Friday, December 23, 2005

DAILY WAR NEWS FOR FRIDAY DECEMBER 23, 2005 Bring ‘em on: Iraqi violence: more killed, including six police officers. Violence around Iraq left more than a dozen people dead, officials said Thursday. Six Iraqi police officers were shot dead in Baghdad, while three Iraqi police were killed and four wounded in an attack in Samarra. Bring ‘em on: US soldier killed by IED in Baghdad on December 22. Bring ‘em on: More than a dozen people dead from violence in Iraq, including six police officers. Six Iraqi police officers were shot dead in Baghdad, while three Iraqi police were killed and four wounded in an attack in Samarra, 95 kilometers (60 miles) north of Baghdad, a U.S. military official said. Gunmen in the capital killed politician Khazaal Jasib al-Saiedi, the head of the small independent Iraq Reforming Movement, Baghdad police's Lt. Mohammed Khayoun said. In the southern city of Basra, an Iraqi translator working in the British consulate was shot and killed, Basra police said. The translator, identified as Basaam Abdelkadim, was abducted on Wednesday night, and his body was found on Thursday morning in western Basra, said Capt. Mushtaq Kadim of Basra police. A suicide car bomb attack against a police patrol on a highway in Iskandariyah, 50 kilometers (30 miles) south of Baghdad, wounded seven policemen, local police said. In Samarra, 95 kilometers (60 miles) north of Baghdad, a roadside bomb targeting a vehicle carrying municipal workers killed four people and wounded another two, police in the city said. In the town of Khalis, 80 kilometers (50 miles) north of Baghdad, gunmen opened fire on two trucks carrying construction material, killing the driver of one truck and abducting the driver of the other, police said. Gunmen also opened fire on a minibus carrying teachers to school outside Baqouba, 60 kilometers (35 miles) northeast of Baghdad, wounding one teacher, police said. About 700 Iraqis demonstrated in the Euphrates town of Samawah, about 370 kilometers (230 miles) southeast of Baghdad, to protest reports that Italian troops threw a grenade at the offices of prominent Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, local police said. In north-central Iraq, U.S. and Iraqi forces uncovered nine weapons caches over the past two days, the U.S. military command said Thursday. Bring ‘em on: South African man working as bodyguard killed in Iraq by IED. He is thought to be the 16th South African killed in the war-torn region since 2003. Bring ‘em on: American working as security contractor killed by IED in Iraq. Another person in the vehicle also killed, and three other passengers were seriously injured. Bring ‘em on: Six Sudanese, including diplomat, abducted in Iraq. Bring ‘em on: Former member of governing council survived assassination attempt in Latifiya. Two bodyguards killed and three wounded in attack. Bring ‘em on: Two more US soldiers killed by IED in Baghdad. Gunmen attack a small army base killing 10 Iraqi soldiers. This happened on the road to Kirkuk, about 45 miles north of Baghdad. Three civilian bodies found with multiple gunshot wounds in Baquba. They were blindfolded, with arms and legs bound. An IED targeting a British army convoy exploded in Basra with no casualties reported. Bring ‘em on: (Concerning attack at Iraqi Army checkpoint in the city of Adhaim, which killed ten Iraqi soldiers and wounded seventeen.) “There were too many to count,” said Akid, a 20-year-old soldier from Diwanayah being treated for gunshot wounds to both thighs. “They tried to kill everybody.” Akid, who would only give his first name for fear of reprisal, said his battalion of about 600 men had already suffered over 250 desertions after a Dec. 3 ambush in Adhaim killed 19 Iraqi soldiers. “They gave up,” he said. “They said, 'The hell with this.”’ Bring ‘em on: One civilian motorist killed and another injured in the crossfire on the attack on Iraqi police in Adhaim. No reports of casualties among the gunmen. The Adhaim attack was the latest in a series of large, frontal assaults over more than a year that betray the force of numbers and the military training of the guerrillas and raise concerns about how well government forces might survive in a civil war if U.S. forces withdrew. Lacking sophisticated armor or equipment, Iraqi police and soldiers are among the most exposed to attacks by insurgents. As mortars slammed into the main army base in Adhaim at dawn, police said, gunmen launched their attack on an outlying post some 10 km (six miles) to the north, on the main road to Kirkuk, firing rocket-propelled grenades and heavy machineguns. (I have read reports of attacks on Iraqi soldiers in Adhaim, Bakuba, and the road between Baghdad and Kirkuk. I think the first and last ones are the same attacks, but I am not sure about Bakuba. All reports say 8 to 10 Iraqi soldiers killed.