Saturday, December 10, 2005

WAR NEWS FOR SATURDAY DECEMBER 10, 2005 Bring ‘em on: Violence intensifies across Iraq, and there is no word on the hostages. Bring ‘em on: (yet another) Al Qaida figure arrested in Ramadi. Amir Khalaf Fanus, also known in the Ramadi area as "the Butcher," was wanted for criminal activities including murder and kidnapping, Capt. Jeffrey S. Pool said in a statement from the town, located 70 miles west of Baghdad. Fanus was No. 3 on a most-wanted list for Ramadi drawn up by the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 28th Infantry Division. "He is the highest ranking al-Qaida in Iraq member to be turned into Iraqi and U.S. officials by local citizens," Pool said. "His capture is another indication that the local citizens tire of the insurgents' presence within their community." Bring ‘em on: Four Turkish Soldiers killed in Kurd rebel clash. Bring ‘em on: Police find nine male bodies south of Baghdad. They had been bound and shot, and two were police officers. Bring ‘em on: Two Iraqis soldiers killed, three wounded in Baghdad clashes. Bring ‘em on: 22 suspected terrorists were detained in different areas of north central Iraq. Four caches of weapons also found. Bring ‘em on: Egyptian kidnapped in Tikrit. He was working for the Americans Later found dead from gunshots. Bring ‘em on: Two Allawi party members injured from mortar rounds at party headquarters in Najaf. Suicide car bomber stuck US convoy in Tal Afar, resulting in injuries. Four US soldiers killed in three separate incidents in Baghdad area on Saturday. (Three by small arms fire, one when patrol struck a bomb.) Bring ‘em on: One civilian killed and one wounded in Mosul as they put up posters for Iraqi Islamic Party. Police killed one of the gunman and arrested another, while one escaped. Bring ‘em on: Roadside bomb injures three in Najaf. Bomb was directed towards al Zurfi, who is running in next week’s elections as head of the Faithful to Najaf Party. Bring ‘em on: US Soldier killed and 11 wounded in suicide car bomb in Abu Ghraib district of western Baghdad. One Iraqi civilian also wounded. Two civilians killed and one wounded in car bomb attack in Mosul, which was directed towards US forces. Bring ‘em on: One Iraqi soldier killed and 10 wounded in bomb attack in Balad. US and Iraqi soldiers detained 52 suspected insurgents in Tikrit. US soldier died of suspected heart attack while on guard duty near Falluja. An al Qaeda insurgent brought to US base by local citizens on Friday. Bring ‘em on: Two civilians killed in clashes with unknown gunmen and Iraqi security forces in western Baghdad. Iraqi policeman killed and two wounded by roadside bomb in Baghdad. Another bomb killed a policeman and civilian in southern Baghdad. Gunman in Iraqi army uniforms raided a house in the town of Al Iman, south of capital, killing a father and son. In Bohruz, north of Baghdad, two brothers were shot dead by gunman in their fabric shop. NOW, GET THIS: Coalition forces keep streets of Iraq safe. Soldiers from Task Force Baghdad, alongside Iraqi forces, constantly search the streets and alleyways of Baghdad and surrounding communities for weapons, insurgents and anti-coalition propaganda. The searches are thorough, yet the Soldiers still respect people's rights and property. “I feel that our patrols make a difference,” said Sgt. Kenneth Casica. “I guess the patrols make the insurgents nervous because they know…we'll push them out of this area to make the people feel safe.” REPORTS NEWS: El Baradei Says Nuclear Arms Should Be Taboo As Slavery. The world should work to make nuclear weapons as universally condemned as slavery or genocide, UN nuclear watchdog chief Mohamed ElBaradei said on Saturday after receiving the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize. El Baradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said the world had 27,000 nuclear warheads and "to me, that is 27,000 warheads too many." "The hard part is how do we create an environment in which nuclear weapons -- like slavery or genocide -- are regarded as a taboo and a historical anomaly?" ElBaradei, an Egyptian, said in his acceptance speech. NEWS: Kurdish Culture Begins to Flourish in Kurdistan Region. Here and across Kurdish-administered northern Iraq, the government actively supports Kurdish writers by subsidizing the publication of their books. That makes Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region the center of a cultural resurgence that could have significant repercussions in Kurdish areas of neighboring states.Ahmad Ghazi is a Kurdish writer in Iran. He says Kurds there are closely watching what is happening in Iraq's Kurdistan region. "What is happening here in Iraqi Kurdistan has a great effect on all sides of our lives in other parts of Kurdish regions -- in Iran, Turkey, Syria, and elsewhere, especially from the point of view of culture," he said. "Really, the Kurdish people in Iran are mostly looking at this side of the world, not at that side. I mean, we are mostly dependent on Iraqi Kurdistan, not on Tehran." NEWS: Sunnis Appeal for Release of Four Christian Humanitarian Workers Prominent Sunni Arab clerics and residents of a Baghdad neighborhood where four kidnapped Christian humanitarian workers had aided people appealed Friday for their