War News for Monday, August 1, 2005
Hat-tip to Hackett: Hackett told USA Today that Bush's taunting line, "Bring 'em on!" was "the most incredibly stupid comment I've ever heard a president of the United States make." He also told the newspaper that, while he was willing to put his life on the line for the president, "I've said that I don't like the son-of-a-[expletive] that lives in the White House."
Bring 'em on: Three Iraqis killed and three wounded when their minibus was attacked whilst they were travelling to work at the American base in Baiji
Bring 'em on: One security guard killed in an insurgency attack on the convoy of Ahmed Chalabi in Latifiyah
Bring 'em on: One Iraqi cooked killed and three injured after they left work at the American base in Baquba
Bring 'em on: Iraqi doctor kidnapped in Baghdad
Bring 'em on: Iraqi soldier in civilian clothes assassinated in Baghdad
Bring 'em on: One security guard killed when Senior advisor to Iraq's environment minister convoy came under attack in Kufa
Bring 'em on: Iraqi translator working for the American military shot dead by gunmen in Kirkuk
More proof of no WMD
The New York Times reported on Monday that the agency did not share the information with other agencies or with senior policy-makers.
In a lawsuit filed in the federal court in December, the former CIA officer, whose name remains secret, said the informant had told him that Iraq's uranium enrichment programme had ended years earlier and that the centrifuge components from the scuttled programme were available for examination and purchase.
The paper said the officer, an employee at the agency for more than 20 years, was fired in 2004.
In his lawsuit, he says his dismissal was punishment for his reports questioning the agency's assumptions on a series of weapons-related matters, according to The Times.
: Iraq may have the world's second largest oil reserves, but top government officials here are looking into creating a coupon program to ration fuel for next winter. Rationing aims to put a dent into the black market sale of oil products "and lead to more equitable distribution for all Iraqis," Petroleum Ministry spokesman Assem Jihad said.
Linkage Tony Blair?
: The July 21 bomb bids were payback for the deaths of women and children in Iraq and the treatment of Muslims here after 7/7, a suspect has allegedly claimed to police. Hussain Osman - held in Rome on Friday - insists the second wave of London attacks had no links to the first and there were no ties to al-Qaeda. He is said to have told Italian investigators that the home-made bombs were never meant to detonate and were only designed to scare the British people.
: Framers of Iraq's constitution say they expect the chairman of the drafting committee to request an extension of up to 30 days for drawing up the document. A national conference may be held this week in the capital to help iron out several key issues. Committee members say they have been working around the clock to finish the draft, so that they would not have to face Monday's deadline for requesting an extension.
Impossible to estimate
The United States risks having "little to show for billions" of dollars spent on Iraqi reconstruction because of rising security costs and mismanagement, a new report said Sunday.
Rapidly escalating security costs have made it impossible for U.S. agencies to estimate how much they will need to finish projects intended to increase production of oil and electricity and improve sanitation and health, wrote Stuart Bowen, the U.S. special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction.
U.S. agencies must determine whether they have enough money to finish the projects and whether the Iraqis have "the tools and knowledge necessary" to keep the projects working after the Americans leave, Bowen wrote.
Bowen was appointed to monitor $18.4 billion allocated for Iraqi reconstruction in 2004. Overall, $24 billion has been approved and $9 billion spent since 2003, according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), Congress's watchdog agency.
According to a report issued Thursday by the GAO, security costs are consuming more than a third of reconstruction funds. The report said that 330 private contractors, many working for security companies, had been killed.
: The strongly worded memo, written by an FBI supervisor then assigned to Guantanamo, is the latest in a series of documents that have recently surfaced reflecting unease among some government lawyers and FBI agents over tactics being used in the war on terror. This memo appears to be the first that directly questions the legal premises of the Bush administration policy of "extraordinary rendition" — a secret program under which terror suspects are transferred to foreign countries that have been widely criticized for practicing torture.
Policing in Basra
In addition, police salaries are up, the officers have shiny new patrol cars, and many sport snazzy new uniforms. Better yet, many of the new Iraqi officers seem switched-on themselves. "We want to serve our country" is a repeated refrain.
From another view, however, security sector reform is failing the very people it is intended to serve: average Iraqis who simply want to go about their lives. As has been widely reported of late, Basran politics (and everyday life) is increasingly coming under the control of Shiite religious groups, from the relatively mainstream Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq to the bellicose followers of the rebel cleric Moktada al-Sadr. Recruited from the same population of undereducated, underemployed men who swell these organizations' ranks, many of Basra's rank-and-file police officers maintain dual loyalties to mosque and state.
In May, the city's police chief told a British newspaper that half of his 7,000-man force was affiliated with religious parties. This may have been an optimistic estimate: One young Iraqi officer told me that "75 percent of the policemen I know are with Moktada al-Sadr - he is a great man." And unfortunately, the British seem unable or unwilling to do anything about it.
The fact that the British are in effect strengthening the hand of Shiite organizations is not lost on Basra's residents.
"No one trusts the police," one Iraqi journalist told me. "If our new ayatollahs snap their fingers, thousands of police will jump." Mufeed al-Mushashaee, the leader of a liberal political organization called the Shabanea Rebellion, told me that he felt that "the entire force should be dissolved and replaced with people educated in human rights and democracy."