- Susan) Bring ‘em on: Four Iraqis killed and eight wounded by suicide attack on mosque in Balad ruz. Bring ‘em on: At least 12 worshippers killed or injured in suicide attack in Baquba. (This may be the same attack as reported below, with updated casualties report. Or it may be another attack. – Susan) Bring ‘em on: Two US soldiers killed by IED in Taji, Iraq on December 20th. (One was mentioned in yesterday’s post.) Bring ‘em on: Nine insurgents killed and 16 captured by US forces in two separate incidents in southern Baghdad. Bring ‘em on: Suicide attack on a Shi’ite mosque in Bakuba killed four civilians. Civilian killed by gunfire in Dur neighborhood of Baghdad. A colonel attacked in west Baghdad injured. US patrol attacked in yet another attack in Baghdad. No reports of casualties. In Mosul, two corpses were found with their hands tied behind their backs. In another Bakuba attack earlier on Friday, eight Iraqi soldiers killed and 17 wounded. The name of this article is “Suicide Attacks in Iraq Unstoppable.” Bring ‘em on: Video of blast by suicide bomber at mosque in Baquba. Bomber was detained outside the mosque in search; otherwise the death toll would be much higher. Bring ‘em on: Video of gunmen attacking a checkpoint manned by Iraqi police in Baghdad. This attack killed four and wounded six. Bring ‘em on: “Democracy” and “Freedom” in action. Have a look at the true face of US “benevolent hegemony” (The above two videos may make it onto American TV “news” because they are Iraqi-on-Iraqi violence. But you will not see these photos of American-on-Iraqi violence. – Susan) REPORTS NEWS: Washington seeks partial truce with Iraqi Insurgents. American diplomats called it "mission impossible" -- to bend the rules on contact with powerful anti-American Sunni forces in Iraq and negotiate a cease-fire -- all before last week's elections. Their orders came from U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad. The effort took months and culminated in a day of voting in which Sunni Arabs came out in droves after having boycotted the first parliamentary election a year ago. Horse-trading tried "They went something like this," the official said. "We'll stop raiding houses searching for suspects, or we'll remove our checkpoints from certain places, provided you guarantee there will be no shootings or bombings on a certain road or geographic area." Later, negotiators worked on a wider form of cease-fire, culminating on Oct. 28 in a "big tent" meeting at an undisclosed location, bringing together American and British diplomats and U.S. Army personnel with tribal, political, religious and insurgent figures. The talks involved considerable risk for those on the American side, who shed the conspicuous "business attire" required at the U.S. Embassy and instead wore casual clothing under their flak jackets. Apache and Chinook helicopters ferried them from the protected green zone in central Baghdad deep into enemy territory, including the cities of Ramadi, Fallujah and Al Qaim and Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit. (thanks for the link, zig. – Susan) THE TRAGEDY OF IRAQ: Of the $230 Billion spent in invading and occupying Iraq, $40 Million goes to Iraq and Afghanistan for civilian casualties. The U.S. military uses these funds to run programs generally paying out up to $2,500 per victim to the families of those killed, and smaller amounts to those who are injured or have property destroyed or who were detained. THE TRAGEDY OF IRAQ: Dutchman faces jail on Iraq genocide. A court in The Hague will pass judgment on Friday on a Dutch businessman charged with selling chemicals to Iraq used to carry out poison gas attacks. Frans van Anraat, 63, is charged with complicity in genocide and war crimes for supplying agents to make poison gas used by Iraq in the 1980-1988 war with Iran and against its own Kurdish population, including a 1988 attack on the town of Halabja. If convicted, he faces a prison sentence of up to 15 years. (Seem rather a light sentence, in light of the fact that the victims were either deprived of life itself or left to have serious life-long injuries and grief. – Susan) FOLLOW UP: Dutchman Jailed for 15 years Over Iraq Poison Gas A court jailed a Dutch businessman for 15 years on Friday after finding him guilty of complicity in war crimes for selling chemicals to Iraq used to carry out gas attacks, but acquitted him of genocide charges. The court said Frans van Anraat, 63, supplied the raw materials knowing they would be used to make poison gas by Saddam Hussein's Iraq in the 1980-1988 war with Iran and used against its own Kurdish population, including a 1988 attack on the town of Halabja. NEWS: Iraqis Protest Government