Thursday, July 14, 2005

War News for Bastille Day, July 14, 2005 Bring 'em on: Two Iraqis killed in suicide bomb and mortar attack on Green Zone in Baghdad. Bring 'em on: Three Iraqis killed, 15 wounded by car bomb in Kirkuk. Bring 'em on: Three Iraqi policemen killed, two wounded in ambush near Kirkuk. Bring 'em on: Iraqi child and woman killed in roadside bomb ambush of US convoy in Baghdad. Bring 'em on: Two Iraqis killed, seven wounded by mortar fire in Mosul. Bring 'em on: Two Iraqis killed, 16 wounded by bomb in mosque near Jalowla. Bring 'em on: Bodies of ten Iraqis killed execution-style found in Baghdad. Bring 'em on: One Iraqi policeman killed, one wounded in Basra ambush. Baghdad police blotter. "Iraq's widely feared police commandos were struggling this week to explain how at least 10 Sunni Arab men and youths, one 17, suffocated after a commando unit seized them from a hospital emergency ward and locked them in a police van in summer temperatures exceeding 110 degrees." Doug Feith - still a douchebag.
Douglas J. Feith, a top Pentagon official who was deeply involved in planning the Iraq war, said that there were significant missteps in the administration's strategy, including the delayed transfer of power to a new Iraqi government, and that he did not know whether the invading U.S. force was the right size. In an interview as he concludes his tenure as undersecretary of defense for policy, Feith acknowledged that there were "trade-offs" and "pros and cons" to the Pentagon's plan to use a relatively small invasion force in Iraq, voicing uncertainty about whether that decision was correct. The war's "rolling start" with a streamlined ground force achieved some tactical surprise, he said, potentially averting a longer war and other catastrophes such as the destruction of Iraqi oil fields. But he acknowledged that a small force had drawbacks, and others have criticized the plan for failing to stop widespread looting and insecurity after Saddam Hussein's government fell in April 2003. "I am not asserting to you that I know that the answer is, we did it right. What I am saying is it's an extremely complex judgment to know whether the course that we chose with its pros and cons was more sensible," Feith said in a 90-minute interview Monday at his Bethesda home. Feith's resignation was announced in January. His comments are a rare public sign of doubt about Iraq policy by a Pentagon official.
Get out of jail free. "A federal judge issued a ruling yesterday that will limit the applicability of a critical antifraud statute against corporate contractors in Iraq. Judge T. S. Ellis III of Federal District Court in Alexandria, Va., held that the False Claims Act does not apply to the many contractors who were paid by the American occupation authority using Iraqi oil money. The False Claims Act offers large rewards to corporate insiders who reveal misdeeds, and huge financial penalties can be imposed on errant companies. It is widely regarded as the government's most potent weapon against contractor fraud. Yesterday's ruling, the first to provide guidelines in what has been a legal void, could derail some whistle-blower lawsuits that are in their early stages and under seal, experts in procurement law said." By the numbers.
Iraqi civilians and police officers died at a rate of more than 800 a month between August and May, according to figures released in June by the Interior Ministry. In response to questions from The New York Times, the ministry said that 8,175 Iraqis were killed by insurgents in the 10 months that ended May 31. The ministry did not give detailed figures for the months before August 2004, nor did it provide a breakdown of the figures, which do not include either Iraqi soldiers or civilians killed during American military operations. While the figures were not broken down month by month, it has been clear since the government of Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari took over after the Jan. 30 election that the insurgency is taking an increasing toll, killing Iraqi civilians and security workers at a faster rate.
Abu Ghraib.
A central figure in the investigation, Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, who commanded the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay and later helped set up U.S. operations at Abu Ghraib, was accused of failing to properly supervise Qahtani's interrogation plan and was recommended for reprimand by investigators. Miller would have been the highest-ranking officer to face discipline for detainee abuses so far, but Gen. Bantz Craddock, head of the U.S. Southern Command, declined to follow the recommendation. Miller traveled to Iraq in September 2003 to assist in Abu Ghraib's startup, and he later sent in "Tiger Teams" of Guantanamo Bay interrogators and analysts as advisers and trainers. Within weeks of his departure from Abu Ghraib, military working dogs were being used in interrogations, and naked detainees were humiliated and abused by military police soldiers working the night shift. Miller declined to respond to questions posed through a Defense Department liaison. Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman, said it is not appropriate to link the interrogation of Qahtani -- an important al Qaeda operative captured shortly after the terrorist attacks -- and events at Abu Ghraib. Whitman said interrogation tactics in the Army's field manual are the same worldwide but MPs at Abu Ghraib were not authorized to apply them, regardless of how they learned about them. Some of the Abu Ghraib soldiers have said they were following the directionsof military intelligence officials to soften up detainees for interrogation, in part by depriving them of sleep. Pvt. Charles A. Graner Jr., characterized as the ringleader of the MP group, was found guilty of abusing detainees and is serving 10 years in prison. Others have pleaded guilty and received lesser sentences.
