Wednesday, December 28, 2005

DAILY WAR NEWS FOR WEDNESDAY DECEMBER 28, 2005 Bring ‘em on: Three Iraqis killed and six wounded in attacks in Kirkuk and in Mahaweel. Bring ‘em on: Three police and two civilians wounded by bomb blast in al Zuwairiah district of Baghdad. Police colonel killed by gunman in al Yarmouk district of Baghdad. Bring ‘em on: Eight dead in Iraqi prison shooting (other reports have different death tolls) in Baghdad. Prisoner grabbed a guard’s assault rifle and opened fire. Later update says six detainees escaped. Bring ‘em on: Gunman killed a major in the former Iraqi army and another civilian in the care with him in Baghdad. Gunman in Baghdad also killed Interior Ministry Brig. Haider Ali Saide. Bring ‘em on: Three civilians killed by US airstrike on their home in al Dolouieya. One victim was 12 years old and the daughter of a local police captain. Air raids are also being launched on Tikrit. Bring ‘em on: US forces thwarted two terrorist bombing operations in Baquba. One was a vehicle racing through a checkpoint. Driver was killed and two gunmen jumped out, one escaped and another one had a suicide belt on when detained. Gunmen attacked Iraqi army patrol in Tikrit, killing two soldiers and wounding seven. Bring ‘em on: US army fires on approaching vehicle and killed two civilians and critically wounded two others in al Khalidiya. Bring ‘em on: Life at Landstuhl is grim. Bring ‘em on: Family of four stabbed to death in Hilla. Three policemen wounded by a car bomb in Samarra. Two Iraqi soldiers killed and seven wounded in village near Dujail. They were first struck by roadside bomb, and then attacked by gunman. REPORTS THE TRAGEDY OF IRAQ: Lights Out in Baghdad Baghdad is getting only around six hours of electricity a day, down from 11 in October, and attacks on Iraqis working on U.S.-backed reconstruction projects are at a record, the U.S. military said on Wednesday. December was the worst month for such attacks, said Brigadier General William McCoy, head of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Six Iraqi contractors were killed, five wounded and two kidnapped in 32 assaults across the country. THE TRAGEDY OF IRAQ: Many Iraqi Soldiers See a Civil War on the Horizon Kirkuk lies just a few miles from one of the nation's largest oil fields, worth billions of dollars. Arabs figure that the city's oil wealth should belong to Iraq, while ethnic Kurds see it as part of a future nation of Kurdistan. "If the Kurds want to separate from Iraq it's OK, as long as they keep their present boundaries," said Sgt. Hazim Aziz, an Arab soldier who was stubbing out a cigarette in a barracks room. "But there can be no conversation about them taking Kirkuk. ... If it becomes a matter of fighting, then we will join any force that fights to keep Kirkuk. We will die to keep it." Kurdish soldiers in the room seethed at the words. "These soldiers do not know anything about Kirkuk," Capt. Ismail Mahmoud, a former member of the Kurdish Peshmerga militia, said as he got up angrily and walked out of the room. "There is no other choice. If Kirkuk does not become part of Kurdistan peacefully we will fight for 100 years to take it." Five days spent interviewing Iraqi army soldiers in northern Iraq - who are overwhelmingly Kurdish - made clear that many soldiers think that a civil war is coming. THE TRAGEDY OF IRAQ: US Raises Doubts Over Iraq Prison Control While the central government, with U.S. help, is trying to take charge of these prisons the Interior ministry, which runs them may have its own way of doing things, suggested State Department spokesman Adam Ereli. (Rewritten in normal English: The central Iraq government is trying to take charge of these prisons with US help. However, the Interior Ministry, which runs these prisons, may have their own way of doing things, suggested US State Department spokesman Adam Ereli. – Susan) "The problem has clearly not been solved and the problem is widespread," Ereli said. "We and the Iraqi government continue to have concern about the way prisoners are treated in Iraqi facilities and in facilities nominally under the control of the Iraqi government," the spokesman said. "And the United States, for its part, is going to do everything it can to ensure that the rights of Iraqi citizens are respected," Ereli added. The statement acknowledged weakness in the Iraqi government, but also credited it with trying to address a problem that undercuts the administration's case that reform is taking hold since the toppling of President Saddam Hussein. THE TRAGEDY OF IRAQ: Violence Defies Reason for Many in Iraq In Iraq, people are killed for many reasons: working with the Americans, joining the security forces or belonging to the wrong sect or ethnic group. But many others are killed without apparent reason in an often murky conflict that pits Islamic extremists and nationalist insurgents against U.S. troops and Iraqi government forces. Their