Saturday, December 24, 2005

Iraqis mourn relatives awaiting burial after being killed last month in fighting near the town of Qaim in western Iraq. DAILY WAR NEWS FOR SATURDAY DECEMBER 24, 2005 Bring ‘em on: The Real Face of Occupation. White flags on top of houses and cars, plenty of American and Iraqi military vehicles, too many check points and blocks on the road, many frightening walking patrols, curfew after sunset, heaps and heaps of destroyed houses, shops, offices, the only bridge, hospitals and medical care centers, walls covered with bullets shots, and elections posters…empty faces with bleak looks wonder in the streets. This is Al-Qaim picture after the Steel Curtain military operation which began on November 5, 2005 with 3000 thousands American and Iraqi troops participating in it. Bring ‘em on: Unconfirmed report of four US soldiers killed when their vehicle was run over by an Iraqi truck in Fallujah. Bring ‘em on: US soldier killed in northern Iraq from grenade blast. Bring ‘em on: Three employees of the Health Ministry in Baghdad killed by unknown gunmen. In another incident, gunman killed an Iraqi army captain in Amil district in Baghdad. A third attack took place in Mansur district in Baghdad. Gunman riddled a shop with bullets, killing two people. Again, the gunmen were unknown. Bring ‘em on: One civilian killed and three wounded by IED in Kirkuk that exploded near an Iraqi Army patrol. Two people killed (including aide to Ministry of Justice) by unknown gunman in center of Baghdad. Oil pipeline blown up on the outskirts of Hilla. Police blame a makeshift bomb. Bring ‘em on: One Iraqi killed by IED in Kirkuk. Seven unidentified bodies pulled from water near the location of the Rustumiya water project in Baghdad. Most had their hands tied behind their backs, were blindfolded and shot. Police had previously retrieved some 50 such bodies from the same location. Bring ‘em on: Seven bodies of civilians with bullet wounds were found in southern Baghdad. Lt. Colonel in the Iraqi Army shot in his home in Fallujah after gunman broke in. Bring ‘em on: Three Iraqis killed in mortar attack directed towards US base in Yusifiya, which is south of Baghdad. Bring ‘em on: UPDATE: Suicide bombing at mosque in Balad Ruz killed ten Iraqis, not four. Bring ‘em on: Mosul Media Emir and administrator captured, per US military report. Abu Naba was responsible for disseminating propaganda - in this capacity, he produced propaganda fliers and compact disks focusing on military operations, anti-voting messages, Jihad messages and prayers. He also facilitated videos of attacks on Iraqi and Coalition Forces to be posted to the Internet. He purchased cameras for terrorists to film violent acts including bombings, kidnappings and executions. Abu Naba helped produce the final video products and delivered the videos to other Ansar al-Sunna leaders for posting on the Internet. Based on information Abu Naba and other detained terrorists provided to Coalition Forces, Abu Hudayfah, allegedly in charge of logistics and support for Ansar al-Sunna of Mosul was also identified and captured. (Since so many videos have come out lately, he can’t be the only one. – Susan) Bring ‘em on: Iraqi Inquiry judge survives assassination attempt. Bring ‘em on: Gunman attempt to assassinate an investigative judge on the Iraqi Special Tribunal. Bring ‘em on: Three civilians killed by motar attack in Samarra. Three Iraqi policeman killed by booby trapped motorcycle in Baquba. Another policeman killed in Mosul. Three civilians killed by gunmen who opened fired on their car in Baghdad. Total of eight unidentified bodies found in Iraq: six in Baghdad and two in Mosul. Four civilians killed by rocket attack in the village of Talayeb. Two other attacks in Baghdad brought down an Iraqi army officer and soldier and another attack killed a civilian. Bring ‘em on: Kidnappers give three day ultimatum on Jordanian hostage. The kidnappers demanded the release within three days of an Iraqi woman suspected of involvement in triple deadly bomb blasts in Amman on November 9 2005, but did not specify what would happen if their demands were not met. REPORTS THE TRAGEDY OF IRAQ: US Airstrikes Take Toll On Civilians. U.S. Marine airstrikes targeting insurgents sheltering in Iraqi residential neighborhoods are killing civilians as well as guerrillas along the Euphrates River in far western Iraq, according to Iraqi townspeople and officials and the U.S. military. Just how many civilians have been killed is strongly disputed by the Marines and, some critics say, too little investigated. (Is it being investigated at all? – Susan) But townspeople, tribal leaders, medical workers and accounts from witnesses at the sites of clashes, at hospitals and at graveyards indicated that scores of noncombatants were killed last month in fighting, including airstrikes, in the opening stages of a 17-day U.S.