Monday, December 26, 2005

DAILY WAR NEWS FOR MONDAY DECEMBER 26, 2005 Bring ‘em on: Two Iraqi military killed and seven injured by car bomb in Kirkuk. Seven Iraqi secret service wounded by car bombs in center of Baghdad. Bring ‘em on: Al Qaeda executed four Arabs (three women and one man) working for US authorities. It is not clear if the Arabs were Iraqis. Bring ‘em on: US soldier dies of injuries from combat operations in Baqubah. Bring ‘em on: Two US soldiers are killed by separate IEDs on December 25 in Baghdad. Bring ‘em on: US troops kill three Iraqis north of Baghdad. "According to the police investigation the US soldiers arrested Dhrgham Shiyaa in his house and took him to his neighbor house where they arrested Fuad Abdullah Ubaid, a policeman, and his cousin Ahmed Karim Khalaf, an army soldier, and killed the three," the source said. The police found the three bodies in a room of Ubaid's house with 24 empty cartridges. Bring ‘em on: Two Iraqi killed in battle with helicopter in Kirkuk on December 22. When returning to the area after refueling their aircraft, the helicopter crews again identified and pursued the armed men. The men fired at the aircraft, and the helicopters returned fire as the men scattered to find cover. Two of the men hid inside a nearby bunker. The team contacted F-15 fighter jets, which dropped a single bomb on the enemy bunker. (A bomb to kill two insurgents. Unreal. – Susan) Bring ‘em on: Iraqi police officer killed in Irbil by bomb. Car bomb in Kirkuk targets Kirkuk’s Director General of Food. This wounded several civilians. Two car bombs exploded in Tahrir Square in Baghdad, injuring four people. Bring ‘em on: Guerrillas kill at least 10 Iraqi police and soldiers today across Iraq. Four police were killed and 17 were wounded in Baghdad by five explosions. In a second major assault on Iraqi police in three days, guerrillas stormed a police checkpoint near Interior Ministry commando base north of Baghdad, in town called Bahraz. (This was later claimed as the work of al Qaeda.) Gunmen jumped out a minibus and began firing. Five police and six gunmen were killed in this attack. Five Iraqi army soldiers killed in the town of Dhabab. At least five Iraqi army soldiers and two US troops killed yesterday. (The numbers don’t add up. I can only say that the reports are confusing, probably due to the fact that highly stressed people don’t have perfect recall under violent conditions. – Susan) Bring ‘em on: Up to seventeen killed in latest Iraqi violence on Monday. Three car bomb attacks in Baghdad, targeting Iraqi police. (May be the same attacks as mentioned above, or may be different.) Gunman fire on a cargo truck in al Mahmodiya killing two civilians. Gunman shot dead an Iraqi professor of fine arts, Nofal Ahmed, on Monday near his home in Baghdad. Bring ‘em on: Suicide bomber shot at checkpoint by a US Marine in Fallujah, with only one civilian wounded. Motorbike loaded with explosives blew up in Baghdad killing three and wounding 23 others. Governor of Diyala province wounded in assassination attempt in Baquba. One aide was killed in the attack. (Later reports say this was done by al Qaeda.) A member of the Independent National Elite List was abducted by gunmen between Baghdad and Baquba. Suicide bomber threw grenades at police recruits in Fallujah, killing two. He then detonated his explosive belt and killed himself. Five killed and 15 injured in four car bomb attacks in Baghdad (may be repeat of above attacks). Five police men killed in Buhriz after insurgents attack a police checkpoint. Six of the attackers were killed. Five Iraqi soldiers killed in a series of coordinated attck in Dhabab village. Bring ‘em on: Oil pipeline blown up near Samarra. Bring ‘em on: Iraqi police and firefighters responded to multiple car bomb attacks in Baghdad on the morning of December 26. A total of five civilians killed and five civilians wounded and ten Iraqi police wounded. Two attacks were suicide car bombs and two were just car bombs. Bring ‘em on: Yet another suicide car bombing in Baghdad struck at a funeral in Baghdad, killing two and wounding 23 others. This followed the four car bombs earlier in the day. (Later reports say it was a parked motorbike, not a suicide car bombing. And it was at a market, near a funeral. Death toll expected to rise.) Bring ‘em on: Latest update: Six vehicle bombs in Baghdad today, and at least 19 people killed. Yesterday’s toll was at least 18 killed. Also, gunman raided a house in Baghdad and killed three people. They attacked again when police arrived to remove the bodies, wounding two officers. Gunmen killed Soaad Ubed, a member of Diyala City Council. Bring ‘em on: Two US troops killed on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday of Christmas week. Scores and Scores of Iraqis also killed, so many that it is difficult, or impossible, to get an accurate count. REPORTS THE TRAGEDY OF IRAQ: 150 Bodies Found in Mass Grave in Karbala. These were discovered during maintenance work on the sewer system. They are suspected of being killed during the 1991 uprising. THE TRAGEDY OF IRAQ: Violence Rages in Post-poll Iraq Iraq has returned to its violent ways after a brief lull during a fairly peaceful poll - secured partly by an informal ceasefire by Sunni rebels hoping for representation in parliament. THE TRAGEDY OF IRAQ: The Face and Voice of Civilian Sacrifice in Iraq In Iraq, nobody knows, and few in authority seem concerned to count, just how many civilians have been killed and injured. Soon it will be three years since the American-led invasion. The estimates of those killed run into the tens of thousands, the numbers of wounded two or three times the number who lost their lives. Even President Bush, estimating recently