Decision to Hike Fuel Prices. Iraqis are unhappy about the latest hikes in fuel prices which the government announced only a few days after the elections. Demonstrations have been reported in several provinces in the country and some protests have even occurred in southern cities seen as bastions of the outgoing Shiite-dominated government. The rise in fuel prices is expected to have far-reaching impact on economic activity in the country. Transport fees and prices of essential items have risen as a result. The hikes cover main oil products including gasoline which now costs three times as much. A liter of locally produced gasoline has shot to 150 dinars from 50. NEWS: Saddam’s Trial Postponed, Again. The trial of Saddam Hussein has been adjouned for the fourth time since it began Oct. 19. So far, no explanation for Thursday's adjournment has been reported. THE TRAGEDY OF IRAQ: Various Private Armies Still Exist, Threatening Iraq’s National Security. Fighters loyal to radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr have set up a base in Samarra, a Sunni-dominated city 60 miles north of Baghdad and home to a powerful insurgent movement. The troops are part of an Interior Ministry special commando unit, based in Baghdad. But while they wear the camouflage fatigues of a government security force and receive a government salary, many of the SWAT-style team members have pledged their allegiance to al-Sadr and are adamant they are part of the Mahdi Army, his private militia. At an outpost in Samarra, dozens of officers from the 1st Brigade Special Police Commando -- the Lion Brigade -- told The Chronicle that they followed al-Sadr. One, who identified himself only as Saif, said the men answered to the cleric and would do as he ordered. Like his colleagues, he wore a badge bearing the commando motto: "Loyal to country." NEWS: Iraqi Reconstruction Shows Progress. In the Northern, Iraqi city of Irbil, construction continues on this new $150 million water treatment facility, which will provide safe drinking water for 450,000 people. Colonel Zillmer says it is the largest of many projects that the US Army Corps of Engineers has been working on throughout Iraq. "I have $466 million of ongoing construction all together, and about 200 projects." In addition to rebuilding basic infrastructure, U.S. aid money is helping restore and encourage the private sector, especially in the field of agriculture. Over $150 million is being spent to fix tractors that have fallen into disrepair during more than 20 years of war and sanctions. The Kurdish region Minister of Agriculture, Aziz Malla, says these million-dollar projects are helpful but the U.S. is hesitant to commit the billions needed to build dams to irrigate the land and make a real difference here. “We have 36 proposals for dams, which would have great impact on agriculture production and irrigation.” The resistance to building dams may be as much political as financial because the rivers flow north to south. And more water for the north could mean less for the rest of the country. But any focus on development, even these smaller scale projects, is seen by many here as a sign of real progress. NEWS: Rumsfeld Visits Iraq. The visit came against a backdrop of mounting pressure on the Bush administration to speed up US troops' withdrawal from Iraq. However, Rumsfeld declined to set a timetable for that, insisting that any further military cuts must depend on assessments of the security situation. NEWS: Blair Visits Iraq. Reports in London said Blair was having "key round-table meetings" with senior commanders and strategists to assess the security situation in Iraq and the likely impact of last week's elections in Iraq on future planning. NEWS: Romanian President Pays Unannounced Visit to Iraq, where he visited Romanian troops in Tallil. OPINION: Iraq has no need of foreign dignitaries flying in. The one thing Iraq could probably do without at the moment is Western leaders rushing in to acclaim its elections and pronounce a new dawn for the country, smothering them with the empty rhetoric of “steps to democracy,” “control of their own affairs” and the “full support of the international community.” Of all its recent visitors, however, none could have been less welcome surely than the US Vice President Dick Cheney making his first trip at the beginning of this week. The prime mover of the invasion, Cheney could also be held responsible, with Donald Rumsfeld, for most of the mistakes of the occupation. The insecurity, the appalling state of the services, the lack of economic growth, can all fairly be blamed on the US administration and the extent to which Cheney himself ensured that it would be handled by the Pentagon and his man Rumsfeld. THE WAR AT HOME: The US Senate has approved a $453 