Tuesday, August 09, 2005

War News for Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Bring ‘em on: Bodies of five policemen who were shot dead and thrown in a river found in Samarra. Translator working at Baghdad's Doura power station shot dead. U.S. patrol attacked by suicide bomber in Fallujah, no word on casualties. Two employees of the Iraqi state-owned North Oil Company shot dead by gunmen in Fatha.

Bring ‘em on: Three policemen killed and 42 people wounded in a suicide car bombing aimed at a police patrol and a US convoy in central Baghdad. The attack was reported to have destroyed a US Humvee and 15 civilian cars. Reports indicate one US soldier was killed and two others wounded in the attack but the US military did not confirm the casualties immediately. (Note: Later reports confirm the US casualties but state that the three Iraqis killed were civilians.)

Bring ‘em on: One US Marine killed in action on Monday by small arms fire in Ramadi.

Bring ‘em on: Three pilgrims killed and eight injured when gunmen sprayed their minivan with gunfire near the town of Baquba. Two people burned to death when insurgents stopped their truck and set fire to it in Abu Khamis. Two Iraqi civilians killed and a third critically wounded Monday when gunmen fired on their car near Latifiyah. One police commando killed and another injured by an explosion in Baghdad's Mansour district. One policeman killed and another injured when gunmen fired on their patrol car in Baquba. One civilian killed and another injured when gunmen attacked their mobile phone shop in al-Jamee'a district of south-west Baghdad.

Bring ‘em on: Four police officers killed and one injured in attacks in al-Jadida. One police officer killed and three wounded in an attack in al-Adil. Two officers killed in an attack on Gadil Street. A police chief killed and his driver wounded in an attack in Dura and another attack in the south of capital left a police officer dead. One police officer killed and one injured in an attack by gunmen in Baquba.

Vehicle accident: Two US soldiers killed and two injured when a civilian fuel truck crashed into their vehicle in Rubiah.

The desert jungle: For the new Iraqi army being trained by American troops in the safe confines of Taji military base, it's a jungle out there.

So much so that they fear setting foot outside.

"We're all afraid. I can't go outside the base wearing these military clothes," says Sergeant Abbas, listing colleagues who have fallen victim to relentless insurgent attacks in the dusty towns and highways north of Baghdad.

"We all know soldiers who notice people photographing them with mobile phones and being followed," says the Shi'ite Muslim from Amara in relatively calm southern Iraq.

He does not give his full name for fear of reprisals.

Training the new Iraqi army is essential for U.S. plans to bring troops home over the next year. But for the moment the 15,000 Iraqis at Taji are glad they rarely have to venture outside in military attire.

"I can feel them following me and I'm scared of that," said Lieutenant Colonel Bassam Ismail, speaking of the guerrillas.

A good question: If the US Army and its Iraqi allies are killing as many insurgents as reports indicate they are per month, why is the insurgency intensifying instead of collapsing? The Bush administration has been extremely reluctant to comply with the requests of a Congress controlled by its own party and issue detailed figures, or "benchmarks" on progress in combating the insurgency. But a study of the best figures and estimates available publicly suggests that the level of attrition reported and widely believed to be inflicted on the insurgents is in reality a lot less than the figures indicate. For if the figures widely quoted are accurate, then the insurgency should be either collapsing already or, at the very least, shrinking dramatically in its resources and capabilities as its combat units and intelligence networks should have been suffering unsustainable attrition.

If the figures for the past three months are accurate, the insurgents have been losing 10 percent of their real strength per month, or almost one third in only three months, but the continued rise in the number of casualties they are inflicting on US and allied Iraqi forces strongly suggests that, on the contrary, they are maintaining their strength or even extending it: That view, incidentally is also held by several US Army analysts who have spoken on condition of anonymity to UPI. Therefore, either the US estimates of casualties inflicted on the insurgents are vastly inflated, or the insurgents are able to recruit within Iraq at a level that at the very least keeps track with their losses, and even if they are losing large numbers of experienced, highly trained cadres, they are able to replace them almost immediately with no discernible strain on their ability to sustain their current level of operations.