-Iraqi offensive in Anbar province. Rawi said that roughly one week into Operation Steel Curtain, which began on Nov. 5, medical workers had recorded 97 civilians killed. At least 38 insurgents were also killed in the offensive's early days, Rawi said. "I wholeheartedly believe the vast majority of civilians are killed by the insurgency," particularly by improvised bombs, said Col. Michael Denning, the top air officer for the 2nd Marine Division, which is leading the fight against insurgents in Anbar province. (Since no one is making an effort to count the casualties, how would he know? – Susan) Arkan Isawi, an elder in Husaybah, said he and four other tribal leaders gathered to assess the damage while the operation was still underway and identified at least 80 dead, including women and children. "I personally pulled out a family of three children and parents," he said. An exact count, however, was impossible, he said. "Anyone who gives you a number is lying, because the city was a mess, and people buried bodies in backyards and parking lots," with other bodies still under rubble, Isawi said. NEWS: US Increases Air Attacks in Iraq Although receiving little coverage in the US media, the US air force, navy and marines have flown thousands of missions backing up US ground troops in Iraq this autumn. According to figures provided by Central Command Air Force's public affairs office, the monthly number of air missions, including refuelling and other support flights, grew from 1111 in September to 1492 in November 2005. The number of US air raids increased particularly in the weeks leading up to last Thursday's election, from a monthly average of about 35 last summer to more than 60 in September and 120 or more in October and November. News reports and the public have focused mainly on ground action by the army and marines, but a variety of US aircraft are carrying out attacks daily. They include frontline air force and navy fighters as well as marines attack planes. The nascent Iraqi air force has no offensive strike capability at the moment. The role of the Predator is not secret but has been largely lost in the clutter of violence on the ground. At least five times this month an unmanned Predator flown remotely by airmen at flight consoles at a base in Nevada has struck targets in Iraq, mostly in fighters' strongholds in western al-Anbar governorate. General Michael Moseley, the air force chief of staff, said last Tuesday that Predators were attacking targets in either Iraq or Afghanistan almost every day. (And the people who are working in Nevada are often US teenagers who are good at video games. And for many of them, they have no concept of the toll on human lives involved, and no personal experience with death. And nobody reports on the civilian toll, which may be because nobody checks. – Susan) NEWS: Miltary Confirms Surge in Airstrikes. U.S. airstrikes in Iraq have surged this fall, jumping to nearly five times the average monthly rate earlier in the year, according to U.S. military figures. Until the end of August, U.S. warplanes were conducting about 25 strikes a month. The number rose to 62 in September, then to 122 in October and 120 in November. Several U.S. officers involved in operations in Iraq attributed much of the increase to a series of ground offensives in western Anbar province. Those offensives, conducted by U.S. Marines and Iraqi forces, were aimed at clearing foreign fighters and other insurgents from the Euphrates River Valley and establishing Iraqi control over the Syrian border area. But Air Force Maj. Gen. Allen G. Peck, deputy commander of the U.S. air operations center in the region, said the higher strike numbers also reflected more aggressive military operations in other parts of Iraq that were undertaken to improve security for last week's national elections. With the Pentagon preparing to reduce the level of U.S. ground forces in Iraq next year, some defense experts have speculated that U.S. airpower will be used more intensively to support operations by Iraq's fledgling security forces and protect U.S. advisers embedded with them. Indeed, American commanders have said that U.S. air forces in the region will not be drawn down as quickly as ground forces. (Has anybody asked the Iraqi people if they want more bombs dropped on their country? – Susan) THE TRAGEDY OF IRAQ: Not Appropriate for Human Use. All our agonies you may at least have an idea about from the media. But today I am going to talk about something may be the media did not focus onto, it's about the bad sources of goods in the markets, without quality control. Almost everything in the market is from the cheapest sources, but with expensive prices, the most dangerous thing is the food & medications' types. As I am a functionary in the medical field (She is a dentist.