War News for Monday, November 7, 2005
Bring 'em on: House to house fighting and US airstrikes reported between occupation forces and insurgents in Husaybah
Bring 'em on: At least one US marine and seventeen insurgents killed in fighting in Husaybah
Bring 'em on: Eight insurgents killed by US snipers in Ramadi
Bring 'em on: Three truck drivers delivering construction material to the US forces gunned down in Balad
Bring 'em on: Unmaned surveillance plane downed by insurgents south of Baghdad
Bring 'em on: Police officer shot dead in Bajii
Bring 'em on: Green Zone under mortar attack in Baghdad
Bring 'em on: Police officer shot dead in Baqubah
Bring em on: Iraqi man killed and his wife seriously injured after their car was shot at by US forces in Baghdad
Bring 'em on: Civilian killed in attack on US convoy in Kirkuk
Fighting in Husaybah - Groundhog Day
The Americans hope the Husaybah operation will help restore enough security in the area so the Sunni Arab population can participate in December 15 national parliamentary elections.
If the Sunnis win a significant number of seats in the new parliament, Washington hopes that will persuade more members of the minority to lay down their arms and join the political process, enabling US and other international troops to begin withdrawing next year.
However, a protracted battle in Husaybah with civilian casualties risks a backlash in the Sunni Arab community, which provides most of the militants. Seduced Poodle
Prime Minister Tony Blair was "seduced by the glamour of United States power" in the build-up to the Iraq war and repeatedly failed to influence US policy, a former top British diplomat said in comments published on Monday.
Christopher Meyer, a former British ambassador in Washington who was heavily involved in the pre-war planning, said Blair was reluctant to negotiate conditions with President George Bush over Britain's support for war.
Blair did not use his position as Washington's most important ally to delay the start of the war to give more time to plan for what to do after the fall of Saddam Hussein, Meyer said.Not just in Washington
Tony Blair is set to face an unprecedented parliamentary inquiry into his conduct in the run-up to the Iraq war.
A coalition of Tory and Labour MPs is to table a motion to set up a Commons committee to examine “the conduct of ministers” both before and after the war. They believe they need the support of about 30 Labour rebels to succeed.
The committee, comprising seven privy counsellors, would have the power to see all sensitive documents and call any British witnesses, including intelligence chiefs.
The failure to plan for the aftermath is likely to be at the heart of the committee’s inquiries now that Iraq is in the grip of a violent insurgency, says the Tory MP Douglas Hogg, one of the inquiry’s architects and who is canvassing support for the move. The coalition already has backing from the Liberal Democrats and the Scottish and Welsh Nationalists.
Sir Menzies Campbell, the Lib Dem foreign affairs spokesman, said his party had not supported earlier attempts to impeach the prime minister but was in no doubt that parliament should hold its own inquiry.
“Information that has emerged, in particular the memos leaked to The Sunday Times, strengthen overwhelmingly the case for an inquiry into the judgments of ministers, and in particular the prime minister, in the run-up to war and thereafter,” he said.
The prime minister is the main target of the inquiry but in addition it will examine the conduct of Jack Straw, the foreign secretary, Geoff Hoon, then the defence secretary, and Lord Goldsmith, the attorney-general.
The inquiry is also expected to look at the secret air war against Iraq that began in May 2002, just weeks after Blair had agreed that Britain would take military action with America to achieve regime change. War Games - Gulf of Tonkin II?
The US special forces will conduct a massive war drill near the Gulf of Oman to apparently convey a message to Iran that blocking the sea routes in the event of hostilities won’t be possible.
The US defence department during a classified briefing to the senate armed forces committee said Iran is laying powerful underwater and surface water mines in the Strait of Hormuz but within its own territory.
The Pentagon suspects it is an offensive strategy, and Iran is training its forces to lay mines that could play havoc in a sea war.
To counter this, the US has already urged Russia and China not to sell sea mines to Iran or related advanced technologies which could be used against America and its allies in the region.
The US war drill in the Gulf of Oman could take place around February 2006 and there is a possibility that some Nato members may send their warships and troops to join.
Alongwith the US, Oman, Qatar, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, UAE and Yemen will participate, while Britain, The Netherlands, Spain and Italy have expressed a desire for such a war drill.Stress worse than WWII
: Senior army doctors have warned that troops in Iraq are suffering levels of battle stress not experienced since the second world war because of fears that if they shoot an insurgent, they will end up in court. The two senior Royal Army Medical Corps officers, one of whom is a psychologist, have recently returned from Basra, where they said they counselled young soldiers who feared a military police investigation as much as they did the insurgents. I wonder what sort of stress ordinary Iraqis are facing?