that 30,000 civilians may have been killed, acknowledged that was no more than an abstraction from unofficial calculations, not a Pentagon count. “After the shooting stopped, the American convoy continued driving. I thought only the driver was hit. His injuries were serious but not life threatening. When I looked into the back seat, I found my wife and two children covered in blood. I realized my wife was dead. My daughter was dead. I tried to lift my daughter. Parts of her brain fell from the wound on the side of her head. My baby boy was covered with blood and wounds. He survived. I don’t know why the Americans shot at us.” - AHMED MOAYDA (Said his family was fired on by an American convoy as they were traveling by car from Baghdad to Jordan) “My grandfather and I took down our curtains in our home so we could wrap the dead boys in them. He did not want them to lie exposed, uncovered, in the streets. First, we tore the curtains in half. Then my grandfather and I went into the street. Together we wrapped my dead friends. We used to play soccer 11 on a side. Now there’s only enough for three against three.” - MUHAMMAD SATTAR, 11 (Twin brother was killed in a bombing) THE TRAGEDY OF IRAQ: In Iraq, 425 Foreigners Estimated Kidnapped Since 2003. Figure Far Exceeds Previous Assessments; Abduction of Iraqis Is Far More Common. Insurgents and common criminals have kidnapped about 425 foreigners in Iraq since U.S.-led forces entered the country in 2003, a Western official in Baghdad said Saturday. The official, who spoke to reporters on condition he not be identified further, was addressing an upsurge in the kidnappings of foreigners since October. Police officers receive reports of as many as 30 Iraqis kidnapped each day, the official said. But he added that police estimate that only 5 percent to 10 percent of the Iraqi cases are reported. "The problem of kidnapping of Iraqis is not something that's gotten proportional attention," the official said. "The breadth and scale is under appreciated." Iraqis pay an average ransom of $30,000 in each case, the official said, although some Iraqis have reportedly gone bankrupt trying to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars. The main insurgent bands involved in kidnapping are al Qaeda in Iraq, Ansar al-Sunna and the 1920 Revolution Brigades, he said. "There is also evidence of selling up," he said, referring to the practice of some criminals who kidnap foreigners and sell them to insurgents. "It's something that people know they can do and have some confidence in getting away with it," he said. GOOD NEWS (for now, anyway): US Cites Improvement in Mosul Security Few Iraqi cities have seen such extreme swings between peace and violence since the U.S. invasion in March 2003. Sunni Arab with a large Kurdish minority, Mosul is where Saddam Hussein's sons hid after the U.S. invasion, and where they died. In November last year, insurgents took control of much of Mosul, drove car bombs into police stations and fought U.S. troops in the streets. But in a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations on Dec. 7, Bush named the city 225 miles northwest of Baghdad as an example of U.S. success in Iraq. Citing "tremendous gains" in the area, Bush said: "As the Iraqis have grown in strength and ability, they have taken more responsibility for Mosul's security, and coalition forces have moved into a supporting role ... freedom is taking hold in Mosul, and residents are making their voices heard." A civilian Iraqi-American interpreter with extensive experience in Mosul, who could not be identified for security reasons, said people are disenchanted with the insurgency and more trusting in the U.S. military's promises to withdraw eventually. (So, if things are so safe now, why can’t this interpreter be identified? Inquiring minds want to know. – Susan) NEWS: Interviews with three Iraqis about the nature and source of the resistance (video) NEWS: US General Admits Iraqis Want US Out “As Soon As Possible” Understandably, Iraqis themselves would prefer to have coalition forces leave their country as soon as possible,” Pace said in a Christmas Day interview on Fox News Sunday. “They don’t want us to leave tomorrow, but they do want us to leave as soon as possible.” Some US foreign policy experts have expressed concern that a new Iraqi government emerging from the December 15 parliamentary elections could ask American troops to leave, but officials have dismissed that forecast as unrealistic. However, an opinion survey conducted in Iraq in October and November by ABC News and a pool of other US and foreign media outlets showed that despite some improvements in security and living standards, US military operations in the country were increasingly unpopular. Two-thirds of those polled said they opposed the presence of US and coalition forces in Iraq, up 14 points from a similar survey taken in February 2004. HYPOCRISY IS NOT DEAD: US Says No Handover of Prisons to Iraq. The U.S. military will not hand over detention facilities or individual detainees to Iraqi officials until they've demonstrated higher standards of care, a U.S. official said Sunday. Lt. Col. Barry Johnson said detention facilities in Iraq will be transferred over time to Iraqi officials but that they must first demonstrate that detainees' human rights aren't being violated and that international law is being followed. NO, HYPOCRISY IS NOT DEAD: US Commander accuses Iran of meddling in Iraq. "And I believe they will continue to attempt to influence the formation of this government over the coming weeks, to get a government that they believe is supportive of their interests," he said, adding: "That is worrisome and it is a challenge for us.” HYPOCRISY IS ALIVE AND WELL: