War News for Saturday, December 31, 2005
Bring 'em on: US soldier killed by IED in Baghdad
Bring 'em on: US soldier killed in a gun attack in Fallujah
Bring 'em on: After six of its staff have been kidnapped, Sudan has closed its embassy in Baghdad
Bring 'em on: Two Iraqi captains gunned down in Dujail
Bring 'em on: Five members of the Iraqi Islamic party killed by a roadside bomb Al-Khalis
Bring 'em on: Roadside bomb kills five policemen in Baghdad
Bring 'em on: Five Sunni family members murdered by gunmen in Iskandariyah
Yes, we are winning in Iraq
: Two more U.S. soldiers were killed in Iraq as the year wound down Friday, putting the American military death toll at 841 so far - just five short of 2004's lost lives despite political progress and dogged efforts to quash the insurgency.
The Spinning General
: "The number of attacks is greater, but the number of successful attacks is down to 10 percent" of the total, compared with 25 to 30 percent a year ago, Webster told Pentagon reporters in a briefing from Iraq. "The insurgency has weakened since the elections," with attacks down since the Dec. 15 vote to elect a new legislature, he added. But he acknowledged that U.S. troops are dying in the city at about the same rate as a year ago. "We're working hard to reduce that number," said Webster, commander of the Army's 3rd Infantry Division.
: Many Iraqis are demanding a new poll after more than 1,500 cases of election fraud and forgery were reported in the Dec. 15 elections, at least 30 of them "extremely serious". The results so far indicate a strong win for Shia religious groups. There are widespread complaints that many of the instances of fraud favoured Shia religious groups that led the interim government which conducted the poll. In Baghdad, the most important district in the poll with more than a fifth of the seats in parliament, the Iranian-backed Shia alliance took a surprising 57 percent of the vote, as opposed to 19 percent for the Sunni coalition.
Will it come to anything?
: The Justice Department has opened a criminal investigation into recent disclosures about a controversial domestic eavesdropping program that was secretly authorized by President Bush after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, officials said yesterday. Federal prosecutors will focus their examination on who may have unlawfully disclosed classified information about the program to the New York Times, which reported two weeks ago that Bush had authorized the National Security Agency to monitor the international telephone calls and e-mails of U.S. citizens and residents without court-approved warrants, officials said.
: What is clear about JPEN is that the military is not inadvertently keeping information on U.S. persons. It is violating the law. And what is more, it even wants to do it more. Follow-up reporting on the Pentagon spying story -- both by this newspaper and by the New York Times -- mistakenly refers to the suspicious incidents database that I obtained for the time period July 2004-May 2005 as the TALON database, for the Threat and Local Observation Notice reporting system. TALON, according to the Pentagon, is merely a non-threatening compilation of "unfiltered information."
Fight Back at Stalin
: "It must not be cool anymore to have access to this data," said Rieger, who argued that Western societies are becoming democratically legitimized police states ruled by an unaccountable elite. "We have enough technical knowledge to turn this around; let's expose them in public, publish everything we know about them and let them know how it feels to be under surveillance." The four-day Chaos Computer Congress is meeting near Alexanderplatz in the former East Berlin, where more than a half-million people rallied for political reform five days before the fall of the Berlin Wall. In his keynote address, Joichi Ito, general manager of international operations for Technorati
, warned that the internet could itself become a walled-in network controlled by the International Telecommunication Union, Microsoft and telecommunications companies.
We cannot Protest!
: His tribute has irritated the military recruiters next door, who dislike the daily reminder of friends lost. Staff Sgt. Gary Capan, the post's commander, requested that the sign come down for his colleagues' benefit. "They're saying, 'Why should we have to look at that? We lost people over there,'" said Staff Sgt. Gary Capan, the post's commander. "It's not just a number to them." Some of Cameron's supporters believe the sign will hurt recruiting.
