War News for Tuesday, November 22, 2005
Bring ‘em on: Five Iraqi civilians killed and 14 injured in Kan'aan when a roadside bomb detonated near a passing U.S Humvee. Bodies of two women who were sisters and who worked for the Iraqi army found in Baiji. The women were abducted and killed by gunmen, police said. Body identified as Lebanese contractor Nidhal Adnan found in Dujail. One US Marine died on Sunday from gunshot wounds received on Saturday in the town of al-Karmah.
Bring ‘em on: One US soldier killed in a bomb explosion near Habbiniyah.
Operation Bruins: U.S. and Iraqi forces have launched “disruption operations” in northern Ramadi, seeking to dislodge insurgents in one of the most heavily entrenched cities in Anbar province.
Some 150 Iraqi soldiers and 300 Marines and soldiers assigned to the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Marine Division launched Operation Bruins late Saturday, officials said. The operation is “part of a series of disruption operations in Ramadi and is designed to set the conditions for successful elections in December.”
Iraqi politics: Reaching out to the Sunni Arab community, Iraqi leaders called for a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S.-led forces and said Iraq's opposition had a "legitimate right" of resistance. The communique -- finalized by Shiite, Kurdish and Sunni leaders Monday -- condemned terrorism but was a clear acknowledgment of the Sunni position that insurgents should not be labeled as terrorists if their operations do not target innocent civilians or institutions designed to provide for the welfare of Iraqi citizens.
Iraqi politics: The participants in Cairo agreed on "calling for the withdrawal of foreign troops according to a timetable, through putting in place an immediate national program to rebuild the armed forces ... control the borders and the security situation" and end terror attacks. On Monday, Iraqi Interior Minister Bayan Jabr suggested U.S.-led forces should be able to leave Iraq by the end of next year.
Iraqi politics: A mortar exploded Tuesday near officials attending a ceremony in Tikrit in which Americans were handing over a base to Iraqis, a senior U.S. military spokesman said. No one was injured, the spokesman said. Attending the ceremony were Zalmay Khalilzad, U.S. ambassador to Iraq, and Gen. George Casey, the top U.S. commander there.
Baghdad torture dens: The Iraqi government has ordered an investigation into the alleged abuse and torture of 173 prisoners, most of them Sunni Arabs, in an Interior Ministry cell in Baghdad. The Guardian reports that the men were discovered during a raid by a US patrol as it was looking for a missing teenage boy. The Associated Press reports, however, that the US raid may not have been accidental, and may have been aimed at "scoring points" with Sunni Arabs, whose participation in next month's general election is necessary if the US wants to be able to exit Iraq sometime in the next two years.
Baghdad torture dens: It has not been a good week for Iraq's Shi'ite Muslim leaders. After opposing Saddam Hussein's regime for decades from abroad and holding the moral high ground for the past 2-1/2 years as Sunni Arab insurgents routinely attacked their community, they now find themselves at the centre of a scandal. The discovery of a bunker at the Shi'ite-run Interior Ministry where 170 men, many of them Sunnis, were held prisoner, beaten, half-starved and in some cases tortured, has left some leaders facing charges that they are no better than Saddam.
Basra torture dens: British-trained police operating in Basra have tortured at least two civilians to death with electric drills, The Independent on Sunday can reveal.
Baghdad hospital: Inside the compound of Yarmouk hospital, the mud-coloured buildings are filthy and falling apart. Smashed windows provide the only lighting along the corridors. Children touting sweets or cigarettes thread their way through piles of rubbish. Hundreds of people, some pushing wheelchairs, others supporting crouched figures - all clutching files of papers and x-rays - squeeze through narrow metal gates between the different sections of the compound. There are the usual sort of hospital patients here: those with intestinal pains or broken limbs. But there are also Baghdad specialities: patients with car-bomb damage or mortar-shrapnel injuries or gunshot wounds.
The Devil Ghost of Iraq: DNA tests are being carried out to determine whether the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, was killed in a recent US-led raid.
