Wednesday, September 14, 2005

War News For Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Bring ‘em on: Seven unidentified bodies found in Rustumiya, hands tied and shot in the head. Six civilians killed and two wounded when gunmen attacked an estate agent's office in the Shu'la district of western Baghdad. Two policemen killed and three civilians wounded by gunmen in Kirkuk. At least six Iraqi soldiers killed or wounded by a roadside bomb in Fallujah. A senior judge from the northern Iraqi town of al-Dawr was assassinated with his brother by gunmen in the nearby town of Is'haqi. Iraqi police found the bodies of two Iraqis in the Tigris river running through the town of Balad. An Iraqi contractor working for the U.S. military was found dead 75 km in Iskandiriya, blindfolded and handcuffed. Approximately 2,300 people detained in August on suspicion of supporting or conducting attacks against U.S. and Iraqi forces, the U.S. military said in a statement. It said 1,085 were released the same month, adding that around 50 percent of all suspects detained are freed after investigations find there is insufficient evidence to hold them.

Bring ‘em on: Seventeen men dragged from their homes and shot to death in Taji by men in Iraqi army uniforms. Two US soldiers wounded in suicide car bomb attack on their convoy in eastern Baghdad. Roadside bomb attack on a US convoy in Baghdad, no casualties reported. Six bodies, shot to death, blindfolded, and with bound hands, found near a garbage dump in Taji. Interior Ministry police official shot to death in Baghdad (This may be the Major General reported killed in yesterday’s post. Or maybe not.). Four security contractors wounded in roadside bombing near Basra, some reports identify them as Americans but US officials stated they were not affiliated with the US military mission or coalition forces. Two Kurdish construction workers killed and one wounded in drive-by shooting in southern Baghdad. Bodies of two men, bearing signs of torture, found in southeastern Baghdad.

Bring ‘em on: Five people killed and 22 wounded in a suicide car bombing in the Shula district of Baghdad. Three Iraqi soldiers killed when a car bomb targeted their patrol in the Adel district of western Baghdad.

Bring ‘em on: US airstrikes reported against targets in Haditha and Qaim. Fighting continues in Haditha. Clashes reported between insurgents and coalition forces in Qaim.

Bring ‘em on: 114 people killed and more than 156 wounded in Baghdad in Iraq's second deadliest bombing since the war began. The bomber drew the men to his vehicle with promises of work before detonating the bomb, which contained up to 500 pounds (220 kg) of explosives. Eleven people killed in a car bombing in northern Baghdad as they queued to fill gas canisters.

Scenes from the bombing: The bodies of the dead and the dying lay slumped on the cold tile floors of Baghdad's Kadhimiya hospital on Wednesday, the bloody victims of one of Iraq's deadliest suicide bombings.

Weeping relatives were left to hold up bags of saline for the wounded after equipment ran out in the hospital, one of the city's busiest. Wards overflowed, leaving dozens lying in shock on the floor, desperate for treatment.

The ground was littered with blood-stained bandages and empty plastic bags of medicine, while the corridors echoed with the screams of patients, some of whom lost limbs in the blast.

"Oh Ali! Ali!" cried one man through a grimace, invoking the grandson of the Prophet Mohammad, a revered Shi'ite imam.

Stunned doctors in white coats tried to assess the worst cases and decide who could wait, who needed urgent surgery and for whom it was already too late.

One man, half naked and curled up in a ball on the grime- ridden floor, shook uncontrollably, his body still in shock from the attack. Doctors stepped over him, and the pool of blood around him, as they tended to even worse cases.

The scenes at Kadhimiya were repeated at Yarmouk and at other hospitals and clinics throughout Baghdad -- all those close to the scene of the bombing.

Retaliation for Tal Afar?: A dozen explosions ripped through the Iraqi capital Wednesday, killing at least 152 people and wounding 542 in a deadly series of attacks that began with a huge suicide car bombing that targeted laborers assembled to find work for the day. Al-Qaida in Iraq claimed responsibility. The bloodiest attack was the first, killing at least 88 people and wounding 227 in the heavily Shiite neighborhood of Kazimiyah where the day laborers had gathered shortly after dawn. Overnight Wednesday, 17 men were executed in a village north of Baghdad, which put the death toll in all violence in and around the capital Wednesday at 169 and the number continued to rise. A senior American military official told The Associated Press he believed the rash of bombings was retaliation for the joint Iraqi-U.S. sweep through the northern city of Tal Afar in recent days to evict insurgents from their stronghold near the Syrian border. Al-Jazeera television quoted the al-Qaida as confirming that assessment.

