Wednesday, June 29, 2005

War News for Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Bring ‘em on: One US soldier killed by a car bomb near Tikrit. New US offensive, involving about 1,000 Marines and other US troops supplemented by Iraqi forces launched in the Euphrates river valley between Hit and Haditha.

Bring ‘em on: Iraqi television executive shot and killed by US troops when he drove near their convoy in Baghdad. Iraqi news editor with a local Baghdad television channel shot and killed by US troops Sunday after they came under attack. Iraqi reporter shot and killed by US troops last Friday after he apparently did not respond to a shouted signal from a military convoy.

Same as the old boss: Days after Iraq's new Shiite-led government was announced on April 28, the bodies of Sunni Muslim men began turning up at the capital's central morgue after the men had been detained by people wearing Iraqi police uniforms.

Faik Baqr, the director and chief forensic investigator at the central Baghdad morgue, said the corpses first caught his attention because the men appeared to have been killed in methodical fashion. Their hands had been tied or handcuffed behind their backs, their eyes were blindfolded and they appeared to have been tortured.

Raad Sultan, an official in Iraq's Ministry of Human Rights who monitors the treatment of Iraqis in prisons and detention centers, said some Interior Ministry employees have tortured Iraqis whom they suspected of supporting the insurgency.

Officials in the Interior Ministry's intelligence division deny having detainees, saying they only question those in Iraqi prisons. But one investigation by the Human Rights Ministry found 32 detainees, and another found 67 in Interior Ministry intelligence facilities. The majority of the detainees had been tortured, Sultan said.

Most of those who were tortured had their hands cuffed behind their backs, were blindfolded and had been beaten by cords or subjected to electrical shock, Sultan said. Baqr, at the morgue, said the bodies that have been brought to him handcuffed and blindfolded had been similarly abused.

Asked who he thought was behind the upsurge in such executions, Baqr said, "It is a very delicate subject for society when you are blaming the police officers. ... It is not an easy issue.

"We hear that they are captured by the police and then the bodies are found killed ... it's obviously increasing."

Baqr said he's been unable to catalog the deaths because so many bodies have been brought through his morgue and because he doesn't have enough doctors. Before March 2003, he said, the morgue handled 200 to 250 suspicious deaths a month, about 16 of which included firearm injuries. He said he now sees 700 to 800 suspicious deaths a month, with about 500 having firearm wounds.

Many Iraqis say the giveaway that the abductors are at least connected to the police is the preponderance of reports involving Land Cruisers, Glocks and other expensive equipment.

Double dilemma: For weeks, Sheik Adnan Fahd had been avoiding meeting U.S. Army Lt. Col. Ross A. Brown. Going to see the officer at his base would be extremely dangerous, given the intelligence network of Iraqi insurgents. To invite him to his home would be courting death.

Finally, Brown came north, traveling six miles in a heavily armed convoy of four Humvees for a June 21 meeting in the fortified Green Zone in Baghdad – a strained get-together that summed up the conundrum facing the U.S. military and Sunni Arabs in Iraq.

For the American officer, the objective was to win Fahd’s cooperation in the fight against insurgents in Mahmoudiya in an area south of the capital known as “The Triangle of Death.”

But for Fahd, a Sunni tribal leader heading a clan of 30,000, the meeting highlighted his double dilemma: He must keep at bay both the insurgents who watch his every move and the U.S. military that wants his help in persuading militants to lay down their arms.

Water: Lubna Ali was resigned to the daily electricity shortages that cut off the lights, shut down the air conditioning and left her family sweltering in the summer heat.

She coped with her terror of the bombs, drive-by shootings and kidnappings by deciding, at the start of this year, to venture no further than her garden gate.

But the final straw for the 42-year-old housewife from the middle-class New Baghdad district in the Iraqi capital came when a rebel attack on a water plant cut off supplies to two million people.

With the temperature above 50C, this brought Mrs Ali "the true knowledge of despair".

"I didn't think it could get worse - and then it did," she said, her kitchen filled with dirty plates and the lavatories unflushed. "The children are crying. All we want is to pour some water on our bodies.

