War News for Tuesday, August 16, 2005
Bring 'em on: Two guards killed and four injured in gun attack in Sadr City
Bring 'em on: Turkish truck driver gunned down in Dujail
Bring 'em on: Detainee dies in mysterious circumstances in Abu Ghraib
Bring 'em on: Canadian businessman kidnapped and murdered in Baghdad
Bring 'em on: Twenty Iraqis injured in mortar attack on the Interior Ministry in Baghdad
Bring 'em on: Two personal guards of Iraqi VP Aadel Abdul-Mahdi killed in ambush attack in Baghdad
Bring 'em on: Iraqi contractor working for US forces kidnapped in Tikrit
Bring 'em on: Eighteen Iraqis injured in suicide bomb attack on a popular restaurant in Baghdad
Bring 'em on: Innocent Iraqi civilian shot dead by US troops in Latifiyah
Bring 'em on: Lt Colonel in the Iraqi army shot dead on his way to work in Baghdad
Bring 'em on: Five gunmen killed in attack on Iraqi army position in Shorgat
Life in Iraq
Of the three million residents of Sadr City, a poor area of Baghdad, 72% have hepatitis A or E, because of polluted water. In Sadr City we saw trenches dug along the main streets for sewer system repair. According to leaders of Sadr City, this project does not include replacing the cracked and inadequate pipes along the side streets that connect to the people's homes, so raw sewage still leaks out onto the streets and seeps into the nearby cracked water pipes.
Even though there are more manufactured goods in the markets of Iraqi's cities, poverty is severe, with an estimated 40% unemployment, and increasing malnutrition. Flooding Iraqi markets with cheaper foreign goods and the take over of many of Iraq's businesses and oil production by US companies, continue to erode the economy.
Families in Fallujah are slowly starting to rebuild with little help from the US or Iraqi governments. Since the Nov. 2004 attacks, US forces still wage active warfare in many other cities and villages. US and Iraqi forces currently surround the city of Tellafar, west of Mosul and have used heavy bombs in attacks on the city of Haqlaniyah. Iraqi people live in daily fear of explosions and kidnappings by the violent resistance groups as well as the violent house raids, indiscriminate round-ups, abusive interrogations and imprisonment by US and Iraqi forces. They are also worried about corruption in the new Iraqi government and the brutal violence of the newer Iraqi special police commandos, trained by the US and operating under the Ministry of Interior. Some call this "state terrorism." Iraqis tell us about family members being abducted from their homes, tortured and sometimes found dead by a roadside. Prisoner's families report paying thousands of dollars to prevent the prisoner from being tortured or forced to give confessions on TV of crimes they didn't commit. Many fear Iraq becoming a police state as bad, or worse than under Saddam.
Iraq's parliament has agreed to extend the deadline for finalising the country's draft constitution after delegates failed to reach agreement. MPs agreed to give the committee until 22 August to resolve the disputes. Delegates from Iraq's ethnic groups have been split over issues including federalism for Kurds and Shias. The constitution needs to be approved by the National Assembly before it can go to a nationwide referendum in October.
Kurdish minister Barhem Saleh told al-Arabiya TV that if no agreement could be reached on the constitution, the National Assembly would have to be dissolved and fresh elections held.
The Shia Muslims and Kurds between them have a parliamentary majority which could see the document passed. Before parliament met, Saleh Mutlaq, a Sunni Muslim member of the panel drafting the constitution, said Sunnis would reject the draft if it contained proposals for a federal Iraq.
: US ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad blamed the August 8 sandstorm for Iraqi politicians missing the deadline, though the country was saved from a political crisis by just a few minutes.
: Iraqi tribal leaders have vowed to boycott the forthcoming referendum and elections in case their demands are ignored. Two powerful tribal blocs are holding meetings to coordinate stands and agree on a unified platform as the country gears towards a referendum on the constitution and a general election by the end of the year. The Unified Iraqi Tribes Conference, an umbrella group bringing various tribes together, has called on tribal leaders to sign an “honor pact” that will be binding to all signatories. Iraqi tribes transcend sectarian divisions of the Iraqi society as membership is not confined to a particular religious group. Many Iraqi Shiites and Sunnis are bound by the same tribal roots and allegiance to a unified tribal leadership regardless of sectarian affiliation.
Crisis; what Crisis?
Iraq's newspapers warned of the risk of the total collapse of basic services like electricity and water, saying upgrading them was more important than drafting the constitution. "The petrol crisis stole the spotlight from the constitution crisis," said the editorial in the leading independent daily Azaman.
Iraq missed the midnight Monday deadline for presenting a draft constitution to parliament despite marathon talks, but MPs have granted a one-week extension to draw up the charter by August 22.
Although the missed deadline was on the front pages of most newspapers, editorials hammered the fledgling administration for ignoring basic amenities in the war-torn country, where power cuts and water shortages are recurring problems.