deaths not only leave families and neighbors baffled, they fuel a sense of vulnerability and insecurity. For a country increasingly polarized along ethnic and sectarian lines, it is perhaps ironic that the violence is so indiscriminate. Abbas said she did not know what the U.S. troops were firing at when they hit her husband's car as he was driving in the Abu Ghraib area in western Baghdad. "Eissa was sleeping in the arms of his brother. The bullet hit him in the head," Abbas said. "He died in his sleep. There was no time for him to wake up or move a muscle." When she saw her son's body, Abbas slapped her face, beat her chest and ripped off her flowing robe. She wailed and sobbed as U.S. troops tried to calm her. "It is a mistake. We didn't mean to kill the child. We will do anything you want," she said they told her. "They apologized, but I didn't accept their apology." She never heard from them since, she complained. She wants the U.S. military to pay her money in compensation. Queries to the U.S. military about the case went unanswered after an initial response that they would look into it. THE TRAGEDY OF IRAQ: Kurds in Iraqi Army Proclaim Loyalty to Militia Kurdish leaders have inserted more than 10,000 of their militia members into Iraqi army divisions in northern Iraq to lay the groundwork to swarm south, seize the oil-rich city of Kirkuk and possibly half of Mosul, Iraq's third-largest city, and secure the borders of an independent Kurdistan. Five days of interviews with Kurdish leaders and troops in the region suggest that U.S. plans to bring unity to Iraq before withdrawing American troops by training and equipping a national army aren't gaining traction. Instead, some troops that are formally under U.S. and Iraqi national command are preparing to protect territory and ethnic and religious interests in the event of Iraq's fragmentation, which many of them think is inevitable. The soldiers said that while they wore Iraqi army uniforms they still considered themselves members of the Peshmerga - the Kurdish militia - and were awaiting orders from Kurdish leaders to break ranks. Many said they wouldn't hesitate to kill their Iraqi army comrades, especially Arabs, if a fight for an independent Kurdistan erupted. BAD NEWS: Meanwhile, Iraqi oil officials quoted by Dow Jones said yesterday that the deputy prime minister Ahmed Chalabi would take over the oil ministry, replacing Ibrahim Bahr al-Ulum, who has taken a month’s leave. Mr Bahr al-Ulum is reported to be disgruntled with the current government and earlier this month threatened to resign over a rise in oil prices. (Unreal – Susan) GOOD NEWS: Four Iraqi Children Leave NY Hospital Four Iraqi children with life-threatening heart defects left a Bronx hospital Tuesday after successfully undergoing open heart surgery. Through its Operation Iraqi Hearts, Montefiore Medical Center has performed such operations on more than 500 children around the world in the past 15 years. The children's families had first sought help from the U.S. military. Rotary Club's Gift of Life International helped Satryano arrange for them to go to Jordan for treatment. Doctors there determined they needed surgery in the United States. The Rotary program paid for the hospital stays, along with the Rachel Cooper Foundation. An open-heart operation costs as much as $100,000. NEWS: Ukrainian, Bulgarian troops leave Iraq; Poland plans fewer troops. The U.S. coalition in Iraq saw its size dwindle Tuesday as Ukraine and Bulgaria said all their troops had left the country. Poland said it would remain but reduce its number of troops by 600 next year. The Polish government's decision, which is expected to be approved by President Lech Kaczynski, was a boost for President Bush, who has faced withering criticism at home and abroad over his handling of the Iraq war and the growing insurgency there. NEWS: Blogger in Iraq comments on the good news from Iraq Sadr City has 15 sewage pumping stations rebuilt. This area of Baghdad was one of the most neglected under Saddam. In the past, sewage flowed in the streets, today they are clean. Furthermore, water treatment plants are being built and extensive networks of water taps are being located in homes.The newly built Mashtal Employment center in the Tissa Nissan district provides job training in a rehabilitated bomb shelter. Sewing machines and computer training are part of the center. It took only 30 days to complete, yet another amazing accomplishment. It is stated more than 20 Iraqi workers were involved in the projects and I believe it. When the Iraqi people want something done, it is completed quickly and with dedication. (I’ve just run across this anonymous Iraqi blogger, and I wonder how a regular citizen would know about these projects in various parts of Iraq. – Susan) NEWS: Blogger from Iraq comments on propaganda by US military The US military is trying to re-package its failures in Iraq by