War News for Monday, 21 November 2005
Bring 'em on: U.S. troops have killed five members of the same family, including two children, and wounded four others north of Baghdad
Bring 'em on: US forces start new offensive in Ramadi
VP of Torture
: A former top State Department official said Sunday that Vice President Dick Cheney provided the "philosophical guidance" and "flexibility" that led to the torture of detainees in U.S. facilities.
: The Israeli daily Haaretz has disclosed that the US has approved of changing its approach regarding the greater Middle East project, expressing its readiness to list the Jewish state in its attempts towards creating democracy and human rights in the region.
Bogey Man Dead?
: US authorities are looking into whether Al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab Al Zarqawi was killed in a gunfight in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, a US official said on Sunday, but a White House spokesman said that was “highly unlikely.”
War on Error
: Once trumpeted as one of the Justice Department's significant triumphs against terrorism, the case targeting the so-called "Detroit sleeper cell" began less than a week after the attack on the World Trade Center. It was only after a jury convicted two men of supporting terrorism that the flimsiness of the government's case became clear.
Shake 'n Bake
: As became evident last week, it is undeniable that WP was used against Iraqis in the battle for Fallujah which involved US forces in the fiercest urban fighting since the battle for Hue City in Vietnam in 1968. Innocents were killed, and the use of these weapons has been denied or covered up. Past experience suggests that it will be difficult to find out the reasons for using WP or if civilians were among the victims.
WP - British Troops
: Col Tim Collins, the controversial Iraq war commander, trained his soldiers to use white phosphorus, which burns through flesh to the bone, in combat against enemy troops. The admission by the former Special Air Service officer, revealed in his autobiography Rules of Engagement, contradicts claims by the Ministry of Defence that the chemical was only ever used to create a smokescreen.
: British troops smashed into a police station to rescue the two soldiers and later arrested more than a dozen others. But now they more or less stay out of Basra, leaving Iraq's second city at the mercy of a police force that even its commanders say they barely control. There have been dozens of assassinations, including that of at least one foreign journalist.
Testing New Weapons
: Following the chemical reaction, it is produced a shockwave whose destructive power is immense; the new projectile is especially useful against buildings. The US marines used this invention in the battle of Fallujah, a report published in specialized magazine informing that one such projectile disintegrated an entire one level masonry building from 100 meters. According to Human Rights Watch, thermobaric weapons "kill and injure in a particularly brutal manner over a wide area. In urban settings it is very difficult to limit the effect of this weapon to combatants”. For these reasons, the tests and battles in which these weapons were used have been kept quiet, the US marines risking a scandal of large proportions.
Reduction in Troop levels
: American commanders of the war in Iraq have drawn up a bold plan to start pulling troops out of the country after elections next month. The plan, which has been submitted to Donald Rumsfeld, the US defence secretary, calls for more than 60,000 troops — over a third of the total — to leave by the end of next year.
OZ go home
: The spokesman for the Prime Minister of Iraq says Australian troops stationed in the south of the country are not required in the area. Dr Leith Kubba, the spokesman for Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al Jaafari, says he has been to Samawah, the capital of al Muthanna province where the Australians are based.
: Officials in Seoul say the South Korean government has approved a proposal to withdraw one-third of the country's troops from Iraq, while extending the remaining soldiers' deployment by a year.
: No world country, including the US, would dare stop Baghdad from approaching Tehran since Iraq is an independent state, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani was quoted as saying Sunday evening.
Opinion and Commentary
Chambers of Death
The U.S.-led occupation, that was forecast to end dictatorship and introduce democracy, seems to have been a harbinger of more violence, more oppression and more killings. Terrorist attacks are surging and suicide bombers mushrooming. And there seems to be no end to abuses and atrocities whether by U.S. troops, government security forces or the secretive and fearful militias. In the aftermath of U.S. occupation, there is no Iraqi family or home without a tragic story to tell or a calamity to moan. Acts of violence and terror taking place in Iraq are unprecedented in their horror and barbarism. These are perhaps the ugliest crimes and most appalling human rights violations in the history of mankind.
Not every thing reaches the outside world. Even international media representatives based in Iraq are not aware of them as they, for security reasons, spend their reporting stints in fortified hideouts in Baghdad. Horrendous crimes are being committed in Iraq in addition to major bombings the terrorist launch to attract international media attention. Mass killings and liquidations have become the norm with kidnapping a way of life and identity card murder a daily practice.
Mutilated bodies thrown on roadsides and garbage dumps have become a common sight. Amid the gloom and uncertainty about the future, reports surface of prisoner abuses and squandering of millions of dollars by government ministries. Death counts have lost their significance in Iraq with fatal incidents, bombings and trigger-happy militia gangs killing hundreds and even thousands very week.
In the midst of this horror, assassinations of Iraqi professionals, former army officers, Baathists, clerics and Iraqis of note continue with impunity. Some Iraqis may understand that it is beyond the power of the government and the mighty U.S. army to put an end to the insurgency. But they cannot understand why atrocities like those of Abu Ghraib and most recently those of the secret jail run by the Interior Ministry could happen.
