Sunday, December 18, 2005

War News for Sunday, December 18, 2005 Bring ‘em on: Four US soldiers killed in a roadside bombing in Taji last Thursday. (Attack not previously reported on this blog. The story states the news was released Thursday night but it didn’t seem to make the papers.) Bring ‘em on: Three police officers killed and two wounded in Baghdad roadside bombing. Bring ‘em on: Police found the body of a former Iraqi Army officer at a fuel station in the centre of Baghdad. Abbas Abdullah Fadhl had been shot to death in his car, they said. Bring ‘em on: Four shootings in Baghdad left a former Iraqi air force officer, a member of a prominent Shiite party and two policemen dead. Bring ‘em on: Unidentified gunmen in separate incidents killed a police Lt. Colonel and an Interior Ministry employee as they were driving to work in western Baghdad. Bring ‘em on: Four police officers were seriously injured when their squad car was sprayed with gunfire in Baghdad and a tea seller was shot and killed in the same area. Bring ‘em on: A police captain and his driver were shot and killed in south Baghdad while two people, including an Interior Ministry driver, were killed in Baghdad’s Shiite Sadr City slum. Bring ‘em on: A suicide bomber killed a police officer and injured another two when he blew up a bomb in a mini van at a checkpoint along a highway in eastern Baghdad near the Interior Ministry. Bring ‘em on: One suicide bomber was killed in Amiriyah when his explosives-laden belt prematurely detonated. Another unidentified man was found shot dead in east Baghdad. A roadside bomb killed at least one woman neighbourhood of Kazimiyah. Bring ‘em on: In central Baghdad, gunmen killed Ali Karim al-Assadi, a Shiite member of the Badr Organisation, the former military wing of the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq. Bring ‘em on: In western Baghdad, gunmen on Saturday night shot down retired General Mushraf al-Ibrahimi of the dissolved former Iraqi air force. Security officials said the gunmen opened fire at him while he was in his car near his home. Bring ‘em on: Five civilians were killed and seven others wounded when a makeshift bomb went off in a crowded market in the eastern Kadimiya district of the capital. An interior ministry source said a woman was killed and 15 people were injured. Bring ‘em on: Authorities found three unidentified bodies in two locations in eastern Baghdad, police said. Bring ‘em on: a roadside bomb on Sunday left one policeman dead and two wounded in the northern town of Tuz. Bring ‘em on: Gunmen in the northern city of Kirkuk killed two relatives of a senior official of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan. the uncle and nephew of party official Khodr Hassan al-Hamdani -- were shot late on Saturday as they walked near their house. Bring ‘em on: Gunmen broke into a barber shop in Baladruz, killing two policemen and a civilian and wounding the barber Saturday. Bring ‘em on: The brother of Sheikh Saad Naef al-Hardan, minister of provinces affairs, was abducted on Saturday in Ramadi. Bring ‘em on: An Iraqi was killed by U.S. soldiers in Balad. No other information given. Bring ‘em on: An Iraqi was wounded by U.S. fire near a check point in Baiji. No other information given. Bring ‘em on: A mortar shell exploded near Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone as polls opened, slightly wounding two civilians and a U.S. Marine. Mortar attacks on polling stations in the northern city of Tal Afar and western Euphrates River valley town of Parwana killed six people, while a grenade killed a school guard near a voting site in the northern city of Mosul. Al-Qaeda in Iraq claimed Saturday that it attacked numerous locations in Samarra, 60 miles north of Baghdad, and conducted operations in Baghdad and Mosul, and in Anbar and Diyala provinces. (Note: These are more attacks that took place last Thursday but are only surfacing in the news today. Guess the polling wasn’t quite as quiet as we were led to believe.) Bring ‘em on: Five Iraqi policemen were wounded when a suicide attacker rammed his car into their checkpoint near the Interior Ministry in eastern Baghdad. (Note: This may be the same attack reported in the entry above, eighth from the top.) Bring ‘em on: Two Iraqi soldiers were killed and four injured when gunmen opened fire on their bus near al Taji military base north of Baghdad. Bring ‘em on: Two Iraqi policemen were killed Sunday by a roadside bomb in eastern Baghdad that targeted their patrol. An interior ministry official said the explosion completely destroyed one of the police cars. A Marine assigned to the 2nd Marine Logistics Group, II Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward), died from a non-hostile gunshot wound here, Dec. 16. Reports Body counts: USA Today neglected to mention it, but Bush and the media can easily learn a great deal about "how the 30,000 died and who killed them." Iraq Body Count (IBC)'s recently published "Dossier of Civilian Casualties in