- Susan) we know the kinds of food stuffs that are not appropriate for human use …some of them are carcinogenic but are available in the markets since a long time, without any attention from the government toward that important issue, others (like gums) cause sterility because of the high amount of hormones in it, as well as a long list of baby milk, chips, cans food that cause gastric disturbances, we get official laboratory reports from the ministry of health about the list of the unhealthy food stuff in the markets but without any important steps to stop it's usage. About medications it's another tragedy, imagine the patient with hypertension or diabetes, and take inactive medicine. I used many types of antipyretics to reduce Miriam's temperature (her daughter – Susan) during her illness, but many of them were inactive, I hope they were not harmful as well ….the analgesics, antibiotics all can be inactive or harmful, as once the doctor prescribed erythromycin syrup to Miriam , she told me that the medicine smelled bad , I tested it , it was septic. My daughters & I are asthmatic, we always need to use bronchodilator inhalers, but they are not effective at all, and test so bad….may Allah be with the Iraqi patients. NEWS: Iraqi Official Jabr Relieved of Duties Iraqi Interior Minister Bayan Jabr, overseer of two detention centers raided by U.S. troops in the past two months, has been relieved of his duties, according to a former Iraqi special forces commander at the ministry. The interior minister is being investigated in connection with abuse of prisoners, torture and killings carried out by his officers, Gen. Muntazar Jasim al-Samarrai, the former special forces chief, told The Washington Times in a telephone interview from Amman, Jordan. The general said he has taken up residence in Jordan after fleeing Iraq because of death threats. (Keep in mind that the US authorities knew about these detention centers since last spring. – Susan) NEWS: British held Iraqi detainees in disturbances: report. Detainees held by the British army in Iraq have been involved in disturbances are being held without charge or trial, Saturday's Guardian newspaper said, quoting officials in the Gulf. The protests, including hunger strikes, were said to have happened over the last week at the Shaiba detention facility near the southern city of Basra. The Guardian quoted families of those being held as claiming British troops attacked inmates while they were praying and used dogs on them. The newspaper said it could not verify the allegations. Major Cripps said the centre was being run in accordance with international humanitarian law and the International Committee of the Red Cross made regular inspections. NEWS: Five US Soldiers Sentenced. Five soldiers from an elite U.S. Army unit have been sentenced to up to six months confinement in cases concerning the abuse of detainees in Iraq, the U.S. military said Monday. The five, all from the 75th Ranger Regiment, pleaded guilty during courts martial this month and received sentences ranging from 30-day to six-month confinements and reduction in rank, the U.S. military said in a statement. Two of them will also be dishonorably discharged from the army after serving their time. NEWS: UN Oil-for-Food Documents Available Another Three Months The U.N.-appointed panel investigating the scandal-tainted oil-for-food program for Iraq will stay open another three months to help prosecutors pursue cases against corrupt companies and officials it identified, U.N. officials and diplomats said on Tuesday. The committee in October named 2,200 companies in 66 countries accused of steering $1.8 billion in bribes and kickbacks through the program to Saddam Hussein's government. NEWS: Six Jailed in Spain on Terrorist Charges. Six men suspected of belonging to a cell that recruits Islamist radical volunteers for suicide attacks in Iraq and other countries were held in custody in Madrid on terrorism charges on Saturday. They were carrying out "operations of proselytism and recruitment of people who after the necessary indoctrination would have been sent to 'Islamist' conflict zones," local media reports quoted judge Fernando Andreu as saying. Andreu said the recruiting cell was led by Iraqi man Hiyag Maan,25, who was among the six held in custody. He was said to have links to Abu Mussab Al-Zarkawi, head of the Iraqi branch of the al-Qaida network. NEWS: Iraq War Has Had a Crippling Effect on Iraq’s Orange Growers Basim Alwan, 50, still walks the orange groves that surround the small house where he grew up. He still looks past the dark green leaves, searching for the fruit that's defined his life. But these days he finds that fruit less often, and he's worried about what that means for his future, his community's future and even his nation's future. "Without the orange trees, we'd be fish out of water, we'd die," he said. "We don't have any other jobs here. But since the war, the trees have been bare." While the trees are still green and plentiful, they haven't borne enough fruit to yield a decent harvest for two and a half years, since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. Bombs and bullets didn't rip the fruit from the branches, but residents still blame the war, which has affected the local economy in a surprising