Tuesday, August 23, 2005

War News for Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Bring ‘em on: Eleven Iraqi policemen killed and 15 persons, including a child, wounded in mortar attack on police station in Baquba. Two Iraqi policemen killed in clashes with rebels north of Najaf. Businessman shot dead by gunmen in Tikrit. Former general in Saddam’s army killed by his kidnappers in Basra. Kurdish environment minister survived assassination attempt in which three of her bodyguards were injured.

Bring ‘em on: One US soldier killed in rocket attack in southern Baghdad.

Bring ‘em on: US forces in Ramadi targeted by three apparently coordinated car bombs in Ramadi. Three Iraqi bystanders known to be injured, no word of other casualties at this time.

Bring ‘em on: US troops and insurgents involved in fierce fighting in Tal Afar, with four days of bombing reported, resulting in several civilians dead, many wounded, and thousands of families fleeing the city. (Note: I am unable to find corroboration of this report and am unsure of the reliability of the source. Readers, are you familiar with this organization?)

Bring ‘em on: Eight policeman killed and 11 wounded in suicide bombing attack on dining facilities in the provincial government offices in Baquba. An undetermined number of US troops were reported wounded in the attack. One policeman gunned down in his home in the Yarmouk district of Baquba. Three bodyguards injured in ambush of a deputy justice minister’s motorcade in southwestern Baghdad. Pipeline from the Beiji refinery to Baghdad blown up at Ishaaqi. One US soldier killed in roadside bombing near Fallujah.

Bring ‘em on: Five Iraqis, one US soldier, and one US civilian contractor killed and twenty people wounded, including nine US soldiers, a civilian American contractor, six Iraqi civilians and four Iraqi police officers, in suicide bombing of the Diyala Provincial Joint Coordination Center northeast of Baghdad.

Bring ‘em on: Eight Iraqi police killed in bus ambush in the al-Taremeyah area north of Baghdad. Four Iraqi policemen and three others wounded in booby-trapped car explosion in the al-Doura area south of Baghdad. Unemployment office official and his wife killed by gunmen in Kirkuk. Four police wounded in explosion in Kirkuk. Four unidentified bodies found near the Um al-Qurra mosque west of Baghdad and another unidentified body found in Sadr city.

Just Like 1787

Forced constitution: Iraq's tentative efforts at consensus politics were pushed to breaking point when the Shi'ite majority forced a draft constitution into parliament in defiance of Sunni warnings that it could ignite civil war.

With U.S. diplomats forcing the pace on a timetable that President George W. Bush says can help quell a Sunni insurgency, Shi'ite and Kurdish officials indicated they would force the charter through parliament come what may if Sunnis still object.

For their part, representatives of the Sunni community that dominated Iraq under Saddam Hussein and long before said they would now fight the constitution in a referendum in October.

"If it passes, there will be an uprising in the streets," Sunni negotiator Saleh al-Mutlak said after a 10-minute sitting at which Hassani declared the draft had been delivered on time.

“We will campaign ... to tell both Sunnis and Shi'ites to reject the constitution, which has elements that will lead to the break-up of Iraq and civil war," Soha Allawi, another Sunni Arab on the constitution-drafting committee, told Reuters.

Vote postponed: Iraq's Shiite Muslim majority and its Kurdish allies moved Monday toward fundamentally reshaping their nation, submitting a proposed constitution that would create a loose federation with strongly Islamic national laws.

The draft constitution, sent to parliament just five minutes before a midnight deadline, outraged negotiators for Iraq's Sunni Arab minority, and Sunni constitutional delegates warned that civil unrest could erupt if the charter becomes law over their objections.

"The streets will rise up," predicted Salih Mutlak, a Sunni delegate.

But the coalition of Shiites and Kurds, which holds a heavy majority in parliament and could easily approve the constitution on its own, agreed late Monday to postpone a vote for three days in hopes of appeasing Sunni negotiators.

