Tuesday, October 04, 2005
War News for Tuesday, October 04, 2005
Bring ‘em on: Operation Iron Fist continues in Anbar province, with fighting spreading from Sadah to Karabilah and Rumana along the
Bring ‘em on: Twelve civilians killed in airstrike on Qaim, according to a doctor in a hospital there. Iraqi army officer assassinated in
Bring ‘em on: Chief of the Fayli Kurds abducted Sunday in Tuz Khurmatu. His guards were briefly kidnapped with him.
Bring ‘em on: Three U.S. soldiers killed in western
More mysteries: A British civilian and nine Iraqis have been arrested by
The spokesman could not confirm the time, location or circumstances of the arrest, but an Iraqi police official in Najaf told CNN that "10 suspected terrorists" were arrested near the Saudi border on Monday, noting that among them was a British national.
In Karabilah, troops searched house-to-house for militants, apparently meeting stiffer resistance than in Sadah, which most fighters fled before the
Marine snipers fired from rooftops and
At one point, about 20 Iraqis fled their homes, including one family — a mother, father and their child — who were wounded and bleeding after being hit by flying pieces of concrete, CNN footage showed.
The military said it confirmed at least 21 militants killed, two in fighting Monday and 19 from an airstrike the day before, bringing the three-day total to 57.
Curses! Foiled again!: For a second day, U.S. and Iraqi troops combed the city of Sadah near the Syrian border for insurgents loyal to al Qaeda, witnesses and the U.S. and Iraqi militaries said Sunday.
An Iraqi army captain said security forces had conducted house-to-house searches in about 80 percent of Sadah by Sunday evening before taking control of most of the city. He said the searches yielded weapons but few foreign fighters from al Qaeda in
"We think Zarqawi's group escaped before the assault, because the
The offensive, in towns along the
But as the operation got under way, the
Whacking mosquitoes with a sledgehammer: Witnesses said air strikes by
There were no casualties reported.
Shiites and Kurds shaft Sunnis:
The move prompted Sunni Arabs and a range of independent political figures to complain that the vote was being fixed.
Some Sunni leaders who have been organizing a campaign to vote down the proposed constitution said they might now boycott the referendum. Other political leaders also reacted angrily, saying the change would seriously damage the vote's credibility.
Under the new rules, the constitution will fail only if two-thirds of all registered voters -- rather than two-thirds of all those actually casting ballots -- reject it in at least three of the 18 provinces.
The change, adopted during an unannounced vote in parliament Sunday afternoon, effectively raises the bar for those who oppose the constitution. Given that fewer than 60 percent of registered Iraqis voted in the January elections, the chances that two-thirds will both show up at the polls and vote against the document in three provinces would appear to be close to nil.
"This is a mockery of democracy, a mockery of law," said Adnan al-Janabi, a secular Sunni representative and a member of former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi's party. "Many Sunnis have been telling me they didn't believe in this democratic process, and now I believe they are vindicated."
Sunnis go apeshit: Sunni Arabs have reacted angrily to a decision by
The two-thirds majority needed in three provinces to defeat the constitution will now be counted from all registered - as opposed to actual - voters.
Many registered voters may not show up because of violence, it is argued.
Saleh al-Mutlaq, of the Sunni group Iraqi National Dialogue, called the change a "clear forgery".
"They want this constitution to pass despite the will of the people," he added.
The democratically elected and fully independent Iraqi government gets its instructions: In the latest sign that Iraq's draft constitution is creating more strife than healing, Sunni Muslim leaders unleashed a storm of criticism Monday at a law that would make it nearly impossible for them to muster enough votes to defeat the charter in an Oct. 15 referendum.
But after a day of tense meetings, one of the two main political parties running the government said it had bowed to pressure from
Unless the law is changed, Sunni leaders said, they will call for a boycott of the referendum and refuse to accept the results. That warning set off alarm bells in the Iraqi government and the U.S. Embassy here.
Don't you love it? The law was legally passed by the democratically elected sovereign government of Iraq! What a farce.