Too much with too little: General George Casey was standing next to U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld when he made the statement in Baghdad on 28 July: "If the political process continues to go positively and if the development of the security forces continues to go as it is going, I do believe we will still be able to take some fairly substantial reductions after these elections in the spring and summer next year." Six days later, however, during a speech in Grapevine, Texas, Bush explicitly restated his position that there was no firm timetable. But in Washington, questions remained about whether his administration was beginning to adjust to the idea of a firm deadline. To retired U.S. Army Colonel Kenneth Allard, Casey's statement is little more than wishful thinking by the Pentagon. Allard is a military analyst and is writing a book on how the United States came to invade Iraq. In an interview with RFE/RL, Allard pointed to the conditions in Casey's statement: Iraq's progress in establishing political institutions and a credible security force. Allard said that won't happen anytime next year because there are too few U.S. forces in Iraq to both fight the insurgency and train indigenous soldiers. In short, Allard said, there is too much for the U.S. military to do, and too few soldiers to do it.

Damned if you do, damned if you don’t: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice likes to say the Administration is pursuing a two-track policy in Iraq: military plus political. But the two tracks are so entwined that problems on one can easily derail the other. Whenever U.S. casualties spike, as they did last week, the Bush Administration has to remind everyone at home that U.S. forces will not be staying forever. Anxious about slumping domestic approval, the Administration has recently been suggesting that troops may be drawn down as early as next spring. But each time the U.S. signals a likely pullout, the political factions in Iraq jockeying to write a draft constitution, due Aug. 15, immediately signal back that they have less incentive for making concessions on issues as basic as the role of Islam, oil revenues and political power sharing. Said an American involved in the negotiations: "The more it looks like the U.S. is gonna leave, the harder it is to get a deal that will enable them to leave."

“Just give me a pistol”: Nine months after U.S. and Iraqi troops killed an estimated 1,000 insurgents here in a battle that also cost more than 70 American lives, intelligence suggests that rebels are trying to filter back into the former capital of Iraq's guerrilla movement. American commanders in Baghdad and Fallouja say they control the city so completely that the guerrillas cannot regain a foothold. But they acknowledge that Fallouja remains a powerful icon to an insurgency that is keen to stop Sunni Muslim Arabs in western Al Anbar province from participating in an October referendum on Iraq's proposed constitution.

The prospect of insurgents infiltrating the city presents a daunting problem for military officials. For the embryonic Iraqi government as well as the U.S.-led coalition, commanders say, what happens in Fallouja will symbolize the success or failure of the war. If insurgents succeed in returning, it would amount to rolling back the coalition's largest military victory since the fall of Baghdad in April 2003. The Marines' allowing former Fallouja residents to return has added to the concern. So far, 140,000 of the city's 250,000 residents have come back to a landscape littered with rubble, its skyline broken by tilting minarets. As the Marines continue to relax restrictions on the city's entry points, intelligence leads suggest that insurgents who have already entered Fallouja and others who may soon return have continued to plan attacks on Americans. Fallouja Mayor Dari Ersan reflected that concern as he prepared to leave the barricaded fortress that serves as City Hall after a recent meeting. As a Marine officer explained the procedure for arming the city's new squadron of personal security guards, Ersan cut him off. He was worried about getting home that night. "Just give me a pistol," he said. "I'm talking about my own security."

The backwards withdrawal: Anticipating a new burst of insurgent violence, the Pentagon plans to expand the U.S. force in Iraq to improve security for a planned October referendum and a December election.

Although much public attention has been focused recently on the prospect of reducing U.S. forces next spring and summer, defense officials foresee the likelihood of first increasing troop levels.

Last January the U.S. troop level rose as high as 160,000. This was accomplished mainly by overlapping some units arriving in Iraq to begin a one-year tour with those who were ending their yearlong tours. In at least one case an Army brigade was kept a little longer than its scheduled 12 months in Iraq, and Di Rita said he could not rule out this happening again this fall, although the intention is to avoid tours longer than 12 months.

"The units that are there have been told to expect that," he said. "It's possible that your planned rotation dates back to the U.S. will be affected by the need to keep a higher level for a longer period of time. They understand that."

Not from day one: The U.S. doesn't have enough military forces in Iraq to quell the insurgency and can rely on only about 3,000 Iraqi troops to go into combat without significant American support, Democratic Senator Joseph Biden said.

