Friday, July 22, 2005

War News for Friday, July 22, 2005

Bring ‘em on: Two Iraqi police officers killed and one wounded when their patrol came under fire in Baghdad’s Ghadeer neighborhood. Two suspected insurgents killed and three captured, one Iraqi soldier and one police officer wounded in firefight in Baghdad’s Dora neighborhood. One policeman killed and two wounded in drive-by shooting in Baladiyat. Two bodies, dressed in civilian clothes and with bullets in their heads, found near Sadr City.

Bring ‘em on: Two policemen killed and one injured when gunmen opened fire on their car in New Baghdad. One traffic policeman killed and another wounded when attacked by gunmen in the Mashtal district of Baghdad. One US soldier killed by a roadside bomb in Fallujah.

Bring ‘em on: One US Marine killed by IED attack near Zaidon.

Bring ‘em on: Two women, one a new bride and the other her mother, killed and two men, the groom and his brother, wounded when gunmen fired on their car in Baghdad’s Dora neighborhood. One Iraqi soldier and three civilians killed, eleven people wounded when US and Iraqi troops clashed with militants in Samarra.

No kidding, Chuck: During more than seven hours of testimony this week, a Senate committee heard that Iraq is in a low-grade civil war, that there are no additional U.S. or allied troops to help and that Iraqi soldiers are far from ready to take over.

From experts on the war in Iraq, senators heard that a new constitution could make things worse, and wouldn't quiet the insurgency.

They heard that the oil industry is sabotaged for profit, not just politics, and that much of the billions of dollars spent on reconstruction so far have accomplished nothing.

"Discount half of what you said, it's still damn disturbing," Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., told the witnesses.

“Partially capable”: The Iraqi government's forces are nowhere near battle ready and only a small number are capable of fighting the insurgency on their own, according to a newly declassified Pentagon document.

The assessment, provided to the Senate by General Peter Pace, the newly appointed chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, paints a stark picture of Iraqi military readiness that contrasts with the Pentagon's upbeat official tone.

According to excerpts in US newspapers yesterday, Gen Pace said about half of Iraq's new police battalions were still being established and were not in a position to conduct operations. The other half of the police and two-thirds of the new Iraqi army battalions were only "partially capable" of carrying out counter-insurgency missions, and required US help.

"Only a small number of Iraqi security forces are taking on the insurgents and terrorists by themselves," Gen Pace wrote.

Sunni demands: Sunni Arabs laid out the demands Thursday that they say must be met by the Iraqi government if they are to rejoin the committee drafting a permanent national constitution, warning that it would be a dire mistake to move ahead without Sunni participation. The 14 remaining Sunni Muslim Arab delegates to the constitutional committee suspended their membership Wednesday, a day after one of their number and a Sunni legal advisor to the committee were gunned down in broad daylight.

Sunni demands include the appointment of an international panel to investigate the assassination this week of Mijbil Issa, the Sunni member of the constitutional committee; the appointment of armed security guards for the Sunni members of the constitutional committee; and the retraction of statements made Wednesday by Humam Hamoodi, the Shiite chairman of the committee, who suggested that work on the charter was almost completed — even though Sunnis have yet to agree to any of the major provisions. The Iraqi government did not immediately respond to the demands.

The Indian perspective: In a candid submission made on the American soil, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said the 2003 US invasion of Iraq was a ''mistake''. Answering questions after his address at the National Press Club here, he said, ''it was our sincere view that it (invasion of Iraq) was a mistake but it is now a thing of the past and we must look to the future.''

Singh is perhaps the first foreign leader to criticise the US invasion of Iraq while being in Washington. His statement drew a thunderous applause from senior American journalist.

