Wednesday, July 27, 2005

War News for Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Bring ‘em on: Four US soldiers killed Sunday when their vehicle struck a roadside bomb in southwest Baghdad.

Bring ‘em on: Iraq branch of Al Qaeda claims to have killed two Algerian diplomats who had been abducted in Baghdad. The authenticity of the claim could not be immediately verified.

Bring ‘em on: Seven Iraqi soldiers guarding a water plant killed by attackers armed with hand grenades and light weapons.

Bring ‘em on: Three killed and 37 wounded in mortar attack on downtown Baghdad bus station. The attack took place as US Defense Secretary Rumsfeld was holding talks in the Green Zone. Two police officers and two soldiers wounded in suicide car bombing of a checkpoint in southwest Baghdad. General manager of Baghdad airport’s communications, his driver, and his bodyguard kidnapped by armed men. US military vehicle destroyed by an explosive device in Samarra. Two Iraqi soldiers killed in an ambush in Beiji. Iraqis protesting the erection of a barrier between Iraq and Kuwait fired several shots across the border.

Bring ‘em on: One Iraqi soldier killed and five wounded when they tried to dismantle a roadside bomb near Kirkuk.

Donny Dickhead, Diplomat: Visiting US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told Iraqi leaders to "get on with it" in preparing a new constitution on Wednesday, while an Iraqi official said US-led forces could hand over security for 10 cities by December.

"Now's the time to get on with it," Rumsfeld told the travelling press as he flew in from Tajikistan for talks with Iraqi leaders and US commanders.

Any delay "would be very harmful to the momentum that is necessary."

A parliamentary committee has until Monday to decide on whether to seek a six-month postponement of a referendum on the vital document, tentatively scheduled for October.

Barring such a delay, the draft constitution is to be debated and voted on by parliament by August 15.

"People are simply going to have to recognize that in a constitutional process, compromise is necessary," he said of the process that has been dogged by sectarian differences.

Pot, kettle. Kettle, pot: Donald Rumsfeld, the US defence secretary, has urged Iraqi leaders to resist interference by the country's neighbours Iran and Syria.

Washington has accused Syria of allowing militants to enter Iraq, and says Iran is trying to gain political influence in Baghdad.

Mr Rumsfeld was speaking during an unannounced visit to Baghdad, in which he also urged Iraqis to finish their draft constitution.

He said: "It's important for them (the Iraqis) to work with their neighbours to see that the behaviour of particularly Iran and Syria improves. It has been harmful.

"They need to be aggressively communicating with their neighbours to see that foreign terrorists stop trying to cross those borders and their neighbours do not harbour insurgents."

Iran is trying to gain political influence? Oh no! We sure wouldn’t want any foreigners coming into Baghdad and telling the Iraqis what to do!

Jaafari senses a trapdoor beneath his feet: Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari on Wednesday called for speedy and coordinated withdrawal of the US troops from the war-torn country.

At a joint press conference held with visiting US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Jaafari said it is time to work on acoordinated transition of military control in the country from Americans to Iraqis.

"Firstly, we should quicken the pace of training the Iraqi security forces, and secondly, there should be a close coordination in planning between the US-led coalition and the Iraqi government on security transition," Jaafari said.

"We do not want to be surprised by a withdrawal that is not in connection with our Iraqi timing," he added.

Ready or not, suckah!: The United States hopes to sharply reduce its forces in Iraq by the middle of next year, its top commander on the ground said on Wednesday.

The remarks by General George Casey appear to have been the first time since the insurgency worsened sharply in April that top Pentagon officials have suggested a timeline for withdrawal.

Casey's comments came as a new poll showed most Americans now think the United States will lose the war in Iraq.

"I do believe that if the political process continues to go positively, if the developments with the (Iraqi) security forces continue to go as it is going, I do believe we will still be able to make fairly substantial reductions after these elections -- in the spring and summer of next year," Casey said at a briefing with visiting Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

Note: This is not a timetable! Remember the words of Dear Leader: Setting a timetable for withdrawing U.S. forces will only prompt the insurgents to "wait us out. ... You know, if you give a timetable you're conceding too much to the enemy." And our leaders would never play politics with anything so important!

