War News for Sunday, August 21, 2005
Bring 'em on: One US military policeman killed in an IED attack in Baghdad
Bring 'em on: Two militants killed in gun battle in Mosul
Bring 'em on: Iraqi killed by roadside bomb in Babylon
Bring 'em on: Iraqi general in charge of border security says US forces tried to kill him in Baghdad
Bring 'em on: Two Iraqi policemen killed in gunfight in Baghdad
Bring 'em on: Three Iraqi troops killed in grenade attack in Fallujah
Bring 'em on: Four Iraqi troops killed in rocket attack on their vehicle in Shorgat
Shame on Utah
: A Utah television station has rejected an anti-war advertisement featuring the California mother whose son’s death in Iraq prompted her August vigil outside President George W. Bush’s Texas ranch, deeming it “inappropriate” for the local market. In the ad, Cindy Sheehan pleads with Bush for a meeting and accuses him of lying to the American people about Iraq’s development of weapons of mass destruction and about that country’s connection to Al Qaeda.
Civil War: Here we Come
Shiite and Kurdish militias, often operating as part of Iraqi government security forces, have carried out a wave of abductions, assassinations and other acts of intimidation, consolidating their control over territoryacross northern and southern Iraq and deepening the country's divide along ethnic and sectarian lines, according to political leaders, families of the victims, human rights activists and Iraqi officials.
While Iraqi representatives wrangle over the drafting of a constitution in Baghdad, the militias, and the Shiite and Kurdish parties that control them, are creating their own institutions of authority, unaccountable to elected governments, the activists and officials said. In Basra in the south, dominated by the Shiites, and Mosul in the north, ruled by the Kurds, as well as cities and villages around them, many residents have said they are powerless before the growing sway of the militias, which instill a climate of fear that many see as redolent of the era of former president Saddam Hussein.
Spinning the Iran Campaign
: British soldiers in Iraq are being killed by advanced "infra-red" bombs supplied by Iran that defeat jamming equipment, according to military intelligence officials.
The "passive infra-red" devices, whose use in Iraq is revealed for the first time by The Sunday Telegraph, are detonated when the beam is broken, as when an intruder triggers a burglar alarm. They were used by the Iranian-backed Hezbollah group against Israel in Lebanon from 1995.
Iraqi leaders battled to wrap up a constitution within 48 hours but consensus on thorny issues remains elusive, with Washington pressuring the Kurds to drop their demands over control of vital oil resources.
Sharp differences remain on federalism, the role of Islam and sharing of oil wealth, some of the key planks of the first post- Saddam Hussein charter which is now due to be put to parliament on Monday after an August 15 deadline was missed.
"We have a problem here... there is one group who wants a 21st century constitution and there is another group who wants a seventh century constitution," said one source closely involved in the negotiations.
"Unfortunately, America is looking at both the groups with the same eye. They just want the draft to be ready on time."
Iraqi leaders could seek a fresh one-week extension to draft the constitution if they miss a Monday deadline, Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari's spokesman told reporters.
"If the text is not handed to the national assembly by the deadline... one choice is to ask for another one-week extension," Leith Kubba said Sunday.
Kubba said the other scenario if leaders fail to reach agreement by midnight Monday was that parliament would be dissolved and fresh elections held.
With differences remaining on several key points, the prospect of another missed deadline has raised speculation that it might be better to dissolve Iraq's legislative body and start again from scratch.
The role of Islam in lawmaking, a federal structure for Iraq, and sharing national oil wealth are three issues currently holding back an agreement on the country's first post- Saddam Hussein charter.
Opinion and Commentary
Who's to Blame?
Years from now, when the historians begin analyzing the deadly mistakes in Iraq and Afghanistan, they will find that the one institution charged with standing guard between the civilian suits and the American troops abdicated that vital responsibility.
The mistakes of omission and commission that abound in the record of two military operations - one necessary, the other not - were made by a president, a vice president and a secretary of defense and his civilian aides. But they would never have been allowed to stand uncorrected and swept under a convenient rock without the complicity of Congress, controlled by the same party that controlled the White House.
So when the time comes to point a finger don't forget those who people the marble halls of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, whose first duty seemed to be to protect the Republican Party and their president. When they should have roared with anger they instead whimpered and whined and rolled over like puppies to have their bellies scratched.
When evidence came that general officers lied to them about their complicity, and that of their civilian overseers, in the torture and degradation of the mixed bag of foreign fighters, terrorists and dumb kids in places like Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib, they did their best to let it slide.
When the Pentagon ordered divisions to leave their safest armored vehicles behind, parked in rows on American bases, and go to war in thin-skinned Humvees, Congress said nothing.