"I now wish we could go back to Saddam's time. We suffered then, but not like the suffering nowadays. There is no water or electricity. I can't sleep because of the heat. How are we to live these lives of misery?"

The Return Of The Andover Cheerleader

More of the same: President Bush on Tuesday appealed for the nation's patience for "difficult and dangerous" work ahead in Iraq, hoping a backdrop of U.S. troops and a reminder of Iraq's revived sovereignty would help him reclaim control of an issue that has eroded his popularity.

In an evening address at an Army base that has 9,300 troops in Iraq, Bush was acknowledging the toll of the 27-month-old war. At the same time, he aimed to persuade skeptical Americans that his strategy for victory needed only time — not any changes — to be successful.

"Like most Americans, I see the images of violence and bloodshed. Every picture is horrifying and the suffering is real," Bush said, according to excerpts released ahead of time by the White House. "It is worth it."

Just keep saying it and it's the same as if it’s true: Twelve days ago, The Washington Post reported that the Bush White House had concluded that George W. Bush--who was facing sinking polling numbers regarding the war in Iraq--needed to "shift strategies." He would (of course) not be implementing any policy changes, the paper noted; his new approach" would be "mostly rhetorical." Yet in his prime-time speech on Iraq--delivered before a quiet audience of troops at Fort Bragg on Tuesday evening--Bush proved the Post report wrong. There was no shift of strategy--rhetorical or otherwise. Bush delivered a flat recital of his previous justifications of the war, while offering vague assurances that (a) he realizes (really, really) that the war in Iraq is "hard" work and that (b) his administration is indeed winning the war. On that latter point, Bush mentioned no metrics (as Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld would call them)--that is, concrete indicators--to demonstrate that he holds a more accurate view of the war than, say, Republican Senator Chuck Hagel who days ago exclaimed, "The reality is that we're losing in Iraq." Bush's plan this night was rather transparent: assert success...and then assert it some more.

It would be funny if so many people's lives weren't at stake: Iraqis were divided Wednesday over U.S. President George W. Bush's rejection of a timetable for the withdrawal of American troops, which came a day after insurgents bent on starting a civil war marked the country's first year of sovereignty by killing more than a dozen people. Bush's speech at a U.S. Army base in North Carolina was broadcast live on several Arab television networks, but most Iraqis were asleep because it began at about 4:00 a.m. local time Wednesday. TV newscasts replayed portions of the speech later in the morning, drawing a wide range of reactions from Iraqis. "Iraq cannot be stable if the American and coalition forces left it because Iraqi forces don't have the required level of training to protect the country," said Baghdad University engineering professor Moayad Yasin al-Samaraie, 55. But other Iraqis still believe the presence of about 138,000 U.S. troops is an occupation force preventing local officials from fully controlling internal affairs.

How much effort is really being made?: In tonight's speech, President Bush will no doubt once again cite 'training of security forces' as one of the success stories of the Iraqi adventure. Completing that mission will probably be one of the criteria for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq. Did you ever wonder how much actual effort was being put into the training effort? So did we. According to this recent Congressional Research Service report Post-War Iraq: Foreign Contributions to Training, Peacekeeping, and Reconstruction (PDF), here is a summary of what is being done to retrain the security forces in Iraq under the auspices of the NATO Training Mission-I (NTM-I) program:

NATO Member

Contribution (Trainers, Funding, Force Protection)


Offered five to 10 military driving instructors for a German-led training mission for Iraqis in the United Arab Emirates. Will contribute $261,000 to a trust fund to help cover costs of the NATO mission.


Pledged to send five instructors to Iraq, $40,000 in funding.


Offered up to 30 instructors to train outside Iraq, probably in Jordan, $810,000.

Czech Republic

Pledged to send five instructors and train up to 100 Iraqi military police in the Czech Republic during 2005. Announced donation of approximately $180,000 in April 2005.


Offered 10 trainers and seven soldiers for force protection. Sent pistols, radios, binoculars and other equipment for Iraqi forces.


One officer serving on NTM-I and has pledged $65,000 in support funds.


Will send one officer to help mission coordination at NATO headquarters in Belgium. Has offered to train 1,500 Iraqi military police in Qatar outside of the NATO NTM-I mission.


