War News for Sunday, August 28, 2005
Bring 'em on: Pipeline blown up in Dora
Bring 'em on: Three US soldiers killed by IED in Husaybah
Bring 'em on: Lt. Col. in the Iraqi army gunned down in Kirkuk
Bring 'em on: Two Iraqi policemen killed in Baquba
Bring 'em on: One Iraqi policeman killed, two wounded by roadside bomb in Baghdad
Blair warned in May 2004
: Despite repeated denials by Number 10 that the war made Britain a target for terrorists, a letter from Michael Jay, the Foreign Office permanent under-secretary, to the cabinet secretary, Sir Andrew Turnbull - obtained by this newspaper - makes the connection clear. The letter, dated 18 May 2004, says British foreign policy was a 'recurring theme' in the Muslim community, 'especially in the context of the Middle East peace process and Iraq'. 'Colleagues have flagged up some of the potential underlying causes of extremism that can affect the Muslim community, such as discrimination, disadvantage and exclusion,' the letter says. 'But another recurring theme is the issue of British foreign policy, especially in the context of the Middle East peace process and Iraq.
Constitution Committee signs Draft Charter
: Members of Iraq's constitution drafting committee signed the draft charter Sunday after making some minor amendments, a Shiite on the committee said, and a ceremony was scheduled to mark the completion of the draft. The draft now goes to the Iraqi people in an Oct. 15 referendum. Five million copies will be circulated nationwide in food allotments each Iraqi family receives monthly from the government.
Fuck the Sunni
: Iraq's parliament will vote on a constitution Sunday regardless of the minority Sunni position on the draft, parliament speaker Hajim al-Hasani said. Iraqi's Sunni Arab former elite presented fresh demands on the wording of the constitution Saturday amid warnings from Shiite and Kurdish negotiators that they would make no further concessions. The text presented by the Kurds and Shiites Friday, after weeks of tortuous negotiation, was "final and parliament will vote on it tomorrow (Sunday)... even if the Sunnis do not accept it," Hasani told AFP.
: As the American military begins its third year in Iraq and President Bush vows to stay the course, an increasing number of captains and other junior officers are leaving the service, leading some current and former officers to fear an exodus of talent not seen since the Vietnam War. Captains are effectively the junior executives of the Army, commanding companies of about 120 soldiers. Most have at least three years of active-duty experience -- some many more. This generation of captains probably has more battlefield seasoning and regional knowledge than any since World War II, Army officers say, and their loss would leave a hole that would be impossible to fill.
Opinion and Commentary
Where are the Democrats?
History will deal with George W. Bush and the neoconservatives who misled a mighty nation into a flawed war that is draining the finest military in the world, diverting Guard and reserve forces that should be on the front line of homeland defense, shredding international alliances that prevailed in two world wars and the Cold War, accumulating staggering deficits, misdirecting revenue from education to rebuilding Iraqi buildings we've blown up, and weakening America's national security.
But what will history say about an opposition party that stands silent while all this goes on? My generation of Democrats jumped on the hot stove of Vietnam and now, with its members in positions of responsibility, it is afraid of jumping on any political stove. In their leaders, the American people look for strength, determination and self-confidence, but they also look for courage, wisdom, judgment and, in times of moral crisis, the willingness to say: "I was wrong."
To stay silent during such a crisis, and particularly to harbor the thought that the administration's misfortune is the Democrats' fortune, is cowardly. In 2008 I want a leader who is willing now to say: "I made a mistake, and for my mistake I am going to Iraq and accompanying the next planeload of flag-draped coffins back to Dover Air Force Base. And I am going to ask forgiveness for my mistake from every parent who will talk to me."
But the media is also responsible for sanitizing the Iraq war, at times rendering it almost invisible. Most American publications have been reluctant to run graphic war images. Almost no photographs of the 1,868 U.S. troops who have been killed to date in Iraq have appeared in U.S. publications. In May 2005, the Los Angeles Times surveyed six major newspapers and the nation's two leading newsmagazines, and found that over a six-month period, no images of dead American troops appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Time or Newsweek. A single image of a covered body of a slain American ran in the Seattle Times. There were also comparatively few images of wounded Americans. The publications surveyed tended to run more images of dead or wounded Iraqis, but they have hardly been depicted in large numbers either.