continuing to buy favorable coverage In Iraqi media. Two weeks ago we heard of US military personnel writing articles which painted their efforts in Iraq in a positive light and placing them in select Iraqi media.Today, the Washington Post is reporting that the US military is undertaking the same effort on Iraq television channels. According to its article, the US military has been hiring blog writers (hmmm...why does this not seem so shocking?) to cover the war and show that the US is winning. Free and independent press? By what stretch of the mind does such a nomer apply here. Portray in a positive light and the say free and independent press. Pay the Iraqis 1000 dollars a month to air stories you suggest to them is hardly free or independent. It is agenda-setting. And it is coercion - with financial duress - backed by a rifle and tank parked outside. Hitler referred to the press in his country as free and independent. So did Stalin. And the Chinese. And the Egyptians. And Saddam and Idi Amin. (I have been following this blogger for a few months now. He is not in Iraq, but he is Iraqi and he has relatives living there. – Susan) NEWS: Blogger in Mosul comments on daily life These days the weather became very cold, the temperature is 2-3 degrees under zero … this cold weather synchronize with not only the raise in the oil, fuel prices but with its exiguity….yesterday my baby (20 months old) cried freezing at night, we have oil storage but we tried to sleep without (soba) an oil heater, to save it for the rest of winter. We get the electricity for ONLY 2 hours a day now, we also don't have hot water! Since a week now the gas stations in Mosul are shut down , therefore the gasoline in the black market is very expensive, going to my job plus my two daughters'& husband's transportation expense is at least 170000 ID whereas our income together ( my husband & I) is 501000ID !!! We also buy gasoline for the generator!!… About the safety situation these days while we are waiting for the elections results ,we witness every day the violence in the streets , today I was in my way back from work when suddenly the driver stopped and shouted "disembark quickly" ,as soon as I did a bullet flapped the pavement just beside my foot, I did not feel that, I was shocked , but we ran to a storage across the street , the storage owner kept saying 'Thank god you are ok ". I did not get that,then the driver (who could not make it & follow us to the storage) came after things calm down with some people were in the street telling me that they got terrified to see what happened & show me the bullet…. When Sunshine phoned her friend to wish her a merry Christmas, her friend was not happy at all, they could not leave the house because it's dangerous to go out & because they don't have gasoline. Some of our friends did not even go to the church because of the fear of bombing the church ….(I think you can see we are too busy with our life struggles to think about the elections results!)…. (This blogger belongs to a family of bloggers in Iraq. This is very legit. – Susan) NEWS from the “Some People are Just Plain Nuts” Department. The television commercials are attention-grabbing: Newly found Iraqi documents show that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction, including anthrax and mustard gas, and had "extensive ties" to al Qaeda. The discoveries are being covered up by those "willing to undermine support for the war on terrorism to selfishly advance their shameless political ambitions." The hard-hitting spots are part of a recent public-relations barrage aimed at reversing a decline in public support for President Bush's handling of Iraq. But these advertisements aren't paid for by the Republican National Committee or other established White House allies. Instead, they are sponsored by Move America Forward, a media-savvy outside advocacy group that has become one of the loudest -- and most controversial -- voices in the Iraq debate. While even Mr. Bush now publicly acknowledges the mistakes his administration made in judging the threat posed by Mr. Hussein, the organization is taking to the airwaves to insist that the White House was right all along. ELECTIONS IN IRAQ NEWS: Iraq Election Chief Says Complaints Endanger Lives Iraq's election body warned on Wednesday that accusations of fraud in last week's vote were endangering the lives of the commission's members and encouraging insurgents to attack them. Disappointed Sunni Muslim and secular parties have demanded a rerun of the Dec. 15 election and threatened to boycott parliament. Tens of thousands of their supporters have taken to the streets this week to protest at the results. "The commission is being put in an awkward situation through irresponsibility," Hussein Hindawi, head of the electoral commission, told a news conference. (Nobody said this during the Cedar Revolution or the Orange Revolution. – Susan) NEWS: UN Official Rules