Offered to train Iraqi military personnel in United Arab Emirates and to contribute $652,000 to support program funding and airlift for Iraqi personnel. Iraqi security officers have received training under the auspices of NTM-I at a NATO military training facility in Oberammergau, Germany.


Has contributed approximately $376,000 in support funding.


Sixteen officers currently in Iraq in support of NTM-I mission. Plans to supply 150 force protection troops for training facilities once the training facility at Ar Rustamiya is complete. Original nominal deployment period for the Hungarian troops was set for June 1, 2005 to September 30, 2006. Donating 77 refurbished Russian-made T72 tanks to Iraq in September 2005.


Public information officer will serve with NATO mission in Baghdad. Offered $196,000 to fund training outside the country and help transport equipment to Iraq.


Eight officers currently serving in support of NTM-I mission in Baghdad. Considering sending up to 16 more.


Plans to host Iraqi soldiers for bomb disposal training. Contributing $65,000 to NTM-I trust fund. Sending equipment to Iraqi forces.


Two trainers serving in Iraq, two more expected. Also considering training Iraqi personnel in Lithuania.


Offered $196,000 in support funds.


10 military police and 15 trainers currently serving on NTM-I mission. Considering sending more.


Sending 10 trainers to Iraq. Hosted training of 19 Iraqi officers at NATO Joint Warfare Center. $196,000 in funding.


Plans to send up to 10 trainers and a transport platoon of about 30. Considering sending force protection unit. Decision pending expiration of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1546 and elections scheduled for September 2005.


Sending up to 10 soldiers to Iraq to support NTM-I mission.


Two instructors in Iraq, five more planned. Will take 25 Iraqi officers on training course in Romania in July, 25 additional expected later in 2005.


Sending two instructors to Iraq, $53,000 in support funding.


Offered to support training outside Iraq, probably in Jordan. Offered $132,000 in support funding.


Plans to train groups of 25 Iraqis in mine clearance at a center outside Madrid. Pledged $530,000 in support funding.


Two officers serving in Baghdad; offered to train Iraqis in Turkey. Pledged $125,000 in April 2005.

United Kingdom

Eleven soldiers now serving with NTM-I mission. Pledged $330,000 in support funding.

United States

Commands the operation under Lt. Gen. David Petraeus. 60 instructors and a force protection company with NTM-I mission in Baghdad. Providing logistics and airlift support. Pledged $500,000.

It doesn't inspire confidence that so many of the offered contributions from the NATO allies involve training sessions outside Iraq. The biggest contribution seems to be the "77 refurbished Russian-made T72 tanks" that Hungary is donating (presumably to make room for the U.S.-made tanks they will be getting after joining NATO). To put the Iraqi training priority in perspective, the U.S. contribution to this effort is $500,000. That's out of a reported $408 billion defense budget and another $45 billion for Iraq alone. When did you say the U.S. troops were coming home, Mr. President? No, seriously.

(I lifted this post entry intact from Needlenose. Damn, those boys are good.)

Nasty little poser: The United States is already suffering higher casualties than we were at the same stage of the Vietnam War. So, okay, Iraq is NOT Vietnam. It could, in fact, get worse. Rumsfeld is now telling us that the war could last for 12 more years.

And just two years ago George Bush pulled his little airplane stunt on the USS Abraham Lincoln, and had a big MISSION ACCOMPLISHED sign as his backdrop.

Tonight he will use a captive audience of soldiers, who he commands, and who will be ordered to smile and cheer and shout hooahs at the appropriate points in this latest Karl Rove production, and I find that offensive. More than offensive, it is obscene.

I find it offensive that the very people he would send to death, disfigurement and despair in the service of this administration’s lengthening list of lies, are now required, – when they could be home tonight with the loved ones they have missed so much in the last two years – to serve as stage props so George W. Bush can add one more bit of cheerleading hype, one more publicity stunt, to his resume. And in Iraq, every time the poll numbers spook the White House, they add one more so-called counter-offensive, each promising that there is light at the end of this tunnel, and each dispatching more military sedans to the homes of those who wait to hear the terrible news that someone they loved is no longer in the world.