release a day before a deadline set by their abductors to kill them. During prayers in the al-Imam al-Aadam mosque in Baghdad's predominantly Sunni Arab neighborhood of Azamiyah in north Baghdad, cleric Ahmed Hassan Taha demanded that the four charity workers be released."I stress on the necessity to release the four kidnapped foreigners who have helped the residents of Azamiyah," he said. "We ask those who have authority and power to do their best to release the four European people who work in Christian peace organization, in fact those activists were the first who condemned the war on Iraq." Residents gathered outside the mosque, also known as Abu Hanifa, and held aloft banners demanding their release. "The people of Azamiyah will not forget the honest positions peacemakers," read one. Another said, "We demand the release of the abducted peacemakers."A spokesman for the influential Association of Muslim Scholars, Abdel-Salam al-Qubaisi, said he hoped that the kidnappers were insurgents and not something else -- an allusion kidnap-for-ransom gangs. The association is thought to have links to some groups in the Sunni-led insurgency, "I hope that the hostages are in the hands of people who reject the occupation," he told a news conference. "I think that those abducted are doves of peace who reject that the occupation, they must be rewarded not imprisoned." NEWS: Muslim World Unites to beg for the lives of Iraq hostages He said: "In the name of the Muslim Brotherhood worldwide, I call for the western peace activists in Iraq to be released immediately. Islam rejects the kidnapping of innocent people regardless of their aim, beliefs and opinion, and all laws locally and internationally consider kidnapping a crime, particularly when it targets innocent peace activists who are known for their activity and solidarity for the Iraqi cause." His call followed that of a former detainee at the American military base at Guantanamo Bay, Briton Moazzam Begg, who spent almost three years in the base in Cuba before his release in January. He said pictures of Prof Kember and his three fellow-captives in orange suits reminded him of being held by the Americans. (I have to agree that these kidnapper’s behaviours remind me of American behaviours also. – Susan) Mr Begg said: "It is our sincerest belief that Norman Kember, the 74-year-old Briton, and those with him are among those people, the many people, who opposed this war from the beginning and were only in Iraq to promote human rights for the oppressed. Just like Sheikh Abu Qatada, we also hope that our words will encourage you to show mercy to these men and set them free." NEWS: 241 Detainees Released in Iraq. This was not connected to the hostage demands. NEWS: Iraq’s Sweet Water Canal Projects Deliver Water and Self-Sufficiency. Due to the desert-like climate and high salinity of water in southern Iraq, two million residents of Basrah have long relied upon the 240-kilometer-long Sweet Water Canal to supply their domestic water for cleaning, cooking, bathing, and washing. Further highlighting the canal’s importance is the fact that although local residents typically drink bottled water, once boiled, the water from the Sweet Water Canal is suitable for drinking. Now, two Project and Contracting Office (PCO) construction and non-construction projects have ensured the canal’s quality and reliability for many years, and provided local Iraqis the tools necessary to maintain this vital source. NEWS: Shiite, Sunni groups sign pact for US withdrawal timetable. A group of Shiite and Sunni parties has signed a declaration condemning terrorism, urging a timetable for the end of the US military presence, and vowing never to normalise relations with Israel. The parties to the "code of honour" included followers of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Chalabi, Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq and the Sunni Iraqi Consensus Front. The code also declared that resistance is a legitimate right and condemned "terrorism, violence, murder and kidnappings." The code is non-binding but it indicates what parties might choose to work together after the new parliament is elected next week. Officials said al-Sadr was the driving figure behind the yesterday's pact. NEWS: US General: Iraqis control security responsibility in Najaf, Karbala. Speaking via satellite to reporters at the Pentagon, Brigadier General Augustus Collins said his troops are mainly in a support role in Najaf and Karbala provinces. "I can tell you that the Iraqi army in Najaf and Karbala have responsibility for those two provinces right now. We're just in an advisory and training mode as far as those provinces are concerned," said Mr. Collins. Later, a spokesman said the general meant to say the Iraqi army has the primary responsibility for security in the two provinces, but full control has not yet been handed over. In addition, General Collins said the same situation exists in part of neighboring Babil province, and he expects the Iraqi-controlled area of that province to expand soon after next week's election. NEWS: Iraqi’s Learning How to Lead in Norfolk. The training was started by Major Ronald Miller out of NATO in Norfolk. A year ago, Major Miller was in Baghdad to find out what Iraqi's knew about running an army. "Not