Hey Friendly Fire, Here’s One Just For You

I hope they don’t question you all the way to organ failure: US investigators, including CIA agents, will be allowed interrogate Irish citizens on Irish soil in total secrecy, under an agreement signed between Ireland and the US last week. Suspects will also have to give testimony and allow property to be searched and seized even if what the suspect is accused of is not a crime in Ireland. Under 'instruments of agreement' signed last week by Justice Minister Michael McDowell, Ireland and the US pledged mutual co-operation in the investigation of criminal activity. It is primarily designed to assist America's so-called 'war on terror' in the wake of the September 11 atrocities. The deal was condemned yesterday by the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) as "an appalling signal of how the rights of Irish citizens are considered by the minister when engaging in international relations". The ICCL said it appeared to go far beyond even what has been agreed between EU countries.

US Military And Veterans Affairs

Bush comes up short: Fellow Republicans warned House Speaker Dennis Hastert and Majority Leader Tom DeLay more than a year ago that the government would come up short — by at least $750 million — for veterans' health care. The leaders' response: Fire the messengers.

Now that the Bush administration has acknowledged a shortfall of at least $1.2 billion, embarrassed Republicans are scrambling to fill the gap. Meanwhile, Democrats portray the problem as another example of the GOP and the White House taking a shortsighted approach to the cost of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and criticize their commitment to the troops.

New Jersey Rep. Chris Smith, as chairman of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee, had told the House GOP leadership that the Veterans Affairs Department needed at least $2.5 billion more in its budget. The Senate passed a bill with that increase; the House's bill was $750 million short.

Smith and 30 other Republicans wrote to their leaders in March 2004 to make the point that lawmakers who were not the usual outspoken advocates for veterans were troubled by the move. Failure to come up with the additional $2.5 billion, they contended, could mean higher co-payments and "rationing of health care services, leading to long waiting times or other equally unacceptable reductions in services to veterans."

Still, the House ignored them.

Smith was rebuked by several Republicans for sounding the spending alarm, and House leaders yanked his chairmanship in January. Rep. Rob Simmons, R-Conn., lost his chairmanship of the VA health subcommittee, and Rep. Rick Renzi, R-Ariz., is no longer on the committee. They too had signed the letters to Hastert, R-Ill., and DeLay, R-Texas.

Fighting for recruits: Somewhere in Washington State, in a conservative town he would rather not name, is a lonely liberal man with a high-speed internet connection, a sarcastic wit, and a suggestion for how the U.S. military might fill its recruiting gaps: With pro-war College Republicans.

The man calls himself General J.C. Christian, Patriot, and he runs the online campaign "Operation Yellow Elephant," which has been exhorting young conservatives to carry their support of the Iraq war to its logical conclusion by enlisting for duty on the front lines.

The General, as one might guess, is not having much luck. But the more he fails, the more he highlights a division between the war's political enablers and those who end up dying while fighting in support of a mission that was supposedly "accomplished" long ago. It is the same division that existed in the Vietnam era, when President Bush and other sons of privilege dodged active-duty service, a class division that allows the comfortable to pontificate on the theoretical virtues of war while those in lower tax brackets bear the brunt of its human cost.

This pisses the General off, as do Republicans in his small town who lecture him about his lack of patriotism when he voices opposition to the war. So when the General heard about the military recruiting shortfalls, his mind immediately turned to the young Republican movement: "I thought, 'Well, these people are always talking about patriotism, and always equating patriotism with support for the war, it's time that they walk the walk.'" That sentiment is summed up on his web site, operationyellowelephant.blogspot.com, with the motto: "It's their war. Why aren't they fighting it?"

Italy And Iraq

Sixty percent: Many adults in Italy want to end their country’s participation in the United States-led coalition effort, according to a poll by SWG. 60 per cent of respondents oppose extending their country’s military presence.

On Mar. 15, Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi announced "a gradual reduction of the number of our soldiers in Iraq." The process is scheduled to start in September, provided security conditions are reasonable.

In 2003, Berlusconi committed more than 2,000 Italian soldiers to the war in Iraq—the third largest contingent of the coalition—who are currently participating in peacekeeping duties.

Too bad for the majority: Italian legislators have approved a bill extending the stay of the country`s 3,000 troops in Iraq.

The BBC reported the measure allows the contingent to remain until the end of 2005. Defense Minister Antonio Martino has promised to begin a gradual withdrawal, with 300 troops coming home in September.

