Tuesday, October 18, 2005

War News for Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Bring ‘em on: Two US Marines and four guerillas killed in fighting near Rutba.

Bring ‘em on: Two police officers killed in drive-by shooting in Kirkuk. Two civilians killed in a suicide bomber attack on a funeral for a sheik in Samarra.

Bring ‘em on: Three civilians killed and seven wounded when gunmen attacked the al-Rahman mosque in Mahaweel. An adviser to the Iraqi Industry Minister killed by gunmen outside his home in Baghdad.

Bring ‘em on: Two Iraqi soldiers killed and seven wounded when a roadside bomb struck a joint U.S and Iraqi army patrol in Baiji. Eleven insurgents killed and 57 suspects arrested in a joint U.S and Iraqi army operation in Mahmudiya. Three men shot dead by U.S. Marines, who claimed the men had planted a roadside bomb near Haqlaniya. Aircraft then destroyed caves where weapons were said to be stored and made. About 12 insurgents killed in attack on US Marine base near Qusayba. Three guerillas killed by Marine helicopters in Karabila.

Bring ‘em on: Senior member of the Anbar provincial government and his bodyguard shot dead by gunmen in Ramadi.

Bring ‘em on: One civilian killed and two others injured Tuesday when a mortar shell slammed into their house in Baghdad.

Bring ‘em on: At least five Iraqis were killed by militants on Tuesday. At least one of these deaths is documented in a post above, unclear on the others. In addition, the handcuffed and mutilated bodies of six Iraqis who had been kidnapped and killed in captivity were found in three locations of the capital.

Bring ‘em on: A U.S. fighter jet bombed a crowd gathered around a burned Humvee on the edge of a provincial capital in western Iraq, killing 25 people, including 18 children, hospital officials and family members said Monday. The military said the Sunday raid targeted insurgents planting a bomb for new attacks.

In all, residents and hospital workers said, 39 civilians and at least 13 armed insurgents were killed in a day of U.S. airstrikes in Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province, a Sunni Arab region with a heavy insurgent presence.

The U.S. military said it killed a total of 70 insurgents in Sunday's airstrikes and, in a statement, said it knew of no civilian deaths.

At Ramadi hospital, distraught and grieving families fought over body parts severed by the airstrikes, staking rival claims to what they believed to be pieces of their loved ones. Iraqi Politics

The “democratic process”: For Iraq's Shia Muslims, Saturday's referendum on a new constitution was reason for celebration - the consecration of their rise to power.

For the angry Sunnis, it was a motivation to participate for the first time in the "democratic process" devised by US occupation forces, albeit to say No.

In the Shia slums of Sadr City, women distributed sweets and cakes to children in the street, while triumphant demonstrators chanted, "Our constitution has been adopted. Death to the Baathists." Residents of Hilla, the Shia city next to Babylon that has suffered terribly at the hands of suicide bombers, marched through the streets playing music.

The scene was different in the Sunni cities of Anbar and Salaheddine provinces, which are believed to have delivered a massive No to the US-backed charter.

“Unusually high”: Iraq's electoral commission said Monday it intended to audit "unusually high" numbers in results coming from most provinces in the country's landmark referendum on the draft constitution.

"Statements coming from most provinces indicating such high numbers ... require us to recheck, compare and audit them, as they are unusually high according to the international standards," the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq said in a statement.

Possible irregularities: Iraq's electoral commission said Monday that it would delay announcing the results of the nation's constitutional referendum because of possible voting irregularities.

In at least six provinces, the turnout to vote on the measure appears to have topped 95 percent, said Izzadin al Mohammadi, a senior commission official.

The audit announcement came amid allegations by the nation's Sunni minority, some 20 percent of Iraq's population, that the voting was marred by fraud. While it appears that Sunni voters mustered a two-thirds vote against the constitution in two provinces -- Anbar and Salahuddin -- they couldn't do so in a third, the requisite number for defeating the document.

Much of the attention has focused on Ninevah province, home to Mosul, Iraq's third-largest city, and the site of some of the most serious polling infractions during national elections in January.

