route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime's record." This would later change, largely as a result of the political concerns of these very people gathered together at 10 Downing Street.

One decision: With a small ceremony on April 26, 2003, control of Prince Sultan Air Base was handed back to the government of Saudi Arabia. Since the mid-nineties it had been the premier US air base in the region and the nerve center for all air force operations in the Gulf. As the home of the Combined Air Operations Center (CAOC), the base was the primary command and control facility responsible for orchestrating the air campaigns for both Operation Southern Watch in Iraq and Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.

The timing of the closing of PSAB seemed odd, coming just weeks after the official start of military actions in Iraq. It should have, at the very least, caused unwanted logistical problems for the Pentagon and regional commanders, but it didn't. A contingency plan had long been in the works, not only for Prince Sultan Air Base, but also for the entire map of the Middle East, including Iraq.

Long before the US pullout, a new home for the operations had secretly been built in the deserts of Qatar. What had been in October 2001 "nothing more than a runway and a field of sand covered by two-dozen tents and a few warehouses", the Al Udeid Air Base was transformed in a few short months into one of the largest air bases in the world.

Published reports and official DOD statements claimed that the amazing transformation was the result of the heroic response of US servicemen to the tragedy of 9-11. A determined military had beaten indeterminate odds to transform a barren wasteland into a state of the art military base in order to "take the war to the terrorists".

The true story of the building of Al-Udeid is actually quite different. The planning for the mammoth base had in fact taken place long before Sept. 11, and actual work on the base began as early as the spring of 2001. The building of Al Udeid turns out not to be a "miracle in the desert" in response to a heinous attack, as touted by the military, but rather a required step on the path to regime change in Iraq.

Some results of the decisions: A new classified assessment by the Central Intelligence Agency says Iraq may prove to be an even more effective training ground for Islamic extremists than Afghanistan was in Al Qaeda's early days, because it is serving as a real-world laboratory for urban combat.

The assessment, completed last month and circulated among government agencies, was described in recent days by several Congressional and intelligence officials. The officials said it made clear that the war was likely to produce a dangerous legacy by dispersing to other countries Iraqi and foreign combatants more adept and better organized than they were before the conflict.

Congressional and intelligence officials who described the assessment called it a thorough examination that included extensive discussion of the areas that might be particularly prone to infiltration by combatants from Iraq, either Iraqis or foreigners.

They said the assessment had argued that Iraq, since the American invasion of 2003, had in many ways assumed the role played by Afghanistan during the rise of Al Qaeda during the 1980's and 1990's, as a magnet and a proving ground for Islamic extremists from Saudi Arabia and other Islamic countries.

More results of the decisions: And remember, creating terrorists is only one way in which the war has endangered us; there is all the new hatred it has created in the Arab world; not only the undermining of our claims to morality vis-a-vis our condoning of torture; there is the destruction of our military not only by wasting all this weaponry but by making recruitment goals impossible to meet; there is the death and maiming of thousands of our soldiers; and there is the opportunity cost of spending hundreds of billions in this fantastically counterproductive fashion while allowing nuclear, chemical and port facilities to go unguarded. Twelve million people in the tri-state area could be endangered with a single strike at a nuclear facility and Bush and company are neither taking seriously the kind of investment that would need to ensure their protection nor lifting a proverbial finger to ensure that the private industrial interests that benefit financially from use do anything to ensure their security. When the attack happens, we’ll know who to blame—if we are still alive.

Clear and unequivocal lies about the decisions: “Our goal is not merely to limit Iraq's violations of Security Council resolutions, or to slow down its weapons program. Our goal is to fully and finally remove a real threat to world peace and to America. Hopefully this can be done peacefully. Hopefully we can do this without any military action." - George W. Bush, October 16, 2002 "It seemed clear that Bush had made up his mind to take military action, even if the timing was not yet decided. But the case was thin. Saddam was not threatening his neighbors, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran." - Downing Street memo, July 23, 2002 How can members of Congress avoid looking like anything but irrelevant busybodies if they will occupy themselves with Major League Baseball's steroid policy but refuse to consider information that President Bush may have intentionally misled the nation about the threat posed by Saddam Hussein?

Changing Times

PR campaign: This week, the White House is beginning a new public relations campaign to reassure the American people about the continuing violence in Iraq, as a new CNN/USA Today/Gallup polls shows public opinion of Bush’s performance continuing to drop.

Despite President Bush's assurance yesterday that he "thinks about Iraq every single day," he is offering nothing new in the way of policy. Instead, he is simply planning to reiterate his view that the war with Iraq was necessary, and that we are "making progress"- a view that is now rejected by the majority of Americans and key Republicans in Congress. Americans are painfully aware that even with 1,700 fatalities, there is no end in sight. The President may be adjusting his rhetoric, but his policy remains unchanged – and PR campaigns can't hide the reality of the difficult road ahead.

