Tuesday, July 12, 2005

War News for Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Bring ‘em on: Five civilians, including one child, killed and 18 wounded in shelling in Tal Afar, unclear which side was responsible. US forces claim to have killed 14 “terrorists” in Tal Afar. It is notable that this Reuters article not only puts the word terrorists in quotes but also goes on to state that it is unclear whether the killings were related to the shelling reported above. One gets the impression that the reporters suspect the US military of including dead civilians in its “terrorist” body counts.

Bring ‘em on: The AP reports that, in addition to the 14 insurgents killed as reported above, six civilians were killed and 22 wounded in the Tal Afar fighting.

Bring ‘em on: Iraqi karate association chief, apparently shot to death, found floating in Baghdad river. He had been abducted by gunmen Thursday in Latifiyah.

Bring ‘em on: Baghdad’s main oil refinery attacked by mortar fire causing a “huge fire” which took 150 firefighters two hours to bring under control. Four US soldiers wounded in suicide car bombing just north of Baghdad last Friday. Four members of the same family, including a child and a woman, found shot dead in their home in Baiji in what police said was probably insurgent retaliation for a relative's job working for the US military.

Bring ‘em on: At least seven Iraqi customs officials killed by two suicide car bombers at the Walid border crossing with Syria. Five policemen killed near Mosul when a suicide car bomber rammed into a police convoy carrying an Iraqi brigadier general, who escaped injury in the attack. At least four civilians killed in car bombing in Kirkuk. A second car bomb, rigged to detonate when rescuers rushed to the scene, found and disabled by American troops. One Iraqi civilian killed and one US Marine wounded in two further suicide car bombings near Fallujah. Shiite mother and seven of her children found shot dead in their beds Sunday in Baghdad. One boy survived, police said. The father, who was not at home at the time, blamed the killings on sectarian hatred.

Body counts: Some 39,000 Iraqis have been killed as a direct result of combat or armed violence since the U.S.-led invasion, a figure considerably higher than previous estimates, a Swiss institute reported on Monday.

The public database Iraqi Body Count, by comparison, estimates that between 22,787 and 25,814 Iraqi civilians have died since the March 2003 invasion, based on reports from at least two media sources.

No official estimates of Iraqi casualties from the war have been issued, although military deaths from the U.S.-led coalition forces are closely tracked and now total 1,937.

The new estimate was compiled by the Geneva-based Graduate Institute of International Studies and published in its latest annual small arms survey, released at a U.N. news conference.

It builds on a study published in The Lancet, a British medical journal, last October, which concluded there had been 100,000 "excess deaths" in Iraq from all causes since March 2003. That figure was derived by conducting surveys of Iraqi mortality data during the war and comparing the results to similar data collected before the war.

Iraqi News and Politics

This should keep things moving right along: Two of the 15 Sunni Arabs on a committee drafting Iraq's constitution have quit after receiving threats, committee members said.

Not that they’d admit it or anything: Iraq's defense minister said Monday that a military agreement reached with Iran last week does not include any provision for the Iranian armed forces to help train Iraqi troops, contradicting reported assertions by his Iranian counterpart.

Defense Minister Sadoun Dulaimi said during a news conference here that the five-point memorandum of understanding that he and Iran's defense minister, Adm. Ali Shamkhani, signed Thursday in Tehran contained "no agreement" on military training.

Asked whether Shamkhani had misrepresented the content of the accord, Dulaimi said only that "he has the right to mention what he wants. We, as Iraqis, are not responsible for that."

Dead envoy denials: Egyptian and Iraqi officials denied yesterday that a slain Egyptian envoy had been meeting with Iraqi insurgents before his Baghdad kidnapping.

The denials are an apparent bid to contain Cairo’s anger at Baghdad over remarks made by Iraq’s government spokesman that envoy Ihab El Sherif may have been holding talks with insurgent groups before his July 2 abduction.

The Al Qaeda in Iraq group headed by Jordanian militant Abu Musab Al Zarqawi claimed in an Internet statement that it killed the 51-year-old envoy and accused him of being an “American spy.” No photographic evidence has surfaced proving Al Sherif’s death.