billion defense spending plan to fund military operations in Iraq and elsewhere in 2006. Approval by a 93-0 vote came late Wednesday after senators defied President George W. Bush by blocking his initiative to open up an Alaska wildlife refuge to oil drilling - a project oil firms have pushed for some two decades. THE WAR AT HOME: John Bolton: The Arsonist In his first six months at the UN, John Bolton has offended allies, blocked crucial negotiations, undermined the Secretary of State -- and harmed U.S. interests. We expected bad; we didn’t expect this bad. Progressives knew -- indeed, everyone knew -- that Bolton’s role at the UN would not be merely to represent U.S. interests but to bully the international body into subservience. Bolton has consistently portrayed himself as a man on a mission: to save the UN from itself. But for all his reformist rhetoric, he continues with his wrecking-ball ways, knocking down America’s alliances while our diplomatic adversaries only stand more firmly. After listening to a tirade from Bolton against inefficiency, corruption, and supposed anti-Americanism at the UN during a private dinner, a Sunday Telegraph reporter in the audience asked him what he enjoyed most about the UN, to which Bolton replied, “It’s a target-rich environment.” THE WAR AT HOME: Italy probes US marine for murder in Iraq. Italian magistrates have placed a U.S. marine under official investigation for murder over the killing of an Italian agent in Iraq earlier this year, judicial sources said on Thursday. NEWS: Bulgaria and Ukraine Begin Troop Pull-out NEWS: The U.K., Italy and South Korea are making plans to reduce or even withdraw their troops by the end of next year, following other nations, such as Ukraine and Bulgaria, that have already started to depart. ``It is not a matter of if, but how,'' said Roberto Minotti, senior research fellow at the Aspen Institute in Rome. NEWS: Bush Cutting US Combat Troops in Iraq. President Bush has authorized new cuts in U.S. combat troops in Iraq, below the 138,000 level that prevailed for most of this year, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Friday. Addressing U.S. troops at this former insurgent stronghold, Rumsfeld did not reveal the exact size of the troop cut, but Pentagon officials have said it could be as much as 7,000 combat troops. Two army brigades that had been scheduled for combat tours - one from Fort Riley, Kan., the other now in Kuwait - will no longer deploy to Iraq. That will reduce the number of combat brigades in Iraq from 17 to 15. ELECTIONS IN IRAQ NEWS: Iraq Election Losers Unite to Contest Result Iraq's Sunni Arab and secular parties threatened on Wednesday to boycott the new parliament after alleging massive fraud in last week's election, ramping up pressure on the triumphant Shi'ite Islamists to share power. Sunni rebels, whose informal truce helped push turnout to 70 percent as insurgents pitched for a voice in the new, full-term legislature, warned they would intensify attacks if the Shi'ite Alliance held on to the lion's share of power. The Electoral Commission, which opposition groups demanded be dissolved accusing it of bias, rejected calls for a rerun of the vote, saying complaints were numerous but unlikely to affect the overall result -- a view held by U.S. and U.N. officials. NEWS: Thirty-three Iraqi Parties form bloc to reject election results. Thirty-three Iraqi political parties decided on Thursday to form a new bloc in protest against the partial results of the Dec. 15 parliamentary elections and threatened to boycott the newly elected parliament. More than 100 politicians and representatives of various groups, including Sunni Arabs and secular Shiites, attended a meeting in the headquarters of the former prime minister Iyad Allawi on Thursday and made the decision. "We demand formation of an international panel to investigate violations and irregularities of the elections and to prepare for a proxy election," the bloc consisting of the 33 groups, who ran in the Dec. 15 elections, said in its first statement. The statement demanded the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq, which supervised the ballot, be dissolved for being responsible for more than 1,250 fraud complaints during the polls and asked international organizations, including the United Nations, to review the results. "If they reject all these demands, then all these parties will reject the results of the elections, which entails boycott for the coming parliament," the statement said. NEWS: Students in Mosul Protest Election Rigging For the second day in a row, thousands of students at Mosul University in northern Iraq have demonstrated against alleged rigging of parliamentary elections. Allegations of large-scale rigging during last week’s elections have