Out Iraq Revote He said local and international observer groups have said that these elections were conducted "in accordance with international best practices." The number of complaints was low, the turnout was high, the day was "peaceful," and all communities participated in the vote -- which was for a 275-member parliament called the Council of Representatives. There has been an uproar among Sunni Arabs and others over what they say is fraud in the polling process. There have been mass demonstrations against the election process across the country, including one Wednesday in Samarra -- which is north of Baghdad in the Sunni heartland. NEWS: Election Protests in Samarra In another of continuing political demonstrations across the country, more than 4,000 people rallied Wednesday in Samarra, 60 miles north of Baghdad, in favor of the major Sunni Arab party, the Iraqi Accordance Front. Demonstrators carried banners say "We refuse the election forgery." NEWS: Iraq Prepares for New Government Iraqi political leaders will meet the president in his Kurdish homeland over the next few days to prepare the ground for the formation of a new government, a senior government official said on Tuesday. The announcement, part of efforts ease sectarian and ethnic friction following this month's election, came as around 5,000 supporters of former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi marched through Baghdad in the latest protest against the results. Sunni and secular parties are insisting the vote should be rerun -- at least in some key provinces where they say results were fixed to favor the powerful Shi'ite Alliance, which forms the backbone of the interim government. As political leaders prepared to talk to interim President Jalal Talabani in separate, bilateral meetings at his power base in the relatively peaceful Kurdish north, the violence afflicting much of the rest of the country continued. NEWS: Shi’ites, Kurds Agree to Open Government to Sunnis Leaders of the Shi'ite and Kurdish blocs that emerged triumphant in this month's Iraqi election agreed on Tuesday to push ahead with efforts to bring Sunni and other parties into a grand coalition government. The visit of Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim of the Shi'ite Islamist Alliance to the Kurdish capital Arbil opened a series of planned meetings among rival factions intended to ease friction over election results which Sunni and secular parties say have been rigged and to begin building a consensus administration. "We agreed on the principle of forming a government involving all the parties with a wide popular base," Kurdish regional leader Masoud Barzani told a joint news conference after talks with Hakim, the dominant force in the Alliance. Hakim, whose bloc has run the interim government for the past year in coalition with the Kurds, was due to meet the other main Kurdish leader, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, on Wednesday, launching a series of bilateral meetings that will include Sunni Arab and secular leaders disappointed in the vote. A provisional estimation by Reuters, based on preliminary results, puts the Alliance on about 130 seats in the 275-seat assembly, just short of its current slim majority, with the Kurds on 52, the main Sunni group the Accordance Front on 41 and Allawi's list on 24, well short of his present 40 seats. The secular Sunni National Dialogue Front would have nine seats. There is general agreement, supported with emphasis by the United States, that a "national unity" government is required to address sharply opposing interests among the armed communities. NEWS: Iraqi blogger comments on the elections and demonstrations So far, the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq has not announced the final results of the elections. But the big success that the 555 list (An all Shia list) has achieved so far is creating doubts of the commission's integrity, especially in Baghdad. Accusations and even threats are flying around right now. Just a few days ago, Sunnis organized a massive demonstrations in a few provinces. Some of my friends participated in the Baghdad demonstration. They say that hundreds of thousands were there, and from the pictures I have seen of it, I think they are right. They are demanding that the elections are to be repeated in the provinces that has seen some of these very un-expected results. The un-verified results can be found at the commission's official site. (His report of the number of protestors differs greatly from official reports. – Susan) COMMENTARY OPINION: Power That Bush Can’t Just Take All right: Given these overly kind assumptions, can this administration's usurpation of power somehow be justified? Every time I work it through, the answer I come up with is no. The president has no right to ignore the rule of law as if it were a mere nuisance. The problem is that if the president really were determined