And now, just in from Bizarro Dimension: Pentagon officials confirmed yesterday that they have identified the top eight to 10 leaders of the insurgency in Iraq, but said the United States had no idea how many insurgents had been killed or captured in the past seven months. Spokesman Larry DiRita said up to 17,000 Iraqis were in custody at any given time for a variety of reasons, but he was unable to evaluate a Pentagon analyst's estimate a day earlier that 50,000 insurgents had been killed or captured this year.

This is a real propaganda piece but worth a look for the insight it gives into how some of our ‘leadership’ is thinking. Do any of you readers know anything about the World Peace Herald or the Washington Institute for Near East Policy?

The right hand man of the second in command...kinda catchy, eh?: Iraqi police said Wednesday it arrested one of the "dangerous terrorists" in southern Baghdad. Sayyed Tantawi, an Egyptian, described as a right-hand man for Al-Qaeda second-man in command, Ayman Dhawahri, was captured early today by the Scorpion squad in the Yousifia town, Captain Mothanna Abulhareth, spokesman of the Babel police command, told KUNA.

I swear, these guys must have more right hands than one of those Hindu gods…

Maybe Rummy should tell them to get on with it: Iraqi Kurds will never back down from demands for a federal state despite problems this may create in efforts to draft a new constitution, a top Kurdish leader said Wednesday. U.S. officials pressed Iraq to meet the deadline for completing the charter. Massoud Barzani, head of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, also said Kurds would never dissolve their militias and repeated demands for the return of ethnic Kurds to the oil-rich Kirkuk area from which tens of thousands of them were expelled under Saddam Hussein. Barzani's comments, broadcast by Al-Arabiya television, indicated the Kurds are standing firm on longtime demands at a time when the United States is urging all sides to compromise in order to finish the new constitution by the Aug. 15 deadline.

But there is one thing all the Iraqi parties seem to agree on: Very little can be said on behalf of former dictator Saddam Hussein's murderous regime. But it is true that women long had more rights in Iraq than in a number of other countries in the Islamic world. And the possibility that a new constitution could strip away many of those rights is alarming.

A committee working on a constitution for Iraq is supposed to complete its work by Aug. 1, and the National Assembly is supposed to conclude debate on the document by Aug. 15. If the final version bears any relationship to a current draft now circulating, Iraqi women are at great risk.

Individual scholars and individual sects interpret Islamic law in different ways, but it's likely that the religious politicians pushing for these changes would insist on rules that are highly unfavorable to women. Depending on the inclinations of clerics, Iraqi women could be denied the right to marry without permission from their families, could inherit only half what male heirs do and could see their marriages dissolved solely at their husbands' discretion.

These policies would be a major departure from decades of Iraqi law that, for all its flaws, gave women considerably more power within their own families and over their own fates.

Torture Is Now Part Of Our National Heritage

Deliberate violation of accepted rules against torture: Military interrogators at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq learned about the use of military working dogs to intimidate detainees from a team of interrogators dispatched from the U.S. detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, according to court testimony yesterday.

One interrogation analyst also testified that sleep deprivation and forced nudity -- which were used in Cuba on high-value detainees -- later were approved tactics at Abu Ghraib. Another soldier said that interrogators would regularly pass instructions to have dog handlers and military police "scare up" detainees as part of interrogation plans, part of an approved approach that relied on exploiting the fear of dogs.

The preliminary hearing at Fort Meade, Md., for two Army dog handlers accused of mistreating detainees provided more evidence that severe tactics approved for suspected terrorists at Guantanamo migrated to Iraq and spiraled into the notorious abuse at Abu Ghraib in the late summer and early fall of 2003. The testimony came days after an internal military investigation showed the similarity between techniques used on the suspected "20th hijacker" in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, and tactics seen in photographs at the prison that shocked the world.

Several Republican senators are pushing legislation -- opposed by the White House -- that would regulate the treatment of detainees at Guantanamo and other military prisons. One of them, Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), released recently declassified internal memos written in 2003 by the military's top lawyers in which they warned the Pentagon about developing severe tactics, arguing that they would heighten danger for U.S. troops caught by the enemy, among other problems.

"We have taken the legal and moral 'high-road' in the conduct of our military operations regardless of how others may operate," Air Force Maj. Gen. Jack L. Rives wrote in a Feb. 5, 2003, memo. "We need to consider the overall impact of approving extreme interrogation techniques as giving official approval and legal sanction to the application of interrogation techniques that U.S. forces have consistently been trained are unlawful."

