Friday, December 16, 2005

WAR NEWS FOR FRIDAY DECEMBER 16, 2005 Bring ‘em on: Four children killed in Iraq mortar attack in town of Parwana. An Iraqi soldier also was killed. Bring ‘em on: US Marine dies at Landstuhl Medical Center from wounds sustained from a suicide car bomb in Fallujah (which happed December 12, 2005). Bring ‘em on: US Marine killed by IED near Ramadi on December 14, 2005. Bring ‘em on: Girl injured from a mortar targeting a polling station in Baghdad. She was at home. A few other incidents of mortar attacks resulted in no injuries in Baghdad and Mosul. One civilian killed by mortar in Tal Afar. One Iraqi soldier killed by roadside bomb in Baqouba. Two election workers injured in Muqdadiyah. No injuries from a mortar round in Tikrit. The overall level of violence appeared to be low in Iraq on voting day. Bring ‘em on: Iraqi soldier killed by violence in Iraq on polling day. Four insurgents died when a bomb they were planting exploded north of Baghdad. Bring ‘em on: Two civilians injured in shooting in Baghdad. Three civilians injured after being hit by US patrol vehicle. Car bomb defused in Udhaim. Bring ‘em on: Iraqi solder killed in Tikrit. Bring ‘em on: Four bodies wearing Interior Ministry commando uniforms found shot in Baghdad. A decapitated body in an Iraqi Army uniform found in Baghdad also. Bring ‘em on: Seven family members killed in Hilla after gunmen burst into their home. Bring ‘em on: Loud explosions (five) heard in Green Zone near Interior Ministry, but no casualties reported. ELECTIONS IN IRAQ Iraq's electoral commission says it has no final turnout figure for election, but estimates that 10 to 11 million of 15 million eligible voters cast ballots. Officials say 6,240 polling stations, or almost all those set up, had functioned despite sporadic violence. Facts About Iraq’s Parliamentary Election Key facts about Iraq's parliamentary election on Thursday: * Some 15 million of Iraq's 27.5 million people are eligible to vote. They have 231 parties, coalitions and independents to choose from. In all, 7,648 candidates are seeking election. Organisers say there will be 6,291 polling stations across Iraq. * There are 275 seats up for grabs in the new parliament, 230 of which will be allocated on a pro rata basis in Iraq's 18 provinces. The other 45 "compensatory" and "national" seats will go mostly to smaller parties which fail to win seats in the provincial votes. * Iraq's new constitution says 25 percent of parliament members must be women. To achieve this, the electoral law says at least every third nominee on each list must be a woman. Women will have more representation in the new Iraqi assembly than they do in the parliaments of most Western countries. Millions Turn Out for Iraq Vote Millions of Iraqis, from tribal sheiks to entire families with children in tow, turned out Thursday to choose a parliament in a mostly peaceful election among the freest ever in the Arab world. So many Sunni Arabs voted that ballots ran out in some places. The strong participation by Sunnis, the backbone of the insurgency, bolstered U.S. hopes that the election could produce a broad-based government capable of ending the daily suicide attacks and other violence that have ravaged the country since the fall of Saddam Hussein. Difficult times lie ahead, however. The coalition of religious Shiite parties that dominates the current government is expected to win the biggest portion of the 275 seats, but will almost certainly need to compromise with rival factions, with widely differing views, to form a government. Up to 11 million of the nation's 15 million registered voters took part, election officials estimated, though they had no official turnout figure. A common theme, however, appeared to be a yearning for an end to the turmoil that has engulfed Iraq since the U.S.-led coalition invaded in March 2003 to topple Saddam's regime. "The first thing we want from the new government is security," said Hussein Ali Abbas, a 66-year-old Shiite as he voted at Baghdad's city hall. "We are surviving but it is a struggle." US Troops Optimistic as Iraqis Vote in Peace. "As a soldier I see a lot of bad things," said Padgett, who enlisted in the U.S. Army's 101st Airborne Division two years ago, knowing full well he'd be heading out to Iraq. "But on a day like this, when everyone is smiling at you and waving, and able to walk down the street and not be afraid, that makes it all worthwhile." U.S. troops are under daily fire in mainly Sunni Arab parts of western Tamim province, around Kirkuk, where the insurgency has been in full swing. When they travel it's at high speed, with red signs taped to the back of their Humvee armoured vehicles warning other cars to stay well back or risk getting shot. But the country's third vote this year appears to have encouraged a celebratory mood in the mixed Kurdish and Turkmen town of Altun Kopri, near the border with Kurdistan. In Iraq’s Disputed Kirkuk, Voting Highly Sensitive An Iraqi official in the disputed city of Kirkuk accused Kurds of cheating in Thursday's election, saying