George W. Bush is using troops as props, but he doesn’t show up for the funerals of the troops who have been killed in his war. This is about as clear as things get.

Support the props...er, troops!: I finally had a chance to watch a few clips of Bush speaking. And there was something almost uniquely contemptible about the way the Rovians used the troops as political props -- worse, even, than the flight deck follies on the Abraham Lincoln.

Back then, Bush was basking in what he thought was a famous victory, and sharing a little of his reflected glory with the swabbies. He was happy to be there and they were, too. It may have grated on those of us who understood how many unwritten constitutional rules Bush was breaking by dressing up in a military costume. But the sailors genuinely seemed to enjoy it.

Last night, by contrast, seemed about as enjoyable as a root canal for all parties concerned. When the only way you can get a hand from a handpicked military audience is by having a ringer in the audience start clapping, you know you're bombing (so to speak.)

The problem, I guess, is that while Bush was using the troops as a visual backdrop, politically speaking he was trying to hide behind them. And it showed.

Phony through and through: ABC's Terry Moran just reported that the only time Bush got applause was in the middle of his speech when a White House advance team member started clapping all on their own in order to cajole the soldiers into clapping, which they dutifully did. So even the applause was fake.

Billmon nails it: If you go back and look at the old party lines (versions 1.0 and 2.0) you can quickly see that something new has been added. Heretofore, the "anti-Iraqi forces" have consisted of:

1.) Foreign Terrorists (aka "assassins") 2.) Regime Remnants (aka "dead enders") 3.) Criminal Elements (aka "thugs")

But now we have a fourth category, one with a nice neutral name that doesn't allude to hacking people's heads off or gassing your own people or hating our freedoms:

4.) Iraqi Insurgents (aka "negotiating partners.")

From there on out, the speech carefully and repeatedly distinguished between the terrorists and the insurgents, who are now -- in the fantasy world of the White House propaganda shop at least -- two unique and different populations, where before they were one and indivisible:

Iraqi forces have fought bravely – helping to capture terrorists and insurgents in Najaf, Samarra, Fallujah, and Mosul. (emphasis added)

To complete the mission, we will continue to hunt down the terrorists and insurgents (emphasis added).

Today Iraqi Security Forces are at different levels of readiness. Some are capable of taking on the terrorists and insurgents by themselves. (emphasis added.)

We are building up Iraqi Security Forces as quickly as possible, so they can assume the lead in defeating the terrorists and insurgents. (emphasis added)

And so on. It would seem the error in the historical record has been rectified (although the gang still hasn't gotten that memory hole thing completely down yet.) But the policy -- "no nation can negotiate with terrorists" -- hasn't changed one bit. It remains as a monument to our leader's moral clarity and unflagging resolution.

It really is amazing what you can do with -- and to -- the English language.

The public seems unimpressed: The televisions at VFW Post 2500 in Hollywood were tuned to President Bush on Tuesday, but his words weren't getting rapt attention. About 30 people were around the bar drinking, chatting, smoking as the president talked. "Does it have to be so loud?" asked Barbara Flint as she sat next to Jerry Giblock, a visiting Vietnam veteran. "He's running scared," said Giblock, 63, a former Post 2500 member who lives in Anchorage, Ala. "His poll numbers are so low, he's got to say something, but the support is gone. It's gone. I don't think there's anybody in here who's behind him."

Just Say Whatever You Think They Want To Hear

A man of steadfast moral clarity: George W. Bush, 4/9/99: “Victory means exit strategy, and it’s important for the president to explain to us what the exit strategy is.”

George W. Bush, 6/5/99: “I think it’s also important for the president to lay out a timetable as to how long they will be involved and when they will be withdrawn.”

George W. Bush, 6/24/05: “It doesn’t make any sense to have a timetable. You know, if you give a timetable, you’re — you’re conceding too much to the enemy.”

Veterans and Servicepeople's Affairs

How they really feel about the props: This just in from the Hill. On the same day President Bush will use the soldiers at Fort Bragg as a backdrop for his address on Iraq, conservatives in the House have voted to underfund veterans’ health care by at least $1 billion.