been made by major political groups, particularly those representing the Sunnis. Only Kurdish and Shiite political factions, who make up the outgoing government, seem to be happy with the results. It is not yet clear how serious the protests are, but several Sunni leaders, aided by secular and independent groups, have warned to derail the political process if their complaints of rigging were not investigated. NEWS: Iran’s Victory Revealed in Iraq election For the Bush White House, the good news from Iraq just never stops. But the joy that President Bush has expressed over the country's latest election, though more restrained than his infamous "Mission Accomplished" speech, will similarly come back to haunt him. Soon after Bush spoke of the Iraqi election as "a landmark day in the history of liberty," early returns representing 90 percent of the ballots cast in the Iraq election established that the clear winners were Shiite and Sunni religious parties not the least bit interested in Western-style democracy or individual freedom -- including such extremists as Muqtada al-Sadr, whose fanatical followers have fought pitched battles with U.S. troops. The silver lining, of course, is that the election did see broad participation, if not particularly clean execution. And because all of the leading parties say they want the United States to leave on a clear and public time line, this should provide adequate cover for a staged but complete withdrawal from a sovereign country that we had no right to invade in the first place. What we will leave behind, after hundreds of billions of dollars and tens of thousands of lost lives, will be a long ways from the neoconservative fantasy of creating a compliant democracy in the heart of the Middle East. It is absurd for Bush to assert that the election "means that America has an ally of growing strength in the fight against terror," ignoring how he has "lost" Iraq to the influence and model of "Axis of Evil" Iran. NEWS: Iraqi Sunni Party Says Rebels Intensify Violence. An Iraqi Sunni leader said on Wednesday insurgents would intensify attacks to drive out U.S. troops and violence would worsen if a Shi'ite-led government returned to power, as seems likely. Sheikh Majeed al-Gaood, head of the "Wahaj al-Iraq" party with strong ties to both Islamist and secular nationalist insurgents, said a victory for ruling Shi'ite Islamists aligned to Iran in last week's parliamentary elections would bring bloodshed. "The resistance will intensify and there will be a bloodbath and much blood will be spilt if Iran's agents gain power," said Gaood whose group has a strong following among ex-army officers, Saddam Hussein loyalists and Arab Sunnis waging the insurgency. "Not a single honest Iraqi nationalist would accept the Iranians or their agents ruling the country." "Those leading the resistance are the generals of the Iraqi army who are well trained," Gaood said. He said only an American commitment to begin a phased withdrawal could bring a scaling down of insurgent attacks and eventual stability. NEWS: Iran Wins Big in Iraq’s Elections. "We knew ever since the beginning [of the Iraq war] that the Americans would become trapped in a quagmire ... Iraq has become a turning point in the history of the Middle East. If the Americans had succeeded in subjugating Iraq, our region would have suffered once again from colonialism, but if Iraq becomes a democratic country that can stand on its own feet, the Americans will face the greatest loss. In such an eventuality, Iran and other regional states will be able to play an important role in world issues since they provide a huge share of the world's energy needs. We see now that the United States has been defeated." The excerpts are from a speech at Friday prayers at Tehran University, made by someone whom the Western world has come to regard as the consummate "pragmatic conservative" (whatever that might mean) of Iranian politics, former president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. There is one thing for which Rafsanjani is famous - he seldom mixes illusions with reality. And the reality is that the Middle East's political compass shifted last week. As the trends became available regarding the Iraqi elections of last Thursday, what has emerged is that contrary to all pre-poll projections, the Shi'ite religious coalition, the United Iraqi Alliance (UIA), not only held together, but also can be expected to dominate the new 275-member National Assembly for the next four years. More importantly, the "secular" candidates who were believed to enjoy links with the US security agencies would seem to have been routed. Former premier Iyad Allawi's prospects of leading the new government seem virtually nil. And Ahmad Chalabi's Iraqi National Accord suffered a shattering defeat. NEWS: Major demonstrations across Iraq on Friday to denounce the elections. Several hundred thousand people demonstrated after noon prayers in southern Baghdad Friday, many carrying banners decrying last week’s elections. Many Iraqis outside the religious Shiite coalition allege that the elections were unfair to smaller Sunni Arab and secular Shiite groups.