Wednesday, September 07, 2005

War News for Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Bring ‘em on: Three Iraqi civilians killed and one wounded in suicide car bombing near Doura oil refinery in southern Baghdad.

Bring ‘em on: Four American security contractors killed in bomb attack aimed at a US diplomatic convoy in Basra. Bodies of three unidentified men, riddled with bullets and with their hands tied behind their backs, found in southern Baghdad. Four Iraqi soldiers killed and five wounded when their checkpoint came under fire near Khalis. A police colonel killed and three police commandos wounded when their patrol was attacked by gunmen west of Baghdad. Seven civilians wounded in car bombing apparently aimed at a US convoy in Baghdad, no word on US casualties.

Bring ‘em on: Pipeline carrying oil from a field near Khanaqin on the Iranian border bombed, interrupting a source of crude to Baghdad's Dora refinery. (Last sentence)

Bring ‘em on: Iraqi Major General, the director general of the Iraqi defense ministry, assassinated by gunmen in Baghdad’s Dora neighborhood.

Bring ‘em on: At least seven Iraqi civilians killed and 13 wounded in ongoing fighting in Tal Afar. One US soldier killed when his vehicle was struck by a bomb, apparently also in Tal Afar. (These reports are datelined September 7 but may refer to incidents reported in yesterday’s post.) Iraqi forces begin the compulsory evacuation of the town’s central Saray district.

Bring ‘em on: At least one US soldier killed in Fallujah. (Note: This article supplies no details and at time of post I am unable to find any corroborating stories.)

Bring ‘em on: Three US soldiers wounded, one critically, and their Humvee set afire in IED attack on the Mohammed al-Qasim highway in eastern Baghdad.

Bring ‘em on: One US soldier killed in roadside bombing in Ramadi. Eleven insurgents killed and four wounded by US forces in Balad. Iraqi army officer shot dead by gunman in Dhuluiya. Oil pipeline carrying crude from Beiji to Baghdad set on fire. Kidnapped Interior Ministry engineer freed by Iraqi police after a brief firefight and two kidnappers captured.

Diverted attention: Hurricane Katrina’s devastating blow has put a spotlight on the military’s helping hand and largely diverted Americans’ attention from the mix of grim and hopeful events playing out in Iraq.

Even as thousands more troops poured into Louisiana and Mississippi on Tuesday to accelerate the search and rescue of stranded Katrina survivors, military officials in Iraq reported the deaths of four more U.S. troops and Marine jets bombed targets near the Syrian border where al-Qaida has expanded its presence.

At a Pentagon news conference Tuesday, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld stressed that the enormous effort being made in hurricane relief will not diminish the military’s ability to fight wars in Iraq or Afghanistan.

During the news conference no one asked about developments in Iraq, such as the airstrikes near the border city of Qaim, major parts of which have fallen under control of al-Qaida-linked foreign fighters.

Iraqi officials and residents say al-Qaida in Iraq, led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, has taken over parts of Qaim.

Tal Afar: U.S. jets bombed targets Tuesday near the Syrian border where al-Qaida has expanded its presence, and civilians fled fighting in the northern city of Tal Afar, complaining they were running short of food and water.

The airstrikes took place near Karabilah, about 185 miles west of Baghdad and one of a cluster of towns near the Syrian border used by foreign fighters to slip into Iraq.

Elsewhere, thousands of civilians fled Tal Afar, a predominantly ethnic Turkomen city 260 miles northwest of Baghdad where U.S. and Iraqi soldiers are trying to wrest control from insurgents.

Plumes of smoke rose from the city, which sits along a major trade and smuggling route to Syria. Ambulances were seen carrying at least 10 wounded civilians toward nearby Mosul.

Standoff: On one side of the concertina wire lining an avenue stood 100 U.S. troops, five Bradley fighting vehicles and two M1-A1 Abrams tanks. Across the street were about 1,000 men, women and children of this embattled northwestern city. The military had warned in leaflets dropped by helicopter and messages played over loudspeakers Tuesday morning that they would soon raid the insurgent-controlled neighborhood of Sarai, east of the city center, and asked civilians to evacuate through checkpoints in the southern part of the city. But the Sarai residents, most of them Sunni Turkmens, insisted they either flee northward, or remain in their homes, come what may. After an eight-hour standoff marked by a cycle of negotiation, miscommunication, occasional gunfire and flashes of anger, one family, about 17 people, agreed to leave the city with a military escort, after a U.S. commander gave the crowd "one final chance." The rest retreated into Sarai, vowing to take their chances with the assault.