thousands had been bussed in to swell the Kurdish vote. Kurds denied the charge. Hassan Toran, a Turkmen member of the Kirkuk Provincial Council, said Turkmen, Arab Sunni and Shi'ite officials would lodge an official written complaint with Iraq's Electoral Commission and demand a new vote under U.N. supervision. "A lot of violations took place. Many (non-Kurdish) voters did not find their names on lists because they were removed," Toran told Reuters. "Buses carried thousands of Kurds from Sulaimaniya and Arbil to vote. Roads between provinces were supposed to be closed." A Kurdish official in Kikruk, Jalal Jawhar, said any accusations of Kurdish violations were baseless. Ethnic Tensions Mar Vote In Iraq’s Mosul Accusations of prejudice against Kurdish voters and complaints that names had been removed from electoral rolls tainted voting in Mosul on Thursday, as Iraq's election exposed the city's ethnic divisions. Voting got off to an uncertain start when seven blasts boomed out over the northern city just as polling stations opened their doors after dawn. Still, tens of thousands of residents walked miles through streets strewn with barbed wire to cast their votes in the first election for a full-term Iraqi parliament since the fall of Saddam Hussein. Lines of women in black gowns and men in robes voted without incident at many polling stations across the ethnically mixed city of two million people, but there were problems at others. At one, in a mixed neighbourhood, tempers flared between election officials and Kurds who claimed nearly 300 Kurdish families were turned away when their names could not be found on the electoral roll. "I am very angry," said Saleh Ahmed, a 45-year-old Kurd who insisted his name was mysteriously dropped from the roll despite his participation in an October constitutional referendum and in the Jan. 30 election for an interim government. "They say this is a democratic country. This is our right," he shouted. The U.S. military was called in to sort the problem out but soldiers were met with stubborn resistance from the local head of the Electoral Commission. As a war of words broke out in the courtyard of the polling station, one Kurdish officer in the Iraqi army, who had been standing guard outside, repeatedly asked a U.S. officer for permission to shoot the electoral official. There was similar confusion at another station, where voting came to a halt after illiterate men and women complained that election workers charged with marking their ballots were ignoring their wishes and giving the vote to other parties. "I wanted to vote for the Kurdish list because I am a Kurd, but the worker marked something else and put my ballot in the box without showing it to me," said one man, as another blast rang out across the city. Personal story: Riverbend on the elections Allawi is still an American puppet. His campaign posters, and the horrors of the last year, haven’t changed that. People haven’t forgotten his culpability in the whole Fallujah debacle. For some Iraqis, however, he’s preferable to Hakim and Ja’affari after a year of detentions, abductions, assassinations and secret torture prisons.There’s a saying in Iraq which people are using right and left lately, and that I've used before in the blog, “Ili ishuf il mout, yirdha bil iskhuna.” He who sees death, is content with a fever. Allawi et al. seem to be the fever these days… Incidents on Iraqi Election Day BAGHDAD - Some Iraqi polling stations stay open extra hour to allow queueing voters to cast ballots. Electoral Commissioner Hussein Hendawi says he believes turnout has exceeded 10 million voters, or some 67 percent. * BAGHDAD - U.N. envoy to Iraq Ashraf Qazi says election appears successful. "Anecdotal evidence shows that there has been a good turnout, that it was inclusive and that security was well maintained. These are good measures of success," he says. MOSUL - Seven explosions are heard in Mosul in what U.S. military says was attack on two of its vehicles. No casualties. SAMARRA - Mortar round lands near polling centre in al-Mu'tassim, south of Samarra, police say. No casualties. TIKRIT - A mortar round hits near polling centre in al-Bayan school, police say. No casualties. Iraqi Vote Draws Big Turnout of Sunnis. Anti-US Sentiment is Motivator for Many. More than two years after the fall of Saddam Hussein, Sunni Arabs belatedly turned out in force to build a new Iraq, walking to polls by the hundreds of thousands Thursday for national elections that generated robust participation across the country's sectarian and ethnic divides. The Sunni outpouring was a long-hoped-for victory for the Bush administration, concluding a U.S.-planned timeline aimed at establishing a government that will hold together after U.S. troops withdraw. An overwhelming number of Sunnis made clear, however, that they were drawn to the polls by their dislike of the U.S. occupation and Iraq's U.S.