Let’s repeat that last statement, shall we?

"We need to consider the overall impact of approving extreme interrogation techniques as giving official approval and legal sanction to the application of interrogation techniques that U.S. forces have consistently been trained are unlawful."

This is torture: Military dogs bit at least two detainees at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison, one severely enough to require stitches, witnesses testified Tuesday at a pretrial hearing for two Army dog handlers.

The unmuzzled dogs were also used to terrify inmates at the direction of the highest-ranking military intelligence officer at the prison, one witness said.

The allegations of prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib and the surfacing of photos last year of American soldiers humiliating the detainees triggered international concern over the U.S. military's treatment of war prisoners, in Iraq and at other sites including Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

"They were trying to Gitmo-ize Abu Ghraib," argued Harvey J. Volzer, a civilian attorney for Sgt. Santos A. Cardona, one of the Army dog handlers.

This is torture: CIA officials used a sledgehammer handle to beat various prisoners in Iraq, and one official, whose name is classified, would often brag about his abuse of prisoners, according to testimony in a closed session of a military hearing.

The transcript, obtained this week by The Denver Post under a court order, was of a March hearing to determine whether three Fort Carson Army soldiers should stand trial for the death of Iraqi Maj. Gen. Abed Hamed Mowhoush during an interrogation in 2003.

While allegations about CIA officials and special forces beating Mowhoush with fists and a rubber hose have been previously reported, the court transcript is the first evidence that those officials repeatedly beat other detainees in northwestern Iraq.

Bush will veto the entire defense spending bill if it limits his ability to torture: The Republican-run Senate postponed fights with the Bush administration over the treatment of terror suspects and military base closings Tuesday after GOP leaders failed to derail proposals opposed by the White House.

The decision by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., to shelve the $491 billion defense bill means debate over the wartime defense measure and the detainee and base-closing amendments almost certainly won't occur until after Labor Day. The Senate is to leave for a monthlong break at week's end.

The inability to thwart the controversial defense amendments was the latest setback for Frist this year. The majority leader has watched a handful of Republicans join minority Democrats in holding up John Bolton's nomination to be U.N. ambassador and blocking Frist from banning filibusters of the president's judicial nominees.

The defense bill outlines next year's spending for the Pentagon, including $50 billion for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Defense Department policy.

The White House said last week that advisers would recommend that President Bush veto the entire bill if it contains provisions that govern the treatment of terrorism suspects in U.S. custody or "weaken, delay or repeal" the Pentagon's plan to close domestic military bases.

Bush’s SCOTUS nominee has already provided legal justification for an official policy of torture: Roberts was also part of a three-judge panel that handed Bush an important victory the week before Bush announced Roberts nomination to the bench. In fact, the day before the ruling was issued, President Bush interviewed Roberts at the White House. The next day, the court released their ruling that the military tribunals of detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, could proceed. The decision also found that Bush could deny terrorism captives prisoner-of-war status as outlined by the Geneva Conventions.

The spinelessness and moral pusillanimity of the Democrats is tacit approval of torture: Of the 257 votes cast Thursday for the Bush's administration's version of the Patriot Act, 214 came from Republicans, while 43 came from Democrats -- including Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, of Maryland, and Rahm Emanuel, the Illinois representative who chairs the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Of the 171 votes against the administration's version of the Patriot Act, 156 came from Democrats, 14 from Republicans and one from Vermont Independent Bernie Sanders.

Had the 43 Democrats who voted with the White House and the Republican leadership instead sided with House Democrats and Republicans who were worried about the threat to civil liberties posed by the Patriot Act, the opposition total would have risen to 214 while support for the measure would have fallen to 214.

On a tie vote, the legislation would not have advanced.

That would have been more than just a setback for the White House's draconian approach to civil liberties. It would have dramatically improved prospects for a bipartisan move by members of the Senate to clean up the Patriot Act. On Thursday, as the House was debating the issue, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted unanimously for legislation that would require greater oversight of the Justice Department's role in implementing the act and that would place new restrictions on surveillance and secret searches.