“We refuse the cheating and forgery in the elections,” one banner read. NEWS: UN Rejects Call for Election Review. "The U.N. is not going to conduct an independent review of the election results," U.N. associate spokesman Robert Sullivan said in New York. The demand for a review came two days after preliminary returns indicated the current governing group, the Shiite religiously oriented United Iraqi Alliance, was getting bigger than expected majorities in Baghdad, which has large numbers of Shiites and Sunnis. COMMENTARY OPINION: The Good and Bad in Iraq. The problem with the President's presentation was that it contained as much propaganda directed at the American population as it did truth-telling and substance. He described post-election Iraqis as "full members of the free world," blithely putting aside the presence of 160,000 U.S. troops still occupying the country. He said that Iraq is now "an ally … in the fight against terror." It's tough to square that description of the country with the very troubled and violent situation that is reality there. Thursday's election was impressive and encouraging, but the anti-American insurgency continues, with considerable losses still occurring, even since the elections. His flat statement that "… we are winning the war in Iraq" simply does not correspond to the facts on the ground, whatever he or Mr. Cheney may say. Even Mr. Bush's quote from the hymn of which a Henry Wadsworth Longfellow poem is the basis, "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day," was misleading. The song does certainly say, "The wrong shall fail, the right prevail, with peace on earth, good will to men." But it was written in the midst of the American Civil War by a poet who was heartbroken by a maiming wound his oldest son suffered in that war the year before. OPINION: Iraq is a Red State. An election driven by religion. A deeply polarized electorate. Disputed voting results, where the only question is whether the fraud was small-scale or massive. Yes, we have succeeded in exporting American-style democracy to Iraq. The question of whether it was worth it has been answered - with a solid "no" - by the American people, but they lack leaders who will speak for them. You get the democracy you pay for. Why did they believe that Iraqis would use the ballot in a more enlightened way than we do here at home? OPINION: Why Johnny Goes Marching Off to War and Tortures Perception, which is the ability to understand, recognize, and empathize, has been manipulated and diminished through western media, language and history in regards to Middle Eastern societies. Starting in 1980 and continuing until the present, Arabs have been portrayed as gun-wielding, crazy-eyed hijackers and terrorists. Even today popular shows and movies stereotype Middle Easterners as war-like, torturers, and insane murderers. A recent sci-fi movie showed an evil Arabic Jinni, when released from his bottle, bent on destroying the world. Words and concepts such as Islam, Arab, and Muslim have almost always been used in the context and in association with words like Jihad, terrorist, fanaticism, fundamentalism, holy war, etc… Middle Eastern names like Hussein and bin Laden and countries such as Iraq and Iran are constantly associated with Hitler and the evil Axis Powers of WWII. Any use of Arabic words in America now conjure up and construct a whole new meaning of agitation and terror in the western mind. The state, in which I reside has adopted a textbook for the public school that has three pictures pertaining to the Middle East and Arabs. One photograph consists of an angry Saddam Hussein, another picture shows several Iranian students surrounding a helpless American hostage, and the third portrait is the Intifada which shows poor and shoeless Palestinians throwing stones at the Israeli Army. There is no mention of the historical background concerning the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict and in regards to the Iranian Revolution and hostages the textbook writes, ‘The dictator of Iran who replaced the Shah was Ayatollah Khomeini, a fanatical Muslim who tried to return the country to the Middle Ages’. By controlling history and images, the state and the powers control the memories and actions of many unsuspecting and unthinking Americans. Misguided perceptions also produce prejudices, judgments and opinions formed without examining the facts. Many