Widening attacks: U.S. forces widened their operations against insurgents in northern Iraq on Tuesday, launching an attack on the Euphrates River stronghold of Haditha only days after evicting militants from Tal Afar. Residents also reported American air strikes in the same region near Qaim.

The Americans called in bombing raids in Haditha, 140 miles northwest of the capital. They captured one militant with ties to al-Qaida in Iraq and killed four others.

In the volatile city of Qaim, about 80 miles northwest of Haditha, residents said clashes broke out between insurgents and coalition forces. The U.S. military did not confirm the air strike.

In the south, a roadside bomb killed four people near Basra — an attack that was a twin to a deadly bombing in the area last week. Iraqi police said the dead were four American contract workers, but U.S. officials were unable to confirm the nationalities of the victims. Last Wednesday, a roadside bomb near Basra hit a passing convoy of U.S. diplomatic security guards, killing four Americans.

Punishing Sunnis?: Much of the American press has reported the Tal Afar campaign as a strike by the new Iraqi Army, supported by US troops, against foreign infiltrators in the largely Turkmen city of 200,000.

As Jonathan Finer makes clear in the Washington Post, however, the operation looks different if we know some details. (Story linked below) The "Iraqi Army" leading the assault turns out to be mainly the Peshmerga or Kurdish ethnic militia. Along for the ride are local Turkmen Shiites who are being used as informers and for the purpose of identifying Sunni Turkmen they think are involved in the guerrilla movement (apparently they sometimes make false charges to settle scores). Tal Afar was 70 percent Sunni Turkmen and 30 percent Shiite Turkmen. The Sunni Turkmen had thrown in with Saddam, and some more recently had turned to radical Islam. The Shiite Turkmen lived in fear of their lives. So Kurds and Shiites are beating up on Sunni Turkmen allies of Sunni Arabs. That is what is really going on. The number of foreign fighters appears to be small, and US troops that had been guarding against infiltration on the Syrian border were actually moved to Tal Afar for this operation. It is mainly about punishing the Sunni Turkmen for allying with the Sunni Arab guerrillas. That the attack came in part in response to the pleas of local Shiite Turkmen helps explain why why Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari (Shiite leader of the fundamentalist Dawa Party) authorized it, and went to Tal Afar on Tuesday for a photo op. The US will never get stability in Iraq if it is merely an adjunct to a Kurdish-Shiite alliance against the Sunni Arabs and their Turkmen supporters.

No dialogue sought: Sunni Arab leaders in Iraq are criticizing the Iraqi government's three day-old military operation against Sunni insurgents and foreign fighters in the northern Iraqi city of Tal Afar.

Since the military operation in the predominantly Sunni city of Tal Afar began on Saturday, the government has been reassuring the Iraqi public that the offensive, near the Syrian border, was launched only after residents there begged the government to rid Tal Afar of Iraqi Sunni extremists and foreign fighters, who had turned the city into a terrorist haven.

Still, several prominent Sunni Arab groups and leaders on Tuesday said that they deplored the use of force in Tal Afar.

Former interim Iraqi Interior Minister Falah al-Naqib criticized what he said was the government's failure to seek a political dialogue with Sunni leaders in Tal Afar before opting for a military solution.

"Definitely, there should have been a better solution than a major military operation,” he said. “I don't encourage any military operations against civilians. I've been told that there are quite a number of innocent people being killed during this operation. I've been told that the humanitarian situation is very bad in Tal Afar."

Iraq's Shi'ite-dominated interim government says those reports are not true. It insists most residents had already fled Tal Afar before the offensive began and those who remained were evacuated and given tents, food, water and medical care. Iraqi leaders add that millions of dollars have been put aside to fund the rebuilding of the city.

Refugees: An estimated 6,600 families have fled the northern Iraq city of Tal Afar in recent months amid a rise in the insurgency there, a senior official with Iraq's Ministry of Displacement and Migration told CNN Monday.