very much. You can imagine a major American Corp all of a sudden take out everyone in head office who knew anything about manageing the orgnazation. There would be some real problems." Major Miller says they are starting from scratch. So things that are second nature here, like the chain of command, they don't know. It's time consuming with the stumbling blocks of a different culture and different work ethics. Education levels and language have also been barriers, but there is one characteristic that they say is common here: it's courage. The program sends the officers out of Iraq for training, mostly to European countries. The reason why? How do you describe democracy? The NATO officers say they've found it's easier to show them than explain it. THE WAR AT HOME: Book review: Grand Theft Pentagon. After the Cold War, the military industrial complex was desperate for a new conflict to legitimize profligate spending on war, weapons systems and their associated services. St. Clair chronicles how Bush’s so-called “war on terror” has enabled our rulers to rekindle the incestuous relationship between politicians, the Pentagon and military contractors. The marriage counselor of this foul union is none other than George Bush himself. In perhaps the funniest exposé of the Bushes yet written, St. Clair tells the story of this company masquerading as a family. The portrait is not very flattering, politically or personally. Demonstrating their congenital penchant for putting profit before all else, the dynasty’s founder, Prescott Bush, barely escaped charges of treason for wheeling and dealing with the Nazis during the Second World War. THE WAR AT HOME: Congressional Report, December 9: Consultations on Iraq A congressional delegation that recently returned from Iraq met with senior U.S. military and civilian leaders December 8 in Washington to say that they think Iraq is moving in the right direction toward democracy. Representative Bill Schuster told reporters on Capitol Hill that he came away from Iraq with the impression that political developments “are moving in the right direction.” His colleague, Representative Dennis Rehberg, was ebullient saying the progress there “is unbelievable” and that “democracy is moving forward.” Representative Jack Kingston said he and his traveling companions were excited to see that 50 percent of Iraq’s capital city, Baghdad, now is controlled exclusively by Iraqi security forces and in Mosul they are responsible for security in a quarter of the city. THE WAR AT HOME: Military will request $100B for Iraq in 2006. MURTHA: Twenty years it’s going to take to settle this thing. The American people is not going to put up with it; can’t afford it. We have spent $277 billion. That’s what’s been appropriated for this operation. We have $50 billion sitting on the table right now in our supplemental, or bridge fund we call it, in the Appropriations Committee. They’re going to ask for another $100 billion next year.… QUESTION: Can we come back to the $100 billion? You said that you expect the military to ask for $100 billion. Where are you getting that figure? MURTHA: Where I get all my figures: the military. (If it’s going so swell, why do they need all that money anyway? – Susan) THE WAR AT HOME: The New Face Of America: When you close your eyes and picture America, what do you see? THE WAR AT HOME: Blair Tries to Cover Up $1.3B Iraqi Theft. The British government is trying to stall an investigation into the theft of more than $1.3bn (£740m) from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, senior Iraqi officials say. The government wants to postpone the investigation to help its favored candidate Iyad Allawi, the former prime minister, in the election on December 15. The money disappeared during his administration. The UK's enthusiasm for Mr Allawi may have led it into promoting a cover-up of how the money was siphoned off and sent abroad. One Iraqi minister believes the investigation will be dropped when the next government is formed. Ahmed Chalabi, the Deputy Prime Minister, says William Patey, the British ambassador in Baghdad, asked him not to give prominence to the scandal before the election because this might "politicise the investigation". Mr Patey denies he had asked for the investigation to be delayed. A former senior British adviser was quoted as saying that Tony Blair was convinced Mr Allawi "is the best hope" for Iraq. He added that Mr Blair had sent a small team of operatives to give political help to Mr Allawi. In background briefings, British officials have heavily supported the former prime minister despite evidence that government corruption was rife under his administration. THE WAR AT HOME: OUR SECRETARY OF DEFENSE IS FLIPPING CLUELESS. JIM LEHRER: So you expect after the elections that the level of violence will diminish? DONALD RUMSFELD: If the past is a guide, we'll undoubtedly see that to be the case. (Using the past as a guide, we can expect the violence to get worse. – Susan) DONALD RUMSFELD: I don't know anybody who had any reasonable expectations about the number or the length of the war or the cost of the war. I just don't -- no one I know went out and said these are how those three metrics ought to be considered. (Rumsfeld and other Bush administration officials did make such