The bill passed the lower house and goes to the upper house of Parliament next week for a final vote.

Homeland Defense

More in three days: Every nation, even one as rich as the United States, has finite resources. And America is spending large portions of its resources, both in terms of human and economic capital, fighting a conventional war against a nation-state that does not address America's biggest vulnerability -- its openness to unconventional attacks by terrorists who don't respect borders.

America remains astonishingly vulnerable to attacks from al Qaeda, which has morphed under Bush's watch, from an organization to a worldwide movement, Flynn argues.

"The degree to which the Bush administration is willing to invest in conventional national security spending relative to basic domestic security measures is considerable," Flynn argues in an article he wrote for Foreign Affairs magazine based on his book.

"Although the CIA has concluded that the most likely way weapons of mass destruction (WMD) would enter the United States is by sea, the federal government is spending more every three days to finance the war in Iraq than it has provided over the past three years to prop up the security of all 361 U.S. commercial seaports."

Flynn accuses the administration of a "myopic" focus on conventional military forces at the expense of domestic security. He draws this comparison: "In fiscal year 2005, Congress will give the Pentagon $7.6 billion to improve security at military bases. Meanwhile, the Department of Homeland Security will receive just $2.6 billion to protect all the vital systems throughout the country that sustain a modern society."

US Politics

Not that the Republicans will pass it: Congresswoman Barbara Lee (Dem., Calif.) today introduced - along with 26 co-sponsors - a Resolution of Inquiry in the House of Representatives which, if passed, will require the White House and the State Department to "transmit all information relating to communication with officials of the United Kingdom between January 1, 2002, and October 16, 2002, relating to the policy of the United States with respect to Iraq."

Grotesque: Calls for an early withdrawal from Iraq are a mistake that will only embolden terrorists, the House resolved Wednesday. The resolution drew opposition from Democrats, who said it implied that questioning President Bush's Iraq policies is unpatriotic.

The measure, approved 291-137, says the United States should leave Iraq only when national security and foreign policy goals related to a free and stable Iraq have been achieved.

"Calls for an early withdrawal embolden the terrorists and undermine the morale" of U.S. and allied forces and put their security at risk, the amendment to a State Department bill reads.

"To establish such a deadline," added House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, "all but ensuring disaster, would be morally and strategically indefensible."

But Democrats said the proposal was aimed mainly at putting critics of the war, and those seeking an exit strategy, in a bad light. To suggest that "those of us who oppose this war are somehow 'emboldening terrorists' is, to say the least, grotesque," said Rep. James McGovern, D-Mass.

Opposing PATRIOT: House Judiciary Democrats have prepared a 70-page dissent opposing the renewal of the U.S. Patriot and Intelligence Reform Reauthorization Act, RAW STORY has learned.

Unlike some Democratic opposition, those decrying the Patriot Act include a diverse panoply of voices: 389 communities and seven states have passed resolutions opposing parts of the PATRIOT Act, representing over 62 million people, they note.

Groups running the gamut of the political spectrum oppose certain sections of the PATRIOT Act, including the American Civil Liberties Union, American Conservative Union, American Immigration Lawyers Association, American Library Association, Gun Owners of America and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

The dissent cites repeated abuse of the Act by police and law enforcement.

Among the more troubling, perhaps, for RAW STORY readers: "It has been used to unconstitutionally coerce an Internet Service Provider to divulge information about e-mail activity and web surfing on its system, and then to gag that Provider from even disclosing the abuse to the public."

Did You Know The Iraq War Was A Liberal Plot?

When Weiners attack: "Hush Bimbo" and "Sean Vanity" are the names Savage has pinned on Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. In doing so, he has sparked a war between the members of his "Savage Nation" (slogan: "Borders, language, culture") and the so-called "Bushbots," that sizable number of gullible Americans who can be convinced that whatever policy Bush adopts is a conservative policy.