Cheneyburton. "Senate Democrats on Wednesday called for an investigation into allegations that Halliburton Co. served food that had passed its expiration date by as much as a year to U.S. troops in Iraq. Rory Mayberry, a former food production manager for Halliburton subsidiary KBR, told lawmakers last month that when outdated food arrived, 'we were told by KBR food service mangers to use these items anyway.' He also said food packages damaged in insurgent attacks were still used 'after removing the bullets and any shrapnel from the bad food that was hit.'" Army strength. "A group of Democrats and retired Army generals on Wednesday urged Congress to increase the Army’s end strength by about 80,000 soldiers over the next four years, calling the current troops levels 'a crisis.' 'The men and women in today’s Army are as good as any who have ever worn the uniform,' said Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn. 'The crisis is there are simply not enough of them.' Legislation introduced by the group would lift the Army’s end strength cap to 582,000, adding 20,000 a year and leveling off in 2009. The Army’s current authorized end strength is 502,400, according to the Congressional Budget Office." Blood economy. "According to reports, every day hundreds of donors can be seen standing outside the blood bank at the Iraqi National Centre for Blood Donations (INCBD) in Baghdad. However, people queuing and willing to donate for free are being intercepted before they reach the centre. So-called negotiators approach donors paying them between U.S. $ 15 - $20 per blood bag. At a time when unemployment stands at 33% and most of the country is still dependent on food rations, the sale of blood is seen as an attractive option for many." How low will he go? "Furthermore, only 41 percent give Bush good marks for being “honest and straightforward” — his lowest ranking on this question since he became president. That’s a drop of nine percentage points since January, when a majority (50 percent to 36 percent) indicated that he was honest and straightforward. This finding comes at a time when the Bush administration is battling the perception that its rhetoric doesn’t match the realities in Iraq, and also allegations that chief political adviser Karl Rove leaked sensitive information about a CIA agent to a reporter. (The survey, however, was taken just before these allegations about Rove exploded into the current controversy.)" Commentary Editorial:
It is instructive to remember that the investigation into who revealed Plame's identity was initiated by Tenet, not by administration critics. Remember also that Wilson was correct; ultimately the White House had to retract Bush's State of the Union statement on the Niger connection. In addition to discrediting critics of the Niger connection, the Bush administration, through the actions of John Bolton -- now nominee to be U.N. ambassador -- sought to intimidate intelligence analysts who objected to conclusions about Iraq's WMD, and to get a U.N. chemical weapons official fired so he wouldn't be able to send inspectors back to Iraq, where they might disprove more of the case for war. In the scheme of things, whether Rove revealed Plame's identity, deliberately or not, matters less than actions by Rove, Bolton, Cheney and others to phony up a case for war that has gone badly, has cost thousands of lives plus hundreds of billions of dollars, and has, a majority of Americans now believe, left the United States less safe from terrorism rather than more. That's the indictment which should matter most.
American intelligence got just about everything wrong concerning weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. What has never been investigated, however, is whether President Bush deliberately manipulated the information he received in order to make his case for war. That is the root of the affair that has sucked several journalists and deputy White House chief of staff Karl Rove into its vortex, and why it is important. In January 2003, President Bush told the world that British intelligence had uncovered a plot by Iraq to buy uranium from Niger. However, the evidence of the supposed Niger purchase has been debunked as a forgery. In July 2003, in the wake of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, retired diplomat Joseph C. Wilson IV wrote in The New York Times that the CIA had sent him to Niger in 2002 to check into the supposed purchase and he had reported it was highly doubtful that any such transaction had taken place. The administration should have known that, he argued. Eight days later, Robert Novak wrote a column arguing that Wilson's mission was a low-level CIA affair, probably was unknown to CIA director George Tenet and was "less than definitive." The spin here was to discredit Wilson.