Following a week in which 32 U.S. military personnel were killed in fighting, Biden, the senior Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the forces deployed in Iraq are insufficient to drive insurgents from their strongholds and stabilize the territory.

``We don't have enough troops,'' Biden, of Delaware, said today on the ``Fox News Sunday'' program. ``We haven't had it from two years ago, a year ago, six months ago.''

Iraqi Politics

“Undemocratic”: Baghdad's mayor has been sacked by the Iraqi government, in circumstances that he has described as "dangerous" and "undemocratic".

A government spokesman said Alaa al-Tamimi was fired on Monday, although he refused to elaborate further.

However, Mr Tamimi himself said 120 gunmen stormed his office and installed the provincial governor in his place.

He said tensions had broken out between him and Shia members of the provincial council in recent weeks.

Different priorities: The posters plastered on the concrete barriers set up to thwart suicide car bombers in this war-torn city feature laughing children and social diversity - Christians, Arabs, Kurds - co-existing peacefully under the motto "Our Constitution is Our Tent."

Reality, in contrast, is a sweaty, naked two-month-old baby squirming in the arms of Layla Hussain, 35, who was trying vainly to cool off in the 100-degree Baghdad heat by stepping out of her apartment, which lacks electricity most of the day and is jammed with 16 people.

"We don't get the ration food, how can we get a copy of the constitution?" Hussain asked. "How can we have a constitution? This government basically operates by order of the Americans."

Six days: With the deadline six days away, Iraqi leaders held talks on Tuesday aimed at breaking a deadlock over a new constitution they hope will ease guerrilla violence, which erupted again, killing at least 22 people.

President Jalal Talabani, a former Kurdish guerrilla commander who fought Saddam Hussein, hosted a gathering of leaders from across Iraq's sectarian and ethnic divide. They are under intense U.S. pressure to meet the deadline.

Talabani's spokesman, Kamran Qaradaghi, told reporters officials discussed issues such as federalism and the control and distribution of oil resources in a "positive atmosphere."

"At this point, the determination is to meet the Aug. 15 deadline," U.S. ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad told reporters, saying Islam's role in society and law remained a key issue.

Asked if six days would be enough to resolve differences, he said: "I think so. With determination, hard work and flexibility, I believe so."

The Madison Prophecy

If Tyranny and Oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy - James Madison

Toothless shell: A civil liberties board ordered by Congress last year has never met to discuss its job of protecting rights in the fight against terrorism, and critics say it is a toothless, under-funded shell with inadequate support from President Bush.

Lawmakers including some Republicans, civil rights advocates, a member of the Sept. 11 commission and a member of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board have expressed concerns.

The inactivity comes as Congress is about to reauthorize several provisions of the USA Patriot Act, which gave the government new powers to go after suspected terrorists.

Asked why it was taking so long to set the board up, Rep. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.) said, "It's not a priority for the administration."

Gratuitous cruelty: A lawsuit filed today against U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld reveals the gratuitous cruelty inflicted on a foreign student held without charges for more than two years as an "enemy combatant" in a South Carolina naval brig, Human Rights Watch said. Although three men have been confined in the United States after being designated "enemy combatants" by President George Bush, the complaint by Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri provides the first look into the treatment of any of them in military custody.

Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri, a citizen of Qatar who had been studying in Peoria, Illinois, before his arrest, asked the federal district court in South Carolina to declare unconstitutional the severe and unnecessary deprivations and restrictions to which he has been subjected since he was placed in military custody in June 2003. Al-Marri had already initiated habeas proceedings challenging the legality of his detention as an enemy combatant. That case continues.

"It is bad enough that al-Marri has been held indefinitely without charges and incommunicado," said Jamie Fellner, director of Human Rights Watch's U.S. Program. "Now we learn that his life in the brig has also been one of cruelty and petty vindictiveness. Whatever the Bush administration believes he has done or wanted to do, there's no excuse for how they are treating him."

Al-Marri's complaint describes virtually complete isolation from the world. He has been confined round the clock in a small cell with an opaque window covered with plastic. He has not been allowed to speak to his wife or five children. He is allowed no newspapers, magazines, books (other than the Koran), radio or television. He is allowed no personal property. His cell contains a steel bed, a sink and a toilet. During the day, the mattress on his bed has been removed.