Kurds and Shiites fall out: Sharp divisions emerged Saturday between
Kurdish officials warned they would consider pulling out of the government if their demands aren't met. That would cause the collapse of the government and add a new layer of political instability and fragmentation between
Sometimes you’re just screwed: Across the country many Iraqis have begun to fear the worst: that their society is breaking apart from within. "The vast majority of the population is resisting calls to take up arms against other ethnic and religious groups," said a senior Bush administration official whose portfolio includes
The outcome of these conflicts—and
Eroding middle class: Two and a half years after the American invasion, the violence shows no sign of relenting, and life for middle-class Iraqis seems only to be getting worse.
Educated, invested in businesses and properties and eager for change, the middle class here had everything to gain from the American effort.
But frustration is hardening into hopelessness, as families feel increasingly trapped by the many forces that are threatening to tear the country apart.
Insurgents fight gun battles on their streets. Sectarian divisions are seeping into their children's classrooms and even their own dinner table discussions. Their secular voices are barely audible above the din of religious politicians and the poorer Iraqis they appeal to.
The daily life the middle class describe is an obstacle course of gasoline lines, blocked roads and late-night generator repairs.
In these families' homes, the talk is mostly about leaving. "For
Collapsing infrastructure: Wars, sanctions and looting have left
But more than two years on, insecurity is a major obstacle. Reconstruction is still largely stalled in many places.
Problems with electricity and water supply are a daily event for some people. A recent survey found just over half of households had a stable supply of safe drinking water. Iraqi officials complain of under-funding.
So far less than a fifth of total pledged funds have been disbursed. And some of the money intended for rebuilding is being diverted to security - estimates range from 10% to 50% of the
Health care crisis: Rescue worker Rasoul Halool had four bleeding victims in the back of his ambulance and was rushing to save others when a second roadside bomb tore the truck apart.
All the patients were killed. The blast sprayed shrapnel into Halool's eyes, neck and chest. He stumbled out of the burning ambulance to find guns pointed at him by US and Iraqi soldiers, who were uncertain at that bloody moment whether Halool was victim or bomber.
''Nobody would help me," the ambulance driver recalled. Halool, 31, eventually waved down a passing car, which took him to a hospital.
Largely forgotten in the daily violence on the streets of
Insurgents often target ambulances with secondary bombs timed to strike those helping the injured. Rescue workers are searched and sometimes harassed by Iraqi police and US troops worried about stolen ambulances being used to ferry militants, weapons, and bombs.
Holiday shopping: Grocery stores in
Set to begin early this week, Ramadan is the Islamic period of spiritual cleansing and Muslims observe it by praying and fasting during the day. But at sundown, they break their fast with an elaborate meal called iftar, which is traditionally shared with family and friends throughout the evening.
At one grocery store, VOA found Seena Mohammed Ali busily filling a large plastic bag with lentil beans, which she says she will use to prepare soup and other dishes for iftar.
But the deeply religious 30 year-old Shi'ite school teacher says Ramadan is no longer a month she looks forward to.
Ms. Ali notes that for the past two years, insurgent attacks spiked just before and during Ramadan. Last year, a suicide bombing in
Some Americans Pay
Eleven from twelve: Cpl. David Kreuter had a new baby boy he'd seen only in photos. Lance Cpl. Michael Cifuentes was counting the days to his wedding. Lance Cpl. Nicholas Bloem had just celebrated his 20th birthday.
Travis Williams remembers them all - all 11 men in his Marine squad - all now dead. Two months ago they shared a cramped room stacked with bunk beds at this base in northwest
For the 12 young Marines who landed in
Now, all of the Marines assigned to the 1st Squad, 3rd Platoon, Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 25th Regiment, based in Columbus, Ohio, are gone except Williams. They died in a roadside-bomb set by insurgents on Aug. 3 that killed a total of 14 Marines. Most of the squad were in their early 20s; the youngest was 19.
The half-second change: Twice in the past month and six times since the start of the
Public Relations Offensive
The irony is painful: President George W. Bush will this week attempt to rally Americans wavering on
Officials say Bush will give a "significant" speech on Thursday, the latest shot in a volley of addresses on
Faced with raging violence in Iraq, a US death toll fast approaching 2,000 troops and rising domestic angst over the course of the war, the Bush national security team is telling Americans that now is not the time to quit.
