Tuesday, September 06, 2005

War News for Tuesday, September 6, 2005

Bring ‘em on: At least eight Iraqi civilians, including five children, killed in ongoing fighting in Tal Afar. Bodies of three community leaders found in Tal Afar. US fighter planes dropped bombs and fired missiles at insurgent positions near Balad. Son of the governor of Anbar province abducted by gunmen in Ramadi.

Bring ‘em on: Two British soldiers killed in a roadside bombing near Al-Zubair in Basra province.

Bring ‘em on: Eight Iraqi civilians, three Iraqi soldiers, and three insurgents killed, 16 Iraqi soldiers wounded in suicide car bomb attack on a military base in Hit. One civilian killed and four wounded in mortar attack on a residential district in Khalis. Four US soldiers and three civilians wounded in a suicide car bomb attack on a US convoy in Baghdad’s al-Saydiya district. Seven insurgents and two civilians killed and another nine civilians wounded in fighting in Tal Afar (Unclear if these casualties are related to those posted above or in yesterday’s post).

Bring ‘em on: US jets bombed two bridges near Karabilah on the Syrian border in an effort to prevent insurgents from moving fighters and munitions. Two foreign fighters killed and three wounded in a raid in the same vicinity. One ‘Multinational Force’ soldier wounded in the same incident. One US soldier killed Monday in Tal Afar. Two US soldiers killed and two wounded by roadside bomb Tuesday in Tal Afar (Other reports place this attack in Baghdad). At least 10 injured civilians evacuated from Tal Afar.

Bring ‘em on: Four Iraqi soldiers killed and five injured when their vehicle struck a roadside bomb in Khalidiya. Three civilian bystanders killed in the hour-long fight that occurred after the bombing. The city was later sealed off by US forces and 13 suspects were arrested. Six US soldiers injured and their Humvee destroyed in a roadside bombing in Qaim. Two Kurdish pershmerga fighters killed by insurgents in Mosul and 13 suspected insurgents were arrested there.

Tal Afar: More than 5,000 U.S. and Iraqi soldiers entered Tall Afar on Friday in a broad sweep for insurgents who have held sway in the northern city since a previous U.S. invasion, and subsequent withdrawal, last September. In three days of fighting, as many as 200 insurgents have been killed, McMaster said. Two U.S. and four Iraqi soldiers have been wounded, none seriously.

The assault in Tall Afar, considered a transit point and logistics hub for insurgents operating across northern Iraq, is the largest on an Iraqi city since the invasion of Fallujah in November. Commanders say they believe that perhaps a few hundred insurgents remain in the city, but acknowledge that they do not know the exact number. Other than in Fallujah, where entrenched fighters battled advancing U.S. troops, most assaults on Iraqi cities have met little resistance, as insurgents have fled to surrounding areas or blended into the local population.

Qaim: Fighters loyal to militant leader Abu Musab Zarqawi asserted control over the key Iraqi border town of Qaim on Monday, killing U.S. collaborators and enforcing strict Islamic law, according to tribal members, officials, residents and others in the town and nearby villages.

Residents said the foreign-led fighters controlled by Zarqawi, a Jordanian, apparently had been exerting authority in the town, within two miles of the Syrian border, since at least the start of the weekend. A sign posted at an entrance to the town declared, "Welcome to the Islamic Republic of Qaim."

Witnesses in Qaim said Zarqawi's fighters were killing officials and civilians who they consider to be allied with the Iraqi and U.S. governments or anti-Islamic. On Sunday, the bullet-riddled body of a young woman dressed in her nightclothes lay in a street of Qaim. A sign left on her corpse declared, "A prostitute who was punished."

Zarqawi's fighters have shot and killed nine men in public executions in the city center since the start of the weekend, accusing the men of being collaborators with U.S. forces, said Sheik Nawaf Mahallawi, a leader of the Albu Mahal, a Sunni Arab tribe that had clashed earlier with the foreign fighters.

Dozens of families were fleeing Qaim every day, Mahallawi said.

Rendering unto Sistani that which is Sistani’s: U.S. troops today handed military control of the Shiite city of Najaf to Iraqi Forces, in what is the first step in the transfer of security responsibilities across the country, the military said.

A ceremony marking the event took place in Najaf, which lies about 100 miles (160 kilometers) south of Baghdad and is home to top Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, spokeswoman Major Flora Lee said in a telephone interview from the capital. She said she had no further information.

Iraqi troops are now installed in the strategic Forward Operating Base Hotel in southern Najaf and U.S. forces have withdrawn to a base further outside the city, the British Broadcasting Corp. reported on its Web site.

Define ‘withdrawal’: The air force's top general says that U.S. warplanes will have to support Iraq's fledgling security forces well after ground troops eventually withdraw from the country.