Allawi offers an opinion: Iraq’s former interim prime minister Iyad Allawi has warned that his country is facing civil war and has predicted dire consequences for Europe and America as well as the Middle East if the crisis is not resolved.

“The problem is that the Americans have no vision and no clear policy on how to go about in Iraq,” said Allawi, a long-time ally of Washington.

In an interview with The Sunday Times last week as he visited Amman, the Jordanian capital, he said: “The policy should be of building national unity in Iraq. Without this we will most certainly slip into a civil war. We are practically in stage one of a civil war as we speak.”

Hard to know what to make of this story: Kurdish security officials said Sunday they had arrested suspects from six different terrorist groups that they believe help form wide insurgent training and support networks inside Iraq and have links with international terrorist organizations.

The officials, including senior members of the Kurdish security police and the intelligence arm of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, say the groups, most of them previously unknown to the Kurdish authorities, appear to have ties to more established jihadist organizations like Ansar al-Sunna.

That group in turn can be traced to a collection of militants who fought United States forces in the mountains near Halabja, on the Iranian border, in the weeks leading up to the 2003 invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.

Sadr City: On the streets of Sadr City these days, there is a semblance of normalcy--an anomaly in the war-weary capital where neighborhoods' reputations are often based on their propensity for violence and their level of support for the insurgency. Women in black abayas crowd the outdoor vegetable and poultry markets on Falah Street--"falah" means "peasant" in Arabic--in the sprawling Shiite neighborhood, seemingly without fear of suicide bombings. It's not unusual to see children playing in front of their homes unsupervised or hanging out in front of the busy ice cream shops. And while U.S. convoys shuttling through the neighborhood get plenty of dirty looks, troops haven't faced grave danger in months. One U.S. soldier has been killed in Sadr City so far this year. If it weren't for the roads, marked by potholes from roadside bombs and mortar fire, it would be difficult to believe that firebrand cleric Moqtada Sadr galvanized a violent uprising against U.S. forces in this same neighborhood last November. In many ways, life in Sadr City is on the mend. But peace in this slum that is home to 2.5 million is fragile, and anti-American sentiment holds firm.

A petition: Radicals within Iraq's Shiite majority community launched a petition for the withdrawal of US-led troops, which they said was drawing support from across the sectarian divide.

Supporters of firebrand cleric Moqtada Sadr, who led a bloody six-month uprising against the coalition last year, said they were aiming to secure one million signatures inside four days.

"We started this morning and so far we have had a good response, not only from Shiites -- Sunnis and Christians have also been coming to our office to show their support," said Ibrahim al-Jaberi, an official in Sadr's movement.

"We have also received more than 100 calls from Iraqis living abroad in support of our initiative," he said, adding that more than 400,000 people had signed the petition by midday (0800 GMT).

No Deadlines, No Timetables, No Benchmarks…No Plan

Looks like he missed this one: President Bush is facing a legal deadline to deliver what he has been most resistant to providing: a set of specific benchmarks for measuring progress toward military and political stability in Iraq.

Under a little-noticed provision of the defense spending bill passed by Congress in May, Secretary of Defense Don Rumsfeld has until July 11 to send Capitol Hill a "comprehensive set of performance indicators and measures of stability and security" two years after the fall of Saddam Hussein.

If and when it comes in, it could do much more than the president's Tuesday night speech at Fort Bragg to provide a factual basis for judging how close we may be toward reaching our goals in Iraq.

In that address, Bush once again demolished a straw man, denouncing any talk of a deadline for withdrawal of U.S. and coalition forces and any timetable for phasing them out. While public support for a pullout has grown, almost no one in Congress is advocating such a step.

What serious people are asking of the administration is a set of yardsticks by which the situation is Iraq can be realistically measured -- and accountability established for a strategy to reach those goals. That is something the president has refused to provide.