predictions: all wrong, of course. Another interesting factoid here is his claim that as Secretary of Defense, he doesn’t know anyone who said “these are how those three metrics ought to be considered”! Now, wouldn’t that be the Secretary of Defense’s job to do exactly THAT?? What does Rumsfeld consider his job to be? Designing torture techniques and then blaming the behavior on a ‘few bad apples’ maybe? They say you will know them by their acts, but his words tell a hell of a story. – Susan) LATER: DONALD RUMSFELD: And the thing that might be useful to talk about some night would be what would the world look like if we pulled out? What would the world look like if we quit and if we just tossed in the towel and said it's too tough? JIM LEHRER: As you know there are many opinions on that. And – DONALD RUMSFELD: And I think I know what the world would look like. You would have there a haven for terrorists. You would have a caliphate established by extremists. And it would be a threat to the American people, a greater threat to the American people unquestionably. (So, no “reasonable expectations about the number or the length of the war or the cost of the war” yet he can predict what would happen if the US troops pull out. Just amazing. Has anyone noticed in DC that he does not know what he is talking about? – Susan) ELECTIONS IN IRAQ News: Tribal Vote is precious in Iraqi election. Iraq's rulers have long sought the loyalty of the country's influential Arab tribes, so politicians contesting elections are making plenty of promises to their leaders -- proud men like Adel Abbas. It is a tough sell. Sitting in his house in a neighbourhood of western Baghdad where kidnappings, murder and bombings never let up, he has yet to see a strong Iraqi leader from the present crop who can deliver security and gain his respect. "There are many killings here. Shi'ite militiamen with the government often kidnap Sunnis and kill them," said Abbas, a Sunni Muslim, repeating a much-denied allegation that the new Shi'ite majority government condones death squads targeting the minority that dominated Iraq under Saddam Hussein. "That is all we have seen for more than two years. We just hope someone can come along and change this but we just don't know." "I believe the election could bring a change in the political situation," said sheikh Atella Mahdi Lohaimos, 61, of the Jobor tribe, who heads a Shi'ite list allied with Sunnis in the central town of Hilla. "We need to have this country free and united and sovereign." Many Iraqis would say that is wishful thinking. Iraqi security forces are not expected to take on guerrillas on their own in the near future without U.S. troops, whose continued presence infuriates tribal leaders bound by ancient codes to resist invasion and who are traditionally a catalyst for either loyalty to or uprisings against rulers in Baghdad. AND, YET AGAIN, A US NEWS SERVICE HAS THIS PREDICTION: It is hard to gauge how tribesmen will vote but it seems sectarian violence tearing through Iraq's social fabric will push some towards the secular, cross-sectarian list headed by former prime minister Iyad Allawi, a tough-talking, U.S.-backed Shi'ite with appeal among both Shi'ites and Sunnis. (I cannot tell you how many times I have read this prediction embedded in US news reports. AND, simultaneously, I cannot tell you how many Iraqi generated news items have pointed out how unpopular Allawi is, and how obvious it is that the US is funding his campaign. It’s like the US news is priming America to believe an Allawi victory – if it happens - is totally legitimate. – Susan) NEWS: Officials pledge to protect voters in volatile Iraqi Province. "We call on the inhabitants of Diyala to go to the polls and to not be afraid of terrorism," said Colonel Samane Talabani Saturday, the Iraqi army's provincial commander, adding that a protection plan had been drawn up with local police. "We are going to secure the streets and help people get to voting centers," he told officials in the Sunni-dominated province north of Baghdad that includes the volatile city of Baquba and extends to the border with Iran. NEWS: Najaf not very welcoming to politicians. (First they threw shoes at Allawi, now they targeted another politician with a roadside bomb. They have mortared Allawi’s office also. – Susan) NEWS: Clerics Use Friday Prayers to Urge Big Iraqi Vote. From the pulpits of mosques across Iraq at Friday prayers, clerics urged worshippers to cast their votes in next week's election, setting up a mass turnout in a ballot that has polarised the nation on sectarian lines. In Falluja, renowned "City of Mosques" and former seat of revolt against U.S. occupation, Sunni Muslim spiritual leaders made clear there would be no repeat of the boycott of January's election which left their minority marginalised. In the Shi'ite holy city of Najaf, preachers reminded the faithful that only voting on Dec. 15 would ensure the long-oppressed majority community retained the upper hand. "You must not vote for your tribal leaders or preachers, whom you very well know," Sheikh Athaab said. "You should vote for lists which consist of people from various sects -- Shi'ites, Sunnis, Kurds and Christians." That seemed like a veiled pledge of support for former prime minister Iyad Allawi, a