The Administration's lack of leadership has led to a drop in support for President Bush's handling of the War in Iraq as well as the War on Terror. Americans are now losing confidence in the Bush Administration's ability to protect Americans at home and abroad.

Vague stirrings of accountability: There is a reason why President Bush's aides are scrambling to come up with fresh justifications for the violence in Iraq, which mocks the latest protestations from the top that all is well.

Bush has not just had a run of lousy polling results on his presidency, leadership, credibility, and his handling of the war. The political byproducts of three years of propaganda contradicted by the hard news of ceaseless insurgency are now coming as well from a Republican Congress that is beginning to stir.

Earlier this month, with virtually no notice, the final version of the legislation sending another $85 billion to support the continued fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan contained an intriguing instruction to the administration to report on a list of ''measurable objectives" that would produce the beginning of US troop withdrawal if they are met.

The instruction was noteworthy because it came from a proposal by a Democrat, Jim Moran of Virginia, but made it into the final report by House and Senate negotiators because it attracted considerable Republican support and there would have been a stink had it been dropped.

Since then, several other proposals have quietly surfaced from members of both parties, and one of them was approved on June 9 by the House's International Relations Committee, as an amendment to the annual measure authorizing the State Department's operations. Once again the author was a Democrat and onetime ''yes" vote on the 2002 bill authorizing war in Iraq -- Representative Joe Crowley of New York.

The Crowley proposal won in the committee in a 32-9 vote, with 13 Republicans aboard. Instead of Moran's measurable objectives, this one calls for a detailed ''plan for success" as a prelude to withdrawal.

Signs of a spine: Q Is the President concerned about the recruitment being down in his home country, he can't get -- you know, some day you may give a war and no one will come? And, also, the second part of the question, is there any member of the Bush clan who is in the military service now, that you know of? MR. McCLELLAN: I'd have to go check; that's a pretty large clan, as you -- Q Would you do that? MR. McCLELLAN: -- as you referred to. In terms of -- and certainly there are members of the family that have served and served very admirably in the Armed Forces. Q I'm not talking about the past, I'm talking about now.

Excellent question: Last night on his radio show, Alan Colmes did another hour-long segment on the Downing Street Memo. His guest for the segment was Cindy Sheehan who co-founded Gold Star Families for Peace after losing a son to the war in Iraq. Sheehan testified at Rep. John Conyers' hearing last week about the Downing Street Memo and whether or not President Bush misled the United States into war against Iraq.

As happened when Sheehan was a guest in February, the callers mostly disagreed with her views but, fortunately, they were nowhere near as vicious as they were the last time. Frank from Piscataway, NJ, said he mourns the death of "this warrior" but that he doesn't like the way "she has put a shadow over his grave already."

Sheehan answered, "Too bad my son died for cowards who wouldn't fight in a war when they had a chance to fight in their war, when they did everything they could to avoid going to Viet Nam. And they're so brave with sending other people's children to war but I don't see their children. I don't see their children fighting in a war. If their fathers believe in it so strongly, why don't they send their own kids and let the kids come home who don't believe in the war?"


What makes a gulag? Is it just the size?:

From Solzhenitsyn's Gulag: The Simplest Methods which Break the Will

An excerpt on interrogation methods from Solzhenitsyn's Gulag Archipelago

Let us try to list some of the simplest methods which break the will and the character of the prisoner without leaving marks on his body Let us begin with psychological methods.....

Profit motive: A contract awarded to a Halliburton subsidiary in June 2000 while Vice President Dick Cheney was still at the helm of the firm spawned the detention centers at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, RAW STORY has discovered.

The contract, which allocated funds for “emergency construction capabilities” at “worldwide locations,” authorized the Defense Department to award Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg, Brown & Root any number of specific naval construction deals abroad.

Pegged at an “estimated maximum” of $75 million in 2000, the deal mushroomed to $136 million by 2004. Some $58 million was dedicated to detention centers at Guantanamo Bay alone, with another $30 million in a second contract.

Specific contracts for the Guantanamo facilities were not inked until February of 2002. Cheney served as chief executive of the company from 1995 until July 2000, leaving shortly thereafter to join the Bush campaign.

The original deal, signed under Clinton, was also used for typhoon damage and breakwater repair of military bases abroad. After the invasion of Afghanistan, the Administration drew upon the open-ended agreement to construct detention centers at the U.S. Guantanamo Bay naval base for suspected members of Al Qaeda.

In 2002, the Pentagon said that additional options might reach $300 million. Security experts believe the Bush Administration may have carved out funding from the original agreement to build other secret detention facilities sprinkled across the globe.

No investigation needed: The White House on Tuesday rejected the proposed creation of an independent commission to investigate abuses of detainees held at the U.S. military prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and elsewhere.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan said the Pentagon has launched 10 major investigations into allegations of abuse, and that system was working well.

"People are being held to account," he said. "And we think that's the way to go about this."