If there was ballot-box stuffing in Ninevah that affected the outcome of the swing province's vote for or against the constitution, it could create a politically explosive situation in a nation already teeming with sectarian strife.

Ninety-nine percent: A sandstorm that had closed Baghdad's airport cleared Tuesday, allowing officials to resume flying ballot boxes to the capital Tuesday so "unusually high" vote totals in 12 Shiite and Kurdish provinces can be checked by election officials.

The investigation by Iraq's election commission has raised the possibility that the results of the referendum could be called into question. As many as 99 percent of the voters reportedly approved Iraq's draft constitution in some of the provinces being investigated.

Meanwhile, insurgents resumed attacks that had fallen sharply during Saturday's vote at heavily protected polling stations across the country.

Fancy footwork required: Iraq's disaffected Sunni Arab minority finds itself at a crossroads of sorts after taking part in large numbers for the first time in a free election.

Tempting the Sunnis further toward politics and away from revolt will take skilful bargaining by other Iraqi leaders -- and U.S. diplomats trying to stifle a budding civil war.

The likely "Yes" result in Saturday's constitutional referendum may prompt an upsurge in violence; but the vote has also forged a Sunni political movement that, for the first time, will fight its corner in a parliamentary election in December.

Quandary: For most of the 30 months since American-led forces ousted Saddam Hussein, the Bush administration has argued that as democracy took hold in Iraq, the insurgency would lose steam because Al Qaeda and the opponents of the country's interim government had nothing to offer Iraqis or the people of the Middle East.

Over time, President Bush told troops at Fort Bragg, N.C., this spring, "the terrorists will lose their sponsors, lose their recruits, and lose their hopes for turning that region into a base for attacks on America and our allies around the world."

But inside the administration, that belief provides less solace than it once did. Senior officials say the intelligence reports flowing over their desks in recent months argue that even if democratic institutions take hold, the insurgency may strengthen. And that possibility has created a quandary for an administration that desperately wants to equate democracy-building with winning the war, but so far has not been able to match the two.

National reconciliation conference: A much-anticipated Arab League-sponsored conference to promote national reconciliation in Iraq opened in Baghdad Monday. The conference is chiefly aimed at easing the growing sectarian rift between Iraq's Shi'ite and Sunni Muslims. But the conference suffered a setback when Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa did not attend the first day's session.

Secretary General Moussa had been widely expected to open the two-day conference to spearhead the Arab League's first major initiative in Iraq since the fall of dictator Saddam Hussein two-and-a-half years ago.

It is not known why the secretary general was absent from the session. But it is widely believed that security concerns may have prevented him from attending. Earlier this month, an Arab League delegation preparing for Mr. Moussa's visit came under attack in Baghdad. Two policemen escorting the delegation were killed.

Saddam Hussein Trial

Trial begins: Saddam Hussein and seven members of his Baath party, including his half-brother, will file into a marble-lined, chandelier-hung courtroom in Baghdad on Wednesday to face the stares of five judges and the world.

Two years after he was found hiding in a hole near where he was born, the former Iraqi president and his co-defendants go on trial for their lives on charges of crimes against humanity for the killing of more than 140 Shi'ite Muslim men two decades ago.

No better: Very few Iraqis want Saddam back in charge at the Republican Palace. Judging from polls, most loathe him and would like to see him executed. Nonetheless, Saddam will appear before the Iraqi Special Tribunal—not far from where he once ruled—at a time when many Iraqis, especially his fellow Sunnis, are questioning the legitimacy of the government bequeathed to them by the U.S. occupation. After two and a half years of terror and bloodshed, most Iraqis also crave stronger leadership. So while the country's new leaders try Saddam, he will seek to turn the tables and put them on trial. "As much as I hated Saddam when he was in power, I sympathize with him now," says Khaled Saad, a 45-year-old former Iraqi officer in Baghdad. "None of the Iraqi politicians in power now are better than him."