The Devil Ghost of Iraq: A top U.S. commander in Iraq said Tuesday he has "absolutely no reason" to believe the leader of al-Qaida in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, died in a weekend raid in Mosul.
Exporting terror: Pro-Western Jordan, spared major al Qaeda violence before this month's suicide bombings, risks copycat attacks by homegrown Islamist militants inspired by the insurgency in Iraq, security sources and analysts say.
Beneficiaries: Once a bitter enemy, Iran is emerging as a trade lifeline for Iraq as Baghdad seeks to rebuild an economy shattered by years of sanctions, neglect and corruption under Saddam Hussein and since his overthrow.
War history: The German intelligence officials responsible for one of the most important informants on Saddam Hussein's suspected weapons of mass destruction say that the Bush administration and the CIA repeatedly exaggerated his claims during the run-up to the war in Iraq.
War history: Tony Blair had to persuade US President George Bush not to launch a military strike on the studios of TV station Al-Jazeera. According to sources it records Mr Bush suggesting that he might order the bombing of Al-Jazeera's studios in Qatar. And the transcript allegedly details how Mr Blair argued against an attack on the station's buildings in the business district of Doha, the capital city of Qatar, which is a key ally of the West in the Persian Gulf.
Shades of CPA: Standing next to the ruins of the ancient city of Babylon, the U.S. ambassador inaugurated a provincial reconstruction team in central Iraq on Monday -- launching a civilian-led approach to rebuilding the country that could take the burden off the U.S. military. The teams, made up of U.S. government workers led by a State Department official, are modeled on a program that has been considered a success in Afghanistan, U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad's last post.
GOP scumbags: Last week, Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-Ohio) lashed out at Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) on the House floor, and relayed remarks she claimed to have received from Marine Colonel Danny Bubp: "[He] asked me to send Congressman Murtha a message, that cowards cut and run, Marines never do." As Avedon noted yesterday, Col. Bubp's background suggests he's a fairly predictable right-wing activist, a point which seemed to have been lost in the shuffle. But the story gets even more entertaining today -- Bubp is hanging Schmidt out to dry.
Support the troops: The Army and Marine Corps yesterday issued a recall for more than 18,000 body armor vests that did not pass ballistic requirements when they were manufactured in 2000 and 2001. The recall is in addition to the more than 5,000 Marine vests recalled in May after a Marine Corps Times investigation showed the vests had failed tests, yet were still approved and fielded to troops in the war zone
Our creeping Stalinism: UN human rights investigators yesterday condemned the US for denying them free access on fact-finding visits to the Guantánamo Bay base, where hundreds of detainees are being held without trial. Announcing their refusal to accept restrictions, the UN officials warned Washington that "the rule of international law could not be applied selectively".
Capital follies: After largely avoiding the subject since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, lawmakers are suddenly confronting the issue of President Bush's handling of the war. Iraq is now a cloud over everything," said Stuart Rothenberg, a nonpartisan political analyst specializing in Congress. "It's the 800-pound gorilla in the room."
Capital follies: The Pennsylvania congressman who has sparked a firestorm of controversy by calling for the withdrawal of troops from Iraq says Vice President Cheney will eventually agree with his position. Cheney, meanwhile, has unleashed another salvo against critics, calling them "corrupt and shameless" for accusing the administration of twisting pre-war intelligence.
Torture, American style: Harsh interrogation techniques authorized by top officials of the CIA have led to questionable confessions and the death of a detainee since the techniques were first authorized in mid-March 2002, ABC News has been told by former and current intelligence officers and supervisors.
Torture, American style: The tiny Johnson County Airport is home to Aero Contractors Corp., a firm described by the New York Times as "a major domestic hub of the Central Intelligence Agency's secret air service," that shuttles prisoners abroad for interrogation and suspected torture. The Times reports Aero was founded in 1979 by the chief pilot for Air America, a CIA "front" in Vietnam.