secular Shi'ite whose cross-sectarian coalition is posing a threat to the Shi'ite Islamist-dominated government -- remarkable considering Allawi oversaw the assault on Falluja, but in line with support he has won from Sunnis for his tough line on violence, especially pro-government militias. (Again, there is a reference to Allawi winning this election. - Susan) COMMENTARY OPINION: What We Said vs. What We Did. It was "common knowledge" prior to the war that Saddam Hussein had at least a dozen Scud missiles, with a range of about 800 miles, left over from the first Gulf War. There was speculation that he might well have other missiles or unmanned aircraft with much greater range. Yet it was reported that the headquarters of General Tommy Franks was an unfortified warehouse in Qatar at camp Al Saliya. In addition to key personnel, there were reputed to be millions upon millions of dollars of complex electronic equipment in the warehouse. The location of his Qatar headquarters was shown on numerous maps on television and in newspapers. It was surely within range of a Scud missile. Given the known inaccuracy of our defensive anti-missile Patriot missiles (whose primary effectiveness in the first Gulf War was to shoot down our own aircraft), a chemical or biological attack via Iraq's Scud missiles could have been disastrous for our top leadership in Qatar. These facts make clear that the administration lied about WMD, lied about their earnest intent to go to war only as the last possible option and only when it was demonstrably unavoidable, lied about every aspect of the Iraqi situation, did so from the start and at every available opportunity, and continues to do so to this day. OPINION: SAY WHAT?? The John Kerry Edition. Rumsfeld, Cheney, and the merry band of GOP loons in Congress can be relied on to provide high-quality fodder for my "Say What?" segments. But this time around, John Kerry leaves them in the dust with this Face the Nation quote: KERRY: And there is no reason, Bob, that young American soldiers need to be going into the homes of Iraqis in the dead of night, terrorizing kids and children...breaking sort of the customs of the -- of -- the historical customs, religious customs. Whether you like it or not. SCHIEFFER: Yeah. KERRY: ...Iraqis should be doing that. Iraqis should be doing that. Wait a minute, we throw out Saddam precisely for the privilege of terrorizing Iraqis ourselves. And now we should just hand it right back to them? Talk about a waste of time and lots and lots of money -- and, oh yes, let's not forget all those dead people. OPINION: Muslims Doubt US Intent in Middle East – poll. (This really should be under NEWS.) Muslims around the world strongly doubt the United States is trying to establish democracy in the Middle East and many think the Iraq war has done more harm than good, a poll showed on Friday. The Gallup poll, conducted in 10 nations that comprise 80 percent of the world's Muslim population, found an average of only 31 percent of respondents per nation believed U.S. objectives were centered on establishing democracy. The countries surveyed were Morocco, Egypt, Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Indonesia. Of Iranian respondents, 29 percent believed the war in Iraq had done more good than harm, the highest among all countries. More than 85 percent of respondents in Jordan, Bangladesh, Morocco and Egypt said the invasion had done more harm than good. On average, 76 percent of all respondents per country thought the Iraq war has done more harm than good. OPINION: Bush Policy in Iraq: Invade, Destroy, and Separate The Pentagon, which has been caught planting fake news stories in the Iraqi press as propaganda for the war effort, is having a hard time keeping the bad news from US citizens. This past week the Washington Institute for Near East Policy released a report that said the insurgency in Iraq is "as robust and lethal as ever." The report's authors were Jeffrey White, a 34-year veteran of the Pentagon's Defense Intelligence Agency, and Michael Eisenstadt, a former civilian-military analyst with the US Army. These guys know what they're talking about, and what they say is devastating: the insurgency has barely begun to tap into a vast pool of potential Sunni recruits in Iraq; if they ever start recruiting seriously, the US war effort is doomed. Meanwhile, US officials still put the insurgency's strength at about 20,000 men--no change from last year or the year before. The current Iraqi government, on the other hand, estimates the insurgency to include more than 100,000, with no explanation for the difference in estimates, but we might reasonably assume that Iraqi analysts living in the thick of the turmoil in Baghdad would have more information than analysts in Washington, D.C. The facts on the ground in Iraq are not too hard to discern from here in the United States, however. We can just read the news off the wire service reports. Every week brings a new US initiative in Ramadi, Samara, Hit, Qaim, Tal Afar, Mosul, and dozens of other cities with Sunni or mixed Sunni/Shiite/Kurdish populations. Most, if not all, of these cities have been attacked before by US troops, some of them twice and three times. Previously "cleared" of Iraqi rebels, US troops have turned these cities over to