Rebuilding what was Destroyed
Rashid, who has won contracts worth 120,000 dollars, said one of his projects -- a police station in the centre of town -- has been bombed twice by insurgents in the past few months.
"I have built the police station twice and twice it has been blown up," Rashid told AFP.
"I do not know how to go about my work as I still have to build four schools and repair two roads in the city," he said.
Rebels have not directly attacked him or his family. "But it can happen. God is my only saviour," Rashi said.
A key project running behind schedule is the building of Fallujah Liaison Team (FLT), the office where every city resident is photographed and given a identity card.
"The FLT office was to be ready by July 1 and the contractor now says it will take another one month," said Major Charles Risio, one of the US marines in charge of reconstruction projects in Fallujah.
Risio said he has already paid the contractor 20,000 dollars of the total cost of 60,000 dollars.
"I just can't help it as not just me, but even my workers are being warned not to work on this site," said contractor Najeem Al-Azawi pointing to the half-complete structure.
Azawi said his workers were also demanding higher wages to work on such "risky" projects.
"Due to the risk, they (the workers) are now asking for 30 dollars a day against 10 dollars earlier, while a good supervisor wants at least 50 to 60 dollars, almost double what he used to earn last year," Azawi said.
"It's difficult to find even labourers who are ready to work."
Most of the city sidewalks are still full of debris from the bombings last November when US forces recaptured the town from rebel forces and many houses remain damaged.
US officials say reconstruction work is progressing, albeit at a "slow and steady" pace.
"We have spend in excess of 250 million dollars already to develop the city infrastructure," said Lieutenant-Colonel Jim Haldeman, coordinator at the Civil Military Operations Centre (CMOC), the office overseeing the reconstruction work.
Opinion and Commentary
Give up the Dream
According to the Sunday Herald of Scotland, two of those generals recently spoke to the Center for Global Research. The generals said that they knew the Iraqi army had no chance against the U.S. and British forces when the invasion began in March 2003. So, they tried a different strategy - stashing away weapons and ammunition in secret locations around the country to be used in a war of resistance against the occupiers. The generals say they have at least three-quarters of the population on their side. The predictions of a civil war between Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds hasn't happened yet, because all sides are in agreement, for now, to focus on the main mission of defeating the occupation.
As British journalist Patrick Cockburn wrote recently in The Independent: "The rebels are nationalist and religious. The U.S. always appears to underestimate the strength of Iraqi nationalism."
In other words, one can't write off the resistance in Iraq as being made up of "former Baathists," "foreign terrorists," or "religious fanatics." The resistance is made up of people who want their country back, people who want meaning attached to the words "sovereignty" and "independence."
While there is no coherent vision for what happens after the U.S. occupation ends, the feeling among most Iraqis is that they will deal with that later. First, they want to see a real government, not a bunch of American puppets, and they want a chance to decide their own political and economic destiny instead of having American corporations plunder their economy.
I don't think the Bush administration has figured this out yet. If it insists on treating the resistance as the work of foreign terrorists, the U.S. may be setting itself up for a long and bloody insurgency.
It's time to give up the neo-conservative dream of turning Iraq into an oil-rich, pseudo-democracy under U.S. influence that serves as the forward base for U.S. forces fighting the Jihadis. The Iraqis want their country back and the only legitimate government they will accept is the government they create themselves.
Where have all the flowers gone?
In my opinion, we must have a timetable. How can we continue to let insufficiently armed soldiers die in a war that was falsely initiated, with no end in sight? Recruiting has become an increasingly difficult task. If the draft were reinstated, I would like to know how many of the people who support the war would be willing to send their own children there.
A college history major, I would like to think that the lessons of the past could help us in times of crisis. Unfortunately, that does not seem to be the case. When the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution was passed in 1964, only two United States senators voted against it. Sound familiar? According to President Johnson, "The issue is the future of Southeast Asia as a whole. A threat to any nation in that region is a threat to all, and a threat to us." Sound familiar?
Unfortunately, it appears that our country, although great in so many ways, has learned little from the past. We are still trying to save the world based on a variety of abstract views or, as some might believe, we are waging a war for oil, benefiting wealthy corporations.
The 1960s may be long gone, but I am still here protesting and hopeful that this time around our country will come to its senses sooner than it did decades ago. Over 1,700 Americans have died in this war. I cannot help but ask my fellow citizens, "Where have all the flowers gone?" and "When will they ever learn?"
Donald H. Rumsfeld, the defense secretary, delivered a blunt message to Iraqi leaders during a visit here last week: the Iraqis would have to be more aggressive in opposing the "harmful" meddling of Iran in this country's affairs before the Americans could consider regional stability assured and the way clear for the United States forces to go home.
It was an argument with a paradox at its heart.
Regaining a semblance of stability here is a goal of both the Iraqi government and the Americans. But the country's elected leadership apparently believes that Iraq's long-term welfare will depend on building a strong relationship with Iran as well as on maintaining ties to the United States. As the Shiite Arab leaders who now hold sway in Baghdad see it, support from their co-religionists in Iran could be decisive in keeping Iraq from slipping further into chaos.
That is clearly not the kind of stability Mr. Rumsfeld has in mind.