They cannot understand why Iraqi and U.S. forces cannot put an end to the abduction of innocent people and the assassination of university professors, medical doctors and other professionals. Every now and then the government sets up an investigation committee to look into incidents like these but to no avail. We know that these committees are formed but we are never told about their outcome.
So the killers, the torturers, the kidnappers, the corrupt officials, the liars and the cheats are free. We the innocent people have become their prisoners. This is exactly the reality of the current situation in our country, the ominous harbinger of even much worse to come.Genocide
Regardless of whether US policy toward Iraq is to be classified as genocide or not, it is important that we as Americans begin to understand the magnitude of the crimes committed by our country’s government; that the number of deaths is even large enough to merit comparisons to the Cambodian Genocide ought to be enough to galvanize many Americans into opposition to the war and the occupation of Iraq. The criminal war against the people of Iraq is still going on, and it must be our utmost priority to end the campaign of colonization and extermination. We must do absolutely everything that we can to ensure that not another Iraqi dies at the hands of the US government. We must demand that American troops leave Iraq immediately. Every day that US troops remain in Iraq, the slaughter continues, and the suffering endured by the people of Iraq and the people of the United States increases.Lose Now or Lose Later and destroy the Army
Not long ago wise heads offered some advice to those of us who had argued since 2003 that the Iraq war was sold on false pretenses: give it up. The 2004 election, they said, showed that we would never convince the American people. They suggested that we stop talking about how we got into Iraq and focus instead on what to do next.
It turns out that the wise heads were wrong. A solid majority of Americans now believe that we were misled into war. And it is only now, when the public has realized the truth about the past, that serious discussions about where we are and where we're going are able to get a hearing...
..defenders of our current policy have had to make a substantive argument: we can't leave Iraq now, because a civil war will break out after we're gone. One is tempted to say that they should have thought about that possibility back when they were cheerleading us into this war. But the real question is this: When, exactly, would be a good time to leave Iraq?
The fact is that we're not going to stay in Iraq until we achieve victory, whatever that means in this context. At most, we'll stay until the American military can take no more.
...the war has been fought on borrowed money and borrowed time. And time is running out. With some military units on their third tour of duty in Iraq, the superb volunteer army that Mr. Bush inherited is in increasing danger of facing a collapse in quality and morale similar to the collapse of the officer corps in the early 1970's.
So the question isn't whether things will be ugly after American forces leave Iraq. They probably will. The question, instead, is whether it makes sense to keep the war going for another year or two, which is all the time we realistically have...
Pessimists think that Iraq will fall into chaos whenever we leave. If so, we're better off leaving sooner rather than later. As a Marine officer quoted by James Fallows in the current Atlantic Monthly puts it, "We can lose in Iraq and destroy our Army, or we can just lose."US Political Reality
Herein lies the real political crisis in this country: the Democrats are not an opposition party, nor are they an antiwar party"never were. At best, they are a loyal opposition. The Democrats ran a pro-war campaign in 2004 with Kerry struggling to convince people that Dems do occupation and war better. The current head of the DNC, Howard Dean, never met a war he didn't adore until he realized he could exploit the energy and sincere hopes of millions of peace-loving Americans. Dean wasn't ever antiwar. In fact, during the 2004 campaign he attacked Kerry for opposing the Gulf War while laying out his own pro-war record.
"In 1991, I supported Gulf War. I supported the first President Bush," declared Dean. "Senator Kerry who criticizes my foreign policy, he voted against that war. I supported the Afghanistan war, because I felt it was about our national defense -- 3,000 of our people were killed. I supported President Clinton going into Bosnia and Kosovo."
How can Howard Dean look people in the eye today and pretend to speak with any credibility as an antiwar voice?
When the hawkish Democrat Rep. John Murtha bravely stepped forward to call for an immediate withdrawal of US troops from Iraq this week, he was quickly blasted by the White House and simultaneously disowned by powerful Democrats like John Kerry. Occupation lovers together again. The bloody scandal of the Iraq occupation has opened a rare and clear window into the truth about this country: there is one party represented in Washington -- one that supports preemptive war and regime change. The reality is that the Democrats could stop this war if the will was there. They could shut down the Senate every day, not just for a few hours one afternoon. They could disrupt business as usual and act as though the truth were true: this war should never have happened and it must end now. The country would be behind them if they did it. But they won't. They will hem and haw and call for more troops and throw out epic lies about the US becoming a stabilizing force in Iraq and blame the Republicans for their own complicity and enthusiasm in the 15 years of bipartisan crimes against Iraq. Why? Because they support war against Iraq.
All of this begs for a multiparty system in this country and the emergence of a true opposition. The epic scale of the disaster in Iraq calls for epic lessons to be learned at home. Like the Bush White House, the Democrats have lost their credibility. They are undeserving of the blank check of "Anybody But Bush" and should never be allowed to cash it again. Rep. Rahm Emanuel, who heads up the House Democrats election campaign, criticized Murtha's call for immediate withdrawal, saying, "At the right time, we will have a position." It is statements like that that should result in Emanuel and his colleagues losing theirs.