Supporters: The Yihyas are not former Baath Party officials in the Sunni Arab clique which dominated Iraq during Saddam's decades in power. But over a simple evening meal of vegetables and eggs during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, they list many reasons why they prefer the ex-dictator to the chaos of postwar Iraq.

"I hope Saddam is freed," said family matriarch Rajha Saleh, whose Sunni Muslim sons all married Shi'ite Muslim women to make the clan a sectarian mix typical of Baghdad.

"During Saddam's time we could go out at night. We slept in the garden on hot nights," she said at the run-down family home. "Now I wouldn't dare. The sound of a cat would scare me."

For the Yihyas, seeing Saddam take the stand will be a stark reminder of the contrasts between his rule, marked by wars with neighbours and great powers, and a new life plagued by suicide bombings, shootings, kidnappings and rampant crime.

Random News

Corruption: The United States invaded Iraq with a high-minded mission: destroy dangerous weapons, bring democracy, and trigger a wave of reform across the Middle East. None of these have happened.

When the final page is written on America’s catastrophic imperial venture, one word will dominate the explanation of U.S. failure—corruption. Large-scale and pervasive corruption meant that available resources could not be used to stabilize and secure Iraq in the early days of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), when it was still possible to do so. Continuing corruption meant that the reconstruction of infrastructure never got underway, giving the Iraqi people little incentive to co-operate with the occupation. Ongoing corruption in arms procurement and defense spending means that Baghdad will never control a viable army while the Shi’ite and Kurdish militias will grow stronger and produce a divided Iraq in which constitutional guarantees will be irrelevant.

The American-dominated Coalition Provisional Authority could well prove to be the most corrupt administration in history, almost certainly surpassing the widespread fraud of the much-maligned UN Oil for Food Program. At least $20 billion that belonged to the Iraqi people has been wasted, together with hundreds of millions of U.S. taxpayer dollars. Exactly how many billions of additional dollars were squandered, stolen, given away, or simply lost will never be known because the deliberate decision by the CPA not to meter oil exports means that no one will ever know how much revenue was generated during 2003 and 2004.

From The American Conservative magazine! This savage attack on the occupation’s endemic corruption is well worth a read.

Support the troops!: Wounded US soldiers who have returned home are increasingly finding that they are being referred to credit agencies by the US military because of discrepancies in pay or "failure to pay" for lost equipment.

The Roanoke Times writes in an editorial that this is the latest in a string of problems that the Bush administration has had in dealing with soldiers, both full-time military and National Guard and Reserve troops. The Times pointed to a recent cut of a billion dollars in the Veterans Affairs budget, and the problems outfitting soldiers in war zones with proper equipment. The pay issue just compounds the situation.

The GAO found that more than 90 percent of the soldiers in some Reserve and Guard units have incurred payroll errors during deployment. Organizations such as the Wounded Warriors Project in Roanoke are attempting to put aggrieved soldiers in touch with the GAO to provide an accurate accounting of soldiers stuck with debts because of the Army's mistakes. America owes those who serve in uniform, especially the wounded, an enormous debt – not the other way around.

Crisis of morale: Recent comments by the Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, that British forces might have to stay in an increasingly volatile conflict for up to 10 more years have exacerbated fears among British forces that the conflict in which they are engaged is open-ended and lacking a credible exit strategy. There are currently 8,500 British troops in Iraq, most serving a six-month tour of duty. Claims have been made that many of those being sent out feel they do not have the experience to cope with the pressures.

According to Combat Stress, the military charity dedicated to helping soldiers suffering psychological problems, the seemingly indefinite struggle has created the greatest crisis of morale among British troops for decades.

Allison Barber strikes again: Armed Forces Radio (AFR) is a station that is broadcast to American troops overseas through “over 1,000 outlets in more than 175 countries.” It currently features an hour of programming from right-wing host Rush Limbaugh. There is no comparable progressive program.

Today, that was supposed change. Ed Schultz – the most popular progressive radio show in the country — was supposed to start broadcasting on Armed Forces radio. Jones Radio, the company that syndicates the Ed Shultz show, received an email on September 29 from an Armed Forces Radio official confirming that one hour of the Ed Schultz show would begin airing today, October 17.