A reporter’s account: Long before last week`s offensive by U.S. and Iraqi forces against insurgent holdouts in Tall `Afar, the U.S. military knew it had a problem there and reached out to tribal leaders.

Just days before the offensive began, United Press International`s Pam Hess visited the town -- and provides this unique account of the efforts by one U.S. military commander to win the complex struggle for hearts and minds.

Contractors: Attacks on contractors working on U.S.-funded projects in August reached one of the highest levels in the past year.

Insurgents killed seven contractors and injured 11 last month, according to the U.S. Project and Contracting Office in Baghdad. Sixteen more contractors were suspected or confirmed kidnapped.

"August was real bad," said Karen Durham-Aguilera, director of programs in the contracting office. "We've had to stop projects because of it."

August was the second most violent month since the contracting office began keeping records on the violence in September 2004. The worst was November, with nine deaths.

Three Men In Iraq

Asaad: Asaad, an explosives expert with the Interior Ministry, was killed last week, not by bomb shrapnel but from a gunshot wound to the gut.

Gunmen ambushed him down the road from his home in southern Baghdad on Aug. 30. Officials are investigating the incident but believe Asaad was targeted by insurgents because of his job, said Brig. Hussein Muhssin, his supervisor.

Asaad was the eighth person in his unit to be killed either by bombs or insurgents. "I lost one of the best members of our department," Muhssin said. "He was so devoted to his work, very daring, brave and smart. But he was always in a rush. I warned him so many times our work needs to be cautious, accurate."

Asaad, 38, was part of the 13-member Criminal Investigations Directorate/Explosives Ordnance Detachment. He was paid the equivalent of $330 month, a large salary by Iraqi standards, to disarm roadside bombs and car bombs discovered before they detonated.

Beilman: It's the beginning of the work week in northern Iraq, and Greg Beilman is pretty sure that someone is getting hurt.

"It's Sunday. They're blowing themselves up," Beilman predicts.

He knows that because it's his job to patch up the people caught up in this country's violent insurgency.

In civilian life, the 46-year-old Army Reserve colonel is a trauma surgeon and critical care doctor from Minneapolis, Minn. But for the last three months, Beilman has been a surgeon at the 228th Combat Support Hospital stationed near Tikrit.

Hallums: Roy Hallums, an American contractor held by Iraqi insurgents, has been rescued by the U.S. military after being held on a farm near Fallujah, CNN reported.

Hallums, who has been in captivity since Nov. 1, has contacted his family to tell them that he is heading home, CNN reported.

The circumstances of his rescue weren't immediately known, CNN said.

Iraqi Politics

“Really unwise”: Iraq's main Shi'ite and Sunni Muslim sects abandoned efforts to amend a draft constitution on Tuesday and a version rejected by many Sunnis will be printed.

``The talks have ended. We did not reach any agreement on making changes to the draft. It will be printed in the form it was read to the National Assembly last week,'' Bahaa al-Araji, a member of the parliamentary drafting committee, told Reuters.

``No changes will be made,'' he said, adding that five million copies will be printed, starting on Thursday.

Sunnis have felt increasingly marginalized since a U.S.-led war ousted Saddam in 2003 and a Shi'ite- and Kurdish-led government came to power.

Most Sunnis did not vote in a January election, though many are now registering for the constitutional referendum and another parliamentary election expected in December.

Many Sunni leaders have vowed to ensure the draft constitution is rejected in its present form.

``We are ... very sad that they took this decision even though they know what will happen to this country if they pass it in this form,'' Saleh al-Mutlak, a senior negotiator for Sunni Arabs, told Reuters.

``If the constitution gets a 'Yes' then Iraqis who reject it will say that the results were falsified. The situation will be bad politically and the security situation might get out of control. If the constitution gets the two thirds 'No' in three provinces, sectarian tension will increase.''