Chemical warfare: On Nov. 8, Italian public television showed a documentary renewing persistent charges that the United States had used white phosphorus rounds, incendiary munitions that the film incorrectly called chemical weapons, against Iraqis in Falluja last year. Many civilians died of burns, the report said. The half-hour film was riddled with errors and exaggerations, according to United States officials and independent military experts. But the State Department and Pentagon have so bungled their response - making and then withdrawing incorrect statements about what American troops really did when they fought a pitched battle against insurgents in the rebellious city - that the charges have produced dozens of stories in the foreign news media and on Web sites suggesting that the Americans used banned weapons and tried to cover it up.
Who says WP is a chemical weapon?: The US army knows that its use as a weapon is illegal. In the Battle Book published by US Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, my correspondent David Traynier found the following sentence. "It is against the law of land warfare to employ WP against personnel targets."(5)
Last night the blogger Gabriele Zamparini found a declassified document from the US Department of Defense, dated April 1991, and titled "Possible use of phosphorous chemical". "During the brutal crackdown that followed the Kurdish uprising," it alleges, "Iraqi forces loyal to President Saddam (Hussein) may have possibly used white phosphorous (WP) chemical weapons against Kurdish rebels and the populace in Erbil … and Dohuk provinces, Iraq. The WP chemical was delivered by artillery rounds and helicopter gunships. ... These reports of possible WP chemical weapon attacks spread quickly … hundreds of thousands of Kurds fled from these two areas"(6). The Pentagon is in no doubt, in other words, that white phosphorus is a chemical weapon.
Technowar: Over Iraq, the Predator UAV has been doing an increasing amount of the convoy escort. The Predator is much better at this role. It cruises at 166 kilometers per hour, and has an endurance of up to 40 hours. Unlike the military Cessnas, it has infra-red and low-light sensors as well as a synthetic aperture radar, making it a very capable all-weather platform. The Predator has also been equipped with the Hellfire missile, which has a range of nine kilometers and a speed of 430 meters per second. The Hellfire, designed as an anti-tank missile with an 18-pound shaped charge or a twenty-pound blast-fragmentation warhead, has become a lethal anti-terrorist weapon in numerous strikes over the past four years. For instance, the Israeli Defense Forces have used Hellfires from Apache helicopters to kill dozens of terrorists, usually key leaders or technicians.
Unequal sacrifice: He wasn't being patriotic. More than anything, he was bored.
Besides, two friends were signing up with him. "The buddy system," the recruiter had called it, promising the trio they'd be together for a year at least.
If they committed to four years, the army would throw in a bigger-than-usual cash bonus, too. They could show off their athleticism, travel around the world, be outdoor adventurers.
The classes at Virginia Western seemed so dull by comparison.
Zane Edwards of Roanoke County was 18 years old when he signed over the next four years of his life to the U.S. Army.
He did not foresee three tours of duty in Iraq.
Breaking the army: In conversations with troops in the brittle cities of Baghdad, Mosul and Tikrit during the last four weeks, morale seems a fragile thing, especially among those in the line of fire, shot through with a sense of dread. Many expressed pride in their mission, and the hope that the budding political process would eventually destroy the insurgency. But others described a seemingly never-ending fight against an invisible enemy, and the toll of seeing friends die. "Morale is a roller coaster," said Lt. Rusten Currie, who has spent 10 months in Iraq. "We were all idealistic to begin with, wanting to find Osama bin Laden and Zarqawi, and bring them to justice - whatever that means. Now we just want to go home."
No strong stands: While many newspapers have fully backed the war since its start, many others have been critical of how it has been conducted and expressed concerns for future success. Yet few of those papers expressing doubts have advocated even a phased pullout. As recently as Thursday, just hours before Murtha's announcement, The New York Times, while extremely critical of President Bush, once again came out against withdrawal or any kind timetable for exiting.
Jim Kunstler: America is leading the current crusade because we are the society most desperately addicted to oil, and the Middle East is where two-thirds of the world's remaining oil lies. The one thing that we apparently cannot bring ourselves to talk about is our addiction itself. The commuters whizzing around the edge cities and metroplexes of this land probably got a big charge out of Congressman Murtha's anti-war blast taking over drive-time radio on Friday. I wonder if they thought about how it might affect their commuting.
