Wednesday, August 10, 2005

War News for Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Bring ‘em on: Four US soldiers killed and six wounded in Beiji when an armored Humvee hit an antitank mine and insurgents then attacked with small arms fire. Two civilians killed and four wounded in a mortar attack near a Shiite mosque in Baghdad.

Bring ‘em on: Four insurgents killed by US troops while trying to plant a roadside bomb in Ramadi. Iraqi Cabinet employee assassinated by gunmen in Baghdad. Two insurgents killed and 22 arrested by US and Iraq troops in Mosul.

Bring ‘em on: Ten Iraqi doctors killed in an ambush by unidentified gunmen while on their way to Ramadi to help at hospitals there.

Bring ‘em on: Fifteen people killed separate incidents in Mosul over the past 24 hours. Six people, including two policemen, killed and 14 wounded in suicide car bombing aimed at a police patrol in the Ghazaliya district of Baghdad. One traffic policeman killed and six civilians wounded in mortar attack in Baghdad’s Aadhamiya district. Two civilians killed and three wounded in attack by gunmen near Iskandariya. Police brigadier kidnapped as he left his house in the Baghdad district of Raghiba Khatoun. Nine car bombs and 28 improvised bombs discovered and 32 suspects detained in Ramadi according to a U.S. military statement.

Bring ‘em on: Iraqi brigadier general in charge of the Interior Ministry’s administrative affairs office kidnapped in central Baghdad.

Break’s over: A day after fierce sandstorms brought most of Iraq to a standstill, insurgent attacks and U.S. military operations returned Wednesday in several parts of the country.

Marine Corps units involved in Operation Quick Strike — a 1,000-strong Marine offensive in the Euphrates River Valley — did not provide an update Wednesday, a day after finding a car bomb factory in the desert region between central Iraq and the Syrian border to the west.

The operation, at least the sixth in the region recently, was launched after a spate of attacks killed more than 20 Marines last week. U.S. military commanders have said the vast open areas in western Iraq are a major alley for the smuggling of men, money and weapons feeding the insurgency.

Upgrades: The bomb that killed two Pennsylvania National Guard soldiers Saturday was of a type used with increasing frequency by insurgents to try to penetrate the extra-armor kits that have been recently put on most U.S. vehicles in Iraq.

Lt. Col. Philip J. Logan, commander of Task Force Dragoon, said in an e-mail to The Inquirer from Iraq that the bomb was a remote-control weapon made from 122mm artillery shells wired together for a huge explosion. It was planted on the shoulder of a road just north of the Samarra bypass, 60 miles north of Baghdad, he said.

Guard officials in Pennsylvania said Monday that they did not know whether the blast was from a mine or was set off beside the road.

"The detonation caused the vehicle to swerve down an embankment, which was what caused most of the damage/injury," Logan said.

The Guard soldiers were riding in an M1025 humvee equipped with a factory-made armor kit for extra protection, Logan said.

Blowing smoke: Iraqi army and police forces now have the lead security role in eight to 10 areas of Iraq, but it remains unclear when they'll be prepared to take over security for the entire country, the Pentagon's top military officer said Tuesday.

"It's going to take time; nobody knows," Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said during a Pentagon news conference. "It's event-driven. It's going to be driven by a lot of events."

Though a constitutional referendum in October and elections for a permanent government in December will represent significant political milestones for Iraq, the strategy for an eventual drawdown of the 138,000 American troops in the country hinges in large part on when Iraqi troops can take the primary role in battling insurgents. Estimates of when that might happen have varied widely in recent months.

Last March, Gen. John Abizaid, of U.S. Central Command, told Congress that he believed Iraqi forces would be able to take the lead role this year, but Gen. Peter Pace, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs, told Congress two months later that only a "small number" of Iraq's 173,000 army and police troops were capable of battling terrorists on their own.

Myers named only two areas where Iraqis police and army had taken the lead in security - a portion of Baghdad and Diyala province in the south, a majority Shiite area where attacks on coalition forces have been rare since an uprising by radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr was put down last year.

Home-grown: One reason the insurgency has grown so intractable, analysts say, is that Iraq, like Lebanon and the Palestinian territories before it, has developed a home-grown terrorist culture where little if any had existed before the war.

"Two years ago, the Iraqis did not know how to mount insurgent or terrorist operations and were heavily dependent on foreign jihadists to show them how to do things, how to make bombs, how to set up IEDs [improvised explosive devices, better known as roadside bombs], how to set up operational plans and do everything else for themselves," said Kenneth Pollack, an Iraq and military expert with the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank.

"Today they have internalized most of those lessons," Pollack told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last month, "and they are increasingly less dependent on foreigners for the know-how."

That's one reason the U.S. military has a hard time getting a handle on the insurgency's strength. It also undercuts, the administration's argument that the insurgents are under the control of foreigners.