I blame the Parents
: Hassan spoke to The Associated Press early Friday, several hours before the embassy announcement, and he was still under the impression that he would be following his personal travel itinerary, which had him leaving the country by himself on Sunday. He hadn't even been aware that the story of his perilous travels was published around the world - or that his mother was being interviewed on television. "I don't have any Internet access here in the Green Zone, so I have no idea what's going on," he said. A military officer accompanying him, who did not identify himself, said it was his task to get Hassan "safe and sound to the United States."
Just a Cabinet Reshuffle?
: As a fuel crisis deepened in Iraq, the government replaced its oil minister with Deputy Prime Minister Ahmed Chalabi, whose poor performance in the Dec. 15 elections was a setback in his recent attempt at political rehabilitation. The oil minister, Ibrahim Bahr Uloom, was put on a mandatory, monthlong leave. He had previously threatened to resign over the government's recent decision to increase gas prices sharply, a move that has outraged motorists and sparked attacks on gas stations and fuel convoys.
Just you wait until June 2006, when Iraq's oil production is non-existent, and Iran and Saudi Arabia squeeze GWB's tiny testicles so hard the cost of a barrel of oil tops $80, what will Nascar supporters do then?
Opinion and Commentary
Review of 2005:
The most frightening symbol of dysfunctional government this year was Iraq. Despite a stirring election in January, the new Iraqi government - burdened with a hated American occupation and vicious sectarian tension - failed to thrive. Indeed, over the past year, Iraq seemed to be becoming more of a mafia state, with each party, sect and tribe fighting for its share of what's left of the ruined economy.
At year-end, there was hope that Iraq's feuding politicians had become so exhausted that - despite another polarizing election in December - they might cobble together a government of national unity, blessed by Shiite Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani and Sunni Muslim clerics. In practice, this grand coalition might emulate the warlords' council approach in Afghanistan. That would be progress. But for years to come, Iraq is likely to remain a source of instability and terror.
It was a bad year, finally, for the people who are paid to make sense of things - the unhumble and increasingly unloved scribes in my business of journalism. Newspaper circulation was plummeting, network television lost its anchors, literally and figuratively, and new media seemed to be feeding on popular anger at the mainstream media and its claims of impartiality.
At the center of some of the year's biggest stories stood the media itself - trying to balance codes of professional ethics against demands of citizenship. The New York Times lionized Judith Miller for going to jail to protect her sources from a grand jury investigation, but when her key source turned out to be Vice President Dick Cheney's top aide, the cheering stopped and Miller lost her job. Top editors of the Times and The Washington Post tried to act responsibly by discussing explosive intelligence stories with the White House before publication, and then were vilified by the left for publishing too little and by the right for publishing anything at all.
Maybe the lesson of 2005 was the same for the media as for the politicians: Hang on tight to your values, and don't be afraid to let that passion animate your work; be careful about making promises you can't or shouldn't keep; don't try to please everyone, or you may end up pleasing nobody at all.
Whisker emailed me yesterday about this. Now read this confirmed BULLSHIT:
Letters: Mission in Iraq is accomplishing its goal
This letter is in response to Ron Griesbach's Dec. 23 letter and a quick message to the American people.
You say that there's no link between 9-11 and Iraq, but that isn't true. There were al-Qaida cells working in Iraq with Saddam's regime prior to 9-11.
As a two-time vet of Iraq (who's currently in Iraq), we needed to save this country. There was barely any education, water, health care or law systems in place. There are many other things that this country lacks. People were dying from the way that this country was run.
There's a solution in place and it's working. I'm part of a military transition team that's in control of training and supervising the Iraqi army. Believe me when I say it's working.
What I ask is that the people of the United States don't just give up on a country. If it were the U.S. that this was happening to, you all would greatly appreciate having a greater and richer force come in and establish some type of fair law and order.
Staff Sgt. Keith Olson,
Matt was due to post today, but he now knows why I never fly with Ryanair.