The officer, General John Jumper, who is scheduled to step down later this week as the air force chief of staff, predicted Monday that U.S. fighter and reconnaissance aircraft would continue flying missions over Iraq for a long time, until Iraqi forces were capable of fighting insurgents on their own.

"As I see the transition into the hands of the Iraqi military, I will continue to see the need for them to require the support from the air until they're able to set up their own ability to support themselves," Jumper said in a meeting with reporters at the Pentagon. "And that's going to take awhile, even after some future withdrawal of ground forces."

In an interview earlier this month, Jumper was even more explicit when asked about the air force's future in Iraq.

"We will continue with a rotational presence of some type in that area more or less indefinitely," he said then. "We have interests in that part of the world and an interest in staying in touch with the militaries over there."

Sectarian bias?: Iraq's Kurdish president, Jalal Talabani, issued a bitter rhetorical broadside against other Arab countries today, saying they had insulted Iraq by not sending diplomats to Baghdad and had not sent condolence letters about the stampede last week in which almost 1,000 Shiite pilgrims were killed.

The president spoke just after two dozen insurgents staged a brazen dawn raid on the heavily guarded offices of Iraq's Interior Ministry in Baghdad, killing two police officers and wounding five, and two British soldiers were killed by a bomb in southern Iraq.

Speaking at a news conference, Mr. Talabani echoed and amplified complaints by other Iraqi leaders about the Arab states' failure to recognize the stampede, which stunned Iraqis and caused the highest one-day death toll since the American invasion. The complaints, coming largely from Shiites and aimed at the Arab world's Sunni leaders, hinted at a sectarian bias against Iraq, where Shiites are about 60 percent of the population.

"We stood with our Arab brothers in their hard times," Mr. Talabani said. "For instance, we sent a letter expressing our condolences on the terrorist attack which claimed a lot of innocent lives in Sharm el Sheikh."

Grief: Mass funerals were held across Iraq for the nearly a thousand Shiite pilgrims killed in a stampede on a Baghdad bridge as families continued their grim search for missing loved ones. In Baghdad’s main Shiite district of Sadr City, cries of anguish filled the air and hundreds of people beat their chests in grief as death reports continued to trickle in following the tragedy last Wednesday. Some people were diving into the river to search for bodies that fell from the bridge in the crush, while more refrigerated trucks were brought in to handle an overflow at morgues as corpses continued to be brought to the surface. Officials put the toll at (at least) 965 dead and 815 injured in what was by far the largest single loss of life in Iraq since the invasion in March 2003.

The New Iraq draws new entrepreneurs: Dutch police managed early this week to intercept 4,600 kg of cocaine, heading for Iraq, and dismantled the international network behind it, said a release of Holland's General Prosecutor's office.

Dutch police have so far arrested 13 members of the network, who are said to be behind the 4,600 kg of cocaine found in two containers in Rotterdam Port. The amount found, the first of it kind, was estimated at Euro 220 million. Investigators revealed it had come from Venezuela and was heading for Iraq.

My sense is he’s absolutely right: U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Monday that Iraq has become an even greater ``center for terrorist activities'' than Afghanistan under the Taliban.

Annan, speaking to British Broadcasting Corp., said many young Muslims are angry, and their anger has been exacerbated by what is happening in Iraq.

``They feel victimized in their own society; they feel victimized in the West. And they feel there's profiling against them,'' he said. ``And the Iraqi situation has not helped matters.''

``One used to be worried about Afghanistan being the center of terrorist activities. My sense is that Iraq has become a major problem and in fact is worse than Afghanistan,'' he said.

Grim homecoming: A National Guard unit based in New Orleans will return from the war in Iraq on Saturday to deal with the devastation of Hurricane Katrina and the flood that followed, a spokeswoman said on Monday.

"We have got several hundred soldiers that are coming back from a year in combat to this," said Samantha Bingham, a spokeswoman for Fort Polk, an army base northwest of New Orleans.

"Many, many of them are from southern Louisiana," Bingham said in a telephone interview.

Several hundred members of the 2,800-strong 256th Army National Guard's 141st field artillery section are due to return early on Saturday morning, Bingham said.

"That unit was headquartered out of New Orleans," Bingham said.

The members of the unit will be given immediate four-day passes to give them time to figure out their situations, she said.


Opinion: The news that two more British soldiers have been killed in Iraq throws into sharp focus once again the continued abject failure of the US-UK intervention in that miserable country and there is no sign whatsoever of any end to it all.