poorly-trained and ill-equipped Iraqi troops or police and moved on to deal with the next targeted town, thereby allowing the rebels to retake the "cleared" cities. In spite of Bush's speech, this policy can't change, because there simply are not enough US troops to "hold" every rebel bastion in Anbar Province, much less Diyala, Nineveh, Sulimaniyah, and other provinces where the war has continued unabated. We might, for a moment reflect on the one city that has been "cleared" and "held": Fallujah. Fallujah is a garrison town now, its entrances and exits blocked by US forces, its residents subject to search and inspection each time they come and go--much like residents of the Gaza Strip. An estimated 60 percent of the city was destroyed in order to "clear" it, and most of it has not been rebuilt. Fallujah has only one-half the population that it did prior to the US assault, and it's unlikely to improve for years, if not decades, to come. If this is what "clear" and "hold" mean, then it's no wonder that the United States is losing the war. OPINION: Rumsfeld: Terrorists can win only in the US, Media Enemies of a free Iraq recognize they can't win against the United States and the coalition on the battlefield, and the only way they can hope to win is in Washington, D.C., and through American public opinion, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Dec. 8. In addition, the secretary said, "they lie" and use the media to circulate their misinformation. He cited false stories circulated by terrorists, including one about a Koran being flushed down a toilet at the detention center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. (I wonder if anyone told Rumsfeld about the fake news stories in the US and Iraqi press? And does he really think he told the truth about the WMDs before the war? If he was misinformed about the WMDs, how come nobody got fired? The hypocrisy is stunning. – Susan) OPINION: Arab View: Will the truth come out in the mideast? I found myself trying to figure out what he was saying and trying to grasp the implications of such logic within the general framework. The US, according to him, is waging a war against dictatorship in order to bring democracy to the region. In addition, we are told that press freedom and independence is fundamental to American democracy. That may be the claim or the premise but what the retired officer is saying seems to be a version of “All’s fair in love and war.” And since we cannot know the man’s feelings towards the Middle East, I suggest we stick to war. Some would say that most rules do not apply in war; indeed, as has been said, truth is the first casualty of war. The Los Angeles Times quoted Sen. John Warner, chairman of the Senate Armed Forces Services Committee: “Things like this happen. It is a war.” To him, however, I say that this is a war that we have been told over and over is being fought for a “noble” cause — to bring democracy and freedom to a people which certainly deserve both, to free them from oppression and dictatorship. All well and good — the words unfortunately have not been translated into reality and the methods used differ too little from what the people were to be freed from. If we try to look at the situation from a distance and put together the pieces of information, we can see that everything in this instance was dealt with in a new and different way. We have heard talk of “friendly fire” but we wonder what is so friendly about a fatal bullet snuffing out the life of a journalist. We have seen shocking evidence of what went on at Abu Ghraib and despite international outrage, no one at the top has been punished — or even officially censured. If, at this point, someone stands up and says that the people of the Middle East should stop whining about this and that and admit that their own countries are guilty of mass abuses and denial of rights, I would answer them as follows. True, that certainly may be — but their countries were not trumpeting to the world that they were bringing liberty and justice to all or democracy and freedom to anyone, anywhere. If the bringing of democracy to Iraq is still on the agenda, then surely fair and honest treatment of that country’s people is not too much to expect. If that is not possible because people in the Middle East are “different” and are “not used to freedom,” then I suggest the US turn over a new leaf and call a spade a spade, call things by their right names — or limit the empty rhetoric and electioneering slogans to domestic political campaigns. OPINION: Fighting to Win The irony is that demands for the immediate withdrawal of U.S. forces do not spring from any particular recent bad news from Iraq (there has been little) or justified alarm about the Army's ability to sustain itself (high levels of retention continue to make up for problems with recruitment). On the contrary, the most recent news from Iraq is promising. American strategy has improved, and prospects for success are better than they have ever been. Since early September, coalition efforts along the Syrian border to clear towns of insurgents have not generated anger, violence, and outbursts--on the contrary. The clearing of Tal Afar in mid-September by a combined American and Iraqi force followed a request by the citizens of that town for an American