Lies, lies and more lies
Sen. John Rockefeller of West Virginia, top Democrat on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said on CNN's "Late Edition" that the DIA document on Libi showed the White House trusted an unreliable source in "a classic example of a lack of accountability to the American people."
Libi, at the time the most senior al Qaeda member in U.S. custody, recanted his story in January 2004.
Rockefeller, who helped oversee the first phase of the Senate's investigation and its scathing 2004 report on Iraq intelligence, also accused the Bush administration of lying about a meeting between September 11 ringleader Mohamed Atta and Iraqi intelligence in Prague before the 2001 attacks.
The bipartisan September 11 commission reported last year that it could find no evidence that the meeting ever took place.
"It was an absolute lie, and yet they used that very substantially to leave the American people to say, 'This is al Qaeda and Iraq hooked up,"' said Rockefeller, who has long pressed his committee to complete its investigation.
"He (Atta) was in this country. We have his travel schedules, his hotel schedules, his phone calls," he added.7******* Hotel
: The government is donating the land but providing no funds. The US$85 million (HK$663 million) hotel is being financed by an Iraqi businessman whose identity is being kept secret for security reasons. It will take two years to build - in the heart of the fortified Green Zone amid concrete barriers, foreign troops and a transitional government.
That is probably why news of the hotel does not sit too well with the Iraqi public. Most ordinary folk cannot get inside the Green Zone and so will not set foot inside the marble lobby anytime soon. "This means it will serve only the foreign population and the government officials," said Ayad Ali Hussein, the owner of the city's Gulf Hotel.
Saheb Abdul Sattar, 41, owner of an auto-parts store, is upset that the government is donating land and allowing the project, even if it is backed by a private investor. "We want projects that serve the people," he said.
Most hotels in Baghdad are run- down and missing a few stars. Their biggest business in recent years has come from foreigners, primarily journalists and contractors who pay inflated prices for dismal rooms.
Opinion and Commentary
Hall of Shame
Honored for Catastrophe
Smell the coffee
Former CIA Director George ("slam dunk") Tenet, who oversaw an "intelligence" program of lies, misinformation, abductions, torture, the disappearing of prisoners, and the setting up of a mini-gulag of private prisons from Thailand to Eastern Europe, awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom as his tenure at the Agency ended.
Former Coalition Provisional Authority head L. Paul (I never saw an army I didn't want to disband) Bremer III, under whose leadership in Baghdad the American occupation mis- and displaced more money than is humanly imaginable, and under whose leadership Iraq descended into chaos, awarded the Medal of Freedom.
Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Richard ("Guantanamo is a model facility") Myers, who oversaw the Iraq War and whose claim to fame may have been that he called Dan Rather of CBS to try to suppress the first "60 Minutes II" report on Abu Ghraib, awarded the Medal of Freedom.
Former Centcom Commander Tommy ("we don't do body counts") Franks, who oversaw "victories" in Afghanistan and Iraq in wars that have never ended, retired to great administration praise and became a "paid patriot," awarded the Medal of Freedom.Promoted (or Retained) for Disaster
Defense Secretary Donald ("stuff happens") Rumsfeld, who planned the invasion and occupation of Iraq so brilliantly and bragged that he could stand up longer than any Guantánamo detainee, kept on as Secretary of Defense in George Bush's second term.
Former Undersecretary of Defense Paul ("There is no history of ethnic strife in Iraq") Wolfowitz, who spearheaded the administration's blind cakewalk into Iraq and declared himself "reasonably certain" that the Iraqi people "will greet us as liberators, and that will help us to keep requirements down," was made World Bank president and now prefers not to be "distracted" with ancient "history."
Former Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security John ("I'm with the Bush-Cheney team, and I'm here to stop the vote" and "there is no such thing as the United Nations") Bolton, who never saw a country he couldn't include in the Axis of Evil, a treaty he wasn't ready to shred, or negotiations he wasn't prepared to sabotage, was given a presidential recess appointment as UN Ambassador after his nomination was deep-sixed by Senate Democrats. The Torture Brigade
Former White House Counsel Alberto (no rules apply) Gonzales, who helped marshal the administration's case for "relaxing" interrogation rules on prisoners, and the man to whom so many of those torture memos were sent, was made Attorney General.