to do anything it takes to prevent another terrorist strike, why not suspend habeas corpus, as Lincoln did during the Civil War? That way you could arrest everyone who could possibly be a terrorist, or who once lived next door to a suspected terrorist's uncle, and you could hold those people as long as you wanted. Why stop at surveillance of international telephone calls and e-mails? Why not listen in on, say, all interstate calls as well? Or just go for it and scarf up all the domestic communications the National Security Agency's copious computers can hold? In Vietnam we destroyed villages in order to save them. In this war on terrorism, why not go ahead and destroy our freedoms in order to save them? OPINION: Fear Destroys What bin Laden Could Not One wonders if Osama bin Laden didn't win after all. He ruined the America that existed on 9/11. But he had help. If, back in 2001, anyone had told me that four years after bin Laden's attack our president would admit that he broke U.S. law against domestic spying and ignored the Constitution -- and then expect the American people to congratulate him for it -- I would have presumed the girders of our very Republic had crumbled. Had anyone said our president would invade a country and kill 30,000 of its people claiming a threat that never, in fact, existed, then admit he would have invaded even if he had known there was no threat -- and expect America to be pleased by this -- I would have thought our nation's sensibilities and honor had been eviscerated. If I had been informed that our nation's leaders would embrace torture as a legitimate tool of warfare, hold prisoners for years without charges and operate secret prisons overseas -- and call such procedures necessary for the nation's security -- I would have laughed at the folly of protecting human rights by destroying them. OPINION: Telling It Like It Isn’t American journalists frequently used the words of U.S. officials in the early days of the Iraqi insurgency — referring to those who attacked American troops as "rebels" or "terrorists" or "remnants" of the former regime. The language of the second U.S. pro-consul in Iraq, L. Paul Bremer III, was taken up obediently — and grotesquely — by American journalists. American television, meanwhile, continues to present war as a bloodless sandpit in which the horrors of conflict — the mutilated bodies of the victims of aerial bombing, torn apart in the desert by wild dogs — are kept off the screen. Editors in New York and London make sure that viewers' "sensitivities" don't suffer, that we don't indulge in the "pornography" of death (which is exactly what war is) or "dishonor" the dead whom we have just killed. Our prudish video coverage makes war easier to support, and journalists long ago became complicit with governments in making conflict and death more acceptable to viewers. Television journalism has thus become a lethal adjunct to war.Back in the old days, we used to believe — did we not? — that journalists should "tell it how it is." Read the great journalism of World War II and you'll see what I mean. The Ed Murrows and Richard Dimblebys, the Howard K. Smiths and Alan Moorheads didn't mince their words or change their descriptions or run mealy-mouthed from the truth because listeners or readers didn't want to know or preferred a different version.So let's call a colony a colony, let's call occupation what it is, let's call a wall a wall. And maybe express the reality of war by showing that it represents not, primarily, victory or defeat, but the total failure of the human spirit. OPINION: Military’s Interaction with Foreign Kids Will Be Long Remembered Another story involving children and American men came from the pages of the Citizen-Times, a story about U.S. troops interacting with Iraqi children. That article stated: “Soldiers generally believe the presence of children lowers the chance of enemy attack.” To believe such a thing, and to then go to where children are, would indicate that the soldiers are willing to use the children as human shields. I sincerely hope this is wrong. Children are generally delightful, and I am sure that is true no matter what part of the world they come from. In the article called “Winning Small Hearts and Minds in Iraq” the soldiers were giving candy and toys to the children in Iraq. At first, the children reacted with fear to their presence, which in light of the fact that they are in a war zone, would be the normal and expected response. They soon warmed up to the men, and it appears all had a good time. However, it was not prudent on the part of the soldiers to reduce the children’s fear of getting close to U.S. troops. It puts them at risk, since there are 80 to 100 attacks per day against U.S. troops in Iraq. (This is the overwhelming majority of attacks, by the way, even though we hear more about the attacks against civilians, which result in a higher death toll.) One teacher at