``They were really unwise to take this decision.''

Hussein confesses?: Saddam Hussein has confessed that he gave orders to execute thousands of Kurds in the late 1980s, according to Iraqi President Jalal Talabani.

In an interview with Iraq's state-funded broadcaster al-Iraqiya, Talabani said he had spoken to one of the Iraqi Special Tribunal judges involved in the investigation who said that "he was able to take important confessions from Saddam Hussein and he has signed these confessions and there is video and audio for these confessions."

Talabani said the judge told him that Saddam confessed that he gave orders for the executions and military operations directed against Kurds in what came to be called the Anfal campaign.

Talabani refuted charges that the current government was exerting political pressure to expedite the trial, saying, "The Iraqi judiciary will sentence Saddam with what it sees suitable. There is no political order."

Not exactly: Former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein acknowledged ordering deadly retribution against Kurds in the north of the country and boasted that the killings were legal and justified, an official of the Iraqi Special Tribunal said Wednesday. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the case, said Saddam made the statement last month during questioning in preparation for his trial before the tribunal scheduled to begin Oct. 19.

Late Tuesday, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani said in a TV interview that Saddam had confessed to killings and other "crimes" committed during his regime, including the Anfal operation.

But Abdel Haq Alani, a legal consultant for Saddam's family, said Talabani's allegations sounded like the president was trying to prejudice the trial. "Let's not have a trial on TV. Let the court of law, not the media, make its ruling on this," Alani said. The tribunal official's remarks appeared to diminish Talabani's claim of a Saddam confession by saying the former Iraqi leader only acknowledged taking retribution, which was legal under his regime.

What Kind Of Callous Piece Of Crap Would Write This In A High School Sports Story?

"When she played volleyball for Loudoun Valley High, Kristen Karlson racked up more kills than a Marine fire team in Fallujah, leading the team to a three-year record of 93-2 and state championships in her junior and senior year."

The reporter’s name is JJ Ebro, writing for the Faquier Times-Democrat. What a shame we have to share oxygen with such a heartless dick. Some days I just want to wash my hands of the whole damn country…

Three Delusions And A Dash Of Reality

Someone doesn’t understand: The military's growing response to hurricane relief efforts in Louisiana and Mississippi will not hamper its ability to fight the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Tuesday.

While the Pentagon has accelerated the return from Afghanistan and Iraq of more than 2,800 soldiers from Louisiana- and Mississippi-based units, Rumsfeld said troop deployment levels will meet the needs of the commanders.

"Let me be clear: We have the forces, the capability and the intention to fully prosecute the global war on terror while responding to this unprecedented humanitarian crisis here at home. We can and will do both," Rumsfeld told a Pentagon news conference.

Rumsfeld was asked about criticism from some who say the commitment of large numbers of troops to the Iraq conflict, including National Guard soldiers from Louisiana and Mississippi, hindered the military's response to Hurricane Katrina.

"Anyone who's saying that doesn't understand the situation," he replied.

Wahoo! We’re winning! The military told me so!: Rep. Mike Pence said that spending two days in Iraq convinced him the United States is winning the war there.

But Pence, R-Ind., also said troop levels must increase modestly in the next six weeks to prepare for expected violence related to the Oct. 15 constitutional referendum. And, he said, the U.S. can't withdraw its 140,000 troops until Iraq has trained at least twice as many of its own soldiers as it has to date.

Pence, a strong supporter of the war from the beginning, spent Sunday and Monday in Iraq with four other lawmakers. The group met with U.S. troops and commanders, including Gen. John Abizaid, who heads Central Command.

Pence said he shared concerns he heard during a recent visit to the American Legion hall in Selma, Ind.

"All they hear is that Americans are being killed. They don't feel like there's progress. They don't feel like there's a plan," Pence said he told Abizaid. "He was adamant about saying, 'There's a plan. We're working the plan. . . . We're defeating the enemy.' "

Projectile vomit: I was going to spend some time deconstructing this because it is truly ripe for ripping apart but I just couldn’t do it. I’m supposed to watch my blood pressure and this was about to make my eyes bleed. But for those of you with the stomach for it here is Sean Hannity’s interview with Donald Rumsfeld on the subject of how everything that could be done for New Orleans was done and anyone who says otherwise is a liberal traitor, all on a website paid for with your tax dollars. Enjoy.