Former General Counsel for the Pentagon William J. Haynes II, who appointed a working group to circumvent laws and treaties restricting the administration's urge to torture, developed administration policies to deny detainees at Guantánamo prisoner of war status; developed the Pentagon's military tribunal policy to try them; promoted the indefinite detention of U.S. citizens by the President without legal counsel or judicial review, and recommended (over the protests of military lawyers) many of the most abusive tactics used at Guantánamo, was nominated to a judgeship in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals by George W. Bush on September 29, 2003. Only a Democratic filibuster in the Senate derailed the appointment.
Former Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Office of Legal Counsel at the Department of Justice John ("must be equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death.") Yoo, infamous for drafting the August 2002 "torture memo" to White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales and a supporter of unfettered presidential rule in matters of foreign policy, returned to his position as professor of law at Boalt Hall School of Law at the University of California, Berkeley, and wrote a book.
Former Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel Jay ("certain acts may be cruel, inhuman, or degrading, but still not produce pain and suffering of the requisite intensity to fall within [a legal] proscription against torture") Bybee, who was the official author of the August 2002 torture memo , is now a judge on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Former Legal Counsel to the Vice President David Addington, "a staunch advocate of allowing the president in his capacity as commander in chief to deviate from the Geneva Conventions," "a principal author of the White House memo justifying torture of terrorism suspects and… a prime advocate of arguments supporting the holding of terrorism suspects without access to courts," known for his "devotion to secrecy" and to an extreme version of unfettered presidential power (as well as a backer of the stalled Haynes judgeship), was promoted to Vice-Presidential Chief of Staff after I. Lewis Libby's resignation.
Former head of the Justice Department's Criminal Division Michael Chertoff, who advised the Central Intelligence Agency in 2002-03 on how far CIA interrogators could go in coercive interrogation methods on terror suspects under the federal anti-torture statute, was appointed head of the Homeland Security Department where he oversaw FEMA's disastrous responses to Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma, and where he remains today.
Former principal deputy assistant to the Vice President for National Security Affairs John Hannah, a conduit for Iraqi exile prewar mis- or disinformation on Saddam's WMD arsenal, involved in producing prewar administration claims linking Saddam Hussein to the 9/11 attacks and in the Valerie Plame/Joseph Wilson smear campaign, promoted to National Security Advisor to Vice President Cheney.
America got hit on 9/11, and as one retaliatory measure invaded Iraq, which had nothing to do with the terror attacks. Why? Because we thought it had WMD, because its leader was a bad guy, because their people needed rescuing, and when no WMD were found, we said we are implanting freedom and democracy there anyway, so it makes it all OK and … pass me the coffee beans, please.
In the 30 months since the war began, some stock phrases have been thrown about — by the administration, by some in the media — to justify it, and these are phrases that need a little debunking.
First, that this war is important because we are fighting in Iraq against Muslim extremism or "Islamo-fascism" as the president called it recently. OK, except Islamo-fascism wasn't there in Iraq in Saddam's time, and if we are fighting it there now it is because we put it there. As is known by now, Saddam was a thug but a secular thug and had no truck with Islamic radicals.
Second, at least the invasion made 25 million Iraqis free, say the war supporters. Which begs the question: Did a majority of Iraqis ask America for freedom? They did not, and here it is worthwhile to take note of what Shirin Ebadi, the Iranian lawyer and first Muslim woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize, says on the topic. The gist of some of her speeches and interviews is that, yes, people in the Middle East want to be free, but what works best is an organic, grass-roots democracy movement that rises from within, and not something violently imposed by a foreign occupying power from without.
Third, American soldiers dying in Iraq is very sad, but judging from my e-mail some argue saying, "Remember, this is an all-volunteer army and no one forced our brave soldiers to enlist." True, and it's true too that many soldiers enlisted in a show of patriotism after 9/11, but the truest fact is that a great many soldiers saw joining the armed forces as a way out of their dead-end towns and dead-end futures.
So, let's face it — this is a war where the rich and relatively well-off keep their offspring safely home, while circumstances force the sons and daughters of the not so well-off to fight "them" over "there" so business can go on as usual "here."
In the end, this is not about blind pacifism, namby-pambiness, or about offering "therapy and understanding" to those who want to kill us. America got hit on 9/11, and people the world over understood that it had to hit back, which makes Afghanistan a justifiable effort.
What it is about then is feeling heartsick over blood being spilt on both sides over a war that had twisted motives from the beginning. Bill Clinton, in his memoir My Life, said he had the affair with the intern "just because I could"; George W. Bush started this war because he could.
By the time the Iraqis "stand up" and we "stand down," there will be many more American soldiers dead, many more seriously wounded, many, many more Iraqi civilians dead, and to stomach that we'll need something much stronger than coffee beans.