Foreign Affairs

Australia hits its ceiling: The Australian military presence in Iraq is unlikely to be increased after the deployment of extra US troops in southern Iraq to replace British forces. The number of American soldiers in the southern province of Al-Muthanna has risen markedly in the past few weeks and Australian forces are expecting another 2000 in the next month.

Oh, good: Russian President Vladimir Putin told the country's military and law enforcement officers Wednesday to take preemptive actions in fighting terrorism, which he said remains a major threat to the world.

"Your activities in this area should be preemptive in nature," Putin told top military, law enforcement and security officers at a meeting in the Kremlin, the Interfax news agency reported.

"We perfectly understand how serious the tasks are that face Russia's law enforcement and security agencies," primarily police and interior forces, Putin said.

The recent attacks in London, Egypt and in Russia's Caucasus region show "terrorism remains one of the main threats to the world," and Russia will play an important part in the joint work to fight terrorism, Putin said.

Go Figure

This does not compute: For the first time, a majority of Americans, 51%, say the Bush administration deliberately misled the public about whether Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction — the reason Bush emphasized in making the case for invading. The administration's credibility on the issue has been steadily eroding since 2003.

By 58%-37%, a majority say the United States won't be able to establish a stable, democratic government in Iraq.

About one-third, 32%, say the United States can't win the war in Iraq. Another 21% say the United States could win the war, but they don't think it will. Just 43% predict a victory.

Still, on the question that tests fundamental attitudes toward the war — was it a mistake to send U.S. troops? — the public's view has rebounded. By 53%-46%, those surveyed say it wasn't a mistake, the strongest support for the war since just after the Iraqi elections in January.

Okay, lemme figure this out…51% say we were lied into the war…53% think we aren’t going to win…58% don’t think we have a hope of a stable government on top of the second largest oil reserves in the world…but 53% think the war wasn’t a mistake? Hmm. By my calculations this indicates that a minimum of half the American people have their heads so far up their butts they can lick their own uvulas.


Plea: I am no traitor. What I have done and will continue to do is to exercise my Freedom of Speech as I talk about how I feel about this illegal war. To do otherwise would be to become a complacent citizen, something I do not want to be. The truth is George Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Condi Rice, Colin Powell and so many others betrayed the trust of my son and the rest of the country. If I do not speak my truths and share my story, the story of Jeremy and over 1780 American sons and daughters, I would be doing them a great dishonor.

Every day I hear stories from other Americans that will break your heart. These stories are about their beloved soldiers who are serving in Iraq and stories about loved ones who have died. Some of these stories give me nightmares and I can't stop thinking about them. They make me want to scream from at the top of my lungs about the unfairness of it all.

Please, I ask of all of you to help me so that no more of America's sons and daughters get killed for an illegal and immoral war. Do not let our children be cannon fodder for the lies of Bush & Co. Tonight there will be yet another knock on the door in some neighborhood in America by the messenger of death. Another family's heart will be broken, never to be healed.

Join with me to bring a stop to this. Join with me to end this war.

Amy Branham Houston, TX Mother of Sgt. Jeremy R. Smith Gold Star Families for Peace

Opinion: The bombings in London illustrated that Iraq has increasingly replaced Afghanistan as the primary training ground for terrorists, and the devices used by the suicide bombers appear to have been a form of the explosives developed in Iraq. One recently killed 24 children and an American soldier who was passing out candy to them in Baghdad.

U.S. efforts to encourage other Arab countries to appoint ambassadors to the al-Jaafari government in Iraq were set back when the insurgents kidnapped and killed Egyptian envoy Ihab al-Sherif earlier this month, calling him "an enemy of God."

The next step toward making the government self-sufficient is the development of a draft constitution, now set for Aug. 15, a deadline that will probably not be met.

In the meantime, the U.S. Army said this month that it has signed another extension of its contract with Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg Brown & Root for another $5 billion to support U.S. forces in Iraq. The Army had not seen fit to announce the extension when it awarded it in May, in spite of the fact that some of Halliburton's previous billing, which has netted it $9 billion so far in the war, was disputed.

None of this has much to do with American elections, or Republican and Democratic wrangling. Mr. Bush will be president until January, 2009, whatever his ratings might be. The Congress shows itself as largely irrelevant to what is going on in Iraq, apart from being required to vote the money to finance the war, now running at about $5 billion a month.