They compare post-Saddam Hussein
And who, exactly, is responsible for turning post-Saddam
They’ll use them nukes, right Dick?: Vice President Dick Cheney warned on Monday that Iraq could become a staging area for large-scale terrorist attacks on the United States if troops are withdrawn too early, as he tried to shore up waning public support for the war.
With no let-up in the Iraqi insurgency, opinion polls showing U.S. public unease and some lawmakers questioning how long troops will remain, the Bush administration has stressed in recent weeks that it does not view pulling out as an option.
As he visited Marines who just returned from a seven-month deployment in
Whee! It’s all so pretty in the bubble!: President Bush said Saturday he is encouraged by the increasing size and capability of the Iraqi security forces, touting progress on a key measure for when U.S. troops can come home.
The upbeat remarks in Bush's weekly radio address came two days after the top commander in
"All Americans can have confidence in the military commanders who are leading the effort in
The sunny presentation of the situation in
It conflicts with the news from
Meanwhile, lest we get too happy: President Bush and his top aides are weighing new steps against Syria, according to U.S. officials involved in Middle East policy.
Bush's national security team met Saturday to review the policy toward
However, one option under consideration was bombing several villages 30 to 40 miles inside
Rumsfeld To Troops: Suck It Up
Bought your own personal armor? Suck it up: It was bad enough that anxious parents of poorly equipped Army National Guard and reserve soldiers had to rush out and buy body armor, radios and goggles before their sons and daughters were shipped out to fight in the
But it's even worse now that the Pentagon is reluctant to obey a congressional directive that it reimburse soldiers and their families for the cost of the military equipment they supplied.
Last October, Congress wrote language into a defense appropriations bill ordering the Defense Department to reimburse soldiers and their families for up to $1,100 per item. The Pentagon, obviously embarrassed by the situation, opposed the reimbursement plan, claiming it would be "an unmanageable precedent that will saddle the DOD with an open-ended financial burden."
Now almost a year after Congress ordered the reimbursements, the Pentagon still has not made a single payment.
No armored vehicles? Suck it up: Two years into a war against insurgent fighters who use roadside bombs as a favored tactic, U.S. Army soldiers still are being ordered to roll off forward operating bases with inferior truck armor.
The Utah-based 146th Transportation Company has logged more than 200,000 miles on M915 tractors armored with what soldiers unkindly refer to as "hillbilly armor" - a half-inch of scrap steel hastily cut in the shape of the door and welded or riveted on.
The 146th was driving missions on
Company Commander Eryth Zecher said she has been told that the final installation of Level 2 armoring for her unit's vehicles will occur by the end of October.
But she wonders why it has taken so long.
No health care after you lose a leg for the team? Suck it up: The Senator's aide chuckled rather loudly and said, "What VA? By the time this administration is done there won't be a VA." Our conversation had begun with a discussion of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA's) healthcare budget, and quickly came down to a single, simple point. VA is being dismantled.
Three reasons why the administration would want to dismantle VA immediately come to mind:
VA is a large-scale, publicly funded healthcare system that works: VA works so well it has been used as a model to push the case for nationalized healthcare; something that strikes fear in the heart of every Republican.
VA is ripe for privatization: And that spells profits for private corporations.
VA is part of BIG government: And that's something this administration abhors.
While VA represents a lifeline to veterans it is an ideological anchor to an administration that has gone out of its way to portray veterans' benefits as something akin to welfare . This assault on VA and veterans' benefits will not stop. The major service organizations know it, yet all they do is go before a committee and testify that veterans are good guys and deserve benefits, while their dues-paying members are waiting months for treatment at a VA facility or getting no treatment at all.
No new soldiers? Suck it up and re-up, suckers: U.S. Army leaders on Monday said there was no crisis in recruitment despite figures showing a big shortfall in new soldiers in the latest fiscal year, partly caused by concerns over the war in
Army Secretary Francis Harvey told reporters he was concerned about recruitment levels in the last 12 months, which saw the biggest numerical shortfall of the goal since 1979. But he added: "Is this a crisis? No, it's not a crisis."
Expressing optimism for the future, he laid out a series of measures the army was planning to tackle the problem, including big financial incentives and a larger force of recruiters.