intervention. Operations in villages in the upper Euphrates since then have generated limited and sporadic resistance, mainly from cornered insurgents. The lessons of the October referendum are very clear, moreover: Dramatic and aggressive joint action by U.S. and Iraqi forces to preempt and defeat the insurgents' attempt to derail the election worked spectacularly well. There is at this point at least as much evidence that the aggressive use of coalition forces is effective as that the presence of those forces is--as U.S. critics insist--harmful. Desirable though the withdrawal of U.S. forces is from both the American and the Iraqi perspectives, therefore, it must not be the first goal of U.S. operations in Iraq. The truth is that calls for a precipitous retreat from Iraq, or for setting arbitrary deadlines or milestones for withdrawal, now threaten to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Murtha and his allies, then, ignore the fact that, while the Americans are a common enemy of the insurgents, the Iraqi government is also a common enemy--and a much more threatening one for most of the rebel groups. The presence of U.S. forces in Iraq is simply not the primary problem in that country, and the removal of those forces would therefore not end the insurgency. (No notice taken of the fact that the Iraqi government is seen as an enemy because it is seen as a US puppet-like government. The elected officials are seen as acquiesced to US interests and agenda, with the oil contracts being an example. – Susan ) The situation in Iraq presents a firmer basis for optimism today than it ever has before. The challenges remain great, and failure will continue to be a real possibility for months if not years to come. The greatest danger to success in Iraq now lies on the American home front, in the danger that misrepresentations of Iraqi reality, politically motivated policy demands, and simple fear, exhaustion, and confusion will undermine the commitment necessary to succeed. The other danger is that those who do want to succeed--the Bush administration, CENTCOM--will inadvertently undermine our commitment by continuing mistakenly to emphasize the damage the American presence does to the prospects for success. (Huh? What did he say here? – Susan) Letter of the day: Propaganda won't do any good in this warDecember 9, 2005 So Walter Jajko, professor of defense studies and a retired Air Force brigadier general, wants to resurrect the corpse of Joseph Goebbels and institute a U.S. "Ministry of Propaganda" in order to counteract all of that evil negativity that is destroying the war effort in Iraq (Opinion Exchange, Dec. 7). Did it ever occur to him that the Iraqi campaign is simply a manifestation of America's obsession with imaginary threats? The rest of the world has already rejected President Bush's bizarre attempts to justify the war. There is no evidence that more smokescreens, humbug and lies will change any minds. Propaganda is the kind of weapon most often used by failing, flailing banana-republic dictatorships to justify their criminal acts. The United States should have nothing to do with Jajko's idea. STEVE BUTCHER, ST. PAUL OPINION: Iraq war debate enters new phase You might not expect a West Point graduate, Vietnam vet and career soldier to come out with a book titled "The New American Militarism: How Americans Are Addicted to War." But that's what Andrew Bacevich, who now directs the program in International Relations at Boston University, has done. A self-described conservative, Bacevich argues that Americans have fallen prey to a "military metaphysic." By that he means all international problems are seen as military problems and the likelihood for finding a solution except through military means is discounted. The result is war as a permanent condition with the only acceptable plan for peace a loaded pistol. One has only to consider the relative weight given to the Pentagon and the State Department to get the point. As a pastor what most interested me is Bacevich's careful tracing of the role of leading religious conservatives in promoting a "crusade theory of warfare," to replace the more long-standing and cautious doctrine of just war. A crusade theory of warfare provides the mindset and justification for offensive military action, for so-called preventive wars like the current war in Iraq. The just war ethical tradition mandates the use of force for defensive, not offensive, purposes. How did this change, a crucial element of American's seduction by war, happen? Beginning in the '70s a growing number of politically active religious conservatives told Americans, and their conservative Christian followers, that communism was everywhere on the march and America's subjugation was imminent. There was, however, not only this frightening side to their message but an urging to action. Christian America's true destiny is to wield military power in the death struggle with godless communion. Beneath this rhetoric lies a theology declared heretical in the early centuries of Christianity: Manichaeism from a third century teacher, Mani. Manichaens of every age divide the world simply and starkly between the forces of good and the forces of evil, and urge the former to stamp out the latter. Appealing in its simplicity, Manichaeism