According to the Iraqi official, most of the displaced residents are living in the villages surrounding Tal Afar, although some have made it as far south as Karbala and Najaf.

The largest refugee camp, in the Al-Kal'aa area, is located about 3 miles (5 km) outside of the city and has 1,000 tents. It houses 600-700 families, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

There are another approximately 3,000 families living in various villages around Tal Afar -- with most families staying in deserted industrial buildings and schools, and a few in mosques.

There are a few families staying in a refugee camp close to the U.S. military base in the region.

Melted away: Iraq's prime minister toured the ancient northern city of Tal Afar on Monday - ignoring an alleged al-Qaida threat to strike with chemical weapons - to congratulate Iraqi forces for rousting militants from their stronghold near Syria, Iraqi television reported.

Al-Iraqiya television, which showed no pictures, said Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari was in the Tal Afar area despite an insurgent threat to unleash chemical and biological weapons against the force of 5,000 Iraqi soldiers and commandos, backed by 3,500 troops from the U.S. 3rd Armored Cavalry regiment, who stormed into the city Saturday.

The offensive ``was a great shock to al-Qaida. They were thrown off balance and issued this threat. We will be on the lookout,'' Interior Minister Bayan Jabr said at a news conference.

Militant positions were found mainly deserted Sunday, and the invading force discovered a network of tunnels below the city through which the insurgents were believed to have fled to the surrounding countryside.

Informants: Soldiers with little training relevant to the mission have been forced into roles more traditionally assigned to police: gathering evidence, interrogating witnesses and suspects, and following up on leads. In searching almost every house in the city's most violent neighborhoods, they have detained hundreds of young men, some because they possessed weapons or insurgent literature, but others solely on the hearsay of local informants often called "sources" by U.S. troops.

Many of the informants are residents of this city of more than 200,000 who now serve in the Iraqi army. Others had family members who were killed by the insurgents and said they wanted to help purge them from their neighborhoods. The U.S. soldiers who work with them acknowledge knowing little about their backgrounds and motives -- or even their names -- and admit that their reliability varies widely. Some of those named by sources have in turn said their accusers were carrying out tribal or sectarian vendettas, a charge they also level at Iraqi security forces.

The informants "are the first important step in the process of weeding these people out," said Capt. Alan Blackburn, commander of Eagle Troop of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, which has led the invasion of Tall Afar. "You obviously can't just go by what they say because they make plenty of mistakes, but since we don't know these places as well as they do, it helps to have them around."

More threats: "The Syrian government can do a lot more to prevent the flow of foreign fighters into Iraq," Bush said. "These people are coming from Syria into Iraq and killing a lot of innocent people. They're killing -- they're trying to kill our folks as well."

Bush threatened increased international isolation for Damascus, accusing Syrian President Bashar Assad of not doing enough to secure the border. "The Syrian leader must understand we take his lack of action seriously," Bush said.

On Monday, Zalmay Khalilzad, U.S. ambassador to Iraq, said that Syria is "the No. 1 offender" of impeding success in Iraq.

"There is blatant interference by Syria in Iraqi affairs, by allowing these terrorists to come across," Khalilzad said. "And as I said before, our patience is running out.

"We have given it every opportunity. The time is running out for more of the same."

When asked whether a military option against Syria was under consideration, Khalilzad said, "Everything is on the table."

And Just How Do They Propose To Keep The Military Option “On The Table”?

From yesterday’s post, on the subject of whether there were enough National Guard resources to cope with Hurricane Katrina:

TAVIS SMILEY: “There are a lot of folk, and I know you’ve heard this, who believe and it’s been everywhere expressed that this sentiment that the money and other resources that we have been spending on Iraq put us in a situation where we didn’t have the resources available quickly enough to move into the Gulf Coast. Do you accept that?”

SECRETARY RICE: “No, it’s just not true. Frankly, it’s hogwash. And I’ll use that term very, very clearly. There are plenty of resources to deal with this. There are military resources to deal with it. There were National Guard resources to deal with it.”


KMOX RADIO: “Does that mean we’re stretched a little bit thin?”

SECRETARY RUMSFELD: “No. In fact the implication that we’re stretched thin is an inaccurate one and it ought to be knocked down hard.”