-supported, Shiite-led transitional government. Though complete results from Iraq's 18 provinces might not be available for about two weeks, partial tallies from across Iraq suggested that Thursday's turnout was stronger than in most elections in Western nations. Election officials in cities of the Kurdish-populated north reported 70 percent participation. Voting among Shiite Muslims, the most enthusiastic participants in Iraqi democracy since Hussein's overthrow brought their majority to power, appeared as strong as in this year's two previous nationwide votes. But at least one Iraqi insurgent group made good on a promised election day moratorium on attacks, even putting masked gunmen on the streets to guard voters against the foreign fighters of al Qaeda in Iraq and let the marginalized Sunni minority try to address grievances through ballots rather than bullets. "This is our future. This is our destiny," Ammar Ahmed, a self-described supporter of the insurgency, said in Fallujah, a western Sunni city devastated by war. Tens of thousands there streamed to the polls. "If we don't want to live like this, we can't leave it to others," Ahmed said. Iraqis Still Delighted to Vote There may not have been the same sense of history this time round, but the joy and determination of Iraqi voters emerging from dictatorship was still evident. Young and old, able-bodied and infirm, men and women, they streamed to polls for the third time in 11 months on Thursday, this time to elect a four-year parliament. While not as novel as the first post-Saddam Hussein election in January, participation was more widespread. Sunni Arabs, who boycotted the earlier poll for an interim assembly, flocked to vote this time, determined not to miss out on power again. Demand to vote was so strong in some areas that polls had to be kept open an extra hour. In other places, including Sunni Arab Falluja, ballot papers even ran out. "I'm delighted to be voting for the first time," said 21-year-old driver Jamal Mahmoud in Ramadi, a Sunni Arab city west of Baghdad that has been at the front line of the anti-American insurgency for the past two years. "This election will lead to the American occupation forces leaving Ramadi and Iraq," he said, reflecting a widespread motivation among voters. Al Qaeda Group Claims Swedish Iraq Poll Attack A failed fire bomb attack on a polling station in Stockholm used for Iraq's parliamentary election has been claimed by a group which says it has links to al Qaeda, newspapers said on Thursday. Bottles of petrol were thrown at the polling station for Iraqi immigrants in the northern Stockholm suburb of Kista in the early hours of Thursday, but did not ignite. After Iraq Vote Success, Now For the Hard Part Iraqis elected a representative parliament on Thursday, completing a U.S. timetable to install democracy, but much hard work lies ahead if it is to survive its own bitter divisions to produce stability and prosperity. Like a prototype aircraft preparing for its maiden flight, the requisite components appear to be in place, with Iraq's various sectarian and ethnic groups sharing in the legislature -- but structural tensions mean no one can be sure it will fly. Also critical will be forming a competent, honest administration that can quickly deliver on voters' expectations that security and the economy will improve, Khalilzad and other Western diplomats said. Disappointment is dangerous in Iraq. First indications of how strong the spirit of compromise is will come in negotiations on forming a government over the coming weeks and, probably, months. Iraq’s Kurds Vote for Identity Many Kurds voting in Iraq's election on Thursday, far away from violence plaguing most of the country, saw the poll primarily as a way to reinforce their ethnic identity. "We want to prove to the whole world that we are a nation and we exist," said Saman Shawkat, a 25-year-old car mechanic who brought his entire family with him to the polling station in this northeastern city near the border with Iran. But Abdul Rahman Tawfet, a mullah and religious teacher, said he supported the opposition Kurdistan Islamic Union, whose offices were attacked in several Kurdish towns and cities in the run-up to the vote, possibly because of their Islamist stance. "It's a national duty to vote. We are Iraqis," Tawfet said, adding that he would cast a ballot "to make sure our country is independent from war, terrorists and occupiers." Iraq Insurgents Say Election Truce Won’t Last If we abandon our weapons and resistance and we try to enter politics then de-Baathification is waiting for us. We will become cattle," he said. Iraqi security officials say ex-Baathists are leading the insurgency while a small number of foreign Arab Islamist militants carry out spectacular suicide bombings. In Ramadi, just west of Falluja, a 38-year-old leader of the Islamic Army, Abu Qatada, said insurgents would not rest until they had kicked out the Americans and their Iraqi "agents". "We want the Americans to pay attention to our political agenda calling for them to withdraw and announce a timetable to withdraw and getting their agents out of power. They will be replaced with national leaders whom we will support," he said. And now, another