War News for Friday, July 1, 2005
Bring 'em on: Relatives of Shi'ite legislator assassinated in Baghdad
Bring 'em on: Iraqi policeman and two relatives assassinated in Mosul
Bring 'em on: Turkish truck driver killed in ambush near Beiji
Bring 'em on: One Iraqi killed in suicide bombing of Iraqi Prime Minister's office in Baghdad
Bring 'em on: Power station bombed in Baghdad
, city water supply shut down.
. "According to City Hall, Baghdad produces about 544 million gallons of water per day, some 370 million gallons short of its required amount. Some 55 percent of the water is lost through leakage in the pipes. Iraqis also complain of shortages of power and fuel. Electrical shortfalls were common during the Saddam Hussein era and attributed to a poor distribution network, but the situation has worsened due to sabotage and lack of maintenance. Before the U.S.-led invasion, Baghdad residents had about 20 hours of electricity a day. Today, they get about 10, usually broken into two-hour chunks. In addition, Iraq is not able to refine enough oil, so must import gasoline. Convoys carrying fuel are often attacked by insurgents and the ensuing shortage has led to a black market in Baghdad."
. "Insurgent attacks in the last six months have killed more than 8,000 Iraqi civilians, police and troops, according to Iraq's interior minister."
." "The Iraqi Red Crescent Society says 6,000 families have been displaced across Anbar province in the fighting and are suffering in heat that regularly exceeds 110 degrees. The society has dispatched five convoys carrying relief supplies including tents and medical equipment to the region over the past few days. Medical teams are assessing potential cholera outbreaks caused by bodies buried in rubble. 'It's a tragedy,' said Ferdous Abadi, spokeswoman for the society. 'There is a shortage of medical supplies and clean water.' The society is the local equivalent of the Red Cross. Its president, Dr. Said Hakki, is an adviser on humanitarian affairs to Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari. The US military did not respond to questions about the humanitarian situation. It has maintained in news releases that displaced families have begun to return home."
. "At the close of 2003, U.S. commanders put the number of insurgents at 5,000. On Thursday in Baghdad, U.S. Brig. Gen. Donald Alston said there were between 15,000 and 20,000 insurgents, though he said not all of them fight every day. As of June 27, insurgents launched more than 70 car bombings during the month, according the U.S. military. While that figure was below that of the two prior months - at 81 each - it's more than any other month since the war began in March 2003…The number of daily attacks against troops with the U.S.-led coalition had dropped to the 30s after national elections in January, but they're now back at about 70 a day. Attacks on Iraqis have also increased. A blistering round of car bombs and assassinations killed more than 1,675 Iraqis after the nation's interim government was seated April 28, according to icasualties.org."
Several Senate Republicans denounced other lawmakers and the news media on Thursday for unfavorable depictions of the Iraq war and the Pentagon urged members of Congress to talk up military service to help ease a recruiting shortfall.
Families are discouraging young men and women from enlisting "because of all the negative media that's out there," Sen. James Inhofe, an Oklahoma Republican, said at a U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.
Inhofe also said that other senators' criticism of the war contributed to the propaganda of U.S. enemies. He did not name the senators.
Army Chief of Staff Peter Schoomaker urged members of Congress to use "your considerable influence to explain to the American people and to those that are influencers out there how important it is for our young people to serve this nation at a time like this."
The Army on Wednesday said it was 14 percent, or about 7,800 recruits, behind its year-to-date recruitment target even though it exceeded its monthly target in June. With extended deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan, recruiting also is down for the National Guard and the Reserves.
Those mean Democrats and the liberal media are giving delicate young conservative Paul a case of the vapors.
“Dad, guess what?”
My daughter is 14. As she spoke she was a couple of weeks away from graduating from middle school to high school. Her tone was serious, almost solemn, which could mean something serious or solemn had happened, or she’d forgotten a permission slip.
“Remember that soldier . . .”
Crocker was killed on May 26. By the time the news got to the kids at school, he’d been dead for a few days. Vizzi said that students’ reactions ranged from a nod to an “Oh, how sad.”