This whole spectacle -- both the inept war itself and our debate about it here at home -- is particularly shameful for the official opposition, my party, the Democrats, because we could be talking about the so-called elephant-in-the-room, namely how we live in America and the tragic choices we've made, and the things we might do to change that -- but the party leadership is too brain-dead or craven to do that. As long as we don't, we're going to be wrassling a tarbaby in the Middle East.
Unless an anti-war opposition has a plan to withdraw from the project of suburban sprawl, we're going to have to keep soldiers in Iraq, if not in the cities, then out in desert bases guarding the oil works and keeping planes ready to fly in case some al-Zarqawi-type maniac mounts a coup in Saudi Arabia. It would certainly be legitimate for the Democratic party to oppose the idea that we can continue to be crippled by car-dependency, or that we ought to keep subsidizing that way of life -- which Vice-president Cheney called "non-negotiable." We'd better negotiate that or somebody else is going to negotiate it for us, and that is exactly what they are doing with IED's in Iraq and elsewhere.
Jeremy Scahill: None of the horrors playing out in Iraq today would be possible without the Democratic Party. And no matter how hard some party leaders try to deny it, this is their war too and will remain so until every troop is withdrawn. There is no question that the Bush administration is one of the most corrupt, violent and brutal in the history of this country but that doesn't erase the serious responsibility the Democrats bears for the bloodletting in Iraq.
As disingenuous as the Administration's claims that Iraq had WMDs is the flimsy claim by Democratic lawmakers that they were somehow duped into voting for the war. The fact is that Iraq posed no threat to the United States in 2003 any more than it did in 1998 when President Clinton bombed Baghdad. John Kerry and his colleagues knew that. The Democrats didn't need false intelligence to push them into overthrowing Saddam Hussein's regime. It was their policy; a policy made the law of the land not under George W. Bush, but under President Bill Clinton when he signed the 1998 Iraq Liberation Act, formally initiating the process of regime change in Iraq.
Manipulated intelligence is but a small part of a bigger, bipartisan 15-year assault on Iraq's people. If the Democrats really want to look at how America was led into this war, they need to go back further than the current president's inauguration.
Editorial: Mr. Murtha, who is considered a military expert in the House, also says the U.S. military is being severely weakened with nothing to show for it.
The president has been unable to demonstrate otherwise. He makes speech after speech on the need for the war but offers no substantive solutions other than "staying the course." It is clear the Iraqis are woefully unable to defend themselves and won't be for quite some time.
If we do not pull the troops out immediately, how long will we tolerate a situation that shows no improvement?
That is the debate that should be taking place. If nothing in Iraq is going the way the administration said it would, if Mr. Bush cannot make a convincing case for remaining there - and he hasn't so far - then we have no alternative but to get out.
Mr. Murtha's call should force the administration to provide evidence to back up its insistence that the war should continue. And it should embolden critics of the war in Congress to insist on a substantive debate.
Mr. Bush himself says people "should feel comfortable about expressing their opinions about Iraq," that it's a "worthy debate."
OK, then let's have it.
Eugene Robinson: The administration is losing the public debate because of its many missteps and failures, but also because of its insistence on conflating the war in Iraq with the larger "war on terror." Does anyone understand what "war on terror" means? The country was attacked by a murderous association of Islamic fundamentalists led by Osama bin Laden. Last we heard, he was still alive and well, probably in some cave in northwestern Pakistan. That's a long way from Iraq.
The president says that Iraq is a test of our nation's resolve, that anything less than victory will confirm the enemy's view that America lacks the stomach for a fight. But "stay the course" doesn't play as a strategy when the course seems to lead nowhere. What is victory in Iraq? When will we know we've won? When the simmering, low-level civil war we've ignited sparks into full flame and somebody takes over the country? When a new government in Baghdad declares its eternal brotherhood and friendship with Tehran?