But there’s no timetable for withdrawal! Err...: Britain and the United States are privately planning to withdraw most of their forces from Iraq by early next year, according to a secret memo written by John Reid, the United Kingdom defence secretary. Under the plans, Britain will cut the number of its troops from the present 8 500 to 3 000 by the middle of next year. The US will reduce its forces in Iraq from about 176 000 today to 66 000 by early next year. The plans, outlined in a document put to a Cabinet committee chaired by Tony Blair, were revealed as the insurgency in Iraq claimed up to 40 lives and wounded dozens from suicide bombs in Baghdad, the Sunni Triangle and along the Syrian border.

Reid's memo, Options for Future UK Force Posture in Iraq, marked "Secret -- UK eyes only", was leaked to the Mail on Sunday. It confirms a Guardian report last week outlining the views of British military commanders. Reid says any final decision on force levels would depend on the security situation in Iraq, the state of the Iraqi security forces, and "internal Iraqi pressure". However, he reveals that the Pentagon is pushing for early and deep cuts in the number of American troops in Iraq, despite the concerns of US commanders in the field.

Keeping The Homelands Secure

“I think most people with any sense would rather fight them overseas than they would here at home." – Donald Rumsfeld, July 7, 2005

They aren’t buying it in Britain: Many adults in Britain believe their government’s backing of the coalition effort may have made their country a target, according to a poll by YouGov published in the Daily Telegraph. 72 per cent of respondents believe Britain’s role in Iraq made the country more vulnerable to attack by Islamic terrorists.

They’re starting to doubt it here, too: The number of Americans who believe the war in Iraq has made the United States less safe from terrorism spiked sharply after last week's terror attacks in London, according to the latest CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll.

The proportion of respondents who said they believe the war in Iraq has made the United States less safe from terrorism jumped to 54 percent in the latest poll. That is a dramatic increase from 39 percent in the poll conducted June 29-30, a week before the London attacks.

Of the 489 people asked that specific question, 40 percent believed the Iraq war had made the United States safer -- down from 44 percent in the previous poll.

The other 517 poll respondents were asked whether the Iraq war had made the world safer. Forty percent said it had, and 52 percent said it made the world less safe.

Those two questions on Iraq in the latest poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percentage points, two points higher than the rest of the poll questions.

TIME magazine is starting to get it: Sir Ivor Roberts, Britain's Ambassador to Italy, declared last September that the "best recruiting sergeant for al-Qaeda" was none other than the U.S. President, George W. Bush.

With the American election entering its final furlongs, he added, "If anyone is ready to celebrate the eventual re-election of Bush, it is al-Qaeda." The remarks, made at an off-the-record conference, were leaked in the Italian press, and Sir Ivor, facing the displeasure of his Foreign Office masters for committing the sin of candor, disowned the comments.

But now, as the soot settles in the London Underground, the words hang again in the air.

It is, of course, bad manners to point the finger at anyone but those responsible for the killings in London. They shed the blood; they must answer for it.

But as the trail of bodies that began with the first bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993 continues to lengthen, we need to ask why the attacks keep coming.

One key reason is that Osama bin Laden's "achievements" in standing up to the American colossus on 9/11 have inspired others to follow his lead.

Another is that American actions--above all, the invasion and occupation of Iraq--have galvanized still more Muslims and convinced them of the truth of bin Laden's vision.

A big step backward: New York and Washington. Bali, Riyadh, Istanbul, Madrid. And now London.

When will it end? Where will it all lead?

The experts aren’t encouraged. One prominent terrorism researcher sees the prospect of “endless” war. Adds the man who tracked Osama bin Laden for the CIA, “I don’t think it’s even started yet.”

An Associated Press survey of longtime students of international terrorism finds them ever more convinced, in the aftermath of London’s bloody Thursday, that the world has entered a long siege in a new kind of war. They believe that al-Qaida is mutating into a global insurgency, a possible prototype for other 21st-century movements, technologically astute, almost leaderless. And the way out is far from clear.

In fact, says Michael Scheuer, the ex-CIA analyst, rather than move toward solutions, the United States took a big step backward by invading Iraq.

Now, he said, “we’re at the point where jihad is self-sustaining,” where Islamic “holy warriors” in Iraq fight America with or without allegiance to al-Qaida’s bin Laden.