Let’s hope they don’t get even more desperate: US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld warned overnight that violence in Iraq could worsen, comparing insurgents to desperate Nazi SS officers and Japanese kamikaze pilots at the end of World War II. Insurgents were desperate to stop political progress in Iraq, Rumsfeld said, following one of the bloodiest weeks for US forces since the US-led invasion in 2003.

"I think it's reasonable to expect that violence could, again, increase for a time, as it did during the last elections," Rumsfeld said, looking ahead to a referendum on a new constitution in October and elections in December.

Senior Bush administration officials have repeatedly argued that the insurgency in Iraq is losing ground as political developments progress.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in an interview released on Sunday that the insurgency in Iraq was "losing steam".

"It's a lot easier to see the violence and suicide bombing than to see the rather quiet political progress that's going on in parallel," she said.

Vice President Dick Cheney sparked controversy in June when he said the insurgency was in its "last throes".

“Reasonable suspicion”: Australian and British military legal advisers frequently had to "red card" more trigger-happy US forces to limit civilian casualties during the invasion of Iraq in 2003, according to one of the Australian advisers. Colonel Mike Kelly, writing in the Australian Army Journal, says the junior partners in the coalition forces succeeded in reducing civilian casualties and reinforcing the legitimacy of the invasion to topple Saddam Hussein.

In the most detailed insight yet into the secret rules Australian forces operated under during the conflict in 2003, Colonel Kelly, who went on to become a senior adviser to the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, said for Australian forces to open fire the enemy was "required to visibly carry weapons while deploying for an attack".

Defence sources said that under more relaxed US rules there only had to be a "reasonable suspicion" that the person was an enemy combatant and a threat.

The New Iraq

Local coup: Armed men entered Baghdad's municipal building during a blinding dust storm on Monday, deposed the city's mayor and installed a member of Iraq's most powerful Shiite militia.

The deposed mayor, Alaa al-Tamimi, who was not in his offices at the time, recounted the events in a telephone interview on Tuesday and called the move a municipal coup d'état. He added that he had gone into hiding for fear of his life.

"This is the new Iraq," said Mr. Tamimi, a secular engineer with no party affiliation. "They use force to achieve their goal."

Turmoil: Political crisis gripped the southern Iraqi town of Samawa on Wednesday as the ousted regional governor refused to resign, the provincial council chief quit and another official said gunmen had threatened him.

The uncertainty came in the wake of protests over public services that erupted on Sunday. Police fired into the crowd of hundreds, killing one person and wounding 40.

A day later, regional council members voted to oust governor Mohammed al-Hassaani, head of Muthanna province, one of 18 Iraqi regions, after the protesters had demanded his resignation in the town where 550 Japanese troops are stationed.

But local government officials said on Wednesday Hassaani, backed by a leading Shi'ite Islamist party in the national government, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), has kept showing up for work, insisting there were not enough members of the local legislature present to vote him out.

Murder: Every couple of weeks in the town of Az Zubayr, a Sunni turns up dead.

The pattern is the same. One day, someone in a police uniform drives up and abducts the victim and a few days later their body is found in the river near a bridge on the northeastern side of town, toward Basrah in southern Iraq.

In some cases, the victim`s name shows up on police prison rolls as having been arrested, suggesting some level of police involvement in the killings, said Maj. Freddie Grounds, 35, commander of the Royal Anglian Regiment`s B Company.

Fanatics and extremists: Quietly, in their ones and twos, the professional classes of Baghdad are slipping out of the country to avoid becoming another fatal statistic.

Iraq is losing the educated elite of doctors, lawyers, academics and businessmen who are vital to securing a stable future. There is a fear that their departure will leave a vacuum to be filled by religious extremists.

Outside the shelter of the Green Zone, home to the American and Iraqi political leadership, lawlessness has overtaken the capital.

Professor Abdul Sattar Jawad, the head of English literature at Baghdad University, will leave next month to take up a post in Jordan. Two of his colleagues left recently after being intimidated.

Since the new Government came to power in April there have been up to 3000 civilian deaths, about half attributed to criminal activity.

"I love my country but I am unable to do any service for the people because it is overrun by fanatics and extremists," Professor Jawad said. "The streets are ruled by gangs, looters and goons."

Flight to safety: Each morning before dawn, hundreds of Arabs from southern Iraq gather near a mosque in this northern Kurdish city hoping to find work on one of scores of construction sites dotting the landscape. What began 18 months ago as a trickle of poor, unemployed young men moving north to find work and escape violence in predominantly Arab areas has now turned into a rapid stream. And it's no longer just the poor and jobless fleeing. Professionals -- including doctors, engineers and teachers -- are following them, desperate to escape the chaos tearing cities such as Baghdad, Basra, Baquba and Hilla apart. "I came here for safety, and for my family," says Dr Ali Alwan, 40, an eye specialist who moved from the southern city of Basra to Sulaimaniya in late 2003 and has since encouraged dozens of former colleagues to follow him. "Here it is a wonderful life. The children are in school, my wife is happy and there is good work," he says. "I don't think I will ever return to Basra."