And now this Bush lie: Just one day after the Washington Post reported that 600 Mississippi Guardsmen would not be granted leave to inspect damage to their homes from Hurricane Katrina and despite substantial evidence of an inadequate federal response to the worst natural disaster in American history, President Bush claimed "we've got plenty of troops" - on the ground in Iraq and the Gulf Coast.

The Post reported yesterday that commanders told 600 members of the Mississippi Guard in Iraq that they could not take a 15-day leave to inspect damage to their property and support their families because there are "too few US troops in Iraq to spare them." The Mississippi Guard's 155th Brigade Combat Team is stationed north of Baghdad in the area known as the "Triangle of Death."

Also, Lt. Gen. Steven Blum, head of the National Guard Bureau, said last Friday that the absence of thousands of Mississippi and Louisiana Guard troops currently stationed in Iraq played a role in the failed response to Hurricane Katrina. "Had that brigade been at home and not in Iraq, their expertise and capabilities could have been brought to bear," said Blum.

Oh, And There Might Be Just A Little More For American Troops To Do…

Did they mention it to George and Rummy?: Australia and Britain have told Japan they are considering withdrawing their troops from Iraq, according to two newspaper reports, in a move that has alarmed Japan, which is on the brink of renewing its military involvement.

The two countries told Japan of their intentions during recent three-way talks, say reports in the newspapers Asahi Shimbun and Yomiuri Shimbun citing unidentified government sources.

The advice from both countries was "unofficial", according to the newspapers. One report said that the timing for the withdrawal "has not been set at all" but the other said that troops would be out by the middle of next year.

Japan relies on Australian troops to guard its contingent of 600 soldiers in southern Iraq.

(Login to the story with username qazx6 and qazx for password. Thanks Bugmenot!)

But wait! It’s ok! The Iraqi army will save us!: Iraqi President Jalal Talabani said on Tuesday that Iraq will not set a timetable for a withdrawal of U.S. troops, backing away from his published remarks that the United States could withdraw as many as 50,000 troops by the end of the year.

Talabani, speaking at a joint news conference after a meeting with President George W. Bush, said however he hoped that by the end of 2006, Iraqi security forces would be strong enough to start taking over from "many" U.S. troops.

"We will set no timetable for withdrawal, Mr. President. A timetable will help the terrorists, will encourage them that they could defeat the superpower of the world and the Iraqi people," Talabani said in remarks that aligned him with Bush's often-stated view that a timetable for withdrawal would embolden the insurgency in Iraq.

"We hope that by the end of 2006, our security forces are up to the level of taking responsibility from many American troops, with complete agreement with Americans," he said.

Talabani had said in an interview published in the Washington Post on Tuesday that the United States could withdraw as many as 50,000 troops from Iraq by the end of the year because there are enough Iraqi forces ready to begin taking control of parts of the country.

That Pesky Constitution (Theirs, Not Ours)

Of course, it’s not perfect…: In addition to security issues, the Iraqi president faces a national referendum in October on Iraq's draft constitution.

Iraqi lawmakers are debating the draft constitution, which was approved by a special committee that wrote the document. Sunni Arabs dislike some aspects of the document, which has support from Shiite Arabs and Kurds in the government.

"We have agreed [to] a draft constitution," Talabani said. "Of course, it is not a perfect document. But I think it is one of the best constitutions in the Middle East."

For example, it seeems to promote secession: In 2002, the Iraqi authors of the "Final Report on the Transition to Democracy in Iraq" argued persuasively that a successful establishment of democracy in Iraq would require some form of federalism. But I fear that the regional-government and presidential-council provisions of this draft constitution may be aimed at creating, not a federal balance of power between central and local governments, but a system of effectively unitary governments in the regions of Iraq. When we evaluate the constitutional provisions for creating regional governments, we should compare them to the alternative of simply offering the same guarantees of constitutional autonomy to the 18 existing provinces of Iraq. Compared to such a provincial federalist system, it is hard to see who would benefit from the creation of these larger regional governments, except for the politicians who hope to lead them. Merging provinces into larger regions cannot increase the ability of local governments to adapt to local conditions. In the American federal system with its 50 states, the leaders of southern and northern states already have the ability to adapt their local administrative practices to their local variations of our southern and northern subcultures. Merging our state governments into larger regional mega-states could only decrease local adaptability. But such mergers could also seriously increase the possibility of secession. The leader of a regional mega-state that included a large fraction of America's population and resources would perceive more benefits and fewer risks in contemplating secession from the Union than any state governor would today.