number of ways. NEWS: IMF Approves $685M Loan for Iraq. The loan, approved by the lending institution's 24-member executive board, represents the IMF's seal of approval that the Iraq government is taking the proper approach to reviving its wartorn economy. (My opinion is: they should turn the loan down. – Susan) THE WAR AT HOME: Family of Iraq Hostage Place Release Appeal Ads in Papers. The family of British hostage Norman Kember have placed a number of newspaper adverts in Iraq appealing for the release of the peace campaigner. The 74-year-old, from Pinner, north-west London, was seized in Baghdad on November 26, with James Loney, 41, and Harmeet Singh Sooden, 32, both Canadians, and American Tom Fox, 54. The families of the four men issued a joint appeal for their safe return which will be published in Arabic in Iraqi newspapers over the next few days. The Swords of Righteousness Brigade, which has claimed responsibility for the kidnappings, had threatened to kill the group by December 10 unless Iraqi prisoners were released. There has been no news of the hostages since the deadline expired. NEWS: Types of Democracy Programs – a review of types of democracy in Kyrgyzstan, Iraq, Lebanon. (Note that they left Iran out of the mix. – Susan) CLEARLY DOES NOT KNOW WHAT HE IS TALKING ABOUT: US General says Iraqis Reaching “Saturation Point” with Insurgents. A senior U.S. military officer says the number of insurgent attacks in Iraq is down since last week's election, and he believes the Iraqi people have reached what he calls the "saturation point" of their willingness to tolerate such attacks. Lieutenant General James Conway, the chief of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke at a year-end news conference at the Pentagon, where officials continued to hint at a slight reduction in U.S. troops in Iraq next March, but declined to confirm that will happen. (This was published on 12/22/05, before the upsurge in violence this week. I would imagine that the majority of Iraqis reached their level of tolerance for insurgent attacks with the very first one against civilians. – Susan) ELECTIONS IN IRAQ NEWS: Iraqis March to Denounce election Results Protesters gathered across the country Friday to denounce parliamentary elections that demonstrators called rigged in favor of the main religious Shiite coalition. As many as 20,000 people demonstrated after noon prayers in southern Baghdad Friday in a protest organized by Sunni Arab groups and attended by representatives of secular Shia parties. NEWS: Triumphant Iraq Shi’ites dismiss vote fraud Claims. The coalition bloc that triumphed in last week's Iraqi election dismissed allegations of fraud on Saturday and insisted the country's next prime minister should come from within its Shi'ite Islamist ranks. Responding to claims by Sunni Arabs and some secular parties of widespread vote-rigging during the December 15 election, the United Iraqi Alliance (UIA) said its opponents were bad losers. It said the most serious fraud allegations came from Sunni areas of the country and that there could be no rerun of the election, as a battery of Sunni and secular parties have urged. "There will be no retreat and no rerun of the election," said Jawad al-Maliki, a senior member of one of the main parties in the UIA. "In the end we have to accept the results and the will of the people," he told a news conference. Unofficial but near-complete results from last week's poll suggest the UIA did better than expected in some key areas of the country, notably Baghdad where they took 59 percent of the vote to just 19 percent for their nearest Sunni rivals. NEWS: Iraqi Sunnis, Shi’ites Threaten a Boycott Dozens of Sunni Arab and secular Shiite groups threatened to boycott Iraq's new legislature Thursday if complaints about tainted voting are not reviewed by an international body. A representative for former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi described the Dec. 15 vote as "fraudulent" and the elected lawmakers "illegitimate." A joint statement issued by 35 political groups that competed in last week's elections said the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq, which oversaw the ballot, should be disbanded. NEWS: Parties Demand New Elections The call for new elections emerged from two days of talks at Allawi's Baghdad office. Among those represented were the Tawafaq Front, a coalition led by the Iraqi Islamic Party, widely considered the largest Sunni Arab party, and the Iraqi Front for National Dialogue, led by Sunni hard-liner Saleh Mutlak. The parties that signed the statement appear to have won as many as 80 seats in the 275-seat National Assembly, according to an analysis of preliminary results. "We were all surprised by the forgery and fraud in the election process," the statement said. "If these violations pass without a punishment, they will empower a phony democracy that's closer to a dictatorship." In addition to new elections, other demands issued Thursday by the newly formed