this school stated very plainly: her primary concern was the sewers. It matters not if the children get candy and trinkets if they get sick from the unclean water and lack of sanitation. OPINION: Iraqi Civilian Deaths Mount—and Count In April 2004, Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt was asked about the images on Iraqi television of civilians being killed in Fallujah by American forces. His answer was, ''Change the channel. Change the channel to a legitimate, authoritative, honest news station." In light of recent revelations, one has to wonder if he meant for Iraqis to change to one of those Iraqi media outlets paid off by Pentagon contractors to print sugar-frosted stories of the invasion. In the United States, there was no channel to change. Iraqi civilians became invisible the moment Americans were wrongfully convinced by administration rhetoric to connect Saddam Hussein and the nonexistent weapons of mass destruction to the fears spawned by Sept. 11, 2001. They remained so inconsequential that just last March, a full two years after the invasion, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld boasted to Pentagon employees, ''Through an unprecedented combination of speed, precision and flexibility, US forces, with coalition support, seized Baghdad, having marched farther and faster than any armed force in military history. And they did it while avoiding large numbers of civilian casualties." That shows you exactly how small an everyday Iraqi has been all along in Rumsfeld's mind. As early as June 2003, the Associated Press estimated 3,240 civilians were killed in the invasion nationwide, 1,900 in Baghdad. By October of 2003, the Cambridge-based Project on Defense Alternatives estimated up to 4,300 in the first month alone. By November, Medact, the British affiliate of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, estimated up to 9,600 civilians. If 3,000, 4,000 or nearly 10,000 dead civilians does not impress Rumsfeld as ''large," then nothing will. That gets us to the 30,000 figure. The moment Bush uttered it, the White House and Pentagon backed away from it. Spokesmen said their boss was just citing public estimates. Iraq Body Count, a volunteer research group that compiles conservative estimates based on media reports, estimates that between 27,383 and 30,892 civilians have died. Since the media cannot be everywhere, many people say it is possible that many thousands more may have died. The most controversial estimate of 100,000 was published by researchers in the medical journal Lancet. Perhaps Bush feels safe to talk about civilian deaths because the United States is no longer responsible for the majority of them. In the first six weeks of the invasion, according to calculations by Iraq Body Count, US-led forces were responsible for 94 percent of the 7,299 civilian deaths. Today, as the invasion/occupation remains riddled with suicide bombings, flickers of a civil war and general lawlessness, the percentage of civilians killed by the US forces has receded to 32 percent. Perhaps Bush felt that the passing of time erased the fact that the US killings -- under his false pretenses of weapons of mass destruction -- remain the most intense of the war. US forces killed an average of 315 Iraqi civilians a day, nine times more than the worst month of anti-occupation and criminal violence during the next 23 months, according to Iraq Body Count. Whatever Bush felt, he still shows no emotion for the men, women, and children who will never enjoy his liberation. He stated the 30,000 figure and went on to the next question. He claims to take responsibility for going to war on bad intelligence, then turns around and says in Philadelphia, ''Knowing what I know today, I'd make the decision again." That illustrates just how far Iraq has removed Bush from his own humanity. Without evidence of weapons, he would still order a war that kills thousands of innocent people. Bush now admits knowing the scorecard. But it still remains only a game. OPINION: Iraq, Game Over The last hope for peace in Iraq was stomped to death this week. The victory of the Shiite religious coalition in the December 15 election hands power for the next four years to a fanatical band of fundamentalist Shiite parties backed by Iran, above all to the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI). Quietly backed by His Malevolence, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, sustained by a 20,000-strong paramilitary force called the Badr Brigade, and with both overt and covert support from Iran's intelligence service and its Revolutionary Guard corps, SCIRI will create a theocratic bastion state in its southern Iraqi fiefdom and use its power in Baghdad to rule what's left of the Iraqi state by force. The consequences of SCIRI's victory are manifold. But there is no silver lining, no chance for peace talks among Iraq's factions, no chance for international