But morning this at 6AM, the producer of the Ed Schultz show, James Holm, received a call from Pentagon communications aide Allison Barber. She told Holm that she was calling so early to let Schultz know his show would not begin airing on AFR today. You’ll remember Barber as the aide caught coaching troops before a photo-op with President Bush last week.

The Rule of Law

Analysis: On 19 March 2003 President Bush Jr. commenced his criminal war against Iraq by ordering a so-called decapitation strike against the President of Iraq in violation of a 48-hour ultimatum he had given publicly to the Iraqi President and his sons to leave the country. This duplicitous behavior violated the customary international laws of war set forth in the 1907 Hague Convention on the Opening of Hostilities to which the United States is still a contracting party, as evidenced by paragraphs 20, 21, 22, and 23 of U.S. Army Field Manual 27-10 (1956). Furthermore, President Bush Jr.'s attempt to assassinate the President of Iraq was an international crime in its own right. Of course the Bush Jr. administration's war of aggression against Iraq constituted a Crime against Peace as defined by the Nuremberg Charter (1945), the Nuremberg Judgment (1946), and the Nuremberg Principles (1950) as well as by paragraph 498 of U.S. Army Field Manual 27-10 (1956). Next came the Pentagon's military strategy of inflicting "shock and awe" upon the city of Baghdad. To the contrary, article 6(b) of the 1945 Nuremberg Charter defined the term "War crimes" to include: "... wanton destruction of cities, towns or villages, or devastation not justified by military necessity..." The Bush Jr. administration's infliction of "shock and awe" upon Baghdad and its inhabitants constituted the wanton destruction of that city, and it was certainly not justified by "military necessity," which is always defined by and includes the laws of war. Such terror bombings of cities have been criminal behavior under international law since before the Second World War: Nagasaki, Hiroshima, Tokyo, Dresden, London, Guernica. On 1 May 2003 President Bush Jr. theatrically landed on a U.S. aircraft carrier off the coast of San Diego to declare: "Major combat operations in Iraq have ended." He spoke before a large banner proclaiming: "MISSION ACCOMPLISHED." As of that date, the United States government became the belligerent occupant of Iraq under international law and practice.


The United States government's installation of the so-called Interim Government of Iraq during the summer of 2004 did not materially alter this legal situation. Under the laws of war, this so-called Interim Government of Iraq is nothing more than a "puppet government." As the belligerent occupant of Iraq the United States government is free to establish a puppet government if it so desires. But under the laws of war, the United States government remains fully accountable for the behavior of its puppet government. These conclusions are made quite clear by paragraph 366 of U.S. Army Field Manual 27-10 (1956): 366. Local Governments Under Duress and Puppet Governments The restrictions placed upon the authority of a belligerent government cannot be avoided by a system of using a puppet government, central or local, to carry out acts which would be unlawful if performed directly by the occupant. Acts induced or compelled by the occupant are nonetheless its acts. As the belligerent occupant of Iraq, the United States government is obligated to ensure that its puppet Interim Government of Iraq obeys the Four Geneva Conventions of 1949, the 1907 Hague Regulations on land warfare, U.S. Army Field Manual 27-10 (1956), the humanitarian provisions of Additional Protocol One of 1977 to the Four Geneva Conventions of 1949, and the customary international laws of war. Any violation of the laws of war, international humanitarian law, and human rights committed by its puppet Interim Government of Iraq are legally imputable to the United States government. As the belligerent occupant of Iraq, both the United States government itself as well as its concerned civilian officials and military officers are fully and personally responsible under international criminal law for all violations of the laws of war, international humanitarian law, and human rights committed by its puppet Interim Government of Iraq such as, for example, reported death squads operating under its auspicies. Furthermore, it was a total myth, fraud, lie, and outright propaganda for the Bush Jr. administration to maintain that it was somehow magically transferring "sovereignty" to its puppet Interim Government of Iraq during the summer of 2004. Under the laws of war, sovereignty is never transferred from the defeated sovereign such as Iraq to a belligerent occupant such as the United States. This is made quite clear by paragraph 353 of U.S. Army Field Manual 27-10 (1956): "Belligerent occupation in a foreign war, being based upon the possession of enemy territory, necessarily implies that the sovereignty of the occupied territory is not vested in the occupying power. Occupation is essentially provisional."