Iraq, 2003- 2005" (www.iraqbodycount.org.press/pr12.php) reports that 1 in every 1000 Iraqis was violently killed between March 20, 2003 (the day after the beginning of the U.S. invasion) and March 19, 2005. Of the 13,1811 victims of violent death for which IBC has age and gender data, 10 percent were infants or children, 9 percent were adult females, and 82 percent were adult males. By projecting from readily available data on Iraqi marriage and childbirth rates, IBC infers that "tens of thousands of Iraqi women and children have lost a husband or father to violence since March 2003, a loss which will have long lasting psychological and economic consequences for the bereaved families." Iraqi families are also dealing with crippling injuries resulting from wartime violence. By IBC's tabulation, 42,500 Iraqis have been wounded during the occupation. Who has done the killing and wounding? By IBC's meticulous account, based on multiple verifiable media reports, anti-occupation forces have killed less than 10 percent of the total number of the nearly 25,000 dead for whom the killers can be identified. "Criminal elements," who have thrived in the lawless environment created by the destruction of Iraqi civil authority, killed 8,935 or 36 percent. The biggest killers have been the U.S.-led armed forces, which violently ended the lives of 9,270 Iraqis or 37.3 percent. Drawdown: The U.S. military is scaling back combat forces in regions of Iraq's Sunni Triangle that were once fiercely contested, freeing thousands of troops to shift to other trouble spots or to go home without being replaced, according to senior military officials. The U.S. drawdown in parts of central Iraq is a new and important indicator of commanders' confidence in Iraqi security forces in a region long ravaged by lethal insurgent attacks. In Iraq's east-central Diyala province, for example, the U.S. military expects by next month to have cut the number of ground combat units by two-thirds -- a reduction of about 3,000 troops, according to U.S. commanders here. Bulgaria bugs out: Bulgaria has ended military operations in Iraq and has begun withdrawing its troops, the defence ministry has said. The pullout was first scheduled to take place earlier this year but was delayed until after Iraq's ballot on Thursday. The full 400-strong contingent is due back in Bulgaria by 31 December, having lost 13 soldiers and six civilians. Iraqization: The new Iraqi army colonel swaggered into the city council meeting and got straight to the point. "Control your towns or we will. If you don't, we're going to do some things in your towns that we don't want to do," Col. Saman Talabani warned the assembled tribal and city leaders. "I don't believe the city council when it says it doesn't know who's doing the attacks." One councilman was already under arrest for allegedly firing mortar rounds at the home of one of Talabani's men, and the brigade commander was here to read the riot act. Two days later, on Dec. 3, came the response - a roadside bomb that killed 19 Iraqi soldiers and highlighted the struggle of wills that lies ahead for the Iraqi army as it sets out to take control of the country and hasten the day when American forces can go home. The meeting with the leaders of the region 55 miles northeast of Baghdad was Talabani's first, but he quickly dispensed with pleasantries, glaring at his audience and raising his voice. The dozen councilors, most in dark tribal robes, listened quietly. "If our soldiers get shot, I don't care - they can shoot back and level a house," he said, visibly angry because several of his soldiers had been wounded two days earlier in a complex ambush that included attacking the ambulance that came to evacuate the wounded. Then he strapped on his bulletproof vest and walked out. Easing security: Cars and trucks returned to Iraq's roads Saturday as authorities eased tight security imposed for the parliamentary election, and the main Sunni Arab alliance said it was open to forming a governing coalition with a religious Shiite bloc.With Thursday's voting held peacefully, Iraqi officials also reopened border crossings, except on the frontier with Syria. They said the Syrian crossings would resume in a few days, but did not say why there was a delay. Iraqi Politics Violence and fraud: As the United States portrayed Thursday's Iraqi elections as a resounding success, political parties here Saturday complained of violations ranging from dead men voting to murder in the streets. The Iraqi electoral commission said it had received more than 200 complaints in advance of a Sunday deadline for filing grievances. A commission spokesman said many are "exaggerated," but political parties from all corners maintained that violence and fraud made the outcome suspect. Shiite satisfaction: It's election day and Baghdad's most senior Shiite cleric is reflecting on the momentous rise to power of a community long oppressed by Saddam Hussein. "Today, we pick the most beautiful and delicious fruit after