It is increasingly clear that this war will not be won in any way that can be discerned as victory, and, in the meantime, it is draining America's blood away, in the lives of our soldiers and in resources that could be used to meet other needs.

Editorial: The Plame-Wilson-Novak-Rove-Libby-Cooper-Miller-Fitzgerald drama is more than a case of the usual hardball style of White House politics straying a little too far over the line. It's different, because it gets at the very heart of the way in which the U.S. went to war in 2003.

The Bush administration decided to justify a war with Iraq on the threat posed by weapons of mass destruction. Plenty of people thought it likely that Iraq possessed nerve agents and biological arms, because the circumstantial evidence was fairly persuasive. Yet there was an unavoidable problem, from the administration's point of view: Even if those stocks had existed, they were a fundamentally insufficient reason to launch an attack. Containment was clearly working. Iraq had putatively possessed such arms for years, and had not used any of them since before the first Persian Gulf war. Iraq, moreover, had no means to launch a biological or chemical attack on New York or St. Louis or Oshkosh, Wis. It posed no threat to the United States.

There were two ways of getting around this obstacle, and the Bush administration used both. The first was to argue that Iraq might now ally itself with al-Qaida. Baghdad had the deadly goods; al-Qaida could use its sneaky, cunning means to deliver them against American territory. Vice President Dick Cheney in particular pushed this line. There wasn't, however, a shred of evidence to support it.

The second way to goose the process along was to bring up nuclear weapons. A half-century of Cold War with the Soviet Union had made the horror of nuclear war a touchstone of anxiety in the American mind, and the idea of Saddam Hussein having a few nukes in his arsenal - even if he did lack an intercontinental ballistic missile to shoot them our way - was enough to worry anyone. President Bush remarked that he didn't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.

This then became the capstone - the one piece of the argument that lent urgency to the march to war. It was the nuclear option that put the wheels in motion, because delay could potentially be fatal.

The White House presented two pieces of evidence that it said pointed to nukes. There was an Iraqi order for aluminum tubes that supposedly might be for use in a centrifuge, though experts quickly threw cold water on this idea. And then there was the story about Iraq going shopping for "yellowcake" uranium in Niger. President Bush brought it up in the 2003 State of the Union speech. But, again, it was Mr. Cheney who was most enthusiastic about beating this drum.

In March 2003, just before the war broke out, Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, convincingly declared that the Niger story was a fake. But the war clouds had gathered by that time, and it wasn't difficult for the administration to press onward; maybe some particular papers had been faked, but this was a detail, and - better safe than sorry - it was full speed ahead.

That July brought the article by Joseph C. Wilson IV, the diplomat and husband of Valerie Plame, in which he wrote that he had gone to Niger and reported back to Washington - a full year earlier - that the story was groundless. What this did was to demonstrate that the excitement over Iraq's supposed uranium purchases in the months leading up to the war wasn't a mistake, or an exaggeration. It was a lie.

This was Mr. Wilson's sin. The nuclear threat was the only justification for the urgency of war, and not only was it baseless but because of what he wrote, it was now clear that the architects of the war knew it was baseless.

Here is the motivation for the outing of Ms. Plame, a CIA agent. It appears that the White House was not intent so much on punishing Mr. Wilson as on discrediting him, by suggesting that his trip had been some sort of junket arranged by his wife. Mr. Wilson's revelation, if true, exposed the dishonesty at the core of the administration's maneuverings over Iraq. And of course it was true.

This is the context in which the continuing investigation by the special prosecutor, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, must be viewed. This is not simply about the Karl Rove brand of politics taken too far, but about the fabrication that launched a war.

Casualty Reports

Local story: Princeton, MI, Marine killed in IED attack near Ar Rutbah.

Local story: Northwest Indiana soldier killed when an explosive detonated near his vehicle in Samarra.

Local story: Jamestown, ND, Marine recovering from wounds suffered in a roadside bombing of his Humvee.

Local story: Walton, KY, soldier killed in Iraq when his tank flipped over into a ravine.

Local story: Parkston, SD, soldier killed in roadside bombing in Iraq.

Local story: Worth, GA, National Guardsman killed in roadside bombing in Iraq.

Local story: Memorial service held for Pago Pago, American Samoa, soldier killed in bombing near Balad.

Local story: Cedar City, UT, National Guardsman killed in explosion in Kirkuk memorialized.


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