Digby: To some extent civilization is nothing more than leashing the beast within. When you go to the dark side, no matter what the motives, you run a terrible risk of destroying yourself in the process. I worry about the men and women who are engaging in this torture regime. This is dangerous to their psyches. But this is true on a larger sociological scale as well. For many, many moons, torture has been a simple taboo --- you didn't question its immorality any more than you would question the immorality of pedophilia. You know that it's wrong on a visceral, gut level. Now we are debating it as if there really is a question as to whether it's immoral --- and, more shockingly, whether it's a positive good. Our country is now openly discussing the efficacy of torture as a method for extracting information.
When Daniel Patrick Moynihan coined the phrase "defining deviancy down" he couldn't ever have dreamed that we would in a few short decades be at a place where torture is no longer considered a taboo. It certainly makes all of his concerns about changes to the nuclear family (and oral sex) seem trivial by comparison. We are now a society that on some official levels has decided that torture is no longer a deviant, unspeakable behavior, but rather a useful tool. It's not hidden. People publicly discuss whether torture is really torture if it features less than "pain equavalent to organ failure." People no longer instinctively recoil at the word --- it has become a launching pad for vigorous debate about whether people are deserving of certain universal human rights. It spirals down from there.
When the smoke finally clears, and we can see past that dramatic day on 9/11 and put the threat of islamic fundamentalism into its proper perspective, I wonder if we'll be able to go back to our old ethical framework? I'm not so sure we will even want to. It's not that it changed us so much as it revealed us, I think. A society that can so easily discard it's legal and ethical taboos against cruelty and barbarism, is an unstable society to begin with.
Award: A U.S. soldier from the tiny Pacific island of Pohnapei was awarded a Bronze Star with Valor here Monday for bravery during combat in Fallujah, Iraq, last year.
Command Sgt. Maj. James A. Benedict pinned the medal on Spc. Rodney Roby, 22, on the Camp Red Cloud parade ground before several hundred soldiers from the 2nd Infantry Division’s Special Troops Battalion.
As of Monday, Nov. 21, 2005, at least 2,097 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count. At least 1,638 died as a result of hostile action, according to the military's numbers. The figures include five military civilians.
Local story: Dennis W. Zilinski II, 23, died in the line of duty while serving as an officer in the Army in Iraq, township officials said Monday.
The Department of Defense has not publicly confirmed details about Zilinski's death, such as when and where it occurred. Howell Police Chief Ronald Carter confirmed that members of his department accompanied Army officials when they notified the family Saturday night of their son's death.
About a dozen cars were parked Monday at the home on Katie Court, where a State Police trooper said the family was accepting visits only from friends and relatives.
Local story: A single church bell tolled for three minutes Monday, with each mournful bong followed by a prolonged pause.
The rapid firing of military rifles by an Army honor guard ensued, followed by the playing of taps and the careful folding of the American flag by military pallbearers.
Two church bells then began ringing just before the honor guard presented the flags to Army Staff Sgt. Stephen Sutherland's widow and mother.
Local story: Sgt. Luis Reyes of Aurora called his young wife from Kuwait to tell her he was headed to Iraq, but he never completed the journey.
The 26-year-old was killed last week when the bus he was riding in rolled.
Reyes and nine other members of the 947th Engineer Company of the Colorado National Guard were injured.
Reyes died from the injuries, according to the Department of Defense, which is investigating the cause of the accident.
Local story: Anthony R.C. Yost was two months away from retiring with 20 years in the military when he was killed, family members say.
"He was coming home (to Millington) in January; he wanted to get out so that he could be there for his 2-year-old son, A.J. (Anthony James)," said Yost's grandmother, Fern M. Yost, 79, of Clio.
A suicide bomber on Friday killed Yost, an Army Special Forces master sergeant, in Iraq, a federal Department of Defense Web site shows.
Local story: A young Camp Lejeune Marine and a 49-year-old soldier called to service in the National Guard were buried this weekend in Western North Carolina.
Friends, family and a Marine honor guard dressed in white dress caps and dark jackets gathered Sunday to bury Lance Cpl. Daniel Freeman Swaim in Yadkin County with military honors.