Is this America?: Although you’ve surely read it elsewhere, here’s the report Dick Durbin discussed. Does this sound anything like the America described in your children’s civics texts? Does this sound anything like the America adult citizens would present to the world?

FBI REPORT (7/29/04): On a couple of occasions, I entered interview rooms to find a detainee chained hand and foot in a fetal position to the floor, with no chair, food, or water. Most times they urinated or defecated on themselves, and had been left there for 18-24 hours or more. On one occasion, the air conditioning had been turned down so far and the temperature was so cold in the room, that the barefooted detainee was shaking with cold...On another occasion, the [air conditioner] had been turned off, making the temperature in the unventilated room well over 100 degrees. The detainee was almost unconscious on the floor, with a pile of hair next to him. He had apparently been literally pulling his hair out throughout the night. On another occasion, not only was the temperature unbearably hot, but extremely loud rap music was being played in the room, and had been since the day before, with the detainee chained hand and foot in the fetal position on the tile floor.

Durbin asked an obvious question: If you’d read that report, would you ever have thought that it was describing American conduct? Or would you have thought what Durbin said—that it must describe an evil regime, the type we have long denounced? The answer to that is perfectly obvious—and so is the state of our fallen culture, the culture being trampled under by the Russerts, the McCains and the Wallaces.

But we’ve now reached a miraculous point in the crumbling of our discourse. We’ve reached the point where citizens are mocked by major scribes for wondering if we were lied into war—and where United States senators are told to apologize for denouncing the conduct described in that report. But then, lunacy has spread throughout our discourse over the course of the past dozen years. And your fiery “career liberals” have known to be silent. They looked away again and again. Now we see what that has bought us.

Remember: If you’re troubled to think that we may have been lied into war, that makes you a “wing nut” to today’s “mainstream” press corps. And if you think that FBI report sounds un-American, you need to apologize to the Senate! McCain, Russert, Kristol, Hume, Wallace? They’ve turned their backs on sanity itself. Everyone has to fight this spreading press culture—and you have to ask more from those who kept quiet while this culture of insanity was born.

(Link via Eschaton)

Three sources of law: At a minimum, the treatment of Mr. Kahtani was an exercise in degradation and humiliation. Such treatment is forbidden by three sources of law that the United States respected for decades - until the administration of George W. Bush.

The Geneva Conventions, which protect people captured in conflict, prohibit "outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment." The scope of that clause's legal obligation has been debated, but previous American governments abided by it. President Bush decided that the Geneva Conventions did not apply to the suspected Al Qaeda and Taliban members who are detained at Guantánamo.

The United Nations Convention Against Torture, also ratified by the United States, requires signatories to "prevent in any territory under its jurisdiction ... cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment." The Bush administration declared that this provision did not apply to the treatment of non-Americans held outside the United States.

Finally, there is the Uniform Code of Military Justice. It makes cruelty, oppression or "maltreatment" of prisoners a crime. Armed services lawyers worried that some methods of interrogation might violate the Uniform Code and federal criminal statutes, exposing interrogators to prosecution. A Pentagon memorandum obtained by ABC News said a meeting of top military lawyers on March 8, 2003, concluded that "we need a presidential letter" approving controversial methods, to give interrogators immunity.

The idea that a president can legalize the unlawful evidently came from a series of memorandums written by Justice Department officials. They argued, among other things, that President Bush's authority as commander in chief to set interrogation methods could trump treaties and federal law.

Although President Bush decided to deny detainees at Guantánamo the protection of the Geneva Conventions, he did order that they must be treated "humanely." The Pentagon, responding to the Time magazine article on the treatment of Mr. Kahtani, said, "The Department of Defense remains committed to the unequivocal standard of humane treatment for all detainees, and Kahtani's interrogation plan was guided by that strict standard."

In the view of the administration, then, it is "humane" to give a detainee 3½ bags of I.V. fluid and then make him urinate on himself, force him to bark like a dog, or chain him to the floor for 18 hours.

Absolute disgrace: Guantanamo violates the Geneva Conventions, international and U.S. law. There are reports that in the rest of the secret U.S. gulags in Morocco, Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Diego Garcia, even worse crimes are being routinely committed against those suspected of anti-U.S. activities.

If true, this is a criminal enterprise and those involved in it should be prosecuted -- starting at the top.

The White House says Taliban and jihadi fighters were "illegal combatants" deserving no mercy or legal protection. Then what of the 20,000-plus non-uniformed U.S. and British mercenaries operating in Iraq and Afghanistan called "civilian contractors" and non-uniformed U.S. Special Forces?

Guantanamo, just 145 kilometres from the U.S., is not a problem of image, as many claim. It is an arrant violation of every American value. It's worthy of the KGB. Close this disgrace now.

Casualty Reports

Local story: Columbus, TX, soldier killed in Tal Afar.

Local story: Hermann, MO, Marine killed near Ramadi.


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?