Dead journalists: In its second appeal in three days for the protection of journalists in Iraq, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) today condemned the murder of an Iraqi television producer, noting that 80 journalists or support staff have been killed in the strife-torn country since the start of the war in 2003. Adnan Al Bayati, who was killed at home in Baghdad in the presence of his wife and daughter on 23 July, had been working for Italian television stations Rai, Mediaset and TG3, and for the magazine Panorama.

Risky business: Islamic militants threatened to kill him for it, but Abu Mustafa says it was the only way he knew to make a living in the chaos that is Baghdad Wednesday.

The pornographic video salesman is among many traders caught between two faces of the new Iraq, one liberated from the state censorship of Saddam Hussein, the other gripped by religious zeal.

Relentless guerrilla violence has killed thousands of Iraqis, ravaged the economy and pushed up unemployment, forcing people like Abu Mustafa to scramble for a job.

But like the tens of thousands signing up for the new, U.S. -trained police and army, selling pornography has become an especially high-risk profession in Iraq, where a religious Shi'ite-led government swept to power in January, raising fears in some quarters of an Islamic state modeled after Iran.


Shattered minds: Pfc. Steven Sherwood was declared mentally fit by the Army only a few days before he killed his wife and then himself at their home in Fort Collins, officials said Monday.

Fort Carson officials said he showed no signs of trouble when he was examined after returning from Iraq, where he had been for nearly a year. But then nine days later, Sherwood shot his wife, Sara, five times before he turned a gun on himself.

The independent National Gulf War Service Center estimates that nearly 90 armed forces personnel have committed suicide while serving in Iraq or Afghanistan or after returning home.

Shattered bodies: His real injuries were almost as bad as the ones he hallucinated. He had a broken femur, broken jaw, broken cheekbone. His right calf was blown away. Also, his right ear couldn't hear and his right eye couldn't see.

He spent a month and a half at Walter Reed. The doctors wired his jaw shut, put a metal rod in his leg, did nine hours of surgery on his eye, reconstructed his calf, and did skin grafts.

"I've had way too many surgeries to count," he says.

One day a nurse came in to ask Rodgers if he wanted to meet President Bush, who was visiting the hospital. Rodgers declined.

"I don't want anything to do with him," he explains. "My belief is that his ego is getting people killed and mutilated for no reason -- just his ego and his reputation. If we really wanted to, we could pull out of Iraq. Maybe not completely but enough that we wouldn't be losing people -- at least not at this rate. So I think he himself is responsible for quite a few American deaths."

Rodgers says he also declined to meet Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Condoleezza Rice. This wounded soldier has lost faith in his leaders, and he no longer believes their repeated assurances of victory.

"It's gonna go on as long as we're there," he says. "There's always gonna be insurgents trying to blow us up. There's just too many of 'em that are willing to do it. You're never gonna catch all of 'em. And it seems like they have unlimited amounts of ammunition. So I don't think it's ever gonna end."

Shattered trust: American attitudes toward the war in Iraq continue to sour in the wake of last week's surge in U.S. troop deaths, a USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Poll shows.

An unprecedented 57% majority say the war has made the USA more vulnerable to terrorism. A new low, 34%, say it has made the country safer. The question is critical because the Bush administration has long argued that the invasion of Iraq was undertaken to make the USA safer from terrorism.

The poll of 1,004 adults, taken Friday through Sunday, also finds that one in three say the United States should withdraw all troops from Iraq - another new high. The proportion that support maintaining troop levels or sending more troops also rose a bit, to 41%. The survey's margin of error is +/-3 percentage points.

G. Terry Madonna, a pollster at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pa., says support for the war is eroding in large part because the public sees no end to the U.S. military involvement there.

"You can't go month after month with no sign of progress and little evidence that Iraqi troops are able to defend themselves without public attitudes toward the war deteriorating," Madonna says. "It has been seven months since the Iraqi elections, and most of the news since then has been bad."


Editorial: The mindset that justifies classifying "faulty maintenance" as a state secret is what ties these two cases together. Somewhere in between Edmonds and Greenhouse is an alternate history of America for the past four years. Edmonds' information may not have prevented 9/11, but an unbiased investigation might have helped us zero in more completely on the malefactors behind it — which might have made the lies about Iraq's involvement harder to sell. And Greenhouse's case points us to the true governing philosophy of the Bush administration — kleptocracy, except the rulers themselves aren't thieves, they merely condone the practice. Whether Edmonds and Greenhouse are finally and unambiguously vindicated is something we'll have to wait and see. But I'm hopeful, given the fate of another celebrated whistleblower, Colleen Rowley, whose quest to investigate alleged 20th hijacker Zacarias Moussaoui before 9/11 was frustrated at the highest levels of the FBI. She's running for Congress in Minnesota this year. Good for her. These are the kind of people who should be running the government, not running from it.