Darn good thing all Iraqis want to live together of their own free will!: Iraqi FM Zebari on the Iraqi Constitution

(Q) Some Sunnis say the constitution includes a mixture of good and bad elements. What is your comment?

(A) The good elements are much more. Moreover, I do not see any of the bad elements. The new Iraq must be different and the constitution has to be in line with this change. Iraq will not be a copy of the old Iraq. The centralized, totalitarian, and undemocratic state that monopolizes powers and holds all the resources in its hands could lead to the emergence of a new dictatorship. A massive army, power, and wealth could create another Saddam who aggresses against another country and commits crimes against his people and neighboring countries. This is what happened. Briefly, we do not want to repeat the experience. Therefore, the constitution was written in a free will and was not imposed. There were no ready-made drafts. This is what is new.

(Q) Many believe that the proposed options for the new system in Iraq, by which I mean federalism and regionalism, are mechanisms for fragmentation. What are your thoughts on that?

(A) They are not many because the majority supports a federal system. The Iraqi majority in the north and the south supports federalism and there are also voices in the center that support it. The federal system unites and does not divide. But it is a new experiment, especially as there is no federalism in our region. But federalism is a successful experiment. The Emirates is a federal state and Pakistan is a federal and Islamic country.

(Q) But the text of the draft constitution says federalism is voluntary and this means that secession is likely?

(A) The text says the Iraqis have decided of their own free will to live in a unified, undivided, and non-partitioned homeland. This is their choice and it was not imposed on them. What is imposed by force does not succeed. We have "Yugoslavia" as the best example of this. All the Iraqi people's groups are eager to coexist as equals based on equal rights and duties without discrimination and with a fair distribution of the national wealth.

Meanwhile, There’s Money To Be Made

Battledress catwalk: British and American arms companies have been criticised for marketing weapons used in Iraq at Europe's biggest arms fair.

Campaigners against the arms trade have criticised the Government for inviting countries with dubious human rights records, such as Indonesia and Colombia, to the fair. The campaigners also accused companies such as Lockheed and BAE Systems of "revelling" in the opportunity to sell equipment "battle-tested" in Iraq to those countries.

A massive police presence is expected at the Defence Systems and Equipment International (DSEi) exhibition at the Excel Centre in London's Docklands when it officially opens this morning to invited guests only. There were angry confrontations between police and demonstrators at the last arms fair two years ago, and similar protests are expected this time. The bill for policing is likely to cost the taxpayer millions of pounds.

The exhibition has been criticised by the Metropolitan Police for diverting resources during a period of heightened terror alert. Ken Livingstone, the Mayor of London, has also criticised the fair.

Among the 1,200 exhibitors from 34 countries are many which have made equipment used in Iraq. At the stand of Lockheed Martin, there are replicas of the Hellfire and Thaad (Theatre High Altitude Area Defence) missiles, both of which have been deployed in Iraq. Although the Hellfire is mainly as an air-launched missile, the version being promoted at DSEi is a new type for ground or sea launch. "It has been used regularly and very successfully in Iraq and this one is exactly the same," said Doug Terrell, a Lockheed Martin executive on the stand. "The US Army, Marine Corps and Special Forces absolutely love it." Almost 20,000 Hellfires have been sold worldwide.

The exhibition is run in conjunction with the Defence Export Services Organisation (Deso), the arm of the Ministry of Defence that promotes the sale and licensing of British-made military equipment. Yesterday's press preview day included a catwalk-style show organised by Deso, with soldiers in full battledress posing with weapons. These included the British L96 sniper rifle used in Iraq as well as chemical detection equipment, airfield illumination systems and light anti-armour weapons.

Over the counter: Tom Lasseter writes from overseas about the grueling conditions our troops are facing in Iraq. Never mind the 115 degree heat and the day to day terror of living in what is literally a war zone. Lots of the troops are having trouble, as Lasseter says, "telling friend from foe." One word that gets passed around, multiple times between the troops he interviews, is "Vietnam."