This brings the analysis to the so-called Constitution of Iraq that was allegedly drafted by the puppet Interim Government of Iraq under the impetus of the United States government. Article 43 of the 1907 Hague Regulations on land warfare flatly prohibits the change in a basic law such as a state's Constitution during the course of a belligerent occupation: "The authority of the legitimate power having in fact passed into the hands of the occupant, the latter shall take all the measures in his power to restore, and ensure as far as possible, public order and safety, while respecting, unless absolutely prevented, the laws in force in the country." This exact same prohibition has been expressly incorporated in haec verba into paragraph 363 of U.S. Army Field Manual 27-10 (1956). To the contrary, the United States has demonstrated gross disrespect toward every law in Iraq that has stood in the way of its imperial designs and petroleum ambitions, including and especially the pre-invasion 1990 Interim Constitution for the Republic of Iraq. As for any subsequent Security Council Resolutions, the United Nations Security Council has no power or authority to alter one iota of the laws of war since they are peremptory norms of international law. For the Security Council even to purport to authorize U.S. violations of the laws of war in Iraq would render its so-voting Member States aiders and abettors to U.S. war crimes and thus guilty of committing war crimes in their own right. Any Security Council attempt to condone, authorize or approve violations of the Four Geneva Conventions of 1949, the 1907 Hague Regulations, the humanitarian provisions of Additional Protocol I of 1977 to the Four Geneva Conventions of 1949, and the customary international laws of war by the United States and the United Kingdom in Iraq would be ultra vires, a legal nullity, and void ab initio. In fact, the United Nations Organization itself has become complicit in U.S. and U.K. international crimes in Iraq in violation of the customary international laws of war set forth in paragraph 500 of U.S. Army Field Manual 27-10 (1956): "... complicity in the commission of, crimes against peace, crimes against humanity, and war crimes are punishable." The United Nations Organization is walking down the path of the League of Nations toward Trotsky's "ashcan" of history. And George Bush Jr. and Tony Blair are heading towards their own Judgment at Nuremberg whose sixtieth anniversary the rest of the world gratefully but wistfully commemorates this year. Never again!

Francis A. Boyle, Professor of Law, University of Illinois

Sponsoring torture in the United States Senate: The Conference Committee that will consider and reconcile the Senate and House defense appropriations bills is scheduled to meet this coming week. The Senate bill contains the "McCain Amendment," which would prohibit all U.S. personnel from engaging in cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of detainees -- i.e., engaging in conduct that would "shock the conscience" under Due Process Clause doctrine -- anywhere in the world. It's increasingly clear that the strategy of McCain's opponents -- the Vice President and his congressional supporters -- will be to amend the McCain Amendment in the Conference Committee so as to exempt the CIA from the prohibition on cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of detainees. The Senate delegation to the Conference Committee presumably will include three of the nine Republicans who voted against the McCain Amendment -- Ted Stevens, Thad Cochran and Kit Bond. A recent Congressional Quarterly article reports Stevens -- who would "lead the Senate's conferees" -- as saying that "he can support McCain's language if it's augmented with guidance that enables certain classified interrogations to proceed under different terms." "'I'm talking about people who aren't in uniform, may or may not be citizens of the United States, but are working for us in very difficult circumstances,' Stevens said. 'And sometimes interrogation and intimidation is part of the system.'" What this barely veiled statement means is that Senator Stevens will support inclusion of the McCain Amendment in the final bill only once it has been "augmented" to exempt the CIA from the prohibition on cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. (Stevens's reference to persons who "may not be citizens of the United States, but are working for us" suggests that he also intends to include a carve-out for foreign nationals acting as agents of the CIA, such as the team of the CIA-sponsored Iraqi paramilitary squads code-named Scorpions.) If Stevens (read: Cheney) is successful in this endeavor, and if the Congress enacts the Amendment as so limited, it will be a major step backwards from where the law currently stands. This can't be overemphasized: If Stevens is successful at adding his seemingly innocuous "augment[ation]," it would make the law worse than it currently is.