The American people don’t buy it: Two separate Gallup polls, detailed today in the organization's weekly report, show that Americans favor withdrawing some or all U.S. troops from Iraq. Perhaps most revealing was a new poll which asked 1,007 Americans, "If you could talk with President Bush for 15 minutes about the situation in Iraq, what would you, personally, advise him to do?" The poll taken in late August found that 41% said they would tell him to pull troops out of Iraq and end our involvement there. Far behind in second place (18%) was to finish what we started or be more aggressive. Another 7% advised coming up with an exit strategy. A separate Gallup poll found that 53% of Americans favor a reduction of U.S. troops in Iraq. This includes 26% who prefer withdrawing all troops. In the same survey, only 40% of Americans approve, while 59% disapprove of the way Bush is handling Iraq. Fifty-three percent of Americans think going to war in Iraq was a mistake, similar to the 54% who said this in early August.


Blowback: Government officials in Riyadh dismiss talk of attacks on the oil pipelines as a scare tactic, arguing that, because Saudi security forces have killed or arrested dozens of al-Qaeda operatives, bin Laden's ability to influence events inside the kingdom has diminished. That may be true, and there is no denying the Saudi government's multiple counterterrorism successes. Yet, although attacks on the heavily guarded oil-pumping facilities are indeed unlikely, smaller incidents remain possible along the kingdom's more than 10,000-mile pipeline network. In his message to Saudi militants, bin Laden's main aim did not appear to be the destruction of major installations, which would rob the Saudi people of their primary means of financial income and turn them completely against him and his cause, but rather acts of sabotage that would increase oil prices, which he said should be $100 a barrel. Saudi Arabia has more than a quarter of the world's known oil reserves, and even an abortive attack on the Saudi petroleum network would raise oil prices. It also would dramatically increase concerns in Washington about the al-Saud family's ability to maintain stability. Adding to concerns about the impact of bin Laden's tape is the knowledge that the thousands of Saudi jihadis who have snuck over to Iraq are likely to return to the kingdom once Iraq stabilizes. They will have been trained in urban warfare, including instruction on how to sabotage oil pipelines. As was the case after the fall of the Taliban in Afghanistan, these Saudis are going to bring their terrorism back home with them. A confidential Interior Ministry document obtained by a London-based Saudi dissident group apparently acknowledges that 200 Saudis may have already returned to the kingdom in the wake of bin Laden's call. What happens next will largely determine al-Qaeda's future in Saudi Arabia. "We expect the worst from those who went to Iraq," Prince Naif said in remarks published in July. "They will be worse [than those who have already launched attacks], and we will be ready for them." There are troubling signs; the tactics employed by the Iraqi insurgents are evident in the attacks on Westerners in Saudi Arabia. Copycat incidents include the dragging of Westerners' bodies from the back of cars, the use of assassinations to sabotage the vital oil sector, and kidnappings. The ideological bonds that bind the insurgents in Iraq and Saudi Arabia were made explicit by those who beheaded Johnson in Riyadh when they signed their claim of responsibility "the Fallujah Brigade". In an attack in which six Westerners and a Saudi were killed in Yanbu, militants dragged the body of one of the victims into a local school playground and forced students to watch. "Come join your brothers in Fallujah," they shouted, in reference to the city where four US contractors had been similarly slain. The al-Qaeda cell that attacked foreigners in Khobar also dragged the body of a Westerner through the streets from a car. The leader of the group said on an Islamic website afterward that a subsidiary of Halliburton had been singled out for attack because "it has a role in Iraq". The flow of Saudi jihadis to Iraq benefits the al-Saud regime in the short term, at least in the sense that, if they are blowing themselves up in Baghdad, they will not be doing so in Riyadh. Yet, there is potential for long-term blowback, just as there was when the "Afghan Arabs" returned from Afghanistan in the 1990s.


Comment: It was pure happenstance that the first big bi-partisan conference in Washington on terrorism and U.S. security policies, timed for the 4th anniversary of the original Sept. 11 attacks, should have coincided with the devastation of New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina.

