War News for Friday, July 8, 2005
Bring 'em on: Insurgents execute kidnapped Egyptian diplomat
Bring 'em on: US convoy ambushed by roadside bomb in Karbala
Bring 'em on: One US soldier killed, three wounded in care bomb attack in Baghdad
Bring 'em on: Five Iraqis killed, 59 wounded in two mortar attacks in Mosul
Bring 'em on: Shi'ite imam assassinated in Baghdad
Bring 'em on: Thirteen Iraqis killed, 27 wounded by car bomb near Hilla
Bring 'em on: Four Iraqis wounded as police fire on demonstrators in Tikrit
Bring 'em on: Two insurgents killed in premature detonation of car bomb in Kirkuk
Bring 'em on: Five decapitated bodies found near Ramadi
Bring 'em on: Water pipeline sabotaged near Baghdad
. "Saad Mohammed Ridha, the head of Iraq's diplomatic mission in Cairo, told the Associated Press that Egypt's foreign ministry informed him late Thursday that the mission would close temporarily and the staff was being recalled. An Egyptian official in Cairo also said Egypt would temporarily close its mission here and has recalled its staff -- although there was no sign Friday that any of the Egyptians were leaving."
Propaganda brigade deploys
Public support for the war in Iraq is plummeting at home and overseas, military recruiters aren't making their quotas, and U.S. soldiers and Iraqi civilians are being killed every day by insurgents.
But enough of the bad news, say a group of six conservative talk-show hosts led by San Francisco's Melanie Morgan.
They're headed to Iraq on Friday for a "Truth Tour" -- a seven-day trip designed to show that what's happening on the ground in Iraq isn't as dire as what's being beamed across the globe on network news programs and described in mainstream publications.
The talkers will stop Friday at Central Command in Tampa, Fla., to throw a thank-you barbecue for the military. Then they'll fly commercially to Kuwait and be transported by military planes to Camp Victory in Baghdad, where each will broadcast two days of shows next week. Next, they're headed to Camp Arifjan in Kuwait for three more days of shows. Throughout, many of the radio hosts are planning to call other conservative shows, like the nationally syndicated "Sean Hannity Radio Show," to spread the gospel about what they see.
. "Former foes Iran and Iraq have said they will sign a military cooperation agreement that will include Iranian help in training Iraq's armed forces. The agreement marks a considerable advance in relations between the two countries that fought a bitter 1980-1988 war and comes despite repeated US accusations that Iran has undermined security in Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003. 'It's a new chapter in our relations with Iraq. We will start wide defence cooperation,' Iranian Defence Minister Admiral Ali Shamkhani told a joint news conference with visiting Iraqi counterpart Sadoun al-Dulaimi."
The once libertine oil port of Basra, 350 miles south of the capital and far from the insurgency raging in much of Iraq, is steadily being transformed into a mini-theocracy under Shiite rule. There is perhaps no better indication of the possible flash points in a Shiite-dominated Iraq, because the political parties that hold sway here also wield significant influence in the central government in Baghdad and are backed by the country's top clerics.
Efforts to impose strict Shiite religious rule across Iraq would almost certainly spur resistance from Sunni Arabs and the more secular Kurds. But here in Basra, the changes have accelerated since the January elections, which enabled religious parties to put more radical politicians into office.
Small parties with names like God's Vengeance and Master of Martyrs have emerged. They work under the umbrella of more established Shiite groups, but many Iraqis suspect them of being agents of the Iranian government. One of the leading parties was formed in Iran by an Iraqi cleric living in exile during the reign of Saddam Hussein.
The growing ties with Iran are evident. Posters of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the leader of the 1979 Iranian revolution, are plastered along streets and even at the provincial government center. The Iranian government opened a polling station downtown for Iranian expatriates during elections in their home country in June.
: "The military has agreed to pay a Halliburton subsidiary up to $5 billion for another year of care and feeding of U.S. forces in Iraq, a military spokeswoman said Thursday."
The CPA maintained one fund of nearly $600m cash for which there is no paperwork: $200m of it was kept in a room in one of Saddam's former palaces. The US soldier in charge used to keep the key to the room in his backpack, which he left on his desk when he popped out for lunch. Again, this is Iraqi money, not US funds.
The "financial irregularities" described in audit reports carried out by agencies of the American government and auditors working for the international community collectively give a detailed insight into the mentality of the American occupation authorities and the way they operated. Truckloads of dollars were handed out for which neither they nor the recipients felt they had to be accountable.
The auditors have so far referred more than a hundred contracts, involving billions of dollars paid to American personnel and corporations, for investigation and possible criminal prosecution. They have also discovered that $8.8bn that passed through the new Iraqi government ministries in Baghdad while Bremer was in charge is unaccounted for, with little prospect of finding out where it has gone. A further $3.4bn appropriated by Congress for Iraqi development has since been siphoned off to finance "security".
Although Bremer was expected to manage Iraqi funds in a transparent manner, it was only in October 2003, six months after the fall of Saddam, that an International Advisory and Monitoring Board (IAMB) was established to provide independent, international financial oversight of CPA spending. (This board includes representatives from the United Nations, the World Bank, the IMF and the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development.)
The IAMB first spent months trying to find auditors acceptable to the US. The Bahrain office of KPMG was finally appointed in April 2004. It was stonewalled.
Even Justice Antonin Scalia, among the most conservative of jurists, was outraged by the White House's assertion, built on Gonzales' advice, that the executive branch could suspend the rule of law to fight terrorism. "The very core of liberty secured by our Anglo-Saxon system of separated powers has been the freedom from indefinite imprisonment at the will of the executive branch," wrote Scalia in his opinion in the case of Yaser Esam Hamdi, the U.S. citizen held incommunicado in a military brig.
Even with London's reminder of the ubiquity of terrorism in front us, no one with such a cavalier disregard for fundamental notions of due process should serve as one of the nine guardians of our individual liberties.
It's a sad statement of the times we live in that much of the opposition to a Gonzales nomination is coming from social conservatives, for far different reasons. They worry, on the basis of sketchy evidence, that the attorney general may be insufficiently committed to their antiabortion and anti-affirmative action crusades.
But where are the liberal advocates and Democratic senators who opposed Gonzales' nomination as attorney general? Is a torture-supporting nominee to the court really an acceptable lesser-of-evils these days?
Bush's renewed efforts to associate the Iraq war with the "war on terror", which drew loud complaints from Democrats and the media, may not be as effective as in the past. However, a succession of polls in recent months has shown that the public has come increasingly to see the two wars as separate.
Indeed, for the first time since the US invasion of Iraq, a majority of the public, by a 50-47% margin, sees Iraq as distinct from the "war on terror", according to a USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll released last week. The same poll found that a similar plurality believes the war in Iraq has made the US less safe from terrorism, and a 53% majority now believes that the Iraq invasion was itself a mistake.
The fact that al-Qaeda or one of its affiliates has now struck in the heart of another Western capital - and Washington's closest ally - could add to the growing sense that the Iraq war was and remains a diversion from the fight against al-Qaeda, despite the reportedly growing participation of radical Islamists in that conflict.
At the same time, according to Steven Kull, director of the University of Maryland's Program of International Policy Attitudes, the attacks could favor Bush, at least in the short term. "Whenever there are bombings close to home, it generates fear, and fear intensifies concern about terrorism and makes people marginally more receptive to the kind of frames that Bush has used," he said.
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