When soldiers and Marines were sent off to war in old and useless flak jackets instead of the best body armor money could buy, Congress wrung its hands and urged Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld to do better.
When nearly 2,000 of those troops came home in military coffins to grieving families, the members of the House and Senate issued press releases mourning the mounting losses.
When President Eisenhower - a former general and a Republican president - warned the nation in his farewell address in 1961 about a military-industrial complex that was gaining "unwarranted influence," he expected Congress to keep a sharp eye on those who feed at the public trough.
With this administration's style of management, and its foreign wars, the opportunity to begin dipping deeply into the Treasury was too tempting for some contractors and defense industry folks. Congress not only sat quiet for the most part but even urged them to feed more deeply in the trough.
Billmon on the Constitution
Actually, if it staves off civil war long enough for the Pentagon to withdraw the bulk of the troops from Iraq, then I'd say it's precisely what the American people want.
Outside the neocon and neoliberal elites (plus the Republican true believers, who support whatever they're told to support) the American public never has shown much enthusiasm for Bush's revolutionary aspirations in the Middle East, and it has even less of an appetite for grand historical transformations now that it has a better idea of how much they cost. Which means the firm of Democracy Unlimited, Inc. ("Shouldering the white man's burden since 2003") is going into liquidation. And, as always, the least valuable assets are being discarded first, meaning women's rights in the Iraq are bound for the bottom of the scrap heap.
Billmon on Gang Warfare
You would think that after Kosovo -- where the liberated Albanian population promptly unleashed on the Serbian minority the same ethnic cleansing previously directed at them by the Serbs -- our humanitarian interventionists would have learned something about tribal warfare, or human nature, or both. The Kurds are only playing by the same golden rule as everybody else in the Middle East: Do unto others before they do unto you. But it does pose a problem for those who want to divide the world into the children of light and the children of darkness, and place the United States military firmly on the side of the former against the latter. There's always the risk they'll find out they've simply sided with the Crips against the Bloods, or vice versa.
Hitchens the Wanker
You can tell in five-minutes channel surfing how Cindy Sheehan frightens the pro-war crowd. One bereaved mom from Vacaville, camped outside Bush's home in Crawford, reproaching the vacationing President for sending her son to a pointless death in Iraq has got the hellhounds of the right barking in venomous unison.
Christopher Hitchens attacked Cindy Sheehan, of course. Called her a LaRouchie! Why? No reason given. He obviously reckons "LaRouchie" is one of those let-her-deny-it slurs, like "anti-Semite". Let's suppose Hitchens was writing in similarly nasty terms about Hitchens. He'd probably remember that in 1999 Edward Jay Epstein publicly recalled a dinner in the Royalton Hotel in New York where Epstein said Hitchens had doubted the Holocaust was quite what it's cracked up to be. In Epstein's memory Hitchens belittled the idea that six million Jews died, said the number was much less.
So, under Hitchens' rules of polemical engagement, was does that make Hitchens? A holocaust denier, a guy who has Faurisson and David Irving's books under his pillow. A Jew hater, or--if you believe his sudden discovery (privately denied by his own brother on at least one occasion) at a mature age that his mother was Jewish--a Jewish self-hater. Of course Hitchens revels in Cindy Sheehan's denial that she said in an email that her son died in a war for Israel. Hitchens writes that this denial makes her "a shifty fantasist". What would Hitchens, who's an on-the-record admirer ("a great historian") of the work of Nazi chronicler David Irving say about Hitchens' shifty denial of Epstein's recollection? What fun he would have with the witnesses the panic-stricken Hitchens, well aware that "holocaust denier" is not part of the resume of a Vanity Fair columnist, hastily mustered for his defense, a woman and a man present at that famous dinner in the Royalton. One his close friend, Anna Wintour, the present editor of Vogue and the other, Brian McNally, a longtime friend and business associate.
What a truly disgusting sack of shit Hitchens is. A guy who called Sid Blumenthal one of his best friends and then tried to have him thrown into prison for perjury; a guy who waited till his friend Edward Said was on his death bed before attacking him in the Atlantic Monthly; a guy who knows perfectly well the role Israel plays in US policy but who does not scruple to flail Cindy Sheehan as a LaRouchie and anti-Semite because, maybe, she dared mention the word Israel. She lost a son? Hitchens (who should perhaps be careful on the topic of sending children off to die) says that's of scant account, and no reason why we should take her seriously. Then he brays about the horrors let loose in Iraq if the troops come home, with no mention of how the invasion he worked for has already unleashed them.