"Why talk about progress in the political process when the quality of life is deteriorating at all levels," said Al-Mashriq, a daily close to the Kurdish community.
"Politics was invented to improve life, not to make it worse, but in Iraq this truth has been altered."
Promises and Lies
: A witness to revolts, revolutions and invasions, Talib Ashur, an 83-year-old Baghdad fruit seller, considers himself a good judge of historic events.
He remembers the drone of British warplanes during the suppression of Rashi Ali's uprising in 1941, the overthrow of Abdel-Karim Qasim in 1963 and Saddam Hussein's takeover in 1979.
The attempt to draft a new constitution, however, has not registered on Mr Ashur's scale of momentousness: "It will change nothing. I don't believe in politics anymore. It is all promises and lies."
Three American Humvees trundled past his stall on Karrada Dakhil street, followed by two police pick-ups with blaring sirens. Regardless of any new constitution, the insecurity and impoverishment will continue, said Mr Ashur. The former civil servant said his pension has not been paid for a year. He no longer has regular electricity or clean water and two brothers have been killed in the violence.
Opinion and Commentary
Falling through the Partisan Looking Glass
Back when President Clinton was committing U.S. troops to Bosnia; these are quotes offered up by Republican leaders: Reading them, you can almost feel like you’ve fallen through the looking glass...
"Victory means exit strategy, and it's important for the President to explain to us what the exit strategy is." -- Governor George W. Bush (R-TX)
"You can support the troops but not the president." -- Rep Tom Delay (R-TX)
"Well, I just think it's a bad idea. What's going to happen is they're going to be over there for 10, 15, maybe 20 years." -- Joe Scarborough (R-FL)
"Explain to the mothers and fathers of American servicemen that may come home in body bags why their son or daughter have to give up their life?" -- Sean Hannity, Fox News, 4/6/99
"[The] President . . . is once again releasing American military might on a foreign country with an ill-defined objective and no exit strategy. He has yet to tell the Congress how much this operation will cost. And he has not informed our nation's armed forces about how long they will be away from home." -- Sen. Rick Santorum(R-PA)
"I had doubts about the bombing campaign from the beginning . . I didn't think we had done enough in the diplomatic area." -- Senator Trent Lott (R-MS)
"I cannot support a failed foreign policy. History teaches us that it is often easier to make war than peace. This administration is just learning that lesson right now. The President began this mission with very vague objectives and lots of unanswered questions. A month later, these questions are still unanswered. There are no clarified rules of engagement. There is no timetable. There is no legitimate definition of victory. There is no contingency plan for mission creep. There is no clear funding program. There is no agenda to bolster our over-extended military. There is no explanation defining what vital national interests are at stake. There was no strategic plan for war when the President started this thing, and there still is no plan today" -- Rep Tom Delay (R-TX)
As the weeks turned to months, however, and we watched active-duty units return to their families, our stoicism was replaced with mounting frustration. Our Vietnam-era flak vests, retooled M-16's more than two decades old and a general absence of supplies added to an irrefutable feeling that we had been abandoned in the lion's den.
When the tour ended a year later, our uniforms were in tatters, night vision goggles had been packed away seven months earlier when all our replacement parts ran out, and the ragged men who stepped off the plane in Hinesville, Ga., scarcely resembled the "shock-and-awe" troops seen on television. Nevertheless, we were soldiers returned home ... victorious, at least in a sense.
That night, in the same dilapidated World War II barracks that we had deployed from an eternity before, I didn't sleep. I thought it was because of the Christmas-morning-like tremble in the air. In reality, I had become addicted to Valium in Baghdad and was going through withdrawal. Sitting alone on my bunk in the darkness, I felt a wave of nausea approaching. That sick feeling hasn't entirely gone away yet.
A week later someone gave a speech, and bags full of coupons for free double cheeseburgers and oil changes were handed out. (Most of the good freebies had already been plundered by 17-year-old trainees who hadn't yet been to basic training.) And with a wave goodbye and a pat on the back, we were civilians again. I heard there was a parade a few months later, but I was too drunk to go and it wasn't on television.
Even the best laid plans go awry, and that is what happened with me. While many in my platoon had relatively easy transitions, I found myself within days kept from homelessness only by the hospitality of a friend with a sofa. It was like being at a party and going to the restroom for 15 months and then trying to rejoin the conversation. Everyone and everything had changed without asking me first.
I took solace in becoming the kind of self-deprecating drunk who shows up at parties naked and wonders why everyone reacts the way they do. The sequence of events that followed culminated in my waking up on the dingy bathroom floor of an even dingier one-bedroom apartment devoid of furniture, except for a couch pulled from a dumpster early one rainy morning before the garbage man could claim it. In that bathroom, fighting off sickness from the year's excess, I did some soul-searching.