Arab election results: Hamas Wins in West Bank Elections. The Palestinian electoral commission said that in the biggest city, Nablus, Hamas took 73% of the vote, while the mainstream Fatah organisation took 13%. This week's poll is viewed as an important indicator for elections to the Palestinian parliament scheduled for 25 January 2006. In Jenin, Hamas won seven seats on the council to Fatah's six seats. In Ramallah, the West Bank's commercial centre, Fatah won six seats on the council, while the radical Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine also won six and Hamas three. Full and final results were expected by the end of the week. Hamas' charter commits it to the destruction of Israel, and the group has been responsible for most of the suicide attacks inside Israel. (Okay, quick history review: Foreign government occupies a country for years and years, then when the people get to vote in a democratic election, they vote in politicians who are violently against the foreign occupier. Anybody surprised? Any lessons for Iraq here? – Susan) REPORTS THE TRAGEDY OF IRAQ: Morgue cannot cope with number of bodies arriving on a daily basis, doctors say. According to Ameen, families cannot receive bodies before they are examined and a post mortum is carried out which takes at least 2-3 days, but this goes against the need for Muslims to bury their loved ones within 24 hours as stipulated in Islam. We receive over 1,600 corpses on a monthly basis and the huge number of bodies has resulted in a lack of space for them," Ameen continued. The doctor complained that 90 percent of the bodies that reached the mortuary every day were from terrorist attacks and that staff could not cope with the numbers. "Our capacity for saving corpses is up to 120. In emergency cases like explosions corpses have to be kept in hospital refrigerators until there is a free space," he said. Unclaimed corpses cause further problems. "We were saving unknown corpses for at least two months until their families were able to come and identify them during Saddam Hussein's regime but this procedure has changed now because there is not enough space for them," Ameen noted. "Now when we receive large numbers of unknown corpses with no family claim, we bury them within five days in the general cemetery with some descriptions about marks, age and cause of death in case of a relative's claim," he continued. NEWS: US troops in Iraq to pre-vote levels end January. The number of U.S. troops in Iraq, boosted to provide additional security for Thursday's election, should fall back to a pre-election "baseline" level by the end of January or early February, the top general in Iraq said on Friday. Army Gen. George Casey, the U.S. commander in Iraq, was asked in a video-linked news briefing when U.S. troops would be drawn down to their pre-election baseline level, which was about 138,000, from the current more than 150,000. "We should be down to the old baseline there I'd say probably around the end of January, maybe early February," he said. NEWS: UK officer fears Sadr and Badr fighting in Iraq. A senior British commander in Iraq on Friday predicted Shi'ite Muslim factions, which teamed up for Thursday’s election, might soon fall out and fight now the vote is over. As a result, he said, Britain would be foolish to pull its 8,500 soldiers out of southern Iraq, at least until after provincial elections expected in early 2006. NEWS: Iraq Mistakenly Freed Terror Kingpin Zarqawi. They released him because they didn't realize who he was, the deputy interior minister said Thursday, according to CNN. The deputy interior minister, Hussein Kamal, said the Jordanian-born leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq was in custody sometime last year, but he wouldn't provide further details, CNN reported. The report could not be confirmed, but a US official said in Washington that American intelligence believed it was plausible. The official spoke on condition of anonymity in compliance with office policy. NEWS: The Missing Air War in Iraq As 2004 ended, one TV journalist wrote me: "My own experience of Iraq is that while we're all constantly aware of the air power, we're rarely nearby when it's deployed offensively. Perhaps that explains why we don't see it. One does ‘hear' the airpower all the time though. Fighters and helicopters used to protect convoys; helis shipping people back and forth to bases, or hunting in packs across towns; AWACS high up. I've even watched drones making patterns in the sky. So why don't we film it?" It's a question that still hasn't been answered -- or even asked in public. Yet our air power has been loosed powerfully on heavily populated cities and towns in a country we've occupied. This has been done, in part, because American generals have not wanted to send American troops -- any more than absolutely necessary -- into embattled cityscapes in an ongoing guerrilla war in which they might take heavy casualties (which, in turn, would be likely to cause support for the war to drop at home even more precipitously than