the liberation of Iraq from oppression, persecution and dictatorship," Ayatollah Hussein Ismail al-Sadr told two reporters Thursday at his heavily guarded home in Baghdad's ancient Kazimiyah district. He spoke as Iraqis chose a new parliament almost certain to be dominated by Shiites, who represent about 60 percent of the population. The empowerment of the Shiites is a first in an Arab world dominated by Sunnis, but it has come at a high price. And there is no guarantee that things will go smoothly in Iraq with the Shiites at the helm. Last best chance: General Casey and Mr. Khalilzad appeared concerned that the momentum gained through a largely peaceful election with wide participation from all Iraqi groups, crucially including large numbers of Sunni Arabs who had previously boycotted the political process, could be lost amid a new round of political squabbling. After the Jan. 30 elections for a transitional parliament, it took Iraqi politicians three months to form a government, creating a power vacuum that the insurgents exploited with one of the most violent passages of the war. In effect, the Americans seemed to be saying that Thursday's election has given Iraqi politicians their best chance - and, implicitly, their last chance - of winding down a conflict that has cost at least 30,000 civilian lives, paralyzed large areas of the country and prolonged the presence of 160,000 American troops. While encouraged by the high election turnout and the stand-aside policy of some insurgent groups that helped cleared the way for the voting, American officials have been warning Iraqi politicians for weeks that failure to form a government that can reach out promptly to wavering insurgent groups could lead to intensified fighting and, in the worst case, to civil war. A leading proponent of democracy, transparency, and the rule of law puts in an appearance: Vice President Dick Cheney made a surprise visit to Iraq on Sunday under heavy security, touring the country after parliamentary elections that he suggested were a major step toward drawing down U.S. forces. The daylong tour was so shrouded in secrecy that even Iraq's prime minister said he was surprised when he showed up for what he thought was a meeting with the U.S. ambassador only to see Cheney waiting to greet him. Sadr and Mutlak are not impressed: Cheney, one of the chief architects of the war to oust Saddam Hussein, met Iraq's prime minister and president during his 8-hour visit, and hailed Thursday's election as "tremendous". But outspoken Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, whose popular Islamist movement is a key component in the country's interim ruling coalition, and Saleh al-Mutlak, a Sunni Arab nationalist who has spoken up for the views of insurgents, said the Americans were not welcome in Iraq and should leave now. Sadr, who commands a powerful militia and devotional support from many young Shi'ites, accused the United States of self-interest and caring nothing for the Iraqi people. Mutlak said U.S. President George W. Bush was deluding himself if he believed the election was truly democratic, and also said some of his candidates had been killed in the largely Shi'ite south of Iraq on election day. It was the first report of candidates being killed and could not be confirmed. While neither Sadr nor Mutlak will head the next government, both are influential within their respective communities, and their dissent highlights the size of the task facing the next administration, charged with keeping Iraq's rival sects and ethnic groups in check while building a stable democracy. Breaking The Army Oh, this is good: The Army met its recruiting goal for November by again accepting a high percentage of recruits who scored in the lowest category on the military's aptitude tests, Pentagon officials said yesterday, raising renewed concerns that the quality of the all-volunteer force will suffer. The Army exceeded by 256 its goal of 5,600 recruits for November, while the Army Reserve brought in 1,454 recruits, exceeding its target by 112. To do so, the Army accepted a "double-digit" percentage of recruits who scored between 16 and 30 out of a possible 99 on the military's aptitude test, said officials who requested anonymity. Coming up three years: A USA Today reporter notes that the pentagon knew about the humvee armor shortage since 2003 here. And Newsweek first reported on the issue more than a year ago. NYT News Service reported that the Pentagon promised to have humvee armor kits that troops could attach themselves ready and available in Iraq by March of 2005. The kits to add extra protection to vehicles already in Iraq are being produced by the U.S. Army Materiel Command, where officials said yesterday they were scrambling to speed up the work and complete the most recent order from Iraq before the previously stated goal of March 2005. Gary Walters died April 24, still with no armor kit. And things are still not fixed. The troops still don’t have the armor they need, and when two