Out-of-cell time has been limited to three showers and three short periods of solitary recreation a week - but al-Marri has frequently been denied that out-of-cell time. Once he went 60 days without being permitted to leave his cell at all. When bad weather prevents him from going outside, he must remain in hand cuffs and leg irons during his indoor recreation. Leg irons and handcuffs are placed on him when he goes to the shower.

Al-Marri alleges that on occasion he has been denied basic hygiene products such as a toothbrush, toothpaste, soap and toilet paper. When not provided with toilet paper, he has had to use his hands to clean himself after he defecates, and it has taken more than an hour before soap was brought to him so that he could wash his hands. The water in his cell has frequently been turned off. He has been denied socks or footwear for months at a time, including during the winter months. Officers at the brig often lower the temperature in his cell until it becomes exceedingly cold, but they do not give him extra clothes or blankets to keep warm.

I feel safer already: The U.S. military has devised its first-ever war plans for guarding against and responding to terrorist attacks in the United States, envisioning 15 potential crisis scenarios and anticipating several simultaneous strikes around the country, according to officers who drafted the plans.

The war plans represent a historic shift for the Pentagon, which has been reluctant to become involved in domestic operations and is legally constrained from engaging in law enforcement. Indeed, defense officials continue to stress that they intend for the troops to play largely a supporting role in homeland emergencies, bolstering police, firefighters and other civilian response groups.

Not tolerated? Right.: On Thursday, a 24-year-old military intelligence sergeant pleaded guilty to assault and dereliction of duty for abusing one of the prisoners during an interrogation. Another interrogator, accused of tormenting the same detainee, agreed to plead guilty two days before. Military lawyers said that a plea deal was being negotiated with a third interrogator and that two reservist military policemen who received lesser punishments were cooperating with the inquiry.

Military officials said they hoped the prosecutions would send a message that such abuses will not be tolerated, even in the country's fight against terrorism.

But whatever their long-term implications, the cases have so far tended to illustrate how unprepared many soldiers were for their duties at Bagram, how loosely some were supervised and how vaguely the rules under which they operated were often defined.

The Senators are whores but they deserve support for this: In an effort to restore the honor of the armed forces and prevent future abuses, Senators John McCain of Arizona, John Warner of Virginia and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina have proposed amendments to the Defense Authorization Act that would institute standards for the treatment of military detainees. Having loyally muted their criticism during last year’s election season, the three Republican Senators are again voicing demands for candor and reform.

The White House responded with a blatant threat conveyed by Vice President Dick Cheney. Rather than accept sane restraints on future abuse, the President would veto the annual defense bill. With the administration’s credibility badly diminished, the Senate Republican leadership postponed a vote on the defense bill until September.

Meanwhile, however, the dispute between the Republican rebels and the White House has revealed similar dissension within the military. Those fissures were exposed when Senator Graham released declassified memoranda written by top Judge Advocate General officers. Pried loose from the Pentagon by the Senator, those memos show that in early 2003, ranking J.A.G. officers from every service branch tried to warn against interrogation methods that violate the human and legal rights of prisoners in U.S. military detention facilities.

Every American who cares about our troops, our security and our international prestige should know why the J.A.G.’s were so deeply concerned about the direction taken by the Bush administration.

In essence, the J.A.G. officers worried about the effect on the military of policies that encouraged torture and other interrogation practices prohibited under U.S. and international law. Doing so endangered American troops, who could be prosecuted in U.S. or international courts—and undermined their own protection against enemy abuses. The J.A.G. officers could barely conceal their astonishment that the Bush administration would consider discarding decades of training and tradition for the sake of dubiously effective interrogation methods.

A higher standard: The administration has stonewalled, bobbed and weaved and hidden from the truth with the acquiescence, at least until now, of a Republican-controlled Congress that has failed to follow up even when there is evidence people have been lying right to their faces.

The senators - Warner, McCain and Graham - have taken the first step toward shedding some light in the darker corners of the dungeon. Don't be surprised if that light finds a lot of people who rank much higher than specialist 4 or staff sergeant cowering in the corners.

Please repeat after the good senator who knows about prisons and the torture of helpless human beings:

This is not about who they are. This is about who we are. We are Americans and we hold ourselves to a higher standard of conduct. And, no, the end does not justify the means. Not now. Not ever, when the means include torturing prisoners.