Marine Lance Cpl. Jared Vidler, 23, of Syracuse, N.Y., said: "It's a lot like it was in Vietnam, when the VCs [Viet Cong] would come out and pretend to be your friends. You're fighting an enemy on his home ground, and you don't know who's who."

That's not the only Vietnam reference in the article. One Captain tells his troops not to be "like Col. Kurtz" from the movie "Apocalypse Now." But the scariest reference comes right at the end, from Army Sargeant First Class Tom Coffey from Burlington, VT:

"There's been reports of a .50 [caliber] sniper rifle out there. Maybe they called this in just to get us out here and take a shot. A .50-cal would go straight through our [body armor] plates," Coffey said, looking at the buildings across the river. "Why do I feel like I'm in a... Vietnam movie?"

That .50 caliber rifle he's talking about is the same one we've been telling you about. It can tear through body armor, it can take down planes on takeoff, and stay effective up to 2000 yards. It's threatening our soldiers overseas in Iraq. And yet it's readily available for purchase to anyone in the United States.


Opinion: Americans are struggling to come to terms with the devastation of Hurricane Katrina and with deaths that may ultimately number in the thousands. It is important that this near-apocalyptic disaster not eclipse the still-unfolding disaster of the war in Iraq, upon which Katrina may have an unforeseen influence. At the heart of the matter is what we owe the dead. President Bush, referring recently to Americans killed in Iraq, said that "we owe them something" and must "finish the task that they gave their lives for." Finding himself in the middle of a national debate over the meaning we give to our war dead, he clings to the traditional response -- that our soldiers must not have died in vain, and that their deaths represent noble sacrifices on behalf of eternal principles. Now taking hold, however, is an alternative, critical meaning: that these deaths can be rendered significant only by acknowledging the futility of the war itself. Americans are grappling with these contradictory meanings. But the war's terrible toll (nearly 2,000 US soldiers killed as of this writing, and Iraqi deaths estimated at more than 20,000), together with the increasing recognition that the war is unwinnable, are strengthening the alternative meaning.

Editorial: Remarkably, two West Virginia Republican mayors have denounced the Iraq war launched by Republican President George W. Bush — and one is backing a council resolution seeking withdrawal of U.S. troops.

Charleston Mayor Danny Jones, who fought in Vietnam, told reporter Paul Nyden that he wouldn’t want his 16-year-old son “involved in this enterprise.” He asked: “Is it really worth spending $150 million a day?” If America had a draft to obtain soldiers for Iraq, Jones said, “there would be blood in the streets.”

South Charleston Mayor Richie Robb, who earned a Bronze Star in Vietnam combat, said “I am not sure what we are doing,” because White House reasons for the war change each time a previous reason proves untrue.

He said that to invade Iraq in retaliation for the 9/11 terrorist attack — which had no connection to Iraq — “would have been like invading Mexico after Pearl Harbor.”

Opinion: A country music concert, T-shirt and fake dog tags. The victims of 9/11 and their families thank you.

I'm sure that all the restrictions and talk of arresting anyone who stepped out of line, or, in this case in line, without proper approval from the authorities put many people off from the America Supports You Freedom March. Which was exactly the point: To make sure that only the most uncritical, unreflective fleece-bearing citizens would show up. You know, those that wouldn't be fazed in the slightest by a "Freedom Walk" that was about as free, spontaneous and joyous as being herded down the tracks from some stalled subway car.

The almost total no-show of any organized counter to the Freedom March was glaring. I later met up with a man walking down the path by the Reflecting Pool carrying a sign, doing his part all by himself like me. According to him, he had read some liberal message board advising people to stay away in part due to fear of arrest and in part for the simple reason that some of the more "enlightened" liberals couldn't see sullying themselves by being present at such an event.

Jesus Christ: How typical. Once again the left cedes the field to the fleece-bearing herds. Those that were there countering the propaganda walk were there for less than a half hour, waved their signs around and split. These are the same sort of people who attached great significance to there only being a dozen or so Freepers at the Candlelight Vigil in August. I assume the left being so outnumbered isn't similarly significant to them.

It's a shame that so many people are so easily scared off or, worse, are fearless but think such things are beneath them. The Bush administration and the right wing in general have given us, with Iraq and now the bungled Katrina relief non-effort , something that transcends politics which should concern anyone who buys into the idea that there is a regular, consistent reality that we must conform our beliefs to. The Freedom Walk was a blatantly political event but it was also, philosophically, an exercise is pure sophism and based on the cynical premise that the truth is whatever you can make people believe.