The cold statistics of a RAND Corp. database show the impact of the explosion of violence in Iraq: The 5,362 deaths from terrorism worldwide between March 2004 and March 2005 were almost double the total for the same 12-month period before the 2003 U.S. invasion.

Iraq And The US Military

Rumsfeld vs reality: Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has consistently rejected any contention that the Army is stretched too thin in fighting simultaneous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But a new Army study has concluded the service is so strained that the United States will soon "need to decide what military capabilities the Army should have and what risks may be prudent to assume."

Numerous critics and outside defense policy groups have warned that the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan has taxed the Army so badly that it will have difficulty meeting any new crises elsewhere, but the new assessment comes from an in-house undertaking prepared by the RAND Corp.'s Arroyo Center, the Army's own federally funded research institute.

"The challenge the Army faces is profound," senior RAND analyst Lynn Davis, lead author of the report, said in a statement accompanying the study's completion. "Any approach is fraught with risks and uncertainties, along with significant costs and some possible changes in the Army's long-term goals."

Even as the Army was studying the report, it announced Monday that it is augmenting its troop strength in Afghanistan this month with a battalion of the 82nd Airborne Division that just returned from Iraq in March. And the Army's latest monthly recruitment figures released Monday show the service and its reserve components likely will not meet recruitment goals for this fiscal year.

Goal at risk: The Army National Guard, struggling more than any other part of the U.S. military to sign up new troops amid the Iraq war, missed its ninth straight monthly recruiting goal in June, officials said on Monday.

In danger of missing a third straight annual recruiting goal, the Army National Guard fell 14 percent short of its June recruiting target, the Pentagon said. Three quarters through fiscal 2005, which ends Sept. 30, the Army National Guard stood 23 percent behind its year-to-date goal.

"I can tell you their goal is at risk, so we're concerned," Lt. Col. Bryan Hilferty, an Army spokesman at the Pentagon, said of the 2005 goal of 63,002 new soldiers.

The Army National Guard has missed its recruiting target in every month of the fiscal year, last achieving a monthly goal in September 2004, said Lt. Col. Ellen Krenke, a Pentagon spokeswoman. It sent 4,337 new soldiers into boot camp in June, short of its goal of 5,032, the Pentagon said.

Good news for the soldiers but not for the Army: The number of Reserve and National Guard troops on domestic and overseas missions has fallen to about 138,000, down from a peak of nearly 220,000 after the invasion of Iraq two years ago, a sharp decline that military officials say will continue in the months ahead.

The decrease comes as welcome relief to tens of thousands of formerly part-time soldiers who, with their families, employers and communities, have been badly stressed by their long call-ups for duty in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Reserve and National Guard members from all of the armed services make up about 35 percent of the troops in Iraq, a share that is expected to drop to about 30 percent by next year; the vast majority are from the Army Reserve and Army National Guard.

But as these returning troops settle back into their civilian lives, the Army is running perilously low on its Reserve and National Guard soldiers who largely fill certain critical support jobs, like military police and civil affairs officers and truck drivers. Marine Corps reservists are facing similar constraints.

But the damage is not just in troop strength and readiness: The military prides itself, as do physicians, on being professional in every sense of the word. It fosters leadership and discipline. When I served as White House physician, my entire professional staff was drawn from the military, and they were among the best and most competent people I have met, without qualification.

The military ethics that I know absolutely prohibit anything resembling torture. There are several good reasons for this. Prisoners should be treated as we would expect our prisoners to be treated. Discipline and order in the military ranks depend to a large extent on compliance with the prohibition of torture -- indeed, weak or damaged psyches inclined toward torture or abuse have generally been weeded out of the military, or at the very least given less responsibility. In addition, military leaders have long been aware that torture inflicts lasting damage on both the victim and the torturer. The systematic infliction of torture engenders deep hatred and hostility that transcends generations. And it perverts the role of medical personnel from healers to instruments of abuse.

Today, however, it seems as though our government and the military have slipped into Joseph Conrad's "Heart of Darkness." The widespread reports of torture and ill-treatment -- frequently based on military and government documents -- defy the claim that this abusive behavior is limited to a few noncommissioned officers at Abu Ghraib or isolated incidents at Guantanamo Bay. When it comes to torture, the military's traditional leadership and discipline have been severely compromised up and down the chain of command. Why? I fear it is because the military has bowed to errant civilian leadership.