it has). Curiously enough, U.S. Central Command Air Force (CENTAF) reports are more detailed than anything we normally can read in our papers. On December 6, for example, CENTAF admitted to 46 air missions over Iraq flown on the previous day -- in order to provide "support to coalition troops, infrastructure protection, reconstruction activities and operations to deter and disrupt terrorist activities." Albeit usually broadly (and vaguely) described, and seldom taking possible civilian casualties into account, these daily tabulations by the Air Force often flesh out bare-bones reports with a little extra detail on the nature of the air war. On that December 6th, for instance, the report added that "Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcons, an MQ-1 Predator and Navy F/A-18 Hornets provided close-air support to coalition troops in contact with anti-Iraqi forces near Balad and Ramadi." The political climate at home may force a decrease in the number of U.S. troops in Iraq, but the compensatory upswing in air power meant to offset this will be inevitable and will inevitably lead to unexpected problems. Why? Because the Bush administration will still be committed to permanently hanging onto a crucial group of four or five mega-military bases (into which billions of construction and communications dollars have already been poured) along with a massive embassy, directing political and military "traffic" from the heart of Baghdad's Green Zone -- and that means an unending occupation of Iraq, something that, air power or no, can only mean endless strife. THE WAR AT HOME: US Army Officer Charged in Iraq Fraud Scam. A U.S. Army officer was arrested on Thursday for stealing between $80,000 and $100,000 in funds from the U.S. governing administration in Iraq and using the money to install a deck and hot hub in her New Jersey home. The U.S. Justice Department said Army Reserve Lt. Col. Debra Harrison, 47, who served with the Coalition Provisional Authority, was arrested on charges involving bribery, money laundering and fraud. Harrison is the second army officer and the fourth person charged in the past few weeks in connection with the scheme. According to court papers, Harrison and her co-conspirators accepted money and gifts in return for using their official positions to rig contract bids. An affidavit filed in the U.S. District Court in New Jersey said she used the money to add a deck and put in a hot tub at her home in Trenton, New Jersey, accepted a Cadillac Escalade worth about $50,000 and a $6,000 airline ticket from a contractor in return for rigging the bids. Harrison was also accused of laundering funds from the CPA. THE WAR AT HOME: War Costs Poised to Reach $500B The Pentagon is in the early stages of drafting a wartime request for up to $100 billion more for Iraq and Afghanistan, lawmakers say, a figure that would push spending related to the wars toward a staggering half-trillion dollars. Reps. Bill Young, R-Fla., the chairman of the House appropriations defense panel, and John Murtha, D-Pa., the senior Democrat on that subcommittee, say the military has informally told them it wants $80 billion to $100 billion in a war-spending package that the White House is expected to send Congress next year. THE WAR AT HOME: Congress Doesn’t See Same Intelligence as President, Report Finds. President Bush and top administration officials have access to a much broader ranger of intelligence reports than members of Congress do, a nonpartisan congressional research agency said in a report Thursday, raising questions about recent assertions by the president. Bush has said that Democratic lawmakers who authorized the use of force against Iraq and now criticize the war saw the same pre-invasion intelligence on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction that he did. The president made that claim in recent speeches about Iraq. Support for the war has decreased, and critics have said that the administration misled the country when it relied on erroneous intelligence about Iraqi weapons programs that supported its case for war and discarded information that undermined it. "Some of the most irresponsible comments - about manipulating intelligence - have come from politicians who saw the same intelligence I saw and then voted to authorize the use of force against Saddam Hussein," Bush said on Wednesday in his most recent speech. "These charges are pure politics." (And Bush’s comments are pure lies. – Susan) The Congressional Research Service, by contrast, said: "The president, and a small number of presidentially designated Cabinet-level officials, including the vice president ... have access to a far greater overall volume of intelligence and to more sensitive intelligence information, including information regarding intelligence sources and methods." Unlike members of Congress, the president and his top officials also have the authority to ask U.S. intelligence agencies more extensively for follow-up information, the report said. "As a result, the president and his most senior advisers arguably are