But the parallels were swiftly drawn.

California Congresswoman Jane Harman, senior Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, told the conference Tuesday that New Orleans 'looked like it had been the victim of attack by a weapon of mass destruction.'

The obvious point was repeatedly stressed by various speakers: The Sept. 11 attacks were supposed to have shocked America into taking better precautions against similar disasters, natural or man-made. And on the evidence of New Orleans, the tens of billions of dollars spent on the new Department of Homeland Security and first responders did not do much good against a storm that came with 5 days advance warning.

Opinion: Over the Labor Day weekend, along with all Americans, I watched with increasing horror the destruction in one of our greatest cities of purely American culture. I was haunted by the idea that there was some strange, yet abiding, connection between the mass suffering in New Orleans and the mass deaths of pilgrims in Iraq.

I kept wanting to deny it -- the two were far removed, and no one, especially a columnist, should reach too far, lest her attentive readers pull her back with a jerk. Yet the idea persisted.

There, in beautiful New Orleans, despite persistent and recent warnings of this long-anticipated and long-feared hurricane and flood, the scale of the misery of its people was surpassed only by the lassitude of federal, state and local officials.

Halfway across the world -- but now relegated to the inner pages of the newspapers -- two events took place in Iraq that we ignore at our peril. First, up to 1,000 Shiite pilgrims were killed the Wednesday before Labor Day during a march to a beloved shrine when someone shouted the fearful words "suicide bomber" and the crowd panicked. Second, in a story that would have made the front page in any other week, it was reported that radical Islamic insurgents had moved back into the city of Tal Afar in Iraq, which American officials believed they had pacified over the last year; as well, all but a few dozen local police officers quit, with many going to side with the radicals.

So what was it about these two deeply disturbing events, so far apart, so remote, that strangely connected them?

Both find their genesis in deliberate American actions: one, the execrable incompetence in the war in Iraq; the other, the disorganization and chaotic nature of the response (if we could call it that, before the fifth day) to New Orleans. Both illustrate the extent to which our government (at least this administration) runs on hubris, on the spur of the moment, on shallow thinking and even shallower planning. These events reveal an unwillingness to stand up and be counted when policies are wrong, and a slavish unwillingness on the part of officials to speak out against the White House or the numerous bureaucracies that are busy checkmating one another rather than solving problems.

Opinion: Think of our last two years in Iraq, which has left the world's most powerful military running on baling wire and duct tape, as a kind of coming attractions for Katrina. In fact, so many bizarre connections or parallels are suggested by the Bush administration's war in Iraq as to stagger the imagination. Here are just six of the parallels that immediately came to my mind:

1. Revelations of unexpected superpower helplessness: A single catastrophic war against a modest-sized, not particularly dramatically armed minority insurgency in one oil land has brought the planet's mightiest military to a complete, grinding, disastrous halt and sent its wheels flying off in all directions. A single not-exactly-unexpected hurricane leveling a major American city and the coastlines of two states, has brought the emergency infrastructure of the world's mightiest power to a complete, grinding, disastrous halt and sent its wheels flying off in all directions.

2. Planning ignored: It's now notorious that the State Department did copious planning for a post-invasion, occupied Iraq, all of which was ignored by the Pentagon and Bush administration neocons when the country was taken. In New Orleans, it's already practically notorious that endless planning, disaster war-gaming, and the like were done for how to deal with a future "Atlantis scenario," none of which was attended to as Katrina bore down on the southeastern coast.

3. Lack of Boots on the ground: It's no less notorious that, from the moment before the invasion of Iraq when General Eric Shinseki told a congressional committee that "several hundred thousand troops" would minimally be needed to successfully occupy Iraq and was more or less laughed out of Washington, Donald Rumsfeld's new, lean, mean military has desperately lacked boots on the ground (hence those Louisiana and Mississippi National Guards off in Iraq). Significant numbers of National Guard only made it to New Orleans on the fifth and sixth days after Katrina struck and regular military boots-on-the-ground have been few and far between. No Pentagon help was pre-positioned for Katrina and, typically enough, the Navy hospital ship Comfort, scheduled to help, had not left Baltimore harbor by Friday morning for its many day voyage to the Gulf.