A lot of the kids, she said, “were really interested in how he died.”
Crocker was killed in a rocket-propelled grenade attack during combat in the Iraqi city of Hadithah. His death was reported by newspapers, usually in a single paragraph that noted he was a 10-year veteran of the Santa Monica Police Department, was on his second tour of duty in Iraq, was single, was 39. About the only difference from one brief obituary to the next was his residency—variously listed as Mission Viejo, Redondo and Hermosa. The Los Angeles Times ran a longer piece about how Crocker’s death had affected the Santa Monica PD. That story told how the police chief had been so impressed with Crocker after interviewing him in 1995 that he held a position for six months until he finished his original Marine service. It told about how the cops kept around the office a life-size cutout of Rick in combat gear.
The Times story was long but ran on an inside page. This wasn’t like the early days of the war, when deaths shocked whole towns. When Costa Mesa’s Jose Garibay died early on, papers, radio and TV stations were alive with tales of his bravery, how he purposely hadn’t told his mother he was going to Iraq to save her the worry, how he’d been posthumously awarded American citizenship.
But by the time Crocker died, there was a certain amount of, not acceptance, but resignation. American deaths no longer led newscasts or were front-page news. Many times they were lumped in with stories that tended to begin, “Two American soldiers and 19 Iraqi civilians were killed in a wave of attacks that . . .”
On May 30, Memorial Day, ABC’s Nightline broadcast the names of American servicemen and women killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, a list of nearly 1,000, in chronological order of their passing. Crocker had died just four days before, but he made the list. So did four other soldiers—Alfred Siler, Mark Maida, Matthew Lourey, Joshua Scott—who died after him.
Before anchor Ted Koppel began reading the names, he addressed the furor that had followed Nightline’s reading of the names of fallen soldiers the year before. Some had complained that the show was simply being sensational or chasing ratings—Memorial Day falls within the May sweeps. Others questioned the patriotism of Koppel and ABC and insinuated they were attempting to embarrass the country, administration, even the soldiers by recognizing their sacrifice. The sting of it hit Koppel so hard that he felt compelled this year to take the extraordinary step of saying about the war in Iraq, “I am not, in fact, opposed to it.”
Still, it seemed a bit unnecessary this year. There was no fuss or controversy over the program this time, which made Koppel’s comments at the end of the broadcast especially poignant:
President Bush's pep talk to the nation Tuesday night was a major disappointment. He again rewrote history by lumping together the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and the need for war in Iraq, when, in fact, Saddam Hussein's Iraq had no connection to al-Qaida. Bush spoke of "difficult and dangerous" work in Iraq that produces "images of violence and bloodshed," but he glossed over the reality of how bad the situation is. He offered no benchmarks to measure the war's progress, falling back on exhortations to "complete the mission" with a goal of withdrawing troops "as soon as possible."
Bush spoke at Fort Bragg, N.C., and offered proper respect and thanks to U.S. troops, more than 1,700 of whom have been killed in Iraq. But his address on the first anniversary of the transfer of sovereignty to Iraq gave no glimpse of how much longer 140,000 U.S. troops must remain there. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld gave no timetable either but did say Sunday that the insurgency could last a dozen years. That realistic analysis marked quite a change from Vice President Dick Cheney's claim a few weeks earlier that the insurgency was in its "last throes."
The coalition government relied heavily on a revolving door of diplomats and other personnel who would leave just as they had begun to develop local knowledge and ties, and on a large cadre of eager young neophytes whose brashness often gave offense in a very age- and status-conscious society. One young political appointee (a 24-year-old Ivy League graduate) argued that Iraq should not enshrine judicial review in its constitution because it might lead to the legalization of abortion. A much more senior Iraqi interlocutor (a widely experienced Iraqi-American lawyer) became so exasperated with the young man's audacity that he finally challenged him:
"You must have thoroughly studied the history of the British occupation of Iraq."
"Yes, I did," the young American replied proudly.
"I thought so," said the Iraqi, "because you seem determined to repeat every one of their mistakes."