"What makes Bush a conservative?" Savage asked when I got him on the phone the other day. "On the economy, Bush has got more governmental workers than anybody before him. He's ballooned the government."

As regards the so-called "war on terror," Savage points out that you can't win a war when you're afraid even to name the enemy.

"He's never mentioned Islamo fascism," said Savage.

No, he hasn't. Even the French have been more willing to defend their borders, language and culture than Bush. He's a multiculturalist and a mushy one at that. Instead of reducing the reach of Islamic fundamentalism, Bush has managed in Iraq to get 1,700 Americans killed in a war that will create yet another Islamic republic. Just Wednesday we learned that the new constitution in Iraq will incorporate sharia, Islamic law.

That's why we right-wing commentators believe the Iraq war has been the biggest blunder in American military history. As for Bimbo and Vanity, if I may employ Savage's labels, they are simply too uneducated to realize that the Iraq war represents a failed liberal exercise in nation-building.

Commentary By The Non-Insane

Editorial: The talking point for the next election: Republicans stand for Treason; Democrats stand for Reason. This was established during a Senate vote this week for an amendment to a homeland security appropriations bill that would deny access to classified material to any federal employee who discloses a covert CIA agent's identity. The bill was defeated, the vote breaking down along straight party lines, 53 to 44. The ruling party -- the Ruling Class -- has ossified, a sure sign of a government that will soon (but not soon enough!) collapse under the sheer weight of its own bullshit.

First, one undeniable fact: Karl Rove, Pres. Bush's closest advisor -- the man on whom Bush has affixed the loving nickname "Turd Blossom" -- revealed the identity of an undercover CIA agent. He did this more than two years ago. In fact, in this space on Oct. 16, 2003 ("We See Nothing"), I wrote, "Besides the Big Lie that has, as of this week, cost more than 300 American lives [in Iraq], the loss of Plame's cover may lead to as many as 70 deaths of her 'assets' around the world ... The prime suspect in this vindictive act -- a felony, perhaps treason -- is Karl Rove."

My point is not that I'm so prescient, so far ahead of the pack. Quite the contrary. That is, if a person like me, with a 9-year-old dog and a 4-year-old son competing for my attention in my cramped office picked up on this two years ago, then IT WAS KNOWN ALL OVER THE WORLD. Why all the hoo haw now? Nothing has changed in two years. Rove is no more or less guilty of treason than he was then. Somehow this heinous chapter in our nation's history was allowed to drag out and 1,500 more Americans and 100,000+ more Iraqis have died as a result of this administration's culture of lies.

I've heard the press is really pushing this story because they're angry the White House lied to them. Puh-leeeeeze. The White House press corps would wet their collective pants and melt into a giant collective puddle if Ari or Scott or Condi or Bush ever told them the truth. Had these same pencil-asses been this aggressive four or even two years ago, we'd never be in this mess now.

I think it has more to do with pack mentality, the barking dog syndrome. In Oct. 2003, I was simply a barking dog on an empty cul-de-sac. Now the dogs are out on Pennsylvania Avenue howling like rabid beasts.

So, why is the Republican Party allowing itself to be dragged down with Turd Blossom? According to the Washington Post this week, "The emerging GOP strategy ... is to try to undermine those Democrats calling for Rove's ouster, play down Rove's role and wait for President Bush's forthcoming Supreme Court selection to drown out the controversy."

Have you ever read a more cynical sentence in a news story than that last one?

Opinion: As I traveled in different parts of London and elsewhere in Britain, I was amazed by the number of people who told me, without hesitation, that we were paying the price for the war in Iraq. A few went further and argued that British politicians thought they could press buttons and make war in the Arab world and remain safe themselves. Now they had a reply.

On July 18, a Foreign Office think-tank, the Royal Institute of International Affairs published a special report which argued that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq had resulted in an increase of terrorism and Blair had made the UK vulnerable. In other words (mine) it happened, without any doubt, because Tony Blair decided to lock himself in embrace with the US president, from which he could not be easily prised loose. Blair and his court denounced the report.