Not enough: The head of the committee drafting Iraq's constitution said Tuesday that three days are not enough to win over the Sunni Arabs, and the document they rejected may ultimately have to be approved by parliament as is and taken to the people in a referendum.

Iraqi leaders completed a draft Monday night and submitted it to parliament, but - just minutes from a midnight deadline - lawmakers delayed a vote to give negotiators time to persuade Sunni Arabs to accept it.

U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad urged the Iraqis to work ``in spirit of compromise'' and ``take the national interest into account'' when they resume talks Wednesday.

He said ``every effort needs to be made'' to win Sunni Arab support for the draft and that it ``behooves'' Iraq's other communities - Shiites and Kurds - to ``reach out'' to the Sunnis in the interest of national unity.

``This is not the time to achieve all that one can at the expense of others,'' Khalilzad told reporters Tuesday. He said the time had come ``to build the new Iraq on new principles.''

President Bush, asked about the possibility that objections to the draft from Sunnis could trigger a civil war, said: ``The Sunnis have got to make a choice: Do they want to live in a society that's free?''

What an embarassment that man is...

Elsewhere In Iraq

Killing the pacifists: Sufis seek, through dance, music, chanting and other intensely physical rituals, to transcend worldly existence and perceive the face of the divine. Their mysticism has contributed to their pacifist reputation.

But in Iraq, no one is ever far removed from war. In a sign of the widening and increasingly complex rifts in Iraqi society, Sufis have suddenly found themselves the targets of attacks. Many Iraqis believe those responsible are probably fundamentalist Sunnis who view the Sufis as apostates, just one step removed from the Shiites.

Sheik Ali al-Faiz, a senior official at this Sufi shrine, or takia, rattled off a list of recent assaults: the leader of a takia in the insurgent stronghold of Ramadi was abducted and killed in mid-August; a bomb exploded in a takia in Kirkuk earlier this year; gunmen beat Sufi worshippers at a mosque in Ramadi in January; a bomb exploded in the kitchen of a takia in Ramadi last September, and a bomb in April 2004 destroyed an entire takia in the same city.

The early attacks were frightening, but until this spring there had been few Sufi deaths. Then, on June 2, a suicide bomber rammed a minivan packed with explosives into a takia outside the town of Balad, 64 kilometers, or 40 miles, north of Baghdad, killing at least eight people and wounding 12.

Shortages: Water and electricity shortages plague all but the richest corners of Iraq—nowhere more so than here. All over the four provinces occupied by British forces, residents complain of shortages, and occupying forces insist they're doing all they can to fix a problem 30 years in the making. Meanwhile, the days get hotter, tempers flare, and everyone points fingers.

Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Williams, 43, commander of British forces in nearby Maysan province, population 500,000, says power and water woes have been a factor in attacks on his troops that have killed five since May. "Their frustrations with the lack of infrastructure are exacerbated by the rising temperature," Williams says of Iraqis in the province. "They lack clean drinking water. They lack electricity for their air-conditioning. The flies, the disease, the smell . . . it all gets a lot worse. The violence tends to peak."

Sabotage: Saboteurs triggered a cascade of blackouts that halted Iraq's entire oil export capacity for most of Monday, a move that cost the country almost $60 million in lost exports and rattled already-jittery world markets.

Government officials blamed the outage on insurgent attacks that toppled key power pylons in central Iraq and darkened broad swaths of the country, including its two largest cities, Baghdad and Basra.

By late Monday, oil tankers were being loaded at less than a third of normal capacity with the help of backup generators, Dow Jones News wires reported.

And It’s One, Two, Three – What Are We Fighting For?

An Islamic Republic, apparently: The United States has eased its opposition to an Islamic Iraqi state to help clinch a deal on a draft constitution before tonight's deadline.

American diplomats backed religious conservatives who threatened to torpedo talks over the shape of the new Iraq unless Islam was a primary source of law. Secular and liberal groups were dismayed at the move, branding it a betrayal of Washington's promise to advocate equal rights in a free and tolerant society.