better positioned to assess the quality of the ... intelligence more accurately than is Congress." The CRS report identified nine key U.S. intelligence "products" that aren't generally shared with Congress. These include the President's Daily Brief, a compilation of analyses that's given only to the president and a handful of top aides, and a daily digest on terrorism-related matters. THE WAR AT HOME: December 14, 2005 Rep. John Murtha (D-PA) moved on the House floor for conferees on the Defense Appropriations Bill to accept the McCain amendment relating to prohibition on cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment of persons under custody or control of the United States government. The motion was adopted 308 - 122. Bush had also decided to accept the McCain amendment. HALL OF SHAME: The 121 Republicans and 1 Democrat who voted to condone torture listed here: Marshall (GA- only Democrat) Aderholt Akin Baker Barrett (SC) Barton (TX) Bilirakis Bishop (UT) Blackburn Blunt Boehner Bonilla Bonner Bono Brady (TX) Brown (SC) Burgess Burton (IN) Buyer Calvert Campbell (CA) Cannon Cantor Carter Chabot Coble Cole (OK) Conaway Crenshaw Cubin Culberson Deal (GA) DeLay Doolittle Drake Dreier Everett Feeney Fossella Foxx Franks (AZ) Frelinghuysen Gallegly Garrett (NJ) Gillmor Gingrey Gohmert Goode Granger Graves Hall Hart Hastings (WA) Hayes Hayworth Hefley Hensarling Herger Hobson Hoekstra Hostettler Hunter Istook Jindal Johnson King (IA) King (NY) Kingston LaHood Lewis (CA) Lewis (KY) Linder Lucas Lungren Marchant McHenry McKeon Mica Miller (FL) Miller Musgrave Myrick Neugebauer Ney Norwood Nunes Oxley Pearce Pence Peterson (PA) Poe Price (GA) Putnam Radanovich Rehberg Renzi Rogers (AL) Rogers (KY) Rogers (MI) Rohrabacher Royce Ryun (KS) Schmidt Sessions Shadegg Shuster Simpson Smith (TX) Souder Stearns Sullivan Taylor (NC) Terry Thornberry Tiahrt Turner Weldon (FL) Westmoreland Wicker Wilson (SC) Young (AK) Young (FL) - The above was from an email I received. - Susan COMMENTARY OPINION: 30,000 Iraqis More or Less George's face was eerily matter-of-fact as he said it. "30,000 Iraqis more or less" have been killed so far in the 'War on Terror'. No remorse or sadness, he seemed wholly unaffected in any way by the enormity of such a loss of life, let alone that he might bear some responsibility for it happening. But it was major news that during his remarks to the World Affairs Conference in Philadelphia, the President had finally put a figure on the number of 'enemy' war dead and my local newspaper duly ran the story on Page One. Asked about his linkage of Saddam Hussein to 911, Bush maintained that Saddam had been a threat and that the reports of weapons of mass destruction had been widely believed. He claimed that knowing what he does now, he would make the same decision, that Saddam had been a threat and that we are now safer. The President also talked about the challenges nations face making a transition to what he often terms a "free and democratic" society. One wonders if there were chuckles at his understated, "I think we were welcomed. But it was not a peaceful welcome." But clearly the most important thing we need to know is just how many governments does Bush plan to 'change' in the name of democracy? Over and over in his speech he compared the Iraqi situation to our own fight for freedom against the British. There is just one little difference. We fought for our own freedom, the British did not demand that we become a democracy. That can hardly be compared to bombing a country into 'freedom'. Apparently we've forgotten our grade school history lessons. In the end, it all comes down to this: At what point will we finally quit nodding like bobbleheads and start demanding the truth, both from our media and from our government? When do we quit handing out political free lunch passes for such wholly inapplicable euphemisms as 'victory' and 'success' when the real topics on the table are lying, war crimes and treason? OPINION: An Alternative to Iraq Delusions. Murtha’s ideas were the reflections of a foreign-policy hawk that had the integrity and prudence to cut American losses in Iraq, and thereby diminish the prospects of a deeper tragedy. The timetable of his basic proposal could be faulted, but not the principle. I think a year makes more sense, to give time to the main Iraqi political forces to take account of the US departure and strike a deal based on compromise and reconciliation. As long as American forces remain, the imbalances between the main groupings in Iraq — especially the privileged positions of the Kurds and Shi’a — virtually guarantee a prolonging, and even an escalation, of the violent civil strife. Present indicators of violence suggest a rising curve of death and devastation, not, as the White House and Pentagon constantly claim, an increase in domestic security. The more reliable polls also suggest that average Iraqis are desperate above all for security in their daily lives, and feel overwhelmingly that their situation would improve if American forces were to leave the country. Such