On July 19, a special opinion poll commissioned by The Guardian/ICM has made this view public. 66 percent of the British public believes there was a link with Iraq. The Guardian, embarrassed by its own findings did not report this on its own front page. The message is clear. Despite the weight of official propaganda people refuse to believe Blair. The British political and media elite is as isolated from the public as its French and Dutch counterparts. No doubt Blair's tame journalists will accuse the public of being scared and ignorant. The reality is otherwise.

Unless you give people a political explanation for what has happened, the only other explanation is an apocalyptic one, which the prime minister duly gave - barbarians versus civilisation. Blair says this, his parrot cabinet members have been repeating it, and even Bush has picked up a few phrases.

We have to be clear. If the killing of innocent civilians in London is barbaric, and it is, how does one define the killing of tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians? A viler barbarism.

Comment: Three years ago, I wrote an article entitled “Bush’s Grim Vision.” It began with the observation that since the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, “George W. Bush has put the United States on a course that is so bleak that few analysts have – as the saying goes – connected the dots. If they had, they would see an outline of a future that mixes constant war overseas with abridgement of constitutional freedoms at home.”

Since then, the dots have not only been connected, but many of the shapes have been colored in. The immediate fear and anger following the Sept. 11 attacks have given way to the grinding permanence of a never-ending state of emergency. In many ways, the reality has turned out worse than the article's expectations.

For the last two-plus years, the bloody war in Iraq has raged with no end in sight, as more evidence emerges daily that the Bush administration misled the nation into the invasion through a mix of false intelligence on weapons of mass destruction and clever juxtapositions that blurred Iraq’s Saddam Hussein with al-Qaeda’s Osama bin Laden.

The war – and the animosities it engendered – have, in turn, added to the likelihood of terrorist attacks, like the July 7 bombings in London, which provide further justification for more security and greater encroachments on individual liberties.

Opinion: The United States long ago ceased to be anything like a living, thriving republic. But it retained the legal form of a republic, and that counted for something: as long as the legal form still existed, even as a gutted shell, there was hope it might be filled again one day with substance.

But now the very legal structures of the Republic are being dismantled. The principle of arbitrary rule by an autocratic leader is being openly established, through a series of unchallenged executive orders, perverse Justice Department rulings and court decisions by sycophantic judges who defer to power - not law - in their determinations. What we are witnessing is the creation of a "Commander-in-Chief State," where the form and pressure of law no longer apply to the president and his designated agents. The rights of individuals are no longer inalienable, nor are their persons inviolable; all depends on the good will of the Commander, the military autocrat.

George W. Bush has granted himself the power to declare anyone on earth - including any American citizen - an "enemy combatant," for any reason he sees fit. He can render them up to torture, he can imprison them for life, he can even have them killed, all without charges, with no burden of proof, no standards of evidence, no legislative oversight, no appeal, no judicial process whatsoever except those that he himself deigns to construct, with whatever limitations he cares to impose. Nor can he ever be prosecuted for any order he issues, however criminal; in the new American system laid out by Bush's legal minions, the Commander is sacrosanct, beyond the reach of any law or constitution.

This is not hyperbole. It is simply the reality of the United States today.

There has been virtually no institutional resistance to this open coup d'etat. It's now clear that the American Establishment - and a significant portion of the American people - have given up on the democratic experiment. They no longer wish to govern themselves; they want to be ruled, by "strong leaders" who will "do whatever it takes" to protect them from harm and keep them in clover. They have sold their golden birthright of American liberty for a mess of coward's pottage.

Casualty Reports

Local story: St. Louis, MO, soldier died of non-combat related injuries near Balad.

Local story: Honolulu, HI, soldier killed in bomb attack in Iraq.

Local story: Morgan County, AL, Board of Education honors a local Marine who was killed in a bomb attack in Fallujah.

Local story: Newkirk, OK, soldier killed in bomb attack near Taji.

Local story: Nuneaton, UK, soldier killed by a roadside bomb in southern Iraq.

Local story: Tamworth, UK, soldier killed by roadside bomb in southern Iraq.


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