If approved, critics say that the proposals would erode women's rights and other freedoms enshrined under existing laws. "We understand the Americans have sided with the Shias. It's shocking. It doesn't fit with American values," an unnamed Kurdish negotiator told Reuters. "They have spent so much blood and money here, only to back the creation of an Islamist state."

With a constitution even less progressive than Saddam’s: The Iraqi constitution adopted in 1990 under Saddam Hussein was among the most secular in the Arab world. It made no mention of Sharia -- Islamic religious law -- although Islam was named the official state religion. It prohibited all forms of discrimination, gender or other, and guaranteed freedom of expression as part of "the revolutionary, national and progressive trend."

So we can expect this sort of thing to become routine: The executions are carried out at dawn on Haqlania bridge, the entrance to Haditha. A small crowd usually turns up to watch even though the killings are filmed and made available on DVD in the market the same afternoon.

One of last week's victims was a young man in a black tracksuit. Like the others he was left on his belly by the blue iron railings at the bridge's southern end. His severed head rested on his back, facing Baghdad. Children cheered when they heard that the next day's spectacle would be a double bill: two decapitations. A man named Watban and his brother had been found guilty of spying.

With so many alleged American agents dying here Haqlania bridge was renamed Agents' bridge. Then a local wag dubbed it Agents' fridge, evoking a mortuary, and that name has stuck.

A three-day visit by a reporter working for the Guardian last week established what neither the Iraqi government nor the US military has admitted: Haditha, a farming town of 90,000 people by the Euphrates river, is an insurgent citadel.

That Islamist guerrillas were active in the area was no secret but only now has the extent of their control been revealed. They are the sole authority, running the town's security, administration and communications.

Not to say that the new constitution is all bad for everybody: If Iraq's National Assembly meets its deadline, it will release a draft constitution to be voted on by the people in two months. Since February, vital issues have been debated and discussed by the drafting committee: the role of Islamic law, the rights of women, the autonomy of the Kurds and the participation of the minority Sunnis.

But what hasn't been on the table is at least as important to the formation of a new Iraq: the country's economic structure. The Bush administration has succeeded in maintaining a stranglehold on issues such as public versus private ownership of resources, foreign access to Iraqi oil and U.S. control of the reconstruction effort -- all of which are still governed by administration policies put into place immediately after the invasion. The Bush economic agenda favors foreign interests -- American interests -- over Iraqi self-determination.

After all, resourceful people do ok whether there’s a constitution or not: British officials are seriously concerned about the level of corruption in the Iraqi defence ministry, after the embezzlement of vast amounts of money earmarked for the country's security forces.

Officials from the British Ministry of Defence had already warned US and Iraqi authorities against the squandering of money - and have been proved right, on a catastrophic scale.

A report compiled by the Iraqi Board of Supreme Audit has concluded that at least half, and probably more, of $1.27bn (£700m) of Iraqi money spent on military procurement has disappeared into a miasma of kickbacks and vanished middlemen - or else has been spent on useless equipment.

The War At Home

"Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes; and armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few. In war, too, the discretionary power of the Executive is extended; its influence in dealing out offices, honors, and emoluments is multiplied; and all the means of seducing the minds, are added to those of subduing the force, of the people."-- James Madison

Screw the Geneva Conventions: One of the US soldiers convicted of mistreating prisoners at Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison says his superiors made it clear those incarcerated were to be abused.

Sergeant Javal Davis was sentenced to six months in jail after admitting to having deliberately stepped on the hands and feet of handcuffed prisoners.

In an interview aired on Channel 7, Sgt Davis said he was instructed to make life as unpleasant as possible for those he was guarding.

"I was left with an open door to pretty much almost do whatever I want, you know like 'hey, make sure this guy has a bad night you know' or 'make sure this guy gets the treatment'," he said.

Screw inhibitions about cruel and unusual punishment: There's a new batch of photos from Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison, and these are reportedly far worse than the sickening originals. Naturally, the Pentagon is trying to block their release.