embedded journalists recently took photographs of humvees, documenting holes in their thin armor, they were actually kicked out of the embed system on Dec. 15. The Accelerating Stalinization of America Domestic spying: Months after the Sept. 11 attacks, President Bush secretly authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on Americans and others inside the United States to search for evidence of terrorist activity without the court-approved warrants ordinarily required for domestic spying, according to government officials. Under a presidential order signed in 2002, the intelligence agency has monitored the international telephone calls and international e-mail messages of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people inside the United States without warrants over the past three years in an effort to track possible "dirty numbers" linked to Al Qaeda, the officials said. The agency, they said, still seeks warrants to monitor entirely domestic communications. The previously undisclosed decision to permit some eavesdropping inside the country without court approval represents a major shift in American intelligence-gathering practices, particularly for the National Security Agency, whose mission is to spy on communications abroad. As a result, some officials familiar with the continuing operation have questioned whether the surveillance has stretched, if not crossed, constitutional limits on legal searches. Spin spin spin: For 24 hours, Bush and other top administration officials refused to confirm the existence of their secret domestic spying program, arguing that doing so would endanger the American people. This morning, President Bush not only confirmed the existence of the program but provided details about how it worked. This demonstrates that the administration’s initial refusal to comment was not motivated by security concerns. If that was the case Bush still wouldn’t have been able to comment this morning. Rather, the refusal to comment was a public relations strategy. When they decided it wasn’t working, they scrapped it and tried something else. President Bush acknowledged on Saturday that he had ordered the National Security Agency to conduct an electronic eavesdropping program in the United States without first obtaining warrants, and said he would continue the highly classified program because it was "a vital tool in our war against the terrorists." Mr. Bush's public confirmation on Saturday of the existence of one of the country's most secret intelligence programs, which had been known to only a select number of his aides, was a rare moment in his presidency. Few presidents have publicly confirmed the existence of heavily classified intelligence programs like this one. Bush said his authority to approve what he called a ''vital tool in our war against the terrorists'' came from his constitutional powers as commander in chief. He said that he has personally signed off on reauthorizations more than 30 times. ''The American people expect me to do everything in my power under our laws and Constitution to protect them and their civil liberties,'' Bush said. ''And that is exactly what I will continue to do, so long as I'm the president of the United States.'' James Bamford, author of two books on the NSA, said the program could be problematic because it bypasses a special court set up by the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to authorize eavesdropping on suspected terrorists. ''I didn't hear him specify any legal right, except his right as president, which in a democracy doesn't make much sense,'' Bamford said in an interview. ''Today, what Bush said is he went around the law, which is a violation of the law -- which is illegal.'' The New York Times' revelation yesterday that President Bush authorized the National Security Agency to conduct domestic eavesdropping raised eyebrows in political and media circles, for both its stunning disclosures and the circumstances of its publication. In an unusual note, the Times said in its story that it held off publishing the 3,600-word article for a year after the newspaper's representatives met with White House officials. It said the White House had asked the paper not to publish the story at all, "arguing that it could jeopardize continuing investigations and alert would-be terrorists that they might be under scrutiny." Congressional leaders of both parties called for hearings and issued condemnations yesterday in the wake of reports that President Bush signed a secret order in 2002 allowing the National Security Agency to spy on hundreds of U.S. citizens and other residents without court-approved warrants. Disclosure of the NSA plan had an immediate effect on Capitol Hill, where Democratic senators and a handful of Republicans derailed a bill that would renew expiring portions of the USA Patriot Act anti-terrorism law. Opponents repeatedly cited the previously unknown NSA program as an example of the kinds of government abuses that concerned them, while the GOP