Real Americans In The Heartland

Iowa: Iowa Peace activists will display empty boots during the next week to represent Iowa National Guard soldiers who have died fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Iowa Chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility is sponsoring the event, called Eyes Wide Open.

The boots will be on display on the University of Iowa Pentacrest on Wednesday. The exhibit will move to Des Moines during the National Governor's Association convention Friday through Monday.

Names of U-S soldiers and Iraqis killed in the war will be read and participants will pray.

Nebraska: Nearly 150 motorcyclists cruised from Fairfield to Oxford to Hamilton and back for the first benefit ride in memory of Lance Cpl. Taylor Prazynski, a Marine killed May 9 in Iraq.

Money from the event will go directly to a Fairfield soldier and his family. Pfc. Tim Hines, 21, was seriously injured in Iraq on Father’s Day, resulting in the loss of his right leg. His father-in-law, Jim Wessel, participated in the event, before returning to Washington D.C., where Hines is hospitalized.

Hines is at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. He is accompanied by with his wife Katy, who is six months pregnant with their second child. Hines is conscious, but can only communicate by blinking, family members have said.

He suffered two fractures and tissue damage in his left leg and renal damage to both kidneys. Recently he developed pneumonia, according to the family.

Preemption and the Evolution of America’s Strategic Defense

Discussion points: Will preemption provide an overarching framework for fighting a decades-long conflict as containment did during the Cold War? If not, a new strategic doctrine, perhaps one that emphasizes nonmilitary and special forces operations, must be crafted to counter successfully the radical extremist threat. On the other hand, maintaining preemption raises its own challenges. Diplomatic initiatives will need to address the international community’s perception that the United States has adopted unilateralism in practice if not in policy. More specifically, the status of preemption in international law must be clarified, as well as the closely related issue of defining “imminent.” The United States needs to develop an accepted definition of what constitutes an imminent threat in the post-9/11 world, and this determination should be done in consultation with the nation’s allies. In regard to the practical application of preemption, military planners and strategists will need to generate tactical doctrines that can be applied both to nation-states who present traditional conventional and nuclear threats, and to non-state actors like al Qaeda who rarely present an identifiable target and who by the nature of their methods provide no prior warning. The President’s decision to execute any preemptive or preventive military operation will be based on his national security team’s recommendations and the intelligence assessments upon which they rely. As recent events demonstrate, reform is needed in both intelligence gathering and analysis.


Analysis: Days after the March 2004 Madrid commuter train bombings, Spanish voters turned against Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, an ally of President Bush, and elected Socialist opposition leader Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, who was running on an anti-war platform. Spain withdrew its troops from Iraq a short time later. That is unlikely to happen in Britain. Although the Iraq war remains deeply unpopular here, and Blair's close political alliance with Bush is routinely excoriated in the British press, Thursday's attacks are not expected to have any impact on Britain's commitment to keep troops in Iraq. "We must acknowledge that by supporting President Bush's extravagances in his ill-named War on Terror and ill-justified invasion of Iraq, Blair has insured that we are in the frontline beside the U.S., whether we like it or not," wrote Max Hastings, the veteran journalist and historian, in Friday's Daily Mail. But, he added, "there is no purpose in lamenting our predicament, wishing we had not gone into Iraq. We are there now, for better or worse."

Opinion: Only in this context can we understand the Bush/Cheney plan to invade Iraq. Even if democracy and stability there were far-off possibilities, the United States could secure the lifeline of the modern world. As James Howard Kunstler, author of The Long Emergency, puts it, "Iraq was supposed to be our police station in a strategically vital bad neighborhood." Building the police station was botched by bad planning and troop shortages, but few realistic alternatives were open. With the American lifestyle "non-negotiable," as Vice President Dick Cheney said, there's no Plan B. Unfortunately, the White House couldn't level with the American people about the war's motives. Nor was it willing to ask for the sacrifices to fight on two fronts, for oil and against terror. Only in the context of the oil war can we understand why there's no immediate Plan B against terrorism. Take away oil, and America largely could disengage from the Middle East, removing the biggest incentive for jihad. Let them settle their own problems. That's not going to happen. So we stay in bed with the Saudi dictatorship, in the quagmire of Iraq, in tension with 1 billion Muslims, in awful awaiting for the next strike. We are told to be vigilant, to be aware of our surroundings. Maybe it's time we paid attention.