The ACLU filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request in October 2003 to make public 87 photographs and four videos depicting prisoner abuse in Iraq. The Pentagon originally argued that releasing the images would violate the Geneva Convention rights of the detainees; a supreme irony considering that the US originally denied these very prisoners Geneva Convention protections. The ACLU agreed that the Pentagon could black out "identifying characteristics," but a federal judge in New York ruled last week that DoD must explain publicly why it's concealing the images. "By and large, I ruled for public disclosure," said US District Judge Alvin Hellerstein. A final ruling is expected on August 30.

In court proceedings, General Richard Myers argued that releasing the pictures and videos would give aid to the enemy: boosting Al Qaeda recruitment, destabilizing governments in Iraq and Afghanistan and inciting riots throughout the Muslim world. But a number of high-ranking officers and civil libertarians countered by noting that much of what Myers predicts is already occurring on the ground, fueled in large measure by past and present US behavior.

Screw due process: The Pentagon said on Monday it has released three Guantanamo prisoners to Iran, Yemen and Tajikistan, leaving about 505 jailed at the U.S. military prison for foreign terrorism suspects.

Navy Lt. Cmdr. Flex Plexico, a Pentagon spokesman, said the two men sent to their home countries of Yemen and Tajikistan were found to no longer be "enemy combatants" by a panel known as the Combatant Status Review Tribunal.

The detainee sent home to Iran was recommended separately for release by an annual administrative review board, Plexico said.

And still do nothing about a real terrorist threat: Ten years after the Oklahoma City bombing left 168 people dead, the guardians of American national security seem to have decided that the domestic radical right does not pose a substantial threat to U.S. citizens.

A draft internal document from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that was obtained this spring by The Congressional Quarterly lists the only serious domestic terrorist threats as radical animal rights and environmental groups like the Animal Liberation Front and the Earth Liberation Front. But for all the property damage they have wreaked, eco-radicals have killed no one — something that most definitely cannot be said of the white supremacists and others who people the American radical right.

In the 10 years since the April 19, 1995, bombing in Oklahoma City, in fact, the radical right has produced some 60 terrorist plots. These have included plans to bomb or burn government buildings, banks, refineries, utilities, clinics, synagogues, mosques, memorials and bridges; to assassinate police officers, judges, politicians, civil rights figures and others; to rob banks, armored cars and other criminals; and to amass illegal machine guns, missiles, explosives, and biological and chemical weapons.

A Bright Side

At least one sector of the US economy is booming: Special Forces personnel -- key to any eventual success in Iraq -- are now being offered re-enlistment bonuses of up to $150,000 each. And these huge amounts are being spurned.

That's because retention of key combat personnel is being eroded by far better money offers from federally hired "private security companies" -- as their executives insist they be called. Once on board and back in the private sector of dangerous military operations in Iraq, these highly trained fighters and specialists can make up to a quarter of a million dollars or more (most of it tax-free) in a year's worth of salary -- certainly better than Army pay.

These men, of course, are mercenaries -- professional soldiers hired for pay in an outfit other than their country's armed forces. The "private security companies" recoil from that designation, but that is what they are, nonetheless. They are private, well-paid gunmen.

In one of its best articles of the year, The New York Times Magazine of Aug. 14 detailed the quiet expansion of these new hybrid forces in Iraq. Author Daniel Bergner writes there are about 80 private firms, maybe 100, with approximately 25,000 armed men -- about 15 percent of the weapons-carrying allied personnel in Iraq -- guarding big American corporations that are reconstructing Iraq. They, side by side with American troops, shield American compounds from attack, keep safe workers who are rebuilding power stations and sewage plants, guard generals, protect military bases, and hold off insurgents so supplies can be delivered.

Some of the private gunmen -- not all Americans -- are drop-outs from law enforcement and soldiers of fortune who participated in other global conflicts in past decades. Many come from Chile, Ukraine, Fiji, Great Britain, Romania, South Africa, even Iraq itself.

No one seems to be keeping track of how many there really are, or of the totals being paid these firms, or who authorized them, approved them, or signed the contracts. The Pentagon, after promising these details to The New York Times, stiff-armed the newspaper and "detoured fully around the questions," according to Bergner.