Cindy Sheehan: After Casey's death, Cindy Sheehan was invited to the White House for a visit with Mr. Bush in June of 2004. Her first memory of Bush's appearance that day was when he walked into the room and said in a loud, bluff voice, "Who we'all honorin' today?"

"His mouth kept moving," Sheehan later recalled of her meeting with Bush, "but there was nothing in his eyes or anything else about him that showed me he really cared or had any real compassion at all. This is a human being totally disconnected from humanity and reality. His eyes were empty, hollow shells." Bush called her "Ma" or "Mom" throughout the whole meeting, and never got around to learning her name.

"The whole meeting was simply bizarre and disgusting," Sheehan said later. "designed to intimidate instead of providing compassion. He didn't even know our names. I just couldn't believe this was happening. It was so surreal and bizarre. Later I met with some of the other fifteen or sixteen families who were at the White House the same day and, sure enough, they all felt the same way I did."

That was it. Cindy Sheehan, who had never been politically active in her life, became an activist. She traveled the country to speak to whomever would listen, she told the story of Casey's life and death, and she threw fire at George W. Bush with the passionate anguish of a mother who was forced to bury her son.

Casey Sheehan was every mother's son. Cindy Sheehan is every son's mother. She loved him with every cell in her body and every breath in her soul, and mourns his absence in every second of every day, and will have some answers for her pain and loss, or will know the reason why. She is down in Crawford, right now, waiting for George W. Bush to stop sending lackeys to placate her. She wants to speak to the man who sent her son to die. She is waiting.

Calling bullshit: Sheehan left the VFP meeting on Saturday morning and is now in Crawford with a couple dozen veterans and local peace activists, waiting for Bush to talk with her. She said in Dallas that if he sent anyone else to see her, (as he didwhen national security adviser Steve Hadley and deputy White House chief of staff Joe Hagin did later that day), she would demand that "You get that maniac out here to talk with me in person." She told the audience of veterans from World War Two to today's war in Iraq, that the two main things she plans to tell the man she holds responsible for son Casey's death are "Quit saying that U.S. troops died for a noble cause in Iraq, unless you say, 'well, except for Casey Sheehan.' Don't you dare spill any more blood in Casey's name. You do not have permission to use my son's name." "And the other thing I want him to tell me is 'just what was the noble cause Casey died for?' Was it freedom and democracy? Bullshit! He died for oil. He died to make your friends richer. He died to expand American imperialism in the Middle East. We're not freer here, thanks to your PATRIOT Act. Iraq is not free. You get America out of Iraq and Israel out of Palestine and you'll stop the terrorism," she exclaimed. "There, I used the 'I' word -- imperialism," the 48 year-old mother quipped. "And now I'm going to use another 'I' word -- impeachment -- because we cannot have these people pardoned. They need to be tried on war crimes and go to jail."

Real America: Starting today, Gold Star families from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Arkansas and other states whose loved ones have died as a result of the war in Iraq will be joining one of their members, Cindy Sheehan, at the protest. Ms. Sheehan, whose son Army Specialist Casey Sheehan was killed in Sadr City, Iraq on April 4, 2004, has been in Crawford since August 5th, demanding a meeting with the President. These families will be joined by military families with loved ones currently serving in Iraq or about to deploy or redeploy to Iraq. All of these families are coming to Crawford, Texas to share their stories about the personal costs of the war in Iraq and add their voices to the call for a meeting with President Bush.

On August 3, 2005 President Bush, speaking about the dreadful loss of life in Iraq in early August, said "We have to honor the sacrifices of the fallen by completing the mission... The families of the fallen can be assured that they died for a noble cause." Gold Star and military families coming to Crawford know that the cause was not noble; that their loved ones died, or are currently in harm's way, serving in a war based on lies.

True America: Thousands of strangers showed their thanks Monday night to the families of Ohio's fallen Marines by attending a hour-long community memorial service at the I-X Center, a convention hall right next to Brook Park, home of the 3rd Battalion, 25th Marines that lost 16 members recently.

Eileen Nolf, of Elyria, said she didn't know any of the Marines or their families, but felt the need to come show her support.

"Because there were so many and they're just babies," said Nolf, who held an American flag as she watched the service from a standing room-only section.