4. Looting: The inability (or unwillingness) to deploy occupying American troops to stem a wave of looting that left the complete administrative, security, and even cultural infrastructure of Baghdad destroyed is now nearly legendary, as is Donald Rumsfeld's response to the looting at the time. ("Freedom's untidy, and free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things. They're also free to live their lives and do wonderful things. And that's what's going to happen here." To which he added, on the issue of the wholesale looting of Baghdad, "Stuff happens.") In New Orleans, the President never declared martial law while, for days, gangs of armed looters along with desperate individuals abandoned and in need of food and supplies of all kinds, roamed the city uncontested as buildings began to burn.

What, facing this crisis, did the Bush administration actually do? The two early, symbolic actions it took were typical. Neither would have a significant effect on the immediate situation at hand, but both forwarded long-term administration agendas that had little to do with Katrina or the crisis in the southeastern United States: First, the Environmental Protection Agency announced that it was relaxing pollution standards on gasoline blends in order to counteract the energy crisis Katrina had immediately put on the table. This was, of course, but a small further step in the gutting of general environmental, clean air and pollution laws that strike hard at another kind of safety net -- the one protecting our planet. And second, its officials began to organize a major operation out of Northcom, Joint Task Force Katrina, to act as the military's on-scene command in "support" of an enfeebled FEMA. The U.S. Northern Command was set up by the Bush administration in 2002 and ever since has been prepared to take on ever larger, previously civilian tasks on our home continent. (As the Northcom site quotes the President as saying, "There is an overriding and urgent mission here in America today, and that's to protect our homeland. We have been called into action, and we've got to act.")

There were to be swift boats in the Gulf and Green Berets at the New Orleans airport, and yet Donald Rumsfeld's new, stripped-down, high-tech military either couldn't (or wouldn't) deploy any faster to New Orleans than it did to Baghdad, perhaps because it had already been so badly torn up and stressed out in Iraq (and had left most of its local "first responders" there).

5. Nation-building: As practically nobody remembers, George Bush in his first run for the presidency humbly eschewed the very idea of "nation-building" abroad. That was only until he sent the Pentagon blasting into Iraq. Over two years and endless billions of dollars later -- the Iraq War now being, on a monthly basis, more expensive than Vietnam -- the evidence of the administration's nation-building success in its "reconstruction" of Iraq is at hand for all to see. That country is now a catastrophe beyond imagining without repair in sight. (For Baghdad, think New Orleans without water, but with a full-scale insurgency.) So as the Pentagon ramps up in its ponderous manner to launch a campaign in the United States and as the Marines finally land in the streets of New Orleans, don't hold your breath about either the Pentagon's or the administration's nation-building skills in the U.S. (But count on "reconstruction" contracts going to Halliburton.) If Rumsfeld's Pentagon -- where so much of our money has gone in recent years -- turns out to be even a significant factor in the "reconstruction" of New Orleans, we'll never have that city back.

6. Predictions: Given the last two years in which the President as well as top administration officials have regularly insisted that we had reached the turning point, or turned that corner, or hit the necessary tipping point in Iraq, that success or progress or even victory was endlessly at hand (and then at hand again and then again), consider what we should think of the President's repeated statements of Katrina "confidence," his insistence that his administration can deal successfully with the hurricane's aftereffects and is capable of overseeing the successful rebuilding of New Orleans. ("All Americans can be certain our nation has the character, the resources, and the resolve to overcome this disaster. We will comfort and care for the victims. We will restore the towns and neighborhoods that have been lost in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. We'll rebuild the great city of New Orleans. And we'll once again show the world that the worst adversities bring out the best in America.")

As an aside, one great difference between the American public's experience of the Iraqi War and of the aftermath of Katrina shouldn't be overlooked. This time, our reporters weren't embedded with the troops, and so weren't experiencing mainly the administration's artificially-created version of reality. Instead, they made it to the distressed areas of the southeastern U.S. way ahead of the troops, remained in their absence, saw unreconstructed, unspun reality for themselves, and were generally outraged. So, for instance, when Homeland Security Chief Michael Chertoff made ridiculous claims about what the government had accomplished, reporters were able to say, emphatically, that his version was a lie and other Americans knew it was so, because they had seen it for themselves.