The Defense Department would only state that "private security companies" are not being used "to perform inherently military functions." (That word "inherently" carries a lot of freight. The private armed firms, all by themselves, have already held off unexpected full-scale insurgent attacks upon regional Coalition Provisional Authority compounds in the Iraqi towns of Kut and Najaf.)

But one can do the math. One of the biggest private firms -- Triple Canopy (headquartered in the United States), with about 1,000 men in Iraq -- receives about $250 million a year from the Defense Department, and is so highly regarded in Washington that the State Department has designated it one of three such companies that will divide $1 billion a year in new protection work in powder-keg nations around the planet -- formerly a job the Marines usually performed. That's just one firm.

A Novel Idea

Perhaps we could try it here: A group of MPs declared their intention to bring a motion of impeachment against the Prime Minister for High Crimes and Misdemeanours in relation to the invasion of Iraq. The charges are based on evidence presented in a report commissioned by Adam Price MP entitled A Case to Answer .

The report which is co-authored by academics Glen Rangwala and Dan Plesch presents evidence that the Prime Minister deliberately distorted the intelligence assessments available to him in order to deceive the public and Parliament over the case for war, and recommends that impeachment procedures are begun against the Prime Minister for this misconduct. In addition, the report maintains that the Prime Minister's actions have destroyed the British government's reputation for honesty around the world; it has damaged and discredited the intelligence services; it has undermined the constitution by weakening cabinet government and has made a mockery of Parliament as representative of the people.

Another Flytrap - Our Noose Is Closing In

Iraqi exports: Foreign militants with links to al-Qaeda - some believed to have experience in Iraq - are trying to encourage Afghan insurgents to adopt more Iraq-style tactics against US forces, well-placed sources in eastern Afghanistan have told the BBC.

According to these sources, the wider use of suicide bombings and kidnappings are included in the tactics.

These outsiders, some of them Arabs, have been offering large bounties to Afghans in Kunar province to kill US soldiers, two sources said.

They have been showing videos of kidnappings in Iraq as part of recruitment efforts, they said.

A Non-Sarcastic Optimistic Note

Tipping?: Malcolm Gladwell's 2002 best-selling book, 'The Tipping Point,' argued that under a combination of certain factors, "radical change is more than a possibility." Some columnists and politicians from both parties are now wondering if the comments of leading Republican lawmakers like Sen. Chuck Hagel from Nebraska and others, and the actions of protester Cindy Sheehan, signal that the attitudes toward the war in Iraq are slowly, but surely, moving against the Bush administration.

Speaking Sunday on ABC-TV's 'This Week,' Sen. Hagel, who won two purple hearts in Vietnam and is also considered by some as a contender for the GOP presidential nomination in 2008, restated his position that the US needs to develop a strategy to leave Iraq.

"We should start figuring out how we get out of there," Hagel said on "This Week" on ABC. "But with this understanding, we cannot leave a vacuum that further destabilizes the Middle East. I think our involvement there has destabilized the Middle East. And the longer we stay there, I think the further destabilization will occur."

Hagel said "stay the course" is not a policy. "By any standard, when you analyze 2 1/2 years in Iraq … we're not winning," he said.


Interview: ASZ: There have been a lot of conflicting reports on the state of Iraq's infrastructure prior to the invasion and subsequent occupation. What did people tell you about public services; something simple like trash collection, or the water supply, during the time of Saddam's regime? Glantz: Before the invasion, Iraq's infrastructure was in a weakend state because of years of UN sanctions following the 1991 Gulf War. However, basic services like trash collection and telephone service still worked and double-decker red London-style busses served as public transportation. It was easy to get a cheap fill-up at any of the country's gas stations. After the invasion, there were two day long lines for gas at the pump, the US bombed the telephone grid, and ongoing services like garbage and bus service have never been adequately restored. Baghdad's electric grid goes on for three hours and then off for three hours on a cycle. It's 125 degrees in Baghdad. Imagine tying to sleep without a fan. You would get grouchy. And if you had a AK-47 in your home to protect your family, you might decide some action was necessary given this situation has now gone on for more than two years.