Practicing torture in Iraq: Seven members of the California National Guard have been sentenced to prison terms for using a stun gun to abuse Iraqi prisoners. All were members of the First Battalion of the 184th Infantry Regiment, the Los Angeles Times reported. The battalion has had a rough year, with seven soldiers killed and 71 wounded in combat -- about 10 percent of its strength -- and allegations of misconduct. The seven soldiers included three sergeants who received terms of up to 12 months.

Starvation policy: A senior United Nations official has accused US-led coalition troops of depriving Iraqi civilians of food and water in breach of humanitarian law.

Human rights investigator Jean Ziegler said they had driven people out of insurgent strongholds that were about to be attacked by cutting supplies.

Mr. Ziegler, a Swiss-born sociologist, said such tactics were in breach of international law.

A US military spokesman in Baghdad denied the allegations.

When will there be accountability?: It’s not yet clear whether senators will succeed in their effort to force the Bush administration to give up the use of "cruel, inhuman and degrading" treatment of foreign detainees, despite a 90-9 vote by the Senate. Resistance by House Republicans and the White House threat of a veto means this badly needed restoration of the American commitment to human rights faces an uphill battle in the coming weeks. Meanwhile, the outcome of another legislative initiative stemming from the hundreds of documented cases of prisoner abuse is even cloudier. Sen. Carl M. Levin (D-Michigan) so far has won no Republican support for a proposal to create an independent commission to investigate the treatment of detainees since 2001. Given what is known -- and still unknown -- about this shocking and shameful record, the rejection of accountability by the administration and Congress is a scandal in its own right.

A number of senior Army officers, most notably former Iraq commander Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez and former Guantanamo commander Maj. Gen. Geoffrey D. Miller, have been implicated in serious offenses, including ordering or approving prisoner mistreatment. Yet the only direct investigation of these still-active generals, by the Army inspector general, resulted in no sanctions or charges. The head of the U.S. Southern Command, Gen. Bantz J. Craddock, refused to follow a recommendation by the Army's own investigators that Gen. Miller be held accountable for the "degrading and abusive treatment" of one Guantanamo prisoner.

We're willing to make a prediction: Some day there will be an exhaustive investigation of how and why prisoners were abused after 2001, and accountability will be assigned to the senior officers and officials who now hide behind their subordinates and inspector generals. Like the internment of ethnic Japanese during World War II or the CIA's involvement in Cold War-era coup plots and assassinations, government acts so at odds with fundamental American standards will eventually be exposed and disowned by our democracy. Yet it would be much better for the legacy of President Bush, and this Republican Congress, if that honest accounting were to begin now, rather than after they have left office. The opportunity exists: Mr. Levin and his amendment are waiting.


Strategerizing: In refocusing the nation's attention on the war on terror in past weeks, both the president and his critics in Congress are increasingly turning to a fundamental yet frequently overlooked aspect of the Iraq conflict: whether the United States has a clear military strategy to defeat the insurgency.

Time and again, the Bush administration has stated that the way to ultimately break the insurgency is to create a strong and democratic Iraq. But that's the political path to victory, measured in mileposts such as last weekend's constitutional referendum. How to assess the military's progress in subduing - or at least managing - an enemy that refuses to stand and fight is a question that only now is getting asked.

This conflict is the sort that the armed forces have avoided since Vietnam, where the Pentagon never found adequate answers to similar strategic questions. But America's more aggressive post-Sept. 11 stance suggests that this is the warfare of the future - and the military must learn how to cope with it.