In the fiscal year that ended on Friday,
The Army missed an annual recruiting goal for the first time since 1999. The part-time Army Reserve and Army National Guard also missed their 2005 recruiting goals.
Human Rights Abuses
Priorities, priorities: Fears of a witch-hunt against American soldiers who reported human rights abuses in
Captain Ian Fishback claimed army investigators appeared more interested in finding out the names of the whistleblowers than in identifying those responsible for the abuse. Fishback and two of his former sergeants ignited a political storm when their allegations were published this month by Human Rights Watch, a private monitoring group.
Amusing times: The 82nd Airborne soldiers at FOB Mercury earned the nickname “The Murderous Maniacs” from local Iraqis and took the moniker as a badge of honour.
The soldiers referred to their Iraqi captives as PUCs – persons under control – and used the expressions “f***ing a PUC” and “smoking a PUC” to refer respectively to torture and forced physical exertion.
One sergeant provided graphic descriptions to Human Rights Watch investigators about acts of abuse carried out both by himself and others. He now says he regrets his actions. His regiment arrived at FOB Mercury in August 2003. He said: “ The first interrogation that I observed was the first time I saw a PUC pushed to the brink of a stroke or a heart attack. At first I was surprised, like, ‘This is what we are allowed to do?’”
The troops would put sand-bags on prisoners’ heads and cuff them with plastic zip-ties. The sergeant, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said if he was told that prisoners had been found with homemade bombs, “we would f*** them up, put them in stress positions and put them in a tent and withhold water … It was like a game. You know, how far could you make this guy go before he passes out or just collapses on you?”
He explained: “To ‘f*** a PUC’ means to beat him up. We would give them blows to the head, chest, legs and stomach, pull them down, kick dirt on them. This happened every day. To ‘smoke’ someone is to put them in stress positions until they get muscle fatigue and pass out. That happened every day.
“Some days we would just get bored so we would have everyone sit in a corner and then make them get in a pyramid. We did that for amusement.”
“Worse things”: A US soldier convicted of humiliating and abusing Iraqi prisoners has said she knew of "worse things" happening at Abu Ghraib and insisted military commanders were fully aware of what was going on in Iraq’s infamous jail.
The comments, made by private first class Lynndie England in her first post-court marshal interview, contradicted assertions by top Pentagon officials that a small group of out-of-control soldiers were responsible for abuse at Abu Ghraib, and that however repulsive that mistreatment was, it did not amount to torture.
Oh, yeah – Guantanamo, almost forgot...: Two weeks ago we wrote about our concern that little media attention was being paid to a massive hunger strike that had been taken up by over a quarter of the detainees at Guantanamo Bay, demanding, among other improvements in their condition, proper legal recourse. At the time, 16 days ago, 128 prisoners were striking, 18 of whom were being force-fed.
Well, time has passed and the situation seems to be worsening, but the Defense Department's obfuscations, along with a seriously distracted press caught up in both natural and political hurricanes, makes it hard to know just how much.
The only people really describing what is going on are the lawyers defending the detainees, who are the only ones who have been able to meet with the prisoners. Their accounts of the deteriorating condition of the prisoner's health were worrisome enough that Amnesty International was prompted to issue a report last week entitled, "
According to Amnesty, 210 people, nearly half the detainee population, had become involved with the protest. But, amazingly, the DOD had that same day put the number at 36 (a drop from the official 136 just a week before).
An Odd Little Story
But will it lead them to Osama?: The FBI's counterterrorism unit has launched a broad investigation of US-based theft rings after discovering that some of the vehicles used in deadly car bombings in Iraq, including attacks that killed US troops and Iraqi civilians, were probably stolen in the United States, according to senior government officials.
Inspector John E. Lewis, deputy assistant director of the FBI for counterterrorism, told the Globe that the investigation hasn't yielded any evidence that the vehicles were stolen specifically for car bombings. But there is evidence, he said, that the cars were smuggled from the
Cracking the car theft rings and tracing the cars could help identify the leaders of insurgent forces in
Some British Opinions
General Sir Michael Walker, chief of the defence staff, also conceded that
In an interview with The Sunday Times,
And he was adamant that the fallout from the arrest and rescue of two SAS soldiers in
However, he acknowledged that morale and recruitment have been damaged by the fact that the armed forces are fighting a war that is deeply unpopular at home.