The backstory: Last week, the Washington Post revealed that the budget for veterans’ health care was suffering a billion dollar shortfall this year, a fact unearthed “only during lengthy questioning” of a Veterans Affairs undersecretary.

The Bush administration had claimed on multiple occassions that the current budget was enough to provide full care. Back in February, Veterans Affairs Secretary Jim Nicholson testified that he was “satisfied that we can get the job done with this budget.” Later, when Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) tried to add funds into the VA budget, Nicholson wrote her a letter assuring that the VA did not “need emergency supplemental funds in FY2005 to continue to provide timely, quality service that is always our goal.”

Yet today, even after the administration’s misleading claims had been exposed, and despite brand new data showing that demand for veterans health programs had grown twice as fast as the VA predicted earlier this year, House conservatives still voted to block any additional funding for veterans’ care.

Moments ago, Rep. Chet Edwards (D-TX), the ranking minority member on the House Subcommittee on Military Quality of Life and Veterans Affairs, proposed making up the shortfall for vets’ care in a foreign aid bill that is still being considered. According to the AP, conservatives shot down the measure on a 217-189 vote.

"Budget shortfalls": Nicholson and other VA officials on Tuesday will testify before Congress "to explain why the department has just now revealed budget shortfalls of at least $1 billion" in health care funding in the current and next fiscal years,... CQ Today reports (Allen/Starks, CQ Today, 6/27). The shortfall came to light during an administration mid-year budget review and was noted during lengthy questioning of Jonathan Perlin, VA undersecretary for health, by House Veterans' Affairs Committee Chair Steve Buyer (R-Ind.) at a hearing Thursday. Perlin said VA has used more than $300 million on health care from a fund that had been expected to be carried over into the fiscal year 2006 budget. Further, he said as much as $600 million originally intended for capital spending will go toward the shortfall.

In light of the shortfalls, the Senate Appropriations Committee has delayed its scheduled markup of its version of the FY 2006 VA spending bill to late July. The House already has passed its version of the VA spending bill. The Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee has scheduled an emergency hearing on the budget shortfall, and the House VA Committee is expected to hold its own hearing later this week (CQ Today, 6/27). In other congressional action on the funding shortfall, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) has reintroduced a bill that would provide emergency health funding (Bernton, Seattle Times, 6/27). In its earlier form, the bill was an amendment to appropriations legislation for the Iraq war and would have added nearly $2 billion for veteran's health care. Lawmakers previously voted against the bill. In addition, Rep. Chet Edwards (D-Texas) is considering adding to the fiscal year 2006 Foreign Operations spending bill (HR 3057) an amendment that would provide $1 billion for veterans health care. The House Rules Committee on Monday declined a request to protect the amendment from a budget point of order, and it is likely the amendment will "be killed without a vote" if Edwards introduces it, CQ Today reports (CQ Today, 6/27).

How can any military person still take the Republicans seriously?: By now, it should be obvious that the "pro-defense" party doesn't give a damn about our troops, least of all veterans.

House Republicans ousted fellow conservative Chris Smith as chairman of the Committee on Veterans Affairs for his tireless advocacy of veterans rights. Current Chairman Steve Buyer was promoted, in the words of one Republican aide, "to tell the veterans groups, 'Enough is enough.'"

Senate Republicans have repeatedly voted down funding increases for vets to keep pace with inflation and meet rising needs.

The Bush Administration tried to add an enrollment fee and double the prescription co-payment for VA health care.

And now the VA admits it is $1 billion short on health care funding for this year alone.

After months of dodging Congressional questioning, VA undersecretary for health Jonathan Perlin finally gave the House VA Committee an unexpectedly honest answer last week. It turns out the $1.6 billion spending increase promised last year has been a matter of accounting trickery, achieved by shifting money from one account to another, and cutting almost $1 billion for medical administration, facilities and prosthetic research.

Maybe they’re seeing the light: June is the month in which West Point celebrates the commissioning of its graduating class and prepares to accept a new group of candidates eager to embrace the arduous strictures of the world's most prestigious military academy. But it can also be a cruel month, because West Pointers five years removed from graduation have fulfilled their obligations and can resign.