Opinion: It's getting harder for the president to hide from the human consequences of his actions and to control human sentiment about the war by pulling a curtain over the 1,835 troops killed in Iraq; the more than 13,000 wounded, many shorn of limbs; and the number of slain Iraqi civilians - perhaps 25,000, or perhaps double or triple that. More people with impeccable credentials are coming forward to serve as a countervailing moral authority to challenge Mr. Bush.

Paul Hackett, a Marine major who served in Iraq and criticized the president on his conduct of the war, narrowly lost last week when he ran for Congress as a Democrat in a Republican stronghold in Cincinnati. Newt Gingrich warned that the race should "serve as a wake-up call to Republicans" about 2006.

Selectively humane, Mr. Bush justified his Iraq war by stressing the 9/11 losses. He emphasized the humanity of the Iraqis who desire freedom when his W.M.D. rationale vaporized.

But his humanitarianism will remain inhumane as long as he fails to understand that the moral authority of parents who bury children killed in Iraq is absolute.

Editorial: You probably remember the Tennessee National Guardsman who embarrassed Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld in December. He asked Rumsfeld why he hadn't procured armor to protect his troops.

The real answer: Because you didn't make him.

You allowed the Pentagon and Rumsfeld to pretend armor was no big deal. "You go to war with the Army you have, not the Army you might want," Rumsfeld responded. If you had been paying attention, such a flip answer would have sent Rummy packing.

You allowed the president to remain oblivious. You didn't protest when your congressmen, from both parties, snatched money out of the military budget to pay for pork-barrel projects. You let them protect well-connected contractors even after it was obvious that they weren't up to fixing the problem.

Of course, Rummy, when he visited Iraq, didn't run the 10-mile terror gantlet from the airport to Baghdad in a tinny Humvee. Nope. He was snug inside a Rhino Runner, a reinforced steel bus manufactured by Weston, Fla.-based Labock Technologies. The Pentagon VIPs and private contractors in Iraq know the Rhino, as opposed to the Humvee, will ward off bombs. The Pentagon brass may ride Rhinos. But they won't certify them. Not for our soldiers.

The military moves No. 1 prisoner Saddam Hussein around in a Rhino. Our soldiers get something far inferior.

And that's on you.

Truly armored vehicles like the Rhino Runner would cut military casualties in half and eliminate the insurgency's most effective weapon.

But Americans, so very bored with Iraq, have been preoccupied with gay marriage, John Bolton's disposition, the outing of Valerie Plame and Carrie's chances on "American Idol."

Unfortunately, armoring military vehicles doesn't fit on either side of America's political divide. It's not a liberal or conservative issue, not Democrat vs. Republican. Doesn't matter if you were for the war or against the war. Americans, and their advocacy groups, can't seem to get excited about an issue unless it pits them against a known political enemy.

So you didn't raise hell when 14 young Marines perished in an amphibious landing craft in the middle of the damn desert.

Their deaths are on you.

Casualty Reports

Local story: Confluence, PA, soldier killed by a sniper in Mosul on the day after his nineteenth birthday.

Local story: Martinez, CA, Marine killed by sniper near Ramadi.

Local story: South Omaha, NE, Marine killed in Iraq nine months ago honored by neighborhood association.

Local story: Bogalusa, OH, Marine killed in explosion in Iraq to be interred in local cemetery.

Local story: Milford Township, PA, soldier killed in bomb blast north of Baghada.

Local story: Toronto, OH, Marine killed last week in an ambush in western Iraq.

Local story: Tallmadge, OH, Marine killed in Iraq on Aug. 1.

Local story: East Peoria, IL, Marine severely wounded over a month ago died suddenly after an operation.

Local story: Marine with family ties to Fayette County, PA, killed near Haditha last week.

Local story: Lakota, OH, Marine killed last week in Iraq.

Local story: Philadelphia, PA, police officer serving with the National Guard killed in Iraq.

Local story: Phoenix, AZ, soldier killed in bomb blast in Taji.

Local story: Fort Walton Beach, FL, soldier killed in collision with civilian fuel truck in Iraq.

Local story: Ledbetter, KY, soldier killed in collision with civilian fuel truck in Iraq.

Local story: Philadelphia, PA, soldier killed in roadside bombing north of Baghdad.

Local story: Lexington, KY, Marine killed in suicide bombing near Al Amiriyah.

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


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