Christmas Spirit Mocked by World of War, Torture. This year I am bewildered and incredulous at the perversion of Christmas by George W. Bush. Although he "takes responsibility" for a war he admits was unjustified, there is no evidence that he is trying to ‘do justice, seek mercy, or walk humbly’ with his God or the world. I’d sooner believe in Santa and Rudolph than in Bush as a Christian. In addition to our Bush’s pursuit of war and defense of torture, the White House is celebrating Christmas with "All Things Bright and Beautiful," while for millions of children living in fear, want and pain, having anything Bright and Beautiful is less believable than Santa and red-nosed Rudolph. AND THE BIGGEST HYPOCRISY OF THEM ALL: Send our sons and daughters to fight for “freedom and democracy” in Iraq while limiting freedom for their parents at home. Domestic Spying and Intimidation of Military Families The information received via the phone call was to inform the families that the base did not condone the site, nor [did] the Army, and that it was not to be used; the gist was, families were not allowed to use the site, or they could get into "trouble". Some members reported their soldier calling from Iraq, telling them to be careful about using the site as the Army was monitoring it. I reminded the Army I am a private citizen, not on base, with a private site making no claims to have any affiliation with any branch of service, but clearly stating we were families and friends of our unit in support of one another. We were treated to power by intimidation. It isn't hard to make that work, when you have someone's child in a war zone. We were a group of 77 families from all over the country, at the time of the call. Every single family was phoned and told not to use the site; and I believe some 150 other families were phoned as well, as it was an official order from a commanding officer. I have waited to speak of this situation until my son was home safe and sound, and also after his transfer to another base. Yes, I was afraid of repercussions that could have harmed him, one way or another. I called my local senator's office, 4 months ago, following up every 10 days to 2 weeks, and still have no answers or support. It's simply amazing that my son and others risk their lives for ”Freedom" in Iraq, when his own mother's civil liberties are threatened, and families are intimidated into silence, by the very same Army he is serving. I am hoping after reading this you may direct me as to where I can at least have this concern heard. Basically, are the following common practice, and legal? **The Armed services can order families from communicating in a private forum? **The Armed services can threaten private citizens’ first amendment rights? I want to make sure this is not happening to other service member's families. We live in a hell everyday during the deployment of our loved ones; we don't need the added bullying or stripping away our means of helping one another. NEWS: US Missteps Leave Iraqis in the Dark The massive U.S. effort will leave behind this legacy: Iraqis will actually have, on average, fewer hours per day of electricity in their homes than they did before the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003. "The money was not effective," Muhsin Shalash, Iraq's minister of electricity, said in an interview. "The contracting was wrong. The whole planning was wrong…. It's a big problem."U.S. officials have blamed insurgent attacks, unchecked demand and the poor conditions of Iraq's power plants for hobbling the bid to restore electricity. But interviews with dozens of U.S. and Iraqi officials reveal that poor decisions by the United States also played a significant role.Perhaps most serious was the decision to expand a program begun under Saddam Hussein to install dozens of natural-gas-fired electrical generators, U.S. and Iraqi officials said. Iraq has such gas in abundance, but it uses only a fraction of it. The rest is burned off during oil production. The U.S. spent hundreds of millions of dollars to purchase and install natural-gas-fired generators in electricity plants throughout Iraq. But pipelines needed to transport the gas weren't built because Iraq's Oil Ministry, with U.S. encouragement, concentrated instead on boosting oil production to bring in hard currency for the nation's cash-starved economy. In at least one case, the U.S. paid San Francisco-based Bechtel Corp. $69 million for a natural-gas-fired plant that was never built, according to State Department documents and U.S. officials. (Read the whole article. It is unbelievable, and unlines the real reason we should never allow our government to do anything outside or inside our borders- they are plain incompetent, pure and simple. – Susan) NEWS: US Seeks to Escape Brutal Cycle in Iraqi City On one of his last days in Iraq, Sgt. Dale Evans looked out over the turbulent city from a rooftop tower piled high with sandbags, manning a machine gun. Below him, rows of Bradley Fighting Vehicles stood at the ready. Dusty streets were lined with coiled barbed wire and abandoned houses pockmarked from gunfire -- a protective no-man's land around a base that U.S. commanders describe as their "battleship" in downtown Samarra. This month, Evans and his company from the 3rd Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment, will leave Patrol Base Uvanni, beginning a third attempt in as many years by U.S. forces to hand this Sunni city over to Iraqi police. It's a major test for the U.S. military in Iraq, and one U.S. commanders here say they can't afford to fail. Since 2003, Samarra has come to symbolize the trials and errors of U.S. strategy in Iraq -- a cycle of military offensives, lulls and new waves of lethal