My class, that of 1969, set a record with more than 50 percent resigning within a few years of completing the service commitment. (My father's class, 1945, the one that "missed" World War II, was considered to be the previous record-holder, with about 25 percent resigning before they reached the 20 years of service entitling them to full retirement benefits.)

And now, from what I've heard from friends still in the military and during the two years I spent reporting from Iraq and Afghanistan, it seems we may be on the verge of a similar exodus of officers. The annual resignation rate of Army lieutenants and captains rose to 9 percent last year, the highest since before the Sept. 11 attacks. And in May, The Los Angeles Times reported on "an undercurrent of discontent within the Army's young officer corps that the Pentagon's statistics do not yet capture."

The mistake the Army made then is the same mistake it is making now: how can you educate a group of handpicked students at one of the best universities in the world and then treat them as if they are too stupid to know when they have been told a lie?

Ways To Take Action

Write a letter for MoveOn: The president addressed the nation about Iraq but offered nothing new. No plan. No exit strategy. Nothing. Despite the car bombs and rising attacks the president claims we're making good progress. We need to bring things back down to reality. Bush’s speech tonight is a good hook and good timing to get letters to the editor printed in your local paper. Newspapers are almost certain to print letters to the editor about Iraq this week and politicians will use these letters as one measure of the public’s response to the speech.

Sign a petition for WesPac: For generations, the United States has been a powerful voice of moral authority in the world. After World War II, we led the world in creating the Geneva Conventions and prosecuting war criminals at Nuremberg, and later became one of the first nations to ratify the Convention Against Torture. Even today, Slobodan Milosevic is being tried for war crimes thanks to a U.S.-led NATO air strike against his brutal campaign of ethnic cleansing in the Balkans.

Unfortunately, the Bush Administration has squandered our legacy of moral leadership.

I need your help to protect the honor of our men and women in uniform and to set us on the right course to win the war on terror. Although the President has said the United States is "committed to the worldwide elimination of torture and we are leading this fight by example," the Administration's actions don't match his words. In his infamous memo, Alberto Gonzales advised President Bush to ignore the Geneva Convention on the treatment of prisoners of war – a treaty that protects our soldiers captured abroad – to give the president more "flexibility." This so-called "flexibility" along with other Administration policies and statements may have ultimately contributed to the environment in which the abuses at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay and Afghanistan have occurred.

Set up a Town Hall Meeting for Conyers: The Brad Blog has learned that Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) and a number of other Congressional Members will announce their intention to hold open Town Hall Meetings across the country on July 23rd to discuss the "Downing Street Documents" with constituents. The meetings, to be held on the same day around the country in the members' various Congressional Districts, will mark the third year anniversary of the creation of the original Downing Street Minutes document. That document, released nearly two months ago, revealed that the Bush Administration had determined at least eight months prior to the War on Iraq that they intended to topple Saddam Hussein through military means, and planned to "fix" the intelligence and facts around the policy. Earlier this month, a letter was delivered to the White House signed by 122 Congressional Members and more than 560,000 American Citizens asking George W. Bush to answer a number of questions concerning the information contained in the minutes written by the head of British Intelligence, Richard Dearlove. The White House has still refused the courtesy of a reply to that letter.

Our Creeping Stalinism

Abuse of power: The federal government held 70 men as potential grand jury witnesses in terrorism investigations after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, but nearly half were never called to testify, according to a new study by two advocacy groups.

The report, released yesterday by Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union, concluded that the government's use of "material witness" warrants in the months after the attacks was excessive and frequently unlawful because many of the detainees were never questioned by a grand jury or were denied access to attorneys for extended periods of time. Most were never charged with a crime.

The report also said the witnesses "were typically arrested at gunpoint, held round the clock in solitary confinement and subjected to the harsh and degrading . . . conditions" usually reserved for more dangerous criminal suspects. It also said the Justice Department used the special warrants primarily "to buy time to conduct fishing expeditions."

The Justice Department declined to say whether the study's tally of 70 material witnesses in terrorism investigations was accurate. A Washington Post survey in November 2002 identified at least 44 such cases.

The 101-page study is the latest in a series of reports by advocacy groups and media organizations raising questions about many of the hundreds of people detained by the Justice Department or other law enforcement agencies after the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. Many detainees were held in secret, and only a few dozen ever faced terrorism-related charges.