Opinion: Months ago, the United States was assuring skeptics that the secular Kurds would rein in the Shiite religious parties, while the majority Shiites would limit Kurdish separatism. But instead of being counterweights, these two groups seem mainly to have reinforced each other. Washington, desperate for any draft, encouraged their complicity.

Clinching a deal became easier when the most fundamentalist and most pro-Iranian of the Shiite parties, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, decided that it, too, favored regional autonomy for the oil-rich Shiite southern provinces around Basra. Fortunately, the constitution is said to provide that oil revenues from already discovered fields be distributed nationwide according to population, rather than directly to the new regional governments. To do otherwise would leave the oil-poor Sunni provinces virtually penniless. Still, the prospect of carving up Iraq into loosely linked federal units is likely to intensify Sunni disenchantment with the new constitution and government, a prospect that can only encourage the insurgency.

Approval by a simple majority of the parliament will be only a first step. The draft constitution will then be subject to a national referendum in October. Excluding the Sunnis from that decision won't be so easy. If at least two-thirds of the voters in three of the four Sunni-majority provinces reject the draft, it will not go into effect. Opposition in other provinces is also possible. Shiites in the central provinces near Baghdad, which also lack oil, are wary of federalism. Large numbers of women may turn out in defense of their threatened rights. Secular Iraqis from all regions could choke on the provisions reportedly declaring Iraq an Islamic state and prohibiting any legislation that conflicts with the fixed principles of Islam.

Americans continue dying in Iraq, but their mission creeps steadily downward. The nonexistent weapons of mass destruction dropped out of the picture long ago. Now the United States seems ready to walk away from its fine words about helping the Iraqis create a beacon of freedom, harmony and democracy for the Middle East. All that remains to be seen is whether the White House has become so desperate for an excuse to declare victory that it will settle for an Iranian-style Shiite theocracy.

Editorial: Serious debate about the war has practically vanished in Washington. It's difficult to find many people outside the administration who are satisfied with either the costs (in American lives) or the benefits (the progress toward establishing a secure, pro-Western Iraqi state) of current policies. It is even more difficult to find any major figure willing to publicly offer a significant alternative. This amounts to a political dereliction of duty. When casualties in Iraq are rising even as stability recedes, political leaders are obligated to ask every possible question about the strategy, tactics and goals that have placed our forces in harm's way. The response might be to withdraw troops, or to temporarily add more, or to change our expectations of what might be achieved in Iraq. Maybe Bush's approach of maintaining a large U.S. presence while training Iraqis and working to sustain as much national unity as possible will prove the best of imperfect alternatives. But most Democrats and Republicans are abandoning their responsibilities by leaving the problem solely to Bush without addressing any of these issues.

Helena Cobban: In a midnight post here last night I noted that Republican Senator Chuck Hagel has now clearly and openly joined the ranks of those calling for a speedy pullout of the troops from Iraq.

But what about our much-vaunted "opposition" party here here in US, you might ask? Where does the Democratic Party now stand on the Iraq War?

Editorial: If there's growing sentiment against the war in Iraq, many area veterans of the fight aren't taking it personally.

Vets see the opposition as a protest against policy, not them or their service.

During the Vietnam War, many returning U.S. troops felt taunted, humiliated and treated with little or no respect. In contrast, today's veterans say they don't encounter animosity from people who don't agree with the U.S. military presence in Iraq.

"I have run into people who don't support the president's views on Iraq or our objectives, but I haven't run into a single person who said (he or she) doesn't support the troops," said Jason Crawford, a Purple Heart recipient who was shot in the face by opposition forces in December 2003 while in Iraq. "I think our society learned from Vietnam that it's not the men and women who sacrifice their lives and signed on the dotted lines who make up the plans and objectives. I think pretty much everyone supports the troops."