There are a number of reasons why the media has shied away from running graphic images from Iraq. Some are simple logistics: There are very few photographers in Iraq. Freelance reporter and photographer Mitchell Prothero, a Salon contributor, estimates there are "maybe a dozen or two Western photographers" in Iraq, in addition to Iraqi and Arab stringers, who do most of the work for newswires. Ten or 20 photographers trying to cover a country the size of Sweden, under extremely difficult and dangerous conditions, are unlikely to be on the scene when violence erupts.
Moreover, most photographers are embedded with U.S. troops, a situation that imposes its own limits. Military regulations prevent photographers from publishing photographs of dead or wounded soldiers until their families have been notified, which can diminish the news value of the photographs. And although embed rules allow photographers to take pictures of dead or wounded troops, the reality on the ground can be different. Soldiers do not want photographers -- especially ones they aren't comfortable with -- taking pictures of their dead or wounded buddies. This is understandable, but it can result in de facto censorship.
One photographer, who requested anonymity because he didn't want to jeopardize his ongoing relationship with the U.S. military, told Salon, "I've had unit commanders tell me flat out that if anybody gets wounded on patrol, you can't take any pictures of them. Nearly every time I've landed at [a medevac] scene, guys have yelled at me, 'Get the fuck away from me. Don't take my friend's picture. Get back on the helicopter.' Part of me understands that. I am a stranger to them. And they are very emotional. Their friend has been badly hurt or wounded, and they've probably all just been shot at 15 minutes before. I totally understand that, although it is a violation of embed rules."
Billmon on Iraq Reporting
If you read nothing else about the war in Iraq this weekend -- or this month -- read Lasseter's stories. True, they're just anecdotal pieces of evidence -- although in this kind of war anecdotal evidence is probably more valuable than the reams of statistics and self-serving progress reports spat out by the Pentagon. Lasseter also doesn't paint the troops as the kind of heroic, larger-than-life action figures that make the fighting keyboarders drool with barely suppressed homoerotic envy. But you can't read his stuff and not come away with a profound sense of respect for the men and women who are fighting this war, and a boiling anger over the way they are being sacrificed to a hopelessly lost cause.
If that's "liberal bias," then American journalism -- and the American people -- could use a whole lot more of it.
Juan Cole on Iraq Reporting
Reuters Correspondent Luke Baker draws the curtain back on the horrific circumstances in Iraq. Reporters are clearly demoralized, and Western reporters are depending more and more on local staff, who are losing family members and friends to the bombings and shootings. One reporter recently in Baghdad told me that the local journalists are beginning to talk of fleeing, even ones originally very committed to building a new Iraq. I remember the gleeful email I received in May from Yasser Salihee of Knight Ridder--thanking me for linking to one of his excellent articles--and then he went out to buy gas and a US bullet accidentally killed him. From all accounts he had a great deal of promise (he had begun as an academic). His death stands as symbol for the current debacle. The irony is that the worse things get in Iraq, the less we know about how truly bad they are. With the journalists so devastated and little able to move around, we are reduced to listening to Bush administration propaganda.
It was the elder Hakim whom Bush telephoned last week in the middle of the negotiations: it was a startling example of just how seriously the White House takes the crisis in Iraq.
In a conversation on Wednesday night, Bush spoke at length to Hakim from Nampa, Idaho, where he had just delivered a fierce defence of the Iraq war. The call was prompted by news that Shia leaders were poised to end negotiations and put the document to a referendum, in the face of Sunni opposition. Bush held that such a move would be a disaster, isolating even further the Sunni communities who are at the heart of the anti-American insurgency.
In the final analysis, however, it appears it was not the Shias, as Bush feared, but the Sunnis who have torpedoed consensus on the constitution, first forcing a number of concessions from the Shias, then deciding to walk out on the whole process.
'The Sunnis made the tactical decision to negotiate for as much as they could get out of the document and then walk out to protect their own positions within their community,' said one diplomat. 'It is a dangerous tactic. It will take a lot of patching up.'
His comments reflect the sense of crisis that has been growing in both Washington and London of late. It has not been only Bush who has been forced to pay attention.