Throughout the occupation, there was a profound tension between the idealistic goal of building democracy and the desire on the part of the Americans to retain control, to shape a particular kind of Iraqi democracy.
The dilemma struck me almost immediately after my arrival, when one of our colleagues stormed into the office after a late-night meeting of the Iraqi Governing Council, uttering: "We have a problem. And no one wants to deal with it. The Governing Council is issuing orders and the ministers are starting to execute them." Several of us burst out laughing. We were fostering a transition to sovereignty and democracy. We had established the Iraqi Governing Council. But God forbid it should actually seek to start governing!
The president said nothing new about America's strategy. We are in Iraq as long as we are needed, and there can be no timetable for withdrawal. It was advertised that he would give a pitch for military service, but all he said was that if any of those watching were considering a military career, "There is no higher calling."
That will be of little help to the Army recruiters who are becoming desperate in their efforts to meet their quota of enlistments. Stories are legion of recruiters violating military guidelines, hiding police records and medical histories of potential recruits, showing one young man how to falsify a high school diploma and clear illegal drugs from his system. Parents are organizing to keep military recruiters off high school and college campuses, complaining that they are hustling youngsters with free iPods and video games and making exaggerated promises about bonuses, education and jobs. The most frequent complaint is that recruiters are making the false promise that new enlistees will not be sent to Iraq.
How we populate the military for America's open-ended stay in Iraq is becoming more and more problematic. The Army hasn't made its recruitment quota since January even with relaxed requirements on age and education. Of the 3,900 former soldiers ordered to mobilize, one-third resisted their call-ups. Maj. Gen. Michael Rochelle, the man in charge of Army recruiting, says that less than 10 percent of the 80,000 new active-duty soldiers the Army needs next year will actually be in the pipeline.
Americans are losing their appetite for this war in Iraq. Think about all this. Especially if you have draft age children.
Ray McGovern, a CIA analyst for 27 years, has written frequently about the visits of Cheney and his surrogates, notably his chief of staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, to the CIA to talk with analysts about intelligence findings on Iraq. The visits, according to McGovern, were unprecedented and intended to influence intelligence judgments. McGovern is an unapologetic critic of the vice president, which may or may not be reason to discount his charges. But Vincent Cannistraro, a former CIA officer, backs McGovern's charges.
Cannistraro, citing current CIA analysts, maintains that the Bush White House pressed the agency to produce evidence linking Saddam to al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden -- a clear misuse of the 9/11 tragedy. Cheney and Libby visited midlevel analysts at CIA headquarters, seeking support for a war in Iraq, according to Cannistraro. Cheney, in particular, he has written, "insisted that desk officers were not looking hard enough for the evidence."
Cheney, for all his shrewdness, has become a liability as a spokesman on Iraq, not only because of suspicions about his relations with the CIA and its analysts but because of his long list of lousy judgments.
They began with his claim that Saddam had "reconstituted" his arsenal of weapons of mass destruction. There was his prediction that U.S. troops would be greeted as "liberators." Later he found -- no one else has -- "mobile laboratories" for making chemical and biological weapons. Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary -- the 9/11 commission report, for one -- Cheney regularly has implied that Saddam was somehow implicated in 9/11: "There was a relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda that stretched through most of the 1990s," as he told one interviewer.
More recently, a day before some 30 Iraqis were killed in car bombings, he pronounced the insurgency as in its "last throes." Bad timing, that.
The sad part of Cheney's tattered credibility is that one claim he makes incessantly is the absolute truth -- that if we lose in Iraq we will fuel the fires of terrorism. Sure it was the Bush-Cheney war that made Iraq a recruitment poster for terrorism. But that doesn't diminish the truth of his warning. Trouble is, he's damaged goods as a spokesman for the cause.
What it all adds up to is this: Dick Cheney or someone on his staff was unhappy with my first account of his role in fashioning the intelligence product used to justify the war in Iraq and wanted a more balanced version. Now they've got it.
Hot damn, a journalist with balls!