Feel so helpless: Miranda Neighbarger attended her sixth funeral for a fallen Marine on Monday morning in Columbus, and she wept through most of it. Then she climbed into her car and drove 2 1/2 hours to this Cleveland suburb for a wrenching memorial service for 49 Ohio servicemen killed in Iraq.

By the time she heard the phrase "home of the brave" as a Brook Park schoolgirl sang the national anthem, tears were flowing down her cheeks again.

"It's really starting to get to me," Neighbarger said after a military band had played a slow, mournful version of taps to conclude the one-hour service.

Neighbarger, 24, is a newlywed with a husband in Iraq — a member of what everyone here calls the "Three Twenty Five," the Third Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment of Brook Park.

With the Reserve unit ravaged by combat deaths, Neighbarger has been making the rounds of funerals, trying in vain to comfort widows as young as she is.

"You feel so helpless because, really, there's nothing you can say," she said, a gold dog tag hanging from her neck that read "My Husband Is A Marine."

Finding their voice: As popular opinion increasingly turns against the war, Iraq veterans and military family members are criticizing the Bush administration more frankly than ever before. Their message is impossible to dismiss, because it is obviously not motivated by political bias, but by a patriotic commitment to holding our leaders accountable for illegal and immoral behavior. At a U.S. Tour of Duty event in Venice, California last night, Iraq veteran Jeff Key explained the obligation of U.S. service members to fight "domestic enemies," and why the American masters of war should be categorized as such. Gold Star mom Nadia McCaffrey, whose son Patrick was killed in Iraq, flatly stated that President Bush does not represent her, and would turn her back to him if he were in her presence.

Former Air Force veteran Tim Goodrich, who served in the Middle East under Ret. General Tommy Franks, also addressed the crowd. Tim was introduced with a U.S. Tour of Duty news video that captured a dramatic confrontation he had with Franks after the general spoke to elementary school students in Los Angles. Tim was outraged that his former commander in chief was apparently seducing such young children with a sugarcoated image of the military, and that the school assembly had taken place without the knowledge or consent of parents. Tim, who is the co-founder of Iraq Veterans Against the War, was denied access to the event, just as his previous attempts to meet with members of the Bush administration have been rejected or ignored. In a classic example of civil disobedience, Tim waited outside the school (along with Gold Star dad Bill Mitchell) and put his body in front of Franks' vehicle as the general was being driven away. On Saturday night in Anaheim, California, during the premiere event of Nadia's Southern California swing, the audience erupted in anger when it saw the Franks encounter projected on a large screen at a Unitarian church. In response to a complaint about the fact that the press rarely covers the issue of militarism in our schools, Nadia pointed out how U.S. Tour of Duty is doing the job of reporters for them. "We are the media," she said.

Bunnatine! A real Christian speaks truth to power: In the world as Bunnatine Greenhouse sees it, people do the right thing. They stand up for the greater good and they speak up when things go wrong. She believes God has a purpose for each life and she prays every day for that purpose to be made evident. These days she is praying her heart out, because she is in a great deal of trouble.

Bunnatine "Bunny" Greenhouse is the Principal Assistant Responsible for Contracting ("PARC" in the alphabet soup of military acronyms) in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Lest the title fool, she is responsible for awarding billions upon billions in taxpayers' money to private companies hired to resurrect war-torn Iraq and to feed, clothe, shelter and do the laundry of American troops stationed there.

She has rained a mighty storm upon herself for standing up, before members of Congress and live on C-SPAN to proclaim things are just not right in this staggeringly profitable business.

She has asked many questions: Why is Halliburton — a giant Texas firm that holds more than 50 percent of all rebuilding efforts in Iraq — getting billions in contracts without competitive bidding? Do the durations of those contracts make sense? Have there been violations of federal laws regulating how the government can spend its money?


Article: Several recent developments —persistently high gasoline prices, unprecedented warnings from the Secretary of Energy and the major oil companies, China's brief pursuit of the American Unocal Corporation—suggest that we are just about to enter the Twilight Era of Petroleum, a time of chronic energy shortages and economic stagnation as well as recurring crisis and conflict. Petroleum will not exactly disappear during this period—it will still be available at the neighborhood gas pump, for those who can afford it—but it will not be cheap and abundant, as it has been for the past 30 years. The culture and lifestyles we associate with the heyday of the Petroleum Age—large, gas-guzzling cars and SUVs, low-density suburban sprawl, strip malls and mega-malls, cross-country driving vacations, and so on—will give way to more constrained patterns of living based on a tight gasoline diet. While Americans will still consume the lion's share of global petroleum stocks on a daily basis, we will have to compete far more vigorously with consumers from other countries, including China and India, for access to an ever-diminishing pool of supply.