insurgent attacks. In recent months, U.S. forces have resorted to draconian tactics to try to drive insurgents from Samarra and keep them out. In late August, Army engineers used bulldozers to build an eight-foot-high, 6 1/2-mile-long dirt wall around the city, threatening to kill anyone who tried to cross it. Entry into Samarra was limited to three checkpoints. Since then, attacks have fallen sharply, and voter turnout was high for the Dec. 15 national elections. But no one here is sure the relative calm will last. The military received reports that at least one local election worker was killed last week. ELECTIONS IN IRAQ NEWS: Expatriate Results. All of the election complaints demonstrate the difficulty that Iraqi parties will face in forming a government after final election results are released in early January. About 1,500 complaints have been lodged about the elections, including at least 35 that the Iraqi election commission said could be serious enough to change the results in certain areas. The expatriate results released by the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq showed the Kurdistan Coalition List with 36.5 per cent of the vote, the Shiite United Iraqi Alliance winning 30.3 per cent, former Shiite prime minister Ayad Allawi's secular Iraqi National List garnering 11.1 per cent and the main Sunni Arab Iraqi Accordance Front taking 4.9 per cent of the vote. Smaller parties split the remainder. The IECI said that a total of 482,450 valid votes were cast in 15 countries and in special polling stations set up on Dec. 12 for soldiers, patients and detainees. It added that 31,000 expatriate votes were being reviewed and said there were reports of fraud at three polling centres in Istanbul, Turkey. It did not say if the ballots under review were in Turkey. There were 15 million eligible voters in Iraq and 70 per cent cast ballots in the Dec. 15 elections. The expatriate and early election votes, including expatriate votes from Canada, will be added to a national total and help elect 45 of the parliament's 275 members. NEWS: Bombs, Protests as Iraq Election Mood Sours President Jalal Talabani, meeting the U.S. ambassador who is mediating in efforts to transform the newly inclusive parliament into a viable government, urged Sunni leaders to join a new, broader coalition. Otherwise there would be no peace, he warned. Disappointed Sunni and secular parties have demanded a rerun of the December 15 election and threatened to boycott parliament, a move that could damage U.S. hopes of forging a consensus that can keep Iraq from breaking up in ethnic and sectarian warfare. But despite militant rhetoric, seemingly aimed at increasing their leverage, Sunnis are negotiating with others to build a governing coalition on the basis of the existing poll results. Meeting U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad in his Kurdish power base of Sulaimaniya, Talabani said: "Without the Sunni parties there will be no consensus government ... without consensus government there will be no unity, there will be no peace." NEWS: Shi’ites Decline Sunni Bid for More Iraq Parliament Seats Sunni Arab political leaders asked the main Shiite political block today to give them 10 Shiite seats in the new parliament in an early attempt to defuse tensions over the results of last week's election. The Shiites refused the request. A small committee headed by two independent Sunnis - Noori Arawi, Iraq's outgoing culture minister, and Zuhair Chalabi, the minister of human rights - met with members of the Shiite group, the United Iraqi Alliance, and relayed the request on behalf of the Sunni parties, said Sami al-Askari, an alliance member who was briefed on the meeting. It was not clear that Iraqi election rules would permit such a seat donation. NEWS: Iraqi Meet to Form Government as Election Result Protests Continue Iraqi President Talabani held a series of meeting with political forces Sunday towards forming a new government as a Shiite cleric called for a united government amid street protests against preliminary election results. Sistani, in a statement issued by his office in the southern city of Najaf, also urged political forces to avoid sectarian strife and “rally around the (goal of) building the country, strengthening economic development, and improving services and security.” NEWS: Iraq Election Protest Called for Tuesday A spokesperson for the Maram alliance of Sunni and secular factions, which is contesting the preliminary results released so far, insisted that the protest call did not spell a rejection of the political process. "The parties and political entities brought together in the Maram movement call for a massive peaceful protest demonstration Tuesday in Baghdad," said the spokesman, Ali Tamimi. "This shows that we are not boycotting the political progress," he said, adding that Maram "is actually looking to move the process forward by revealing the fraud that accompanied the voting process. (There is one thing that the Iraqis united on – rejecting Chalabi. Being friends with Rumsfeld, Pearle and Cheney did not help him at all. – Susan) MEDIA ISSUES NEWS: Media Watchdog Appeals to Iraq Over Prosecutions Two Iraqi journalists face more than 10 years in prison on defamation charges stemming from articles criticizing the police and local Iraqi government officials, a journalism watchdog said on Friday. The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists said Ayad Mahmoud al-Tamimi and Ahmed Mutair Abbas, editor in chief and managing editor of the now-defunct daily Sada Wasit in the southern city of Kut, were due to go on trial Dec. 25. “Police brought a charge over another article about an Iraqi allegedly abducted by Iraqi Special Forces. When the family of