Opinion: This time we can actually see the bodies.

As the water recedes, more and more decaying bodies will testify to the callous and stumblebum administration response to Katrina's rout of 90,000 square miles of the South.

The Bush administration bungled the Iraq occupation, arrogantly throwing away State Department occupation plans and CIA insurgency warnings. But the human toll of those mistakes has not been as viscerally evident because the White House pulled a curtain over the bodies: The president has avoided the funerals of soldiers, and the Pentagon has censored the coffins of the dead coming home and never acknowledges the number of Iraqi civilians killed.

But this time, the bodies of those who might have been saved between Monday and Friday, when the president failed to rush the necessary resources to a disaster that his own general describes as "biblical," or even send in the 82nd Airborne, are floating up in front of our eyes.

New Orleans' literary lore and tourist lure was its fascination with the dead and undead, its lavish annual Halloween party, its famous above-ground cemeteries, its love of vampires and voodoo and zombies. But now that the city is decimated, reeking with unnecessary death and destruction, the restless spirits of New Orleans will haunt the White House.

The administration's foreign policy is entirely constructed around American self-love - the idea that the United States is superior, that we are the model everyone looks up to, that everyone in the world wants what we have.

But when people around the world look at Iraq, they don't see freedom. They see chaos and sectarian hatred. And when they look at New Orleans, they see glaring incompetence and racial injustice, where the rich white people were saved and the poor black people were left to die hideous deaths. They see some conservatives blaming the poor for not saving themselves. So much for W.'s "culture of life."

The president won re-election because he said that the war in Iraq and the Homeland Security Department would make us safer. Hogwash.

W.'s 2004 convention was staged like "The Magnificent Seven" with the Republicans' swaggering tough guys - from Rudy Giuliani to Arnold Schwarzenegger to John McCain - riding in to save an embattled town.

These were the steely-eyed gunslingers we needed to protect us, they said, not those sissified girlie-men Democrats. But now it turns out that W. can't save the town, not even from hurricane damage that everyone has been predicting for years, much less from unpredictable terrorists.

Opinion: Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld and Rice and Chertoff and the others simply have got to go, along with the other fools and criminals down there in his bunker. Bush and Cheney either must be encouraged by GOP powerbrokers to resign, or they must be impeached. They each took a solemn oath to protect and defend the Constitution and all American citizens. They have shredded the Constitution -- in the name of "anti-terrorism," they have denuded the Bill of Rights -- and they have clearly demonstrated that they are incapable of protecting the citizenry, either in Iraq or here at home. Clear dereliction of duty. Indeed, they have, for their own partisan purposes, revealed the identity of a covert CIA agent -- a crime that according to President George H. W. Bush is "traitorous"; indictments are expected shortly against key Bush Administration officials involved in this case. In addition, the Administration has "disappeared" American citizens into the military gulag, away from contact with lawyers or their families. This is the behavior of dictators; when it happens in African or Latin American countries, we are outraged. Folks, it's happening right here. You and I, no matter for whom we voted in 2004, need to stop these incompetent fools from doing even more damage, and get this country back on its moral track, run by leaders who have something else on their minds other than power-hunger and take-the-money-and-run. Bush and Cheney should resign voluntarily right now, in the best interests of the country. If they don't choose to go, it's long past time for impeachment hearings to begin and for local prosecutors and grand juries (perhaps in New Orleans parishes) to start their own investigations and indictments, and not depend solely on Congress for accountability-reckoning. That's the message that needs to go out from all of us, Democrats and Republicans, to our legislators.

Casualty Reports

Local story: Baldwin County, AL, soldier killed when his tank was struck by an explosive in Baghdad.

Local story: Ada Township, MN, soldier killed in a roadside bombing south of Baghdad.

Local story: Forest Lake, MN, soldier killed following a vehicle crash in Iraq.

Local story: Cameron, NC, soldier killed in Iraq.

Local story: Knoxville, TN, soldier killed in vehicle rollover accident in Iraq.

Local story: Eagle River, AK, soldier killed in roadside bombing in Fallujah.

Local story: Las Vegas, NV, soldier killed in Tal Afar.


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?