If people aren't going to show up to fight for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, at least they can show up to put in a good word for reality.

Opinion: The destruction of New Orleans is the responsibility of the most incompetent government in American history and perhaps in all history. Americans are rapidly learning that they were deceived by the superpower hubris. The powerful U.S. military cannot successfully occupy Baghdad or control the road to the airport -- and this against an insurgency based in only 20 percent of the Iraqi population. Bush's pointless war has left Washington so pressed for money that the federal government abandoned New Orleans to catastrophe. The Bush administration is damned by its gross incompetence. Bush has squandered the lives and health of thousands of people. He has run through hundreds of billions of borrowed dollars. He has lost America's reputation and its allies. With barbaric torture and destruction of our civil liberty, he has stripped America of its inherent goodness and morality. And now Bush has lost America's largest port and 25 percent of its oil supply. Why? Because Bush started a gratuitous war egged on by a claque of crazy neoconservatives who have sacrificed America's interests to their insane agenda. The neoconservatives have brought these disasters to all Americans, Democrat and Republican alike. Now, they must be held accountable. Bush and his neoconservatives are guilty of criminal negligence and must be prosecuted. What will it take for Americans to re-establish accountability in their government? Bush has gotten away with lies and an illegal war of aggression, with outing CIA agents, with war crimes against Iraqi civilians, with the horrors of the Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo torture centers, and now with the destruction of New Orleans. What disaster will next spring from Bush's incompetence?

Riverbend: E. looked at me wide-eyed that day (September 11, 2001) and asked the inevitable question, “How long do you think before they bomb us?” “But it wasn’t us. It can’t be us…” I rationalized. “It doesn’t matter. It’s all they need.” And it was true. It began with Afghanistan and then it was Iraq. We began preparing for it almost immediately. The price of the dollar rose as people began stocking up on flour, rice, sugar and other commodities. For several weeks it was all anyone could talk about. We discussed it in schools and universities. We talked about it in work places and restaurants. The attitudes differed. There was never joy or happiness, but in several cases there was a sort of grim satisfaction. Some Iraqis believed that America had brought this upon itself. This is what you get when you meddle in world affairs. This is what you get when starve populations. This is what you get when you give unabashed support to occupying countries like Israel, and corrupt tyrants like the Saudi royals. Most Iraqis, though, felt pity. The images for the next weeks of Americans running in terror, of the frantic searches under the rubble for relatives and friends left us shaking our heads in empathy. The destruction was all too familiar. The reports of Americans fearing the sound of airplanes had us nodding our heads with understanding and a sort of familiarity- you’d want to reach out to one of them and say, “It’s ok- the fear eventually subsides. We know how it is- your government does this every few years.” It has been four years today. How does it feel four years later? For the 3,000 victims in America, more than 100,000 have died in Iraq. Tens of thousands of others are being detained for interrogation and torture. Our homes have been raided, our cities are constantly being bombed and Iraq has fallen back decades, and for several years to come we will suffer under the influence of the extremism we didn't know prior to the war. As I write this, Tel Afar, a small place north of Mosul, is being bombed. Dozens of people are going to be buried under their homes in the dead of the night. Their water and electricity have been cut off for days. It doesn’t seem to matter much though because they don’t live in a wonderful skyscraper in a glamorous city. They are, quite simply, farmers and herders not worth a second thought. Four years later and the War on Terror (or is it the War of Terror?) has been won: Score: Al-Qaeda – 3,000 America – 100,000+ Congratulations.

Casualty Reports

Local story: Middlebury, PA, soldier killed in IED explosion in Baghdad.

Local story: Kingston Springs, TN, soldier who lost both legs, had his left arm reconstructed, was severely burned over 60% of his body, and who is unable to talk due to throat burns from an explosion in Iraq, is slowly 'recovering' from his wounds.

Local story: Grand Rapids, MI, soldier killed in explosion in Iskandariyah buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

Local story: Orlando, FL, soldier killed in Iraq when his Humvee overturned after an IED detonated nearby.

Local story: Miami, FL, soldier killed in Iraq when his Humvee overturned after an IED detonated nearby.


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