the abducted man went to City Hall to inquire about his whereabouts they, too, were arrested,” the CPJ said. “A free press is a cornerstone of democracy and in order for it to function properly, journalists must be able to carry out their jobs without interference from authorities and the fear of imprisonment,” the CPJ said in the letter. At least four journalists are in US detention in Iraq, including three Iraqis who work for Reuters. The fourth is an employee of CBS who has been detained since April despite an Iraqi court saying his case does not justify prosecution. NEWS: What’s the Story Behind 30,000 Iraqi Deaths? Civilian casualty numbers can be hot potatoes. The newly liberated Iraqi ministry of health reported civilian deaths until the number appeared to become a political liability. Then, as the insurgency increasingly terrorized civilians, the Iraqi government resumed releasing civilian death tolls, but only of those deaths blamed on insurgents. A host of other actors -- the Red Cross, Iraqi hospitals, nongovernmental organizations, private contractors, reporters and medical researchers -- compile their own records of civilian deaths, though their methods, purposes and results vary enormously. Certainly, the number matters. First, it can help keep us honest about the costs of the wars we wage. In the Western thinking about just war we demand that a military intervention yield a good that outweighs war's inevitable harms. Civilian deaths alone cannot invalidate a war, but they aren't irrelevant either. They inform individual and national deliberations about the Iraq war -- particularly now that the invasion's rationale, stripped of all other explanations, hinges on the good it brings the Iraqi people. Imagine America being liberated from dictatorship by a foreign intervention that kills, say, 300,000 U.S. civilians. A sobering price, but one we might consider worth paying. NEWS: US Shelves Arabic ‘Propaganda’ Mag In saying 'bye to Hi, the state department acknowledged the dialogue it had sought with the Arab world had become a one-way conversation. The magazine had been derided by commentators in the Arab world as "schlock'' or "brainwashing'' and one had dubbed it the CIA's official publication. The decision to suspend publication was made by Karen Hughes, undersecretary of state for public diplomacy, the fast-talking former adviser and political spinner for fellow Texan George W. Bush. "The state department is conducting a review of its Arabic-language magazine, Hi, to assess whether the magazine is meeting its objectives effectively,'' said spokesperson Sean McCormack. The U.S. government has been spending $4.5 million (U.S.) annually since July 2003, trying to bring its own particular take on American life to a target Arab demographic aged 18-35. Along with Al-Hurra TV and Radio Sawa, Hi was a three-pronged $62 million (U.S.) annual effort to counter anti-Americanism in countries such as Iraq, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Yemen and others. "Like other parts of our new diplomatic effort, it was not seen as something credible,'' said Steven Cook, a Middle East expert at the non-partisan Council on Foreign Relations. NEWS: Bloggers, Money Now Weapons in Information War (Washington Post) I am convinced that information operations from both sides are increasing and intensifying. I think both sides are beginning to understand that this struggle will be waged in both the kinetic and informational realms, but that the latter is the decisive area of operations," wrote Daniel Kuehl, a professor at the National Defense University in Washington who specializes in information operations. "The insurgents target several audiences, including the Islamic world and the American populace." In addition, the military has paid money to try to place favorable coverage on television stations in three Iraqi cities, according to an Army spokesman, Maj. Dan Blanton. The military, said Blanton, has given one of the stations about $35,000 in equipment, is building a new facility for $300,000 and pays $600 a week for a weekly program that focuses positively on U.S. efforts in Iraq. The names of the city and the television station are being withheld because the producer of the show said he and his staff would be seen as collaborators and endangered if identified. (And, after reading that last line, let me tell you that this WaPo story started out by covering a blogger who went to Iraq to get ‘the real story’ of the war – that is, the good news. No kidding. – Susan) And about that blogger: After military officials in Baghdad said Roggio could not be issued media credentials unless he was affiliated with an organization, the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative-leaning research organization in Washington, offered him an affiliation, according to an entry on Roggio's blog. OPINION: Why Oh Why Can’t We Have a Better Press Corps? (Washington Post Chalabi Suck-Up Edition) A few weeks ago, no less an esteemed outlet than the Washington Post would have had us believe that Ahmed Chalabi was a serious contender for prime minister of Iraq -- and this after almost everything of consequence that Chalabi had told the U.S. media had proven to be bogus.... "Highly placed sources say he has become the choice of many U.S. officials to lead the country," the Post reported. Washington Post last month: Anticipation is high in the steamy standing-room-only crowd of journalists and cameras at the American Enterprise Institute. "Hollywood," "big deal," "who knew?" is the buzz around the room. Of course every news organization wants to be there for the return of Iraqi lightning rod Ahmed Chalabi. Outside on the street, a small crowd of placard-carrying protesters are shouting "Liar." Chalabi strides to the podium after a flattering introduction by the head of the institute. One top White House official, in listing the possible leaders who could emerge in Iraq after next month's elections, put Chalabi's name first. NEWS: Planted PR Stories Not News to Military U.S. military officials in Iraq were fully aware that a Pentagon contractor regularly paid Iraqi newspapers to publish positive stories about the war, and made it clear that none of the stories should be traced to the United States, according to several current and former employees of Lincoln Group, the Washington-based contractor. In contrast to assertions by military officials in Baghdad and Washington, interviews and Lincoln Group documents show that the information campaign waged over the last year was designed to cloak any connection to the U.S. military. "In clandestine parlance, Lincoln Group was a 'cutout' — a third party — that would provide the military with plausible deniability," said a former Lincoln Group employee who worked on the operation. "To attribute products to [the military] would defeat the entire purpose. Hence, no product by Lincoln Group ever said 'Made in the U.S.A.' " A number of workers who carried out Lincoln Group's offensive, including a $20-million two-month contract to influence public opinion in Iraq's restive Al Anbar province, describe a campaign that was unnecessarily costly, poorly run and largely ineffective at improving America's image in Iraq. The current and former employees spoke on condition of anonymity because of confidentiality restrictions. "In my own estimation, this stuff has absolutely no effect, and it's a total waste of money," said another former employee, echoing the sentiments of several colleagues. "Every Iraqi can read right through it." NEWS: From Geeky Kid to Iraq’s Rich Fake News Flack The Times Online reports that "The transformation of the geeky but ambitious Christian Martin Jozefowicz, who just a few years ago was growing up in a modest terraced house in Godalming, Surrey, to the charming, baby-faced multimillionaire Christian Bailey now rubbing shoulders with some of the most powerful figures in Washington — and who next year will probably face questions on Capitol Hill about his company — is one of the more extraordinary stories to have emerged from the Iraq war. This month it was revealed that Mr Bailey’s US company, the Lincoln Group, was the recipient of a Pentagon contract to help to fight the information war in Iraq. It then emerged that the company was paying Iraqi journalists to plant optimistic news 'stories' in Iraqi papers that had been written by the US military." NEWS: Meet the New Jeff Gannon: Apparently the sycophant's name is Joseph Curl, and he has been making regular appearances on Fox News as of late. He might truly be Gannon's replacement after all. NEWS: Washington Times Reporter Joseph Curl’s Pattern of Misinformation Curl: “Joe Wilson said that he was sent on this mission to find out in Niger from Cheney's office. And in fact, that turns out not to be true at all, it was not Cheney's office. It was the CIA, at the request of his wife, Valerie Plame. So there are a lot of people, including The Washington Times and other newspapers, asking the vice president's office: Who sent Joe Wilson? So I think that a lot of people, like you said at the beginning of this, a lot of people were talking about this, and it is not surprising that the president's right-hand man is talking to the vice president's right-hand man about who this guy Joe Wilson is.” Wilson, in his July 6 New York Times op-ed, in fact stated that he was sent by the CIA to investigate reports that Iraq had acquired uranium from Niger -- and that the CIA decided to send someone to Niger in order to respond to questions posed by Cheney's office. OPINION: Facts and Fantasies about Arab Satellite TV The recent British press revelation that President George W. Bush last year told U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair that Washington was considering bombing the Qatar headquarters of the pan-Arab satellite station Al-Jazeera (denied by the White House) brought to new levels of intensity and idiocy the ongoing tension between the American government and some Arab satellite channels. This is the most dramatic edge of a wider phenomenon that is being extensively discussed in the Middle East and throughout the West: the virtually unregulated Middle Eastern and global Arabic-language satellite services, and their impact on Arab social and political sentiments, especially their views of the U.S. and Israel. I have had the pleasure this month of participating in two gatherings in Dubai that treated this important issue, which has potentially significant consequences for the region, and also for the world. For there is a direct relationship today between mass media output, public opinion attitudes and political or military action by small groups of dynamic activists and leaders in society who believe they have a divinely-mandated mission to change the world for the better - including Osama bin Laden-type Arab terrorists, Dick Cheney-type neoconservative American militants, and Tony Blair-style British neocolonialists who represent the long and seemingly perpetual tradition (now in its third consecutive century!) of British leaders sending their troops to Basra in southern Iraq. The facts suggest that these channels' professional focus is to provide audiences with a relevant and useful package of news, analysis, opinion and entertainment. Increasing competition in recent years has seen the news-oriented channels with impact expand to include Al-Jazeera, Al-Arabiyya, the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation (LBC), the Middle