Opinion: Back in March 2004 President Bush had a great time displaying what he felt was a hilarious set of photos showing him searching the Oval Office for the weapons of mass destruction that hadn't been found in Iraq. It was a spoof he performed at the annual dinner of the Radio and Television Correspondents' Association.

The photos showed the president peering behind curtains and looking under furniture for the missing weapons. Mr. Bush offered mock captions for the photos, saying, "Those weapons of mass destruction have got to be somewhere" and "Nope, no weapons over there ... maybe under here?"

If there's something funny about Mr. Bush's misbegotten war, I've yet to see it. The president deliberately led Americans traumatized by the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, into the false belief that there was a link between Iraq and Al Qaeda, and that a pre-emptive invasion would make the United States less vulnerable to terrorism.

Close to 600 Americans had already died in Iraq when Mr. Bush was cracking up the audience with his tasteless photos at the glittering Washington gathering. The toll of Americans has now passed 1,750. Tens of thousands of Iraqis have died. Scores of thousands of men, women and children have been horribly wounded. And there is no end in sight.

Opinion: We know what took place. A group of people, with no regard for law, order or our way of life, came to our city and trashed it. With scant regard for human life or political consequences, employing violence as their sole instrument of persuasion, they slaughtered innocent people indiscriminately. They left us feeling unified in our pain and resolute in our convictions, effectively creating a community where one previously did not exist. With the killers probably still at large there is no civil liberty so vital that some would not surrender it in pursuit of them and no punishment too harsh that some might not sanction if we found them.

The trouble is there is nothing in the last paragraph that could not just as easily be said from Falluja as it could from London. The two should not be equated - with over 1,000 people killed or injured, half its housing wrecked and almost every school and mosque damaged or flattened, what Falluja went through at the hands of the US military, with British support, was more deadly. But they can and should be compared. We do not have a monopoly on pain, suffering, rage or resilience. Our blood is no redder, our backbones are no stiffer, nor our tear ducts more productive than the people in Iraq and Afghanistan. Those whose imagination could not stretch to empathise with the misery we have caused in the Gulf now have something closer to home to identify with. "Collateral damage" always has a human face: its relatives grieve; its communities have memory and demand action.

These basic humanistic precepts are the principle casualties of fundamentalism, whether it is wedded to Muhammad or the market. They were clearly absent from the minds of those who bombed London last week. They are no less absent from the minds of those who have pursued the war on terror for the past four years.

Opinion: Madrid: 191 dead. Beslan: 330 murdered, half of them children. Riyadh and Jeddah: more than 100 killed. London: about 50 massacred.

Then there's the daily terror of Iraq, where more than 700 people have been killed in the last month alone.

Our leaders respond with revulsion and resolve, as they must, when the tragedy hits closer to home.

They walk the fine line between increasing security and causing panic, between feeling our pain and exploiting it.

Officials who need to be seen to be doing something are, on TV.

Breathless reporters, anchors and "security experts" spout scary scenarios, pontificate about the latest terrorist group about which they know nothing, and recycle such vacuous phrases as the "vertical vs. horizontal command structure" of Al Qaeda and its "metastasizing" cells.

Islam bashers renew their racist demand as to what Muslims are going to do about the horror.

But once we get past all that, and the empty editorials, what are we left with? This:

The war on terror has been a monumental failure. In fact, it has made matters worse.

Casualty Reports

Local story: Family of a 19-year-old Stafford, UK, trooper killed in a friendly fire incident five days after the start of Bush’s war will finally receive a full report of the circumstances of his death from the British military.

Local story: Omaha, NE, soldier killed in Iraq. He was 26 years old. He is survived by his wife of seven years and their three-year-old son.


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