U.S. citizens are taught that Middle Easterners do not value life, are always fighting, are socially backwards, and torture is accepted in many Middle Eastern cultures. It is interesting to compare the government’s responses to the Federal Murrah Building bombings by Timothy McVeigh and the attack on the WTC and Pentagon by Osama bin Laden. After the Oklahoma City tragedy, there was no racial profiling or vandalism towards Caucasians or white-owned business’. However, after the September 11attacks and with U.S. citizens filled with prejudices, not only were hundreds of Arabs arrested, but Middle Eastern establishments and mosques were fire-bombed and several Middle Easerners murdered. Prejudice, as a learned behavior, can be so entrenched in the psyche that it prevents people from identifying with others and witnessing new possibilities. During a July Fourth-Independence Day celebration in 1988, as the media was displaying the downing and wreckage of an Iranian passenger plane as the result of an American warship launched missile attack, when the bloated bodies of the 290 Iranian women, children, and men floating in the Persian Gulf were shown, the crowd erupted into cheers and acclamations of praise for the U.S. Navy. Even the President blamed the Iranian pilots for the downing of the passenger air-bus. When the USS Vincennes crew arrived back to their home port in the U.S., each member was awarded a medal and given a commendation. Whether individuals of one society behead people, while individuals of another society drop bombs from thousands of feet in the air that indiscriminately kill women and children and destroy their infrastructure, both cultures devalue life and are problematic. With modern weapons and nationalist aggressive policies, war has become terrorism. There can even be ’terrorism of the mind’ as the U.S. refers to the massacre of 290 Iranians as only the Vincennes Affair. I imagine Iran has a different name for this tragedy! OPINION: Winter Soldiers and Victims There was a small panel discussion afterwards. The panelists mostly started by talking about how hard war was on the soldiers. After listening to almost two hours of amazing testimony from the soldiers who first and foremost thought about their victims, the panelists knee-jerk reaction was to turn back to the soldiers. Someone from the audience made that point and the panelists said, yes, of course, the victims are first and foremost. Still, it felt a bit like lipservice. A high-level person from Peace Action who was on the panel said, yeah, sure victims but, well, polls don't show concern for Iraqis, unfortunately. Sure. If we, the anti-war movement, acts like the victims of our bombs and guns and torture don't matter, why should anyone else? I'm not saying that the anti-war movement doesn't care about Iraqis. I'm sure most of them do. But many have so deeply internalized the instrumental approach to the troops that they are in a lose-lose situation. They do not confront the reality of the soldiers actions, but instead attempt to pander to them and the military families -- which doesn't work. They also don't provide the kind of moral leadership that anyone would want to follow. (I mean, if proper armor for the humvees in Iraq is your first and foremost concern, why wouldn't you just work with established Republicans and even Democrats?) In the end, we get neither the numbers nor the strength of moral clarity. And that is a shame, and I think that dishonors the very honorable path those soldiers on the Winter Soldiers hearings --and many soldiers since-- have taken, which is to stand up and take responsibility. OPINION: Iraq’s Election Results The big losers were secular and nonsectarian parties, such as that led by former interim prime minister Ayad Allawi. Iraqis "preferred to vote for their ethnic and sectarian identity," as U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad put it. The problem with this result, Mr. Khalilzad candidly added, is that "for Iraq to succeed there has to be cross-sectarian and cross-ethnic cooperation." Shiite religious leaders, bolstered by their strong showing, may not be obliged to heed even reasonable Sunni demands in order to name a president and prime minister. The leading Shiite party, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, remains determined to establish a nine-province Shiite ministate in southern Iraq; its leader has hinted at escalating a dirty war against the Sunni resistance spearheaded by the party's own death squads. Kurdish leaders appear willing to collaborate in Iraq's de facto partition so they can establish their own ministate in the north. OPINION: CPT illuminates Iraqi human rights through hostage crisis. Though the fate of the four Christian Peacemaker Teams activists kidnapped