East Broadcasting Center (MBC), Abu Dhabi Television, and, to a smaller extent, Lebanon's Future Television, Hizbullah-owned Al-Manar, Orbit, and Egyptian television. These stations, in fact, have provided a vibrant television form of precisely that which Bush and his nonstop string of dizzy dames of public diplomacy have been calling and warring for in this region: democratic pluralism, at least in television news and opinion. The U.S., Israel and others understandably dislike the criticisms of their policies that they see and hear on Arab television. To respond by attacking the Arab journalist messengers who carry the bad news, however, rather than addressing the contentious underlying political problems between the U.S., Israel and the Arab world, is a sign of political amateurism and personal emotionalism. OPINION: American View: Most Think Propaganda Campaign in Iraq Wrong Almost three-quarters of Americans think it was wrong for the Pentagon to pay Iraqi newspapers to publish news about U.S. efforts in Iraq, a new USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Poll shows. USA TODAY reported earlier this month that the Pentagon plans to expand beyond Iraq an anti-terrorism public relations campaign that has included secret payments to Iraqi journalists and publications who printed stories favorable to the USA. In some cases, the stories will be prepared by U.S. military personnel, as they have been in Iraq. The military will not always reveal it was behind the stories, said Mike Furlong, deputy director of the Joint Psychological Operations Support Element. The global program will be part of a five-year public relations campaign costing up to $300 million. OPINION: Arab View: It’s Your History US President George W Bush once again blamed Arab media for his country's image problem. "I recognize we've got an image issue, particularly when you have television stations, Arabic television stations that are constantly just pounding America -- saying America is fighting Islam, Americans can't stand Muslims, this is a war against a religion," Bush commented following a speech in Philadelphia on Monday. It's disturbing to think that the president truly believes that Arab and Muslim contempt for his government stems from Arab media detractors, rather than his administration's misguided policies. Simply put, Arab and Muslim nations' disdain for the Bush administration is a natural human response to colonization, military oppression and the degrading regimes they bring about. Before offering his impulsive remarks, President Bush should have consulted the history of the Middle East -- of which his clique often claims mastery -- a region whose past has been marred with utter contempt for foreign occupiers and unyielding struggle to force them out. Indeed, the US image problem has little to do with newspapers and 24-hours news channels, and more to do with the dangerous insistence on ignoring the roots of the West's falling out with Muslims, not always as a religious group, but as colonized and exploited nations. COMMENTARY OPINION: The truth of these words is beyond doubt, but the mission to which they call us is a most difficult one. Even when pressed by the demands of inner truth, men do not easily assume the task of opposing their government's policy, especially in time of war. Nor does the human spirit move without great difficulty against all the apathy of conformist thought within one's own bosom and in the surrounding world. I come to this platform tonight to make a passionate plea to my beloved nation. OPINION: Fear of the Devil: This Maze Leads to a Trap Without an Exit We'll never be secure as long as we act like the enemy we're trying to destroy. Waging war on Absolute Evil — through torture and missile strikes on civilians populations and the shriveling of domestic civil liberties, as though freedom is some childish indulgence, not our strength and greatest hope — is a trap with no exit. OPINION: Arab View: Year of Accomplishments? And the fact sheet promises the Americans that President Bush is ‘advancing his agenda.’ Even diehard supporters of the administration would agree that this has been anything but a year of ‘accomplishments’ for Bush. The year did begin on a positive note with Bush winning a re-election battle that the world thought he had lost. Then there was the first ever election in Iraq. However, with the progress of year 2005, the situation in Iraq began to get out of hand as the gains initially made were quickly squandered. No good news on home front either. From John Bolton to Alberto Gonsalves to Harriet Miers, one Bush nominee after another ran into a firm wall of resistance on the Capitol Hill. These reverses have been conveniently left out in the fact sheet released on Christmas Eve. OPINION: Korean View: Why I Mourn For America A few days ago a mentally-retarded passenger, a U.S. citizen, was killed in America by an air marshal because he had pretended to have had some kind of bomb with him. The all-powerful President of the United States has recently said he had ordered eavesdropping of U.S. citizens in order that he could protect America from terrorism. For more than three years now, the United States has been engaged in a war with Iraq to eliminate the weapons of mass destruction and to overthrow the regime of Saddam Hussein. Although the second objective has been met, the first one could not be fulfilled because, by his own admission, the President did not have correct "intelligence" information about WMD. One concludes, therefore, that the very basic premise of engaging in war with Iraq was wrong and inadequate. But the President claims that his judgment to declare war against Iraq was just and appropriate. As I watch the various events, I