That's even if they don't approve of the U.S. involvement in Iraq that began in March 2003.

Opinion: I wish Dick Cheney would stay in his secret hideaway, wherever it is, the one he goes to when the terror alert in Washington is at maximum level. Every time the vice president ventures out to defend the administration's bungled war in Iraq, he only adds insult to injury. Even more so than President Bush, Cheney is the cold embodiment of the delusions, arrogance, stubbornness, incompetence and denial that got us into this messy war. He has no credibility on the subject.

These days, you won't hear Cheney saying, as he did two months ago, that the Iraqi insurgency is in its "last throes." Instead, as he told a friendly audience of combat veterans last week, "there is still tough fighting" to come. The United States "will not relent" in pressing the war. U.S. forces will hunt down Iraqi insurgents "one at a time if necessary." Victory in Iraq is "critical to the future security of the U.S." and the country must not lose its resolve to finish the job.

Easy to say when the war doesn't touch you or your family or wealthy friends, who enjoy tax cuts while our soldiers bleed in Iraq and their families struggle with hardships at home.

Opinion: A lie is a knowing misstatement of fact. "Intentionally misleading" and "intentionally exaggerated" simply are euphemisms for the same thing, and it is clear that a large chunk of the public believes it was lied to by the administration. Just because many people believe something, of course, does not make it so. But neither can it be ignored. Yet the administration seems to be doing exactly that. When it created the Commission on the Intelligence Capability of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction, in February 2004, it carefully walled it off from any investigation of possible misuse of intelligence by the administration. Instead, the commission was told to examine only the "intelligence community."

At about the same time the president established the commission by executive order, the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence issued a press release that appeared to say the committee would explore the very issue Bush had barred his commission from investigating. The Senate committee said it would examine whether "public statements and reports and testimony regarding Iraq by U.S. government officials made between the Gulf War period and the commencement of Operation Iraqi Freedom were substantiated by intelligence information." To eliminate any ambiguity, the committee's vice-chairman, John Rockefeller, announced, "We will address the question of whether intelligence was exaggerated or misused . . . "

Except it didn't; the committee got cold feet and quietly let it be known recently that it would not look into the misuse of intelligence. So the American people are left to figure out for themselves whether the administration lied. Increasingly, they are deciding that it did.

Joseph Galloway: 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 in uniform that they command and send into harm's way utterly 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.

Opinion: On Sunday, Feingold revealed that when he visited Iraq he asked a top general what he thought about setting a timetable for exiting. The general, he said, replied: "Nothing would take the wind out of the sails of the insurgents better." But where do the editorial pages stand on this? Only a few, such as the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, have really staked out what could loosely be called an "antiwar" position. A few columnists, besides Neuharth, have turned hyper-critical, including the intrepid Joe Galloway of Knight Ridder. Neuharth and Galloway each have received high military honors; Hagel is a decorated Vietnam vet. Galloway, unlike so many editorialists, has no trouble understanding that withdrawing is hardly dishonoring the thousands of Americans who had died or been badly wounded in Iraq. Perhaps that's because he has covered wars for 35 years, including each of our Iraq adventures. When he wrote the following this month, Galloway was addressing the White House and the Pentagon, but he could have aimed it just as easily at the media: "Don't tell me we are going to stay the course. We are on the wrong course, and it only leads deeper into the quicksand. Tell me how we are going to change course."

Casualty Reports

Local story: Volcano, HI, soldier with California Bay Area ties killed in roadside bombing in Samarra.

Local story: Centreville, MI, soldier killed in truck accident near Tal Afar.

Local story: Arlington, FL, soldier killed in roadside bombing in Samarra.

Local story: Wildomar, CA, soldier killed in roadside bombing in Samarra.

Local story: Indianapolis, IN, soldier killed in roadside bombing in Samarra.

Local story: Elk Grove, CA, soldier killed in Iraq.

Note to readers: Many thanks to Friendly Fire for his yeoman effort in keeping this blog going while YD and I were otherwise occupied. Thanks to all contributors to Comments, too.


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