Nov. 26 in Baghdad is still unknown, some see a sign of hope in the release Sunday of German archaeologist and aid worker Susanne Osthoff. As they await news on their team members, CPT workers in Iraq and Jordan called on the U.S. government for an end to detention and torture of Iraqis and fair trials for current detainees, they said in a statement Monday. CPT is a Chicago- and Toronto-based organization working to reduce violence in areas of armed conflict. Responding to President Bush's speech Sunday, CPT said they believe "the United States and Coalition Forces war has failed to bring peace and true democracy to Iraq." Greg Rollins, a member of the CPT Iraq team, said in a Dec. 19 statement that CPT had received media coverage because of the kidnappings, but wanted to draw attention to the frequent abuse of Iraqis. "I am disturbed that CPT's personal tragedy outshines the more frequent abductions of Iraqi civilians," Rollins said. Peggy Gish, a full-time Iraq team member, said she has spent three years listening to Iraqis describe their suffering as a result of “mass arrests, house raids and bombing of civilians, continued illegal detentions, torture, and abuse.” The team members also recommended "stating an intention to withdraw all U.S. troops immediately, beginning with urban areas; stopping U.S. bombing; and providing sufficient funds to the Iraqi people to rebuild basic infrastructure," the statement said. In his speech Sunday, Bush said gains were being made in Iraq, and urged Americans whose support for the war is flagging not to despair, according to a CNN report. "For every scene of destruction in Iraq, there are more scenes of rebuilding and hope," Bush said. "For every life lost, there are countless more lives reclaimed." Elections last week for the Iraqi Council of Representatives went smoothly, CNN reported, with little violence on election day. But now Sunni Arab leaders and secular politicians have filed formal complaints and are asking for investigations, accusing the religious Shiite coalition of fraud. In the form of a letter to President Bush, Maxine Nash, a member of the Iraq CPT team, said in a statement Monday that beginning to withdraw U.S. troops is necessary to rebuild Iraqi trust. "My wishes for this Christmas season include the release of my four friends and other captives in Iraq, that troops stationed here will be reunited with their families soon, and that Iraqis will be able to find the peace that has eluded their country for so long," Nash said. Celeste Kennel-Shank, editorial projects assistant for Sojourners, participated in a Christian Peacemaker Teams delegation to Colombia in July 2004. For a Sojourners exclusive interview with Nash, see this Friday's SojoMail Advent reflection by Rose Marie Berger. (This website requires registration, so I included the whole article. – Susan) Humor: Tom Tomorrow reviews the year of 2005. PEACE ACTION: Denounce Torture. Human Rights for All. Please sign the petition for Amnesty International by clicking here. NEWS ON US EXTRAORDINARY RENDITION: The United States has a practice called Extraordinary Rendition. Without being charged with any crime, people are abducted and sent to foreign countries like Eygpt, Jordan and Syria, where they are interrogated in torture cells. They are kept hidden, denied legal counsel, and brutalized, sometimes for years. Extraordinary Rendition is a betrayal of America's best values and a violation of our laws. Watch an online video about Maher Arar, a Syrian-born Canadian, who was detained in NY airport, and then sent to Syria to be tortured. He was never charged with a crime. CASUALTY REPORTS Local Story: Non-hostile Death? A US marine in Iraq was shot in the back of the head and killed while sleeping in his barracks, his family said. The Pentagon said the marine died of a "non-hostile" gunshot wound. The mother of Corporal Adam Fales, 21, said she was frustrated in her attempts to learn more about the circumstances of Friday's shooting in Fallujah, and to bring his body home soon. (Later reports say the shooting was an accident. - Susan) Local Story: Alabama Marine Shot to Death Sleeping in Barracks in Iraq. Glenda Fales said her son's body has been in Delaware since Sunday and the Marines have not confirmed when they will release it for burial. She is faced with the possibility of a Christmas funeral and her birthday is December 26. Local Story: Marine killed in Iraq on-base accident. Local Story: Fort Sill remembers a fallen hero QUOTE OF THE DAY: "To initiate a war of aggression, therefore, is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole." - Judgment of the International Military Tribunal for the Trial of German Major War Criminals - Nuremberg, Germany 1946


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