A right rollicking cock-up: Lack of political leadership from Tony Blair is putting British troops at risk in
Colonel Tim Collins - famed for the speech he delivered to his men in the 1st Battalion of the Royal Irish Regiment hours before they went into action in March 2003 - described the situation in Iraq now as "a right rollicking cock-up".
He accused the US and Britain of having "blundered" into Iraq without an adequate plan for postwar reconstruction, and claimed that personal rivalry between Tony Blair and Gordon Brown is now preventing the Government from forming a strategy for getting British troops out.
God, this is pathetic: Not only is it a small world, after all - most of it sounds like a bunch of Democrats.
That's what Karen Hughes may have discovered last week on her "listening tour" of the
Dispatched by President Bush to spread the good news about his policies, Hughes, the newly minted undersecretary of state for public diplomacy (i.e., flack) met with groups in
To which most of the attendees interviewed afterward replied (in their respective languages): Puh-lease!
Now, when Bush gets that kind of reaction here in
Opinion: The news that yet another Army private, Lynndie England, 22, of Fort Ashby, West Virginia, has been convicted and sentenced for posing for the infamous photos of torture at Abu Graib, while her superiors duck responsibility, is a sad commentary on the extent to which the Bush administration has corrupted the U.S. Army.
The reminder of the photos of those inexcusable activities was sickening enough and
They choose, instead, to stone the woman, like the hypocrites of Bible fame, contending that the photos inflamed the insurgency in
So far, the silent acquiescence with which Americans—including our institutional churches—have greeted President George W. Bush’s open assertion of a right to torture some prisoners evokes memories of the unconscionable behavior of “obedient Germans” of the 1930s and early 1940s. Thankfully, despite the hate whipped up by administration propagandists against people branded “terrorists,” polling conducted last year showed that most Americans reject torturing prisoners. Almost two-thirds held that torture is never acceptable.
Yet few speak out—perhaps because President Bush says he too, is against torture, and our domesticated media have successfully hidden from most of us the fact that the president has added a highly significant qualification. On February 7, 2002, the president issued an order instructing our armed forces “to treat detainees humanely and, to the extent appropriate and consistent with military necessity, in a manner consistent with the principles of
Comment: Last Thursday a judge finally ruled that the remaining photos and tapes from Abu Ghraib will be released, and Bush administration memos specifically related to torture will be made public. There will be appeals, but we will soon be reminded of what really went on: rape and murder.
One wonders when the American public will demand accountability for the abandonment of civilised warfare in their own military and by their own president, who is after all commander-in-chief and ultimately responsible.
Fishback is now sequestered at
Alas, I fear a large part of that idea has already been abandoned — by a president who swore an oath to uphold it.
Opinion: For the Bush administration,
The one bright spot is that
What’s more, Bush has demonstrated to the world that
What’s worse is the Bush administration’s further destabilization of a region indispensable to the world’s economy, hence critical to the world’s political stability, nation by oil-dependent nation. Destabilization’s long-term downside is incalculable as well as unpredictable, the latter being the worst of all possible worlds for international planners.
Finally, the Bushies never understood there was no appropriate testing ground on which to reverse the lessons of
Robert Fisk: Donald Rumsfeld was to assert that the American attack on
There is something sick, obscene, about these hospital visits. We bomb. They suffer. Then we reporters turn up and take pictures of their wounded children. The Iraqi Minister of Health decides to hold an insufferable press conference outside the wards to emphasise the "bestial" nature of the American attack. The Americans say that they don't intend to hurt children. And Doha Suheil looks at me and the doctors for reassurance, as if she will awake from this nightmare and move her left leg and feel no more pain.
So let's forget, for a moment, the cheap propaganda of the regime and the cocky moralising of Messrs Rumsfeld and Bush, and take a trip this bright morning in March 2003 around the Mustansariya College Hospital. For the reality of war is ultimately not about military victory and defeat, or the lies about "coalition forces" which our "embedded" journalists were already telling about an invasion involving only the Americans, the British and a handful of Australians. War, even when it has international legitimacy - which this war does not - is primarily about suffering and death.
Local story: Blackwater security contractor from