is disastrous in reality. Early Christians regarded Manichaeism as heretical precisely because it blinded people to their own capacity for evil and encouraged gross self-deception. OPINION: Arab View: Bush should be on trial too. Today, as more and more information on the pre-planning and thinking behind this heinous crime is filtering to the surface, our reservations three years ago on the subject of an illegal invasion and occupation are being substantiated. In a campaign based on lies, greed, and the wiles of Ariel Sharon of Israel, Bush’s military adventurism into Iraq has produced none of those lofty results that he had promised his people. A couple of months later, oil hungry Vice President Dick Cheney on “Meet the Press” stated: “We know he’s been absolutely devoted to trying to acquire nuclear weapons, and we believe he has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons.” We all know what happened next. Following the “shock and awe” display of power boasted by Rumsfeld, there were no garlands of flowers, no rejoicing in the streets. Instead there were rising US body counts and coercion by the US military against Iraqi doctors who were brave enough to tell the world of the “other” unreported body counts, that of Iraqi civilians. There were indiscriminate killings, and some with more intent. The bombings of Al-Jazeera offices in Baghdad and the murder of one of their correspondents were not in error. They were simply following a similar pattern of when the US bombed the Kabul offices of Al-Jazeera just before the Northern Alliance entered the city. The attempted killing of an Italian journalist, shocked at the atrocities she had witnessed firsthand at Fallujah, took place at a US military checkpoint soon after. To top it off, the Commander in Chief himself made clear to Tony Blair of the UK that he wanted to bomb Al-Jazeera in Qatar and elsewhere. Guantanamo, Abu Ghuraib, and scores of secret torture chambers spread out in eastern European countries marks the underhandedness of this administration. The use of outlawed weaponry and chemical warfare used against civilians in Fallujah and elsewhere is a despicable affront to humanity. There is enough hard evidence to reveal that white phosphorus was deployed as a weapon in Fallujah. US infantry officers confessed that they had used it. One eventually loses score of the numerous war crimes that have been committed as a result of this illegal and immoral invasion. Nor would one column or ten be sufficient to highlight all these crimes. Over a 100,000 innocent civilians, many who were just children, have lost their lives because of Bush’s adventurism. There is indeed no ‘pie in your face’ sense of satisfaction in all of this. Today, as I watch the pitiful figure of Saddam Hussein in court, on trial facing charges of crimes against humanity while he was in command, I ask myself: “Shouldn’t Mr. Bush, et al, be sharing the seat next to him?” HUMOR: Iraq: The Central Front in the War on Christmas Massachusetts Senator John Kerry sat down with his hairier, craggier counterpart Don Imus today, who took Kerry to task for a statement he made on Face The Nation: "And there is no reason, Bob, that young American soldiers need to be going into the homes of Iraqis in the dead of night, terrorizing kids and children...breaking sort of the customs of the -- of -- the historical customs, religious customs. Whether you like it or not...Iraqis should be doing that." Now, Imus was critical of the whole "Iraqis should be doing that" misstatement, but if you want to know where Kerry is truly off base, consider this: the operations he describes clearly demonstrate that U.S. forces in Iraq are gearing up to provide Iraqis with the shockingest, awesomest Christmas of all time. We've done the hard the hard work -- bombing rooftop holes to serve as ersatz chimneys -- now it's time for Operation Enduring Wassailing. What's nice is that the Iraqis are easy to shop for, with potable drinking water topping most wishlists. So, let's deck the halls with no-bid contracts, Fa-la-la-la-la-fa-la-lu-jah! PEACE ACTION: Please sign this petition to cut funding for the war in Iraq. CASUALTY REPORTS Local Story: Army Staff Sgt. Ivan Alarcon killed in vehicle rollover in Iraq. Local Story: Texas soldier killed in Iraq Local Story: Saying Goodbye to two central Georgia soldiers Local Story: Trinidadian became US citizen the day he died Local Story: Soldier killed by mine in Iraq Local Story: Centralia Marine (Joseph Bier) killed in Iraq. Later in the interview, however, Bier indicated he was disappointed he hadn’t found more action. “I expected this place to be a little more hectic, to have more enemy contact,” he said. “I’m a little disappointed, I think it’s a little quiet. I expected more to happen here. It’s not like what is shown in TV.” QUOTE OF THE DAY: "Television is altering the meaning of "being informed" by creating a species of information that might properly be called disinformation... Disinformation does not mean false information. It means misleading information - misplaced, irrelevant, fragmented or superficial information - information that creates the illusion of knowing something, but which in fact leads one away from knowing.": Neil Postman


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