an outlook makes sense. Without the protection of an occupying army the Kurds and Shi’a would likely succumb to the insurgency, but if the foreign military presence was being gradually removed, the incentives for those now benefiting from the occupation to strike a political/economic bargain would rise dramatically. As it would for the Sunni as well, if their alternatives were a fair share of authority and a secular governing process versus a civil war that might result in either a stalemate or an Iranian intervention, and possibly in a combination of the two. OPINION: Iraq War: 1,000 Days and a Million Questions. I don't like liars. I don't like arrogance. I don't like being taken for an idiot; too stupid to make up my own mind based upon "silly things" like facts. And it's not just me who feels this way, though all of those are very personal reasons. The war started on March 19, 2003 with American bombs falling on Baghdad. I was one of those who didn't trust much of anyone else saying we needed to go to war to protect America. The country of Iraq had sat there for more than 30 years without threatening to or planning to attack America or American interests. It was my mistake to trust Colin Powell, then Secretary of State. How could what he said before the United Nations not be true; there were biological weapons labs and facilities everywhere; missiles were being built that could attack not only immediate neighbors but reach "Old Europe" - England, France and Germany. It was all grim. Also this week, mostly starting today, elections were held in Iraq to elect members of Parliament and other offices. There are over 6,600 candidates. This was the best plan to get democracy in Iraq? OPINION: As Iraq Votes, historian, iconoclast looks to Vietnam; Says lack of position cost Democrats in 1968. Raw Story's John Byrne: Speaking to elementary school children Tuesday, Lynne Cheney compared this week's parliamentary elections in Iraq to America's own early struggle for democracy. "Two hundred and seventeen years ago, we held our first vote under our Constitution," she said. "We started then on the path the Iraqis are walking now." What do you make of that? Boston University Professor Emeritus of Political Science Howard Zinn: [Laughs] It's sort of ridiculous the juxtaposition of an election that took place in the United States after we had gotten rid of an occupying power, England, an election which represented our independence, with an election that is taking place now, which is in the midst of an occupation. It's like saying when the British were still maintaining troops throughout the 13 colonies, while still maintaining control, had pronounced that now democracy was being brought to the 13 colonies. We were holding an election after ousting the occupying power. Raw Story: Do you think the Iraq situation is "better" than Vietnam because they are having elections? Zinn: Well, elections are a very, very superficial way of judging whether there is democracy in the country. There were elections taking place in Vietnam in 1967, and they said this is a good sign. It meant nothing, because we were still bombarding the country... the Vietnamese people were not liking us anymore.... the elections are held amidst the military occupation of the country. Raw Story: So basically democracy under the gun is not democracy. Zinn: Yeah, exactly. OPINION: The War Isn’t About Oil, It is About the Price of Oil. I think the war is about several things... [not so much about oil as] about the availability of oil, because if we didn't control the oil, Iraq would have to sell the oil; they would sell it to us and to everybody else. The war isn't really about oil but about the price of oil which makes the loss of life even more horrendous. The control of oil is certainly a major factor. All of our policies since the end of World War II have been based on the control of oil, hence the overthrow of Mohammed Mossadegh in Iran in 1953 over his nationalization of oil. Beyond oil, it's a matter of empire. Were the French in Indochina because of rubber? Yes, but that was only part of it. Did Mussolini go into Ethiopia because the Italians needed land? No, Mussolini wanted to restore the glory of the Roman Empire, and the United States is hellbent on creating the greatest empire in world history. It's oil, and it's empire and it's business. And it's control. Wars create a situation where the ruling party is better able to control the situation, hence the Patriot Act, and war is an opportunity for profiteering.... I remember during the Vietnam war one of the great posters was done by a quite well-known artist Seymour Chwast, and the poster simply said in big letters: "War Is Good for Business: Invest Your Son." Very chilling, but true. OPINION: Iraq 1918-2006 RIP After so many fake “turning points” in Iraq, at last a genuine one: the election on December 15 really will settle something. Unfortunately, what it will do is confirm tha the unitary Iraqi state that has existed since 1918 is nearing its end, to be replaced by God knows what. OPINION: From Spain to Indonesia? As Robert Higgs explains in his article for the current issue of the Independent Review [.pdf], "Fear: The Foundation of Every Government’s Power," in which he argues that fear is not simply a useful tool of state power, but the very basis of it, "Over the ages, governments refined their appeals to popular fears, fostering an ideology that emphasizes the people’s vulnerability to a variety of internal and external dangers from which the governors—of all people!