coalition include dissolution of the electoral commission -- which fielded tens of thousands of monitors last week at polling sites throughout the country -- because of its "responsibility for violations and fraud in the elections," the statement said. They also asked for last week's election results to be independently reviewed by international monitors such as the United Nations. NEWS: The Resistance Will Go On. The future of Sunni participation remains nonetheless fraught with uncertainty. As initial results from the poll began to filter in, the main Sunni coalition, the Iraqi Accordance Front (IAF), challenged the numbers, calling them "falsification of the will of the people" and saying that evidence of fraud was abundant; that the vote in Baghdad had been rigged. Tareq Al-Hashemi of the Iraqi Islamic Party -- one of the parties of the IAF -- threatened that Sunni forces would withdraw from the process and might block the formation of a new government if the votes were not re- counted. Initial tallies put the Sunni coalition second to the Shia-dominated United Iraqi Alliance (UIA). Such statements are in stark contrast to what Sunni politicians said earlier in the week about how successful the elections were. According to other analysts, however, the reason behind Sunni entry into the process is to end the monopoly of the Kurdish-Shia alliance. "The Sunnis want to restore a balance to the political process which they believe has been hijacked by the Shia-Kurdish alliance," said one analyst. This might explain why the key issue that the Sunni bloc will address once in parliament will be the introduction of constitutional amendments, particularly to articles related to the issue of federalism -- articles 111 to 123. "Iraq's Arab identity and the shape of the Iraqi polity future will be amongst the key issues which the Sunni bloc will address in the assembly," Assaf said. Sunni candidates are also playing on themes of Sunni disenfranchisement and opposition to the new constitution. The more Sunnis win seats in this national election the greater their chance to alter the constitution when the National Assembly sits. While it is too early to tell whether the Sunnis will achieve a large enough constituency within the National Assembly to be able to change the constitution (any such change would need the approval of two-thirds of the assembly), there are growing possibilities that the Sunni bloc may strike an alliance with Allawi's bloc. NEWS: Political Tension in Iraq, Call for Unity Government Reactions continued in Iraq regarding the rejection expressed by the Iraqi political forces to the announced partial results of the legislative elections which took place last week in Iraq, and according to which the Shiite coalition have received the greater majority, while the Iraqi Tawafuq Sunni list came second. In this regard, the chairman of the United Iraqi Coalition, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, expressed his regret over the rejection of certain groups of the declared results by the higher commission for the elections.Al-Hakim said following his meeting with the Shiite clergy Ayatullah Ali al-Seistani in Najaf city, south of Baghdad, that it is the right of every side to disregard in the results, however, these regrettable and unjustified stances, and the threats that started by some in this regard "a bad sign." NEWS: Iraq Election Results Will Pose New Challenges for US Policy The apparent failure of secular, Western-oriented political groups to win many seats in Iraq's four-year legislature puts new pressure on the Bush administration in its efforts to stabilize the country. In Iraq, U.S. officials will have to intensify their efforts to contain ethnic and sectarian divisions that have deepened over the last year and, if allowed to fester, could push the country toward civil war. And as initial results indicate that the Iraqi government will be led by Shiite Muslims with ties to Iran, U.S. officials also may face pressure to establish their own direct working relationship with Tehran. Both tasks could prove crucial if the administration is to achieve its oft-stated goal of creating a stable, unified, democratic and peaceful country. Allawi's Iraqi National List appears to have won only 21 seats, claiming 8% of the popular vote tallied so far, whereas the religious Shiite-based United Iraqi Alliance has apparently garnered 110 seats with an estimated 44% of the vote. Allawi and other groups are expected to pick up more seats in the 275-member parliament once expatriate votes are tallied. A secular alliance headed by controversial Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Chalabi, a onetime Pentagon favorite to lead Iraq, scored less than 0.5% of the vote — not enough to win a seat. ONE WOULD HOPE IT WILL PUT THEM OUT OF BUSINESS: Chalabi’s Defeat Puts US Friends in a Quandary Iraqi politician Ahmed Chalabi appears to have suffered a humiliating defeat at the recent Iraq polls, according to the uncertified