The concept of a "twilight" of petroleum derives from what is known about the global supply and demand equation. Energy experts have long acknowledged that the global production of oil will someday reach a moment of maximum (or "peak") daily output, followed by an increasingly sharp drop in supply. But while the basic concept of peak oil has gained substantial worldwide acceptance, there is still much confusion about its actual character. Many people who express familiarity with the concept tend to view peak oil as a sharp pinnacle, with global output rising to the summit one month and dropping sharply the next; and looking back from a hundred years hence, things might actually appear this way. But for those of us embedded in this moment of time, peak oil will be experienced as something more like a rocky plateau—an extended period of time, perhaps several decades in length, during which global oil production will remain at or near current levels but will fail to achieve the elevated output deemed necessary to satisfy future world demand. The result will be perennially high prices, intense international competition for available supplies, and periodic shortages caused by political and social unrest in the producing countries.

Editorial: But in the end, Texas greed trumped New Mexico foresight. The senators caved and allowed the House and the White House to rule. The bill reflects the fossil-fuel interests of Bush, a Texan, and other Texans, including Vice President Dick Cheney - who primed the pump with his secret energy policy meetings four years ago - and House Majority Leader Rep. Tom DeLay, whose hometown energy companies stand to benefit enormously from the bill. They also include Republican Rep. Joe Barton, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, who was instrumental in sustaining elements that subsidize drilling for hard-to-reach oil, write-offs for refineries and more-aggressive offshore and public-land oil or gas drilling.

Opinion: Although anyone on Rhetoric Watch might have thought lately that the phrase “global war on terror” was giving way to “global struggle against violent extremism,” the bloodshed in Iraq this week (and the tears in Ohio) put an end to such semantic nonsense. As the first week of August wound down, 30 Americans died in this war this month. At this pace, August could turn out to be one of the worst months yet for U.S. military bloodshed. Not a good time, certainly, for anyone to be foisting off such a multisyllabic, clinical, clunker of description as “global struggle against violent extremism.” But this is just what some in the Bush administration have done in recent months, especially Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Marketers would call it a “rebranding” effort. "Global war on terror” (GWOT) is Coke Classic, making the “global struggle against violent extremism” (GSAVE) New Coke. But as too many Ohio families could attest after this sad week, nothing is “new and improved.” And when you put it that way, the crassness of any effort to rename war by calling it something else shines through clearly. If a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, so too does a war by any other name still stink to high heaven.

Opinion: Specialist Olander was a teenager from Waynesburg, Ohio, population 1,000, when he joined the Army in 2003. "It was very appealing," he said. "The benefits. College. And it was something I'd always wanted to do since I was a small boy - be in the Army."

He had mixed feelings about going to Iraq, but he wasn't particularly upset. He didn't dwell on the possibility of getting killed or wounded. And he gave no thought at all to the spiritual or psychological toll that combat can take. "I was very confident in my training and I was very religious," he said. "I'd always read Bible stories as a child and I believed the Lord would look over me and his will would be done."

He went to Iraq in early 2004 and quickly learned that nothing - not his military training, not the Bible, nothing - had adequately prepared him for the experience. By the time he returned several months later, he said, the trauma he had encountered in Iraq had reached deep inside him. There was both fear and the hint of a plea in his voice as he told me, with surprising candor, that he believed the things he'd had to do in Iraq might jeopardize the salvation of his soul.

Casualty Report

Local story: Toronto, OH, Marine killed in Iraq.

Note to Readers: I just wanted to thank all of you who come to this site and say a more particular thank you to our many regular Comment writers and an even more particular thanks to alert reader zig, who has been putting up a lot of great links lately, including a bunch of today's articles and an equally particular thanks to the honorable Prime Minister Tony Quisling who's been on a roll and really ought to be writing some full blown articles or essays for some web site or other that he visits daily. Hint hint.


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