Now, pressed by Congress and an impatient public, President Bush and Pentagon leaders have begun to articulate the vision behind their current course - casting Iraq as a battle of wills in which American forces will help an improving Iraqi Army hunt down and destroy terrorists. But after 2-1/2 years of halting progress, doubts are growing among military analysts and a more combative Congress that this is a winning strategy - or even a strategy at all.

A good question: So, why isn't character on the table this time?

Character, we were all so piously told seven years ago, was what elevated Bill Clinton's lie about an extramarital dalliance to an issue of national gravity and justified his impeachment. It was a lie that, to those of us who were not hyperventilating with rage, seemed trivial compared to matters concerning the ship of state, even if it was a lie told under oath in a trumped-up civil trial.

No, no, no, we were scolded; it goes to the character of the man. If you can't rely on a leader to confess before the entire ogling world that he dropped his pants for the wrong woman, how could you trust anything he said? Our children would abandon all respect for honesty, integrity and propriety, using the excuse, "Well, the president did it. Why can't I?"

These dire predictions of social anarchy struck me as absurdly exaggerated, but the standard was set. Or so we thought.

In rode a new administration and party promising to raise the bar on character. As I see it, they've splintered that bar into toothpicks.

And yet, isn't it curious how in the public discourse today one rarely hears references to character as a material issue with respect to political leadership? If an extramarital affair was proof of a vacant character, wouldn't questionable actions that actually affect people - soldiers, covert agents, Congress, storm victims and the like - be exponentially more serious?

False premises: In a New York Times article published on Sunday, columnist Frank Rich buried the dart right in the center-black. "What matters most in this case," wrote Rich, "is not whether Mr. Rove and Lewis Libby engaged in a petty conspiracy to seek revenge on a whistle-blower, Joseph Wilson, by unmasking his wife, Valerie, a covert C.I.A. officer. What makes Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation compelling, whatever its outcome, is its illumination of a conspiracy that was not at all petty: the one that took us on false premises into a reckless and wasteful war in Iraq. That conspiracy was instigated by Mr. Rove's boss, George W. Bush, and Mr. Libby's boss, Dick Cheney."

That last sentence strikes sparks, for it takes us beyond the minutiae of a case surrounding two senior White House aides. However important Rove and Libby may be to this administration, neither represents the end of the story. George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, with deliberation and intent, took this country to war in Iraq based on false premises, inflated intelligence and bald-faced scare tactics. They used September 11 against their own people to get what they wanted. That is the heart of this matter. If Fitzgerald's investigation ends at Rove and Libby, it will have ended too soon.

Rich, in his article, details the existence of the White House Iraq Group, or WHIG. "Its inception in August 2002, seven months before the invasion of Iraq," wrote Rich, "was never announced. Its eight members included Mr. Rove, Mr. Libby, Condoleezza Rice and the spinmeisters Karen Hughes and Mary Matalin. Its mission: to market a war in Iraq. Of course, the official Bush history would have us believe that in August 2002 no decision had yet been made on that war. Dates bracketing the formation of WHIG tell us otherwise. On July 23, 2002 - a week or two before WHIG first convened in earnest - a British official told his peers, as recorded in the now famous Downing Street memo, that the Bush administration was ensuring that 'the intelligence and facts' about Iraq's W.M.D.'s 'were being fixed around the policy' of going to war."

WHIG, and its intention to sell an unnecessary war to a shell-shocked public, is only half the story. The other half of the manipulative sales team could be found in the neighborhood occupied by the Department of Defense. The Office of Special Plans, or OSP, was created by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld specifically to second-guess and reinterpret intelligence data to justify war in Iraq. Think of it like baseball: the OSP pitched, and WHIG caught.

Casualty Reports

Local story: Baltimore, MD, soldier killed in vehicle accident in Al Taji.

Local story: Enterprise, AL, Marine killed by roadside bomb near Al Qaim.

Local story: Morrisville, NC, Marine killed by roadside bomb in Saqlawiyah.

Local story: A soldier and a Marine from Ohio were remembered Monday in separate funeral services. The soldier, from Akron, died in combat in western Iraq. The Marine, from Alliance, was killed by a roadside bomb in western Iraq.


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