Sadly, these deaths are only a fraction of the daily death toll Iraqis are suffering. Such is the regularity of murder and mayhem that incidents which leave 20 or 30 people dead are now barely reported in this country and it is only massacres on the scale of last week's stampede that receive any prominence. In many of this morning's papers, the soldiers' deaths do not even lead a page. Life for the troops in Iraq may be better than that of the average Iraqi, but with the ever-present threat of attack it echoes the worst days of IRA activity in the Ulster border bandit country.

But the differences between Ulster and Iraq are massive. Intelligence is poor, the supply lines are long and there is diminishing backing from even the most supportive sectors of the local community.

Comment: This week, the liberal Web site buzzflash.com noted in an unsigned editorial that "not one -- not one -- of any of Bush's children or his nieces and nephews have volunteered for service in any branch of the military or volunteered to serve in any capacity in Iraq. Not one of them has felt the cause was noble enough to put his or her life on the line."

Buzzflash is circulating a petition demanding that "Either the Bush Kids Put Their Lives on the Line for George's 'Noble War' or the Troops Come Home."

Publicity stunt or not, it does raise a question. If the sacrifice is so noble, has the president urged his own children, or enlistment-age nieces and nephews - of which there are eight - to join the military and fight in Iraq?

I called the White House to pose this question and was somewhat surprised to learn that none of the supposed liberal baddies in the White House press corps had ever asked the president or any of his spokespersons that question.

Opinion: President Bush, apparently running out of rationales for the U.S. war in Iraq, has resorted to putting that ill-planned invasion in the same category as World War II.

Bush tried to wrap himself in the aura of Franklin D. Roosevelt last week when he commemorated the 60th anniversary of V-J Day. With public opinion polls showing more and more Americans critical of the Iraq war, Bush used the anniversary ceremonies at the naval air station in San Diego to express concern that Americans might return to a "pre-mindset of isolation and retreat, " indicating that it was the same as the isolationism that Franklin D. Roosevelt encountered before the Pearl Harbor attack.

Making his third speech in a week to rally public support for the war, Bush compared his resolve to FDR's during World War II. He said the U.S. mission in Iraq is to turn that country into a democratic ally, just as the United States did with Japan after World War II.

Bush is off base in making a comparison between the Iraqi conflict and World War II. For one thing, the United States instigated the current war with an unprovoked attack on Iraq.

Opinion: Why does this self-styled "can do" president always lapse into such lame "who could have known?" excuses.

Who on Earth could have known that Osama bin Laden wanted to attack us by flying planes into buildings? Any official who bothered to read the trellis of pre-9/11 intelligence briefs.

Who on Earth could have known that an American invasion of Iraq would spawn a brutal insurgency, terrorist recruiting boom and possible civil war? Any official who bothered to read the CIA's prewar reports.

Who on Earth could have known that New Orleans' sinking levees were at risk from a strong hurricane? Anybody who bothered to read the endless warnings over the years about the Big Easy's uneasy fishbowl.

Editorial: The Bush administration is not alone in having ignored pleas to improve the hurricane and flood defenses of New Orleans. But it bears sole responsibility for a crisis response that has been fairly labeled a national disgrace. FEMA drafted an action plan for a New Orleans flood: pre-position food, supplies and hospital ships for immediate deployment in the aftermath. Brown and Chertoff failed to implement it adequately, pleading that no one could have anticipated a disaster that had in fact been anticipated by engineers, geographers and political leaders for decades. As I write, the Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort remains moored in Baltimore, not to arrive off New Orleans until the end of this week. President Bush will surely feel the consequences of his dereliction. Every policy of his administration will be viewed through the prism of the debacle of New Orleans. The pursuit of a personal vendetta against Saddam Hussein, supported by manipulated intelligence, has sucked billions out of the treasury and removed more than 30% of Louisiana and Mississippi National Guard members from their homes, so they must watch the disaster unfold from half a world away instead of assisting their own communities. Tax cuts for the wealthy have been financed by budget cuts for disaster preparedness and other crucial programs. Four years of anti-terrorism planning have failed to produce a competent system for mitigating a metropolitan cataclysm — one that, on the ground, is indistinguishable from the effects of the terrorist attack we've supposedly been girding for since 9/11. Then there's Bush's sustained assault on social insurance programs such as Social Security, safety nets that are to be replaced by the slogan "You're on your own." New Orleans is not a local calamity; it belongs to us all, not least because it signals what to expect from this administration. If a major earthquake strikes Los Angeles or San Francisco, will President Bush wait to respond until he can conclude his vacation, as he did last week? Will his appointees express surprise at an eventuality that "no one could have predicted"? Probably. George W. Bush is known for never admitting his mistakes. Consequently, he never learns from his mistakes. The chances are dismal that he will learn from this one. We're on our own.

Casualty Report

Local story: Three families receive Gold Star Banners in honor of their deceased sons in Kerrville, TX. Two of the soldiers died in Iraq.


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