More than anything else, as I watched him that morning in Scotland, I was filled with a sense of sadness that we had reached such a perilous moment with such a man, or really - for here is my deepest suspicion - such a man-child in power. Yes, he genuinely believes in his "war on terror", even as he and his advisors use it to his own advantage. And yes, he's good at being, or rather enacting with all his being, the role of the "war on terror" president. And yet there's something so painfully childlike in the spectacle of him. Here, after all, is a 59-year-old who loves to appear in front of massed troops, saying gloriously encouraging and pugnacious things while being hoo-ah-ed - and almost invariably he makes such appearances dressed in some custom-made military jacket with "commander in chief" specially stitched across his heart, just as he landed on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln back in May 2003 in a navy pilot's outfit. Who could imagine Abraham Lincoln himself, that most civilian of wartime presidents, or Franklin D Roosevelt, or Dwight D Eisenhower, a real general, wearing such GI Joe-style play outfits? Let's face it. Bush likes dress up. What a video game is to a teenager, the presidency seems to be to this man. It's a free pass to the movies, with him playing that brave warrior part. All-in-all, I'm afraid to say, it must be fun. When he so cavalierly said, "Bring 'em on," he was surely simply carried away by the spirit of the game. What it wasn't, of course, was the statement of a mature human being, an adult. I don't usually say such things, but there's something unbelievably stunted about all this. He and his top officials seem almost completely divorced from any sense of the actual consequences of their various acts and decisions. They live in some kind of dream world offshore of reality, which would perhaps not be so disturbing if they didn't also control the levers of power in what, not so long ago, was regularly referred to as the "lone" or "last superpower" or the globe's only "hyperpower". (Even in their own terms, it's a sign of their failed stewardship that almost no one uses such phrases anymore or, say, Pax Americana, another commonplace term of 2002 and 2003.) It may be that nations deserve the leaders they get and perhaps it's no mistake that Bush ended up as our leader - twice no less - in a period that otherwise seemed to cry out for having your basic set of grown-ups in power, or that his secretary of defense likes to play stand-up comic at his news conferences, or that his first attorney general just loved to sing songs of his own creation to his staff, or that none of them can get it through their heads that it's not just the terrorists who, in our world, have been taking "the lives of the innocent".
When people see servicemen and women return from the war, and they count all the limbs and see no physical injuries, they figure all is well. They could not be more wrong. Many people who have been to war know that war cannot ever be left behind. It stays in us: the images, the smells, the sounds, the things we did and, what's worse, the things we failed to do. Recruiting numbers for the armed forces are down, and the military is working hard to appeal to our young folks to enlist. During a June 17 news conference at Fort Meade, Md., Maj. Gen. Michael D. Rochelle, leader of the Army recruiting command, said Army recruiters simply want to tell their story. What the recruiters are failing to tell in their stories, however, are the stories of the dead and wounded soldiers. Or the post-traumatic stress disorder and suicide. Or Iraqi civilian casualties, which may exceed 100,000. Recruiters aren't talking about the lack of purpose for this war, or about the thousands of service members who are deciding not to fight. Or about those of us who are speaking out against this war of aggression. Those who already have been recruited and who already have served in war and are speaking against the Iraq occupation -- we, too, are troops. And we, too, have an Army story to tell.
Washington loves farce the way Vienna loves the waltz. It once extravagantly inflated a sex act into the impeachment of a president, and it has now reduced the momentous debacle of the Iraq war into a question of what Rove or someone else said to a reporter on the phone. Soon, the question will turn on whether Rove or others actually cited Plame by name and whether the president's oath to fire anyone who identified Plame as a CIA operative applies to someone who just mentioned her job title. It will all depend on what "is" is or, to put it another way, whether Bush will concede that he inhaled. None of this matters -- not really. The persistent criminalization of politics does no one any good. This is a parody of Clausewitz. He said war is the continuation of politics by other means. Now, we have special prosecutors as the continuation of politics by other means. The New York Times called for one and now, as a result, its own reporter is in jail. Washington is electrified with the abundant energy of buzz from a scandal -- speculation about Rove, about Bush, about Cheney's aide, Scooter Libby. Who leaked? Who may have lied? How did Novak slip the noose? But the real scandal is the ongoing mess in Iraq, the murder just the other day of innocent children (is there any other kind?) and the false notion that, somehow, taking out Hussein would make us all safer. London gives the lie to that.
Casualty Reports Local story: Colorado soldier killed in Iraq. Local story: Texas soldier killed in Iraq.


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