In his speeches, George W Bush regularly calls for a return to or the reinforcement of traditional, even eternal, family values and emphasizes the importance of personal "accountability" for our children as well as ourselves. ("The culture of America is changing from one that has said, if it feels good, do it, and if you've got a problem, blame somebody else, to a new culture in which each of us understands we are responsible for the decisions we make in life.")
And yet when it comes to acts that are clearly wrong in this world - aggressive war, the looting of resources, torture, personal gain at the expense of others, lying and manipulation among other matters - Bush and his top officials never hesitate to redefine reality to suit their needs. When faced with matters long defined in everyday life in terms of right and wrong, they simply reach for their dictionaries.
You want to invade a country not about to attack you. No problem, just pick up that Webster's and rename the act "preventive war". Now, you want an excuse for such a war that might actually panic the public into backing it. So you begin to place mushroom clouds from nonexistent enemy atomic warheads over American cities (Condoleezza Rice: "[W]e don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud."); you begin to claim, as our president and other top officials did, that nonexistent enemy UAVs (unmanned airborne vehicles) launched from nonexistent ships off our perfectly real East coast, might spray nonexistent biological or chemical weapons hundreds of miles inland, and - voila! - you're ready to strike back.
You sweep opponents up on a battlefield, but you don't want to call them prisoners of war or deal with them by the established rules of warfare. No problem, just grab that dictionary and label them "unlawful combatants", then you can do anything you want. So you get those prisoners into your jail complex (carefully located on an American base in Cuba, which you have redefined as being legally under "Cuban sovereignty", so that no American court can touch them); and then you declare that, not being prisoners of war, they do not fall under the Geneva Conventions, though you will treat them (sort of) as if they did and, whatever happens, you will not actually torture them, though you plan to take those "gloves" off.
Then your lawyers and attorneys retire to some White House or Justice Department office and, under the guidance of White House counsel Alberto Gonzales (now attorney general), they grab those dictionaries again and redefine torture to be whatever we're not doing to the prisoners. (In a 50-page memo written in August 2002 for the Central Intelligence Agency - CIA - and addressed to Gonzales, assistant attorney general Jay S Bybee, now an Appeals Court judge, hauled out many dictionaries and redefined torture this way: "Must be equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death.")
And if questioned on the subject, after e-mails from Federal Bureau of Investigation observers at the prison lay out the various acts of abuse and torture committed in grisly detail, the vice president simply insists, as Dick Cheney did the other day, that those prisoners are living the good life in the balmy "tropics". ("They're well fed. They've got everything they could possibly want. There isn't any other nation in the world that would treat people who were determined to kill Americans the way we're treating these people.")
As calls to set a timetable for withdrawing American troops from Iraq grow with each new casualty, President George W Bush and other critics of such a move argue vigorously that announcing such a deadline would grant the insurgents a major political and strategic victory: the former by vindicating the violent, even terroristic methodology of the insurgency itself, the latter by allowing rebels to bide their time and overwhelm government troops once American forces depart.
However convincing at face value, these arguments raise the question: are the only options in Iraq maintaining an unpopular and costly occupation, or handing the country over to "former members of Saddam Hussein's regime, criminal elements and foreign terrorists" (as Bush describes them)?
The answer is manifestly no, and the fact so few people within the corridors of power can imagine an alternative policy reveals a powerful yet fallacious line of reasoning at the heart of arguments to "stay the course" in Iraq: that a US troop withdrawal would automatically leave a security vacuum in its place.
But such an outcome is by no means a foregone conclusion; the problem is that few Americans, especially politicians, are willing to consider the alternative: apologize to the Iraqi people for an invasion and occupation that (whatever our intentions) has gone terribly wrong; ask the United Nations to take over the management of the country's security, lead negotiations to end the insurgency, and oversee redevelopment aid; and leave as soon as a sufficient number of replacement forces are in place.
There are four reasons why such a development, however distasteful to the Bush administration and many Americans, is the best hope for achieving the peace and democracy most everyone wants to bring to Iraq.
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Marine wounded in Iraq.