Spitting on international law: Italian prosecutors want to extradite 13 CIA officials accused of kidnapping a radical Muslim cleric and transporting him to Egypt where he reportedly was tortured, and they've asked Interpol to help track down the Americans, a court official said Tuesday.

A man identified as the former CIA station chief in Milan is among the 13, according to a report by the judge who issued the arrest warrants. The American was traced by cell phone records to Egypt in the days after the abduction when the cleric was "likely undergoing the first" rounds of torture, according to the report obtained by The Associated Press.

The Egyptian preacher was snatched in 2003, purportedly as part of the CIA's "extraordinary rendition" program in which terror suspects are transferred to third countries without court approval, subjecting them to possible ill treatment.

The order for the arrests in the transfer of the cleric — made public last Friday — was a rare public objection to the practice by a close American ally in its war on terrorism.

Disappearing ‘suspects’: The United Nations says it has learned of serious allegations that the US is secretly detaining terrorism suspects, notably on American military ships.

The special rapporteur on torture Manfred Nowak said the accusations were rumours at this stage, but urged the US to co-operate in an investigation.

He said the UN wants lists of the places of detention and those held.

The comments come five days after the UN accused the US of stalling on their requests to visit Guantanamo Bay.

Investigators have been asking to visit the jail in Cuba to carry out checks into allegations of human rights abuse.

The UN said for over a year there had been no response to its requests, and it would begin an inquiry into alleged abuses with or without US co-operation.

We Are Spreading Democracy Throughout The Benighted Middle East

Within limits, of course: She may be America’s most powerful woman but Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, made clear during her tour of the Middle East last week that she is not about to become its most outspoken supporter of women’s rights.

During her week-long sweep through Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, Rice steered clear of confrontation over one of the region’s most volatile issues — the role of women in Islamic societies.

Her admission that there were “boundaries” to the US drive for democratic reform in the region — notably in Saudi Arabia, where she declined to take up the cause of women, who are barred from driving cars — spurred accusations of American hypocrisy.

Gold Star Mothers

I'm really glad they did this: The history of American Gold Star Mothers dates to the World War I era. It parallels the nation's military triumphs and tragedies, and its growing pains, too. The latter point was made abundantly clear at the organization's Dallas convention, where members reversed course this week and voted to permit noncitizens to become members. The action was a frank acknowledgment — one that frequently eludes local and federal policy makers — of the role that immigrants play in the rich fabric of the nation.

"I fought a good fight, and I won," Florida Gold Star chapter head Georgianne Carter-Krell, whose branch put the rule change on the convention agenda. Earlier, national Gold Star President Ann Herd maintained that admitting noncitizens was "not feasible" and would cause "devastatingly many" ill repercussions. After the about-face, Carter-Krell said: "I am very pleased for Gold Star Mothers. We have finally done what is right."

According to government data, more than 28,000 noncitizens wore U.S. uniforms as of March. More than four dozen have been killed in Iraq alone. All told, there is no telling how many noncitizen parents have been left behind or who have sons and daughters in service. We do know that Lagman and Palmer deserve recognition for their losses. Lagman's son was Army Staff Sgt. Anthony Lagman, who died at 26. Palmer's son was Marine Cpl. Bernard Gooden, who died at 22.

Warning: Barf Bag Required

College Republicans: In interviews, more than a dozen conventiongoers explained why it is important that they stay on campus while other, less fortunate people their age wage a bloody war in Iraq. They strongly support the war, they told me, but they also want to enjoy college life and pursue interesting careers. Being a College Republican allows them to do both. It is warfare by other, much safer means.

Collin Kelley, senior at Washington State: "This isn't an invasion of Iraq, it's a liberation--as David Horowitz said." When I asked him why he was staying on campus rather than fighting the good fight, he rubbed his shoulder and described a nagging football injury from high school. Plus, his parents didn't want him to go. "They're old hippies," Kelley said.

Edward Hauser, senior at St. Edwards University in Austin, Texas: "I support our country. I support our troops." So why isn't he there? "I know that I'm going to be better staying here and working to convince people why we're there [in Iraq]," Hauser explained, pausing in thought. "I'm a fighter, but with words."