get more and more convinced that the United States has become paranoid. The country finds the ghost of terror anywhere and everywhere. OPINION: Lebanonese View: The Tragedy of American Human Rights Abuse The atrocities and inhuman physical abuse of helpless prisoners of Abu Ghraib have been vividly recorded in photographs and video tapes made by none other than the perpetrators of the crimes themselves. This tell-tale evidence of human right abuses has gone into the record of history as a black spot on the Bush administration. At the time of invading Iraq, the US had accused Saddam Hussain, among other things, of using chemical weapons against the country's Kurdish civilians. Now it has came to light that the US troops used incendiary white phosphorus in their 2004 offensive against the insurgents in Fallujah -- a thickly-populated Iraqi town. An Italian documentary titled "The Hidden Massacre" included gruesome images of the victims of the fierce fighting in the town in November 2004. The Americans recaptured the town in fighting that destroyed the 60 per cent of the buildings and decimated its population with the inhuman use of white phosphorus against its civilians. White phosphorus use against civilians was banned by a protocol signed by the US in 1983. The film brought back to memory the Vietnam era spectacle of Napalm-hit women and children fleeing their burning villages. But the images of the white phosphorus victims were even more ghastly as the effects of white phosphorus are even more terrible. OPINION: Indian View: Invading America Imperial overreach, or perhaps hubris, is tripping US President George W. Bush. While America’s travails in Iraq are too many to recount, his tribulations in the US are now becoming apparent. The American people are becoming increasingly disillusioned by the Iraq war and the US Congress has begun checking the enormous powers that the administration arrogated to itself in the wake of 9/11. This is, of course, not unique to the US. The repeal of Pota in India, the defeats handed out to Tony Blair in Britain in the matter of terrorism legislation and the issue of torture gives a clear indication that across the world, the people want governments to fight terrorism, but not at the cost of allowing harsh laws to undermine civil liberties. OPINION: Arab View: From White House, Some Candor, But Not Enough In the lead-up to the Iraq elections, the White House has embarked on a new public relations strategy. For months now, the president has responded to critics of the war by presenting an exaggerated rosy picture of success. Not only has this failed to win converts, it has made the president appear either out of touch with reality or dishonest. As a result, not only has Bush’s performance poll numbers dropped to record low levels, but almost 60 percent of the public indicate they no longer trust the president to tell the truth. And so during the last two weeks the White House changed direction. In delivering what were called four major speeches on Iraq, Bush mixed candor with admissions of mistakes and appeals for support until the war is won. While the president’s new candor is refreshing, it is neither complete, nor is it sufficient. The original sin of this war was not just the failed intelligence on WMDs and the supposed 9/11 connections. It was also the failure to understand the consequences of the war, its costs and the commitments it would require. One thousand days ago, the White House entered Iraq, believing the war would be a “cake walk.” Fantasy and ideology combined to create this mess; providing no security or services for the civilian population; dismantling the apparatus of the state and military; enabling cronyism and corruption and all the rest. One thousand days later, some candor and some admission of mistakes, but still no strategy and no clear sense of what will constitute real victory. OPINION: Arab View: Tough Challenges for a New Iraq Iraqis were rendered a people broken in back and spirit. It will take as long for them to scrub the grime of that devastating political tradition off their national soul as it had taken them to acquire it. In the new Iraq, where torture was to become a banished shadow of the former Baathist regime, Iraqis from the Interior Ministry still torture their fellow Iraqis in underground police cellars; millions of dollars meant for reconstruction still flow into the bank accounts of corrupt government officials; and the reach of political hatred and ethnic strife has lengthened. To think that a large turnout at the polls, without a large turnaround in the very perceptions of the political culture, will transform Iraq in the near future, seems unrealistic. President Bush had every right to be buoyed, as everyone else was, by the throngs of Iraqi voters casting their ballots last week. But an Iraq that is a “powerful example to others in the region,” and a beacon of democracy? Not in Bush’s lifetime or mine, believe me. PEACE ACTION: International Peace Conference in London, England on December 10, 2005. Section on Military and Families Campaigns. This was one section of four, click on link to see pictures and hear audios of the conference. CASUALTY REPORTS Local Story: Puerto Rico soldier killed in Iraq. Member of 101st Airborne. Local Story: Two soldiers based in Northern California killed in Iraq. They were Sgt. Regina Reali and Spc. Cheyenne Willey. Local Story: Soldier from Ohio killed in Iraq Local Story: West Texas soldier killed in Iraq QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Who is left to open the eyes of the country – to tell Americans what is happening? There is no one left, none but all of us.” -- Bill Moyers 10/1/05


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