—are represented to be their protectors. Government, it is claimed, protects the populace from external attackers and from internal disorder, both of which are portrayed as ever-present threats. Sometimes the government, as if seeking to nourish the mythology with grains of truth, does protect people in this fashion—even the shepherd protects his sheep, but he does so to serve his own interest, not theirs, and when the time comes, he will shear or slaughter them as his interest dictates." On another occasion, though he quickly contradicted himself, the president actually told the truth about the enemy. Al Qaeda, he said, is "more like a loose network with many branches than an army." As long as we keep letting the politicians frame the debate around such far-fetched fears as a multicontinental Islamo-Fascist Caliphate, the argument will never, finally, get to the point: In order to win the fight against anti-American terrorism, our foreign interventionism must end. OPINION: One Step at a Time in Iraq. Today’s Parliamentary elections in Iraq should represent a major step toward getting substantial numbers of U.S. troops out of the country — soon. Those elected will choose a government that is no longer transitional, one that will rule by a constitution (a flawed document, but subject to amendment) and, if the Iraqis are lucky, protect minority rights and hold the country together. With more than 7,000 candidates vying for 275 seats, the results are unlikely to be known for days, perhaps weeks. Nor will ballots stop bullets; terrorist groups mostly observed a cease-fire this week but are expected to resume the killings within days. Yet a permanent, elected government should point to a future without U.S. forces. That's a future as desirable in Baghdad as in Washington. It will increasingly be up to Iraqis to enlist security forces and train them, obtain intelligence on terrorists and stop attacks on the oil fields the country needs to fund the government. Ambassador to Iraq Gets It Wrong OPINION: Kurds Want to Remain Part of Iraq – US Ambassador. Kurdish leaders believe it is better to remain part of Iraq rather than pursue secession, Washington's representative to Iraq, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq said on Sunday days before Iraq's historic parliamentary elections. Zalmay Khalilzad said the Kurds realized they would become isolated and surrounded by unfriendly neighbors if they split from the rest of Iraq. OPINION: Early Departure of US troops would lead to civil war in Iraq: Khalilzad. "There could be a Shia-Sunni civil war that could engulf the entire region," Khalilzad told CNN television, who said nevertheless that a sizeable reduction in US forces was a long-term goal. (Keep in mind that the Bush administration has been wrong on everything all along, and this is true for their Ambassadors too. – Susan) PEACE ACTION: Report on International Peace Conference David Swanson and Cindy Sheehan in London. Steve Cobble and I participated in an historic international peace conference in London on December 10 and in various related events the same week. We met with several Members of Parliament and will be working to facilitate teamwork and future events with them and members of the US Congressional Progressive Caucus. The conference, hosted by the Stop the War Coalition, was a great success. About 1,500 people packed into a large hall, including delegates from all around the UK, and from Iraq, the US, Iran, Pakistan, India, the Philippines, Canada, Poland, Greece, Italy, Spain and many other European countries. The conference passed a statement calling for an international weekend of action on March 18/19, 2006, to mark the third anniversary of the war. The week of events included a reception with the Mayor of London, who is strongly opposed to the war and willing to say so in no uncertain terms. CASUALTY REPORTS Local Story: Texas soldier killed by device in Iraq. Local Story: West Virginia man killed in Iraq. Local Story: Four Fort Riley soldiers killed in Baghdad. Three of them were married with children. Local Story: Senator Mikulski, Congressman Cummings honor soldier killed in Iraq. Local Story: Marine from Minnesota was killed by bomb in Iraq. Local Story: Lance Corporal Robert Martinez was buried with full military honors Dec. 12. QUOTE OF THE DAY: There can be no defense of torture by civilized societies. That clarity separates us from those we are fighting and is the ultimate source of our strength in this fight. -The Japan Times: Dec. 13, 2005


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