mediation. There is no centrist force that can bridge the factional or sectarian divides. Next stop: civil war. OPINION: The Unknown Enemy As Americans debate an exit strategy from Iraq, we still aren't sure of the size and power of the Sunni insurgency. Almost three years into the war, Washington still has very little sense of the size or power of the Sunni insurgency in Iraq. Whether the Sunnis would keep fighting if the Americans left, or, in a nightmare scenario, march on Baghdad, depends in large part on whether they have enough manpower or firepower for the job.Yet nobody seems to know the answer. Since Vice President Dick Cheney famously predicted in May that the insurgency was "in its last throes," both the White House and the Pentagon have scrupulously avoided providing any hard numbers for the fighters who remain. Last January, Gen. Mohammed Shahwani, Iraq's intelligence director, estimated that there were as many as 40,000 hard-core Sunni fighters. In October, Gen. John Abizaid, the head of Central Command (which includes Iraq), set the figure at "no more than 20,000." As for U.S. policy analysts, the only thing they can agree on is that, in the words of Michael O'Hanlon of the Brookings Institution (who tracks developments in Iraq's security and reconstruction), "nobody knows, and our estimates could easily be off by 50 to 100%." OPINION: Winners and Losers in Iraq Anyone who hoped that Iraq's broadest exercise in electoral democracy so far might strengthen women's rights, secular protections or national unity will be disappointed. But anyone who expected such gains cannot have been paying attention to recent developments in Iraq. Iraqi politics are settling into an unsettling pattern. Very few people vote as Iraqis; most vote as Shiites, Sunnis or Kurds. It is progress that Sunni Arabs turned out in large numbers, but that may not be enough to assure them a meaningful role in reshaping a dangerously divisive constitution and forming a broad-based government. If the Shiite parties can keep the support of their Kurdish allies and pick up a few independents, they may be able to assemble a two-thirds majority without Sunni participation and resist the changes Iraq badly needs. That would be a disastrous choice, foreclosing the possibility of containing the insurgency through political means and dimming the prospects for Iraq's survival as a stable, unified state. But it's a disaster that could be avoided if the victorious parties summoned the sense to reach out to a Sunni Arab community that now has one foot in the political process and the other in the insurgency. PEACE ACTION: American Friends Service Committee has an on-line petition to show support for Representative Murtha’s position on Iraq. Also, Murtha’s phone number is 202-225-2065 CASUALTY REPORTS Local Story: International spat upends lives of Turkish translators in Iraq. It's hard for Celik to explain what happened in Iraq - how he made a choice that he says unfairly branded him a traitor in Turkey and turned him into a political refugee in the United States. It's hard to talk about how he fears that returning to his homeland and family could mean prison, torture, even death. Local Story: West Virginia soldier laid to rest. Local Story: Fallen Aberdeen Soldier Burial in Pillipines Local Story: Maryland town mourns second soldier lost in Iraq Local Story: List of Ohio casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan. Local Story: Pride mixes with grief as troops pack up. They came here expecting a battlefield. Instead they found themselves in a different kind of war, in which the enemy was often gone long before his roadside bomb went off, and there was no way to avenge the resulting deaths of their comrades. A war in which it was impossible to tell insurgents from friendly Iraqis, and any car in the chaotic traffic might have been packed with explosives. QUOTE OF THE DAY: Blowing in the Wind, by Bob Dylan How many roads must a man walk down before you call him a man? Yes, 'n' how many seas must a white dove sail before she sleeps in the sand? Yes, 'n' how many times must the cannon balls fly before they're forever banned? The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind, the answer is blowin' in the wind. How many times must a man look up before he can see the sky? Yes, 'n' how many ears must one man have before he can hear people cry? Yes, 'n' how many deaths will it take till he knows that too many people have died? The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind, the answer is blowin' in the wind. How many years can a mountain exist before it's washed to the sea? Yes, 'n' how many years can some people exist before they're allowed to be free? Yes, 'n' how many times can a man turn his head, pretending he just doesn't see? The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind, the answer is blowin' in the wind.


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