Justin Palmer, vice chairman of the Georgia Association of College Republicans, America's largest chapter of College Republicans.: "The country is like a body," Palmer explained, "and each part of the body has a different function. Certain people do certain things better than others." He said his "function" was planning a "Support Our Troops" day on campus this year in which students honored military recruiters from all four branches of the service.

University of Georgia Republican member Kiera Ranke: She and her sorority sisters sent care packages to troops in Iraq along with letters and pictures of themselves. "They wrote back and told us we boosted their morale," she said.

Cory Bray, senior from the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business: "The people opposed to the war aren't putting their asses on the line," Bray boomed from beside the bar. Then why isn't he putting his ass on the line? "I'm not putting my ass on the line because I had the opportunity to go to the number-one business school in the country," he declared, his voice rising in defensive anger, "and I wasn't going to pass that up."

And besides, being a College Republican is so much more fun than counterinsurgency warfare. Bray recounted the pride he and his buddies had felt walking through the center of campus last fall waving a giant American flag, wearing cowboy boots and hats with the letters B-U-S-H painted on their bare chests. "We're the big guys," he said. "We're the ones who stand up for what we believe in. The College Democrats just sit around talking about how much they hate Bush. We actually do shit."

No, Mr. Bray, you have it wrong. You don’t do shit. You are shit. Chickenshit.

Rove Republicans prepare for war - A twelve-step program

1. Deploy 101st Fighting Keyboarders 2. Cut taxes for the $300,000-and-up income bracket 3. Tell citizens to continue shopping 4. Cut taxes on capital gains 5. Begin “fixing” intelligence and facts 6. Undermine Secretary of State with humiliating U.N. presentation 7. Repeal estate tax 8. Alienate remaining international allies 9. Distribute magnetic “support the troops” ribbons 10. Prepare U.S.S. Lincoln for critical photo op 11. Dispatch preparatory rose-petal-cleanup detail for Baghdad, Mosul, Basra, Najaf, Fallujah, etc.

and finally, most important:

12. Blame failure on liberals.


Arundhati Roy: To ask us why we are doing this, you know, why is there a World Tribunal on Iraq, is like asking, you know, someone who stops at the site of an accident where people are dying on the road, why did you stop? Why didn't you keep walking like everybody else?

While I listened to the testimonies yesterday, especially, I must say that I didn't know -- I mean, not that one has to choose, but still, you know, I didn't know what was more chilling, you know, the testimonies of those who came from Iraq with the stories of the blood and the destruction and the brutality and the darkness of what was happening there, or the stories of that cold, calculated world where the business contracts are being made, where the laws are rewritten, where a country occupies another with no idea of how it's going to provide protection to people, but with such a sophisticated idea of how it's going to loot it of its resources. You know, the brutality or the contrast of those two things was so chilling.

But at the end of it, today we do seem to live in a world where the United States of America has defined an enemy combatant, someone whom they can kidnap from any country, from anyplace in the world and take for trial to America. An enemy combatant seems to be anybody who harbors thoughts of resistance. Well, if this is the definition, then I, for one, am an enemy combatant. Thank you.

Casualty Reports

Local story: Tracy, CA, soldier recovering from serious injuries sustained in roadside bombing in Kirkuk.

Local story: Ellijay, GA, soldier killed in Iraq.

Local story: Schleswig, IA, soldier killed in Iraq. Two days before his service was to occur, his brother, waiting to deploy to Iraq himself, died in a traffic accident that was possibly a suicide.

Local story: Former Oregon police officer, employed in Iraq by DynCorp, killed in IED attack in Baghdad area.

Local story: Danielson, CT, soldier killed by small arms fire in Armada.

Local story: Strongsville, OH, Marine killed in Iraq.

Local story: Crown Point, IN, soldier killed in combat in Ramadi.

Local story: Fyffe, AL, soldier killed in roadside bombing in western Iraq.

Local story: Former East Moline, IL, Marine killed in explosion near Ramadi.

Local story: Bronx, NY, native and recent resident of Reading, PA, Marine killed in suicide bombing in Fallujah.


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