Swaim, 19, was killed Nov. 10 while searching for insurgents outside an Iraqi town near the Syrian border. Family members said he was killed by an explosive device.
Swaim joined the Marine Corps last summer after graduating from Forbush High School with high honors. He began his first tour of duty in Iraq in August.
Canton native Staff Sgt. Mike Parrott also was killed Nov. 10, when he was shot by a sniper as he patrolled an Iraqi highway.
Local story: A 101st Airborne Division soldier who was born and raised in Gurnee and attended Woodland Elementary School in Gages Lake was killed in an attack during combat operations in Iraq.
The Army confirmed that two soldiers with the 101st Airborne, including Pfc. Anthony Alex Gaunky, 19, of Sparta, Wis., formerly of Gurnee, were killed in an attack in Iraq.
Gaunky and Spec. Vernon Widner, 34, of Redlands, Calif., died from injuries suffered Thursday near Bayji, Iraq, said Fort Campbell, Ky., spokesman John Minton.
Local story: 2nd Lt. Justin Smith: A natural athlete and incredibly fit, Smith was a financial whiz and managed a good word about everyone.
“He had a bright disposition and had calm, soothing smile, which is pretty powerful for a leader,” noted Lt. Col. Fran Reese, executive officer of Campbell’s ROTC program.
He became a platoon leader and his battalion was deployed to Kuwait in February and soon went to Iraq. From the beginning Smith fearlessly faced danger as he participated in over 100 combat patrols. During some of these patrols he encountered Improvised Explosive Devices (IED), bombs that are put into everyday items including soda cans or road kill. The enemy uses these innocent items to trick soldiers into detonating one.
On Nov. 7 around 5 p.m. a vehicle carrying explosives went through the checkpoint, one of the enemy’s most effective ways of attacking. This explosion killed four Americans, including Smith, and one Iraqi interpreter.
Local story: Family and friends are mourning the loss of Dominic Sacco, an Albany High graduate who gave his life fighting in Iraq.
Sacco was commanding a tank in Taji, near Baghdad, when he was shot in the side. He died instantly.
The 32 year-old soldier was also a new father. He was home in the Albany area just two months ago to visit his son Anthony for the first time.
Local story: A northeastern Indiana Marine killed in Iraq transformed himself from the "worst swimmer" on the team to a fine athlete over four years, his coach said.
Scott A. Zubowski, 20, and another Marine died when a roadside bomb exploded during combat operations near Fallujah in Iraq's Al Anbar province on Nov. 12, the military said.
Zubowski was on his second tour of duty in Iraq. His first tour was from February to October 2004. He returned to Iraq in July and was set to come home before his 21st birthday in March, his father, Rick Zubowski, had said.
Local story: Tributes have been paid to the British soldier killed in a bomb attack in Iraq at the weekend.
Sergeant John ‘Jonah’ Jones, 31, from the 1st Battalion the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, died from injuries sustained in a roadside bomb attack in the southern Iraq city of Basra on Sunday. He had been on a routine patrol as the commander when the incident occurred, the Ministry of Defence confirmed.
Four other soldiers were also injured during the attack.
Sgt Jones, who was from Birmingham, was married with one son, five-year-old Jack.
Local story: The remains of the two Filipino workers killed in a bomb explosion in Iraq arrived in Manila on Tuesday afternoon.
Grief-stricken relatives of Ponciano Men-men Loque and Benjie Bongolan Carreon received the caskets at the cargo area of Qatar Airways at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).
Loque and Carreon were among the more than 60 people killed when a mosque was bombed in Baghdad last November 11.
Local story: Army Staff Sgt. James Estep had such a strong sense of foreboding that he would die in Iraq that he went over detailed funeral plans and made special family visits before his Oct. 2 deployment.
The last time I saw him, he said, 'Dad, I love you and probably won't never see you again,"' Estep's stepfather, Richard Hayton, told the Orlando Sentinel. "Like he'd had a premonition."
Estep, 26 and a father of three, was one of four soldiers killed by a roadside bomb in Taji, Iraq, on Nov. 15.