preliminary results. The news comes just a month after Chalabi had conducted a tour of Washington in an effort to patch up his tattered image in America. Paperwork shows that in November Chalabi’s Washington representative hired a powerful D.C. lobbying firm. The election results in Iraq may present Chalabi’s ardent U.S. supporters with a quandary: Chalabi, as well as other losing candidates, is alleging fraud in the election, even though the Bush administration hailed the vote as a historic step for democracy in Iraq. Poor showing for the man who ‘liberated’ Iraq Preliminary results in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad indicate that Chalabi’s Iraqi National Congress scored a minuscule 0.36 percent of the votes. Out of almost 2.5 million voters in Baghdad, only 8,645 voted for Chalabi. In the Shiite city of Basra, the results indicate he had an equally dismal showing of 0.34 percent of the vote. In the violent Sunni province of Anbar, 113 people voted for him. During the election, Chalabi’s campaign posters proclaimed, "We Liberated Iraq." The reference was to Chalabi’s role in pushing the United States toward war against Saddam Hussein. Over the years, Chalabi’s group received tens of millions of dollars from the CIA and the State Department. In that role, before 2003, Chalabi had been funded by the U.S. Congress, through the Iraq Liberation Act, and enjoyed the support of neoconservatives in the United States. NEWS: Blogging the Vote in Iraq – Several Iraqis write about the election in Iraq. COMMENTARY OPINION: Turning the Corner in Iraq – Yet Again For several months – actually, since the U.S. invasion of Iraq – neoconservative propagandists have been trying to counter-spin the depressing reality in Mesopotamia that we've been watching on television by celebrating several "tipping points" that were supposed to mark the victory of freedom in Baghdad: The bringing down of Saddam Hussein's statue in Baghdad; the capture of the Iraqi dictator (remember the intrusive examination of his mouth and beard?) and the killing of his sons; the "handover of sovereignty" to a provisional Iraqi government; the parliamentary election on Jan. 30 and the voters happily waving their purple fingers; the recent adoption of an Iraqi constitution and the start of Saddam's trial. In a way, each image of a "turning point" should have affirmed the broader story of what American leaders promised would be a war of liberation to unseat a brutal dictator and free his imprisoned people, who would respond with gratitude and friendship, allowing American troops to return very quickly home (well, let's forget about those missing weapons of mass destruction). But each time, the celebrated turning-the-corner image dissolved into thin air. As reality started biting, it became difficult to fit the "pseudo-events" into the storyline promoted by the neocons. OPINION: US Exit Strategy in Iraq: Hand Quagmire to Iran For Arab media commentators across the region, the provocative speeches of Iran's new president merely aim to distract attention from that country's increasingly central role in Washington's emerging exit strategy from Iraq. "The (American) decision to open direct contacts with Iran means that Iraq will be handed over to Iran," Fadel Al Rabee, a spokesman for the National Iraqi Alliance, told "Behind the News," a daily news program on Al Jazeera. "The U.S. is ignoring the Saudi advice not to do so. Instead, they are allowing the Iranian influence to grow stronger in Iraq," Al Rabee added. He said the U.S. exit strategy is similar to the one used by the French to drag the Americans into Vietnam before they left. In this way Shiite Iran will become a "partner in the occupation of Iraq" and inevitably find itself head-to-head with the Sunni-led national Iraqi resistance. At the same time, Atwan says the United States is planning to exploit Arab countries' growing animosity toward Iran by selling them tons of weapons. Atwan adds, "Just like the Gulf countries were fooled into spending their wealth for American weapons to fight Iran during the Iran-Iraq war, they might be fooled again to spend their huge surplus from the increase in oil prices to do the same thing." OPINION: Iraq and the laws of war. On 19 March 2003 President Bush Jr. commenced his criminal war against Iraq by ordering a so-called decapitation strike against the President of Iraq in violation of a 48-hour ultimatum he had given publicly to the Iraqi President and his sons to leave the country. This duplicitous behavior violated the customary international laws of war set forth in the 1907 Hague Convention on the Opening of Hostilities to which the United States is still a contracting party, as evidenced by paragraphs 20, 21, 22, and 23 of U.S. Army Field Manual 27-10 (1956). Furthermore, President Bush Jr.'s attempt to assassinate the President of Iraq was an international crime in its own right. Of course the Bush Jr. administration's war of aggression against Iraq constituted a Crime against Peace as defined by the Nuremberg Charter (1945), the Nuremberg Judgment (1946), and the Nuremberg Principles (1950) as well as by paragraph 498 of U.S. Army Field Manual 27-10 (1956). Next came the Pentagon's military strategy of inflicting "shock and awe" upon the city of Baghdad. To the contrary, article 6(b) of the 1945 Nuremberg Charter defined the term "War crimes" to include: ". . . wanton destruction of cities, towns or villages, or devastation not justified by military necessity. . ." The Bush Jr. administration's infliction of "shock and awe" upon Baghdad and its inhabitants constituted the wanton destruction of that city, and it was certainly not justified by "military necessity," which is always defined by and includes the laws of war. Such terror bombings of cities have been criminal behavior under international law since before the Second World War: Nagasaki, Hiroshima, Tokyo, Dresden, London, Guernica-Fallujah. OPINION: Forget Rule of Law, the President Does As He Pleases Never again, given the abuses of earlier administrations, would government be allowed to snoop into the personal business of Americans without a court order. Never again would an imperial presidency be unrestrained to assert itself over the co-equal branches of government. Never again would the White House flagrantly skirt the rule of law by claiming executive privilege. But the rule of law didn't stop Ronald Reagan from circumventing a congressional ban on providing aid to contra rebels in Nicaragua, and the rule of law hasn't stopped George W. from assuming that his executive power takes precedence over the judicial and legislative branches, which he obviously considers full subsidiaries. Using 9/11 as his customary be-all-end-all excuse for doing whatever he pleases as President, Mr. Bush pulled rank over all sorts of established convention by detaining U.S. citizens indefinitely as "enemy combatants," by denying prisoners due process, by selectively applying the Geneva Conventions, by adopting a customized version of interrogation techniques, and by organizing secret foreign prisons to torture terrorist suspects without anyone the wiser. We the people gave our new Nixonite extraordinary latitude to bend the rules of law or disregard them altogether after the terrorist attacks cracked our civil liberties resolve. But the taste of absolute power has absolutely propelled the Bush Administration to the point of impeachable conduct. OPINION: What really went on in Saddam Hussein's Iraq prior to the invasion that ousted him? The U.S. Department of Defense is in possession of more than 2 million documents captured after the fall of Baghdad, many of them from the Iraqi Intelligence Service. They include handwritten documents, audio and videotapes, formal documents, photographs and other data captured off computer hard drives that Saddam's bureaucrats failed to destroy in time. Soon after the fall of Iraq, the Defense Department established a "document exploitation" program known as DOCEX, headquartered in Doha, Qatar. Translating, organizing and, above all, authenticating these millions of documents has proved extraordinarily difficult. So much so that despite employing more than 600 translators working round-the-clock shifts, no more than 50,000 documents thus far have been fully "exploited," in the military's lingo. If it is difficult to imagine that the truth behind Saddam's biggest secrets remains tantalizingly just out of our grasp, well . . . the story gets worse still. According to Hayes' report in the Dec. 19 issue of the Standard, the entire deciphering program may be shut down at the end of this month if certain officials in the Defense Intelligence Agency have their way. Hayes has launched an ardent editorial campaign in his magazine to save the deciphering program. Likewise, Rep. Pete Hoekstra, R-Mich., chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, as well as other members of Congress, has argued to continue this program. The Bush administration has long claimed that it is unafraid of the truth regarding Iraq. While that argument may have been largely validated by the after-action analyses, they have not convinced many critics. Would Saddam's own words make a difference? Maybe. Maybe not. But it is absolutely imperative that we find the truth. Especially those truths well within our grasp. PEACE ACTION: As the year winds down, remember the Conscientious Objectors, and help support their efforts for peace. CASUALTY REPORTS Local Story: Bedford Family Mourns Soldier’s Death in Iraq. Local Story: Guam son died in road blast in Iraq. Local Story: Governor Manchin has ordered West Virginia flags be flown at half-staff next Tuesday to honor a Summers County soldier killed in Iraq. QUOTE OF THE DAY: "These people died silently, complaining to God of a guilt they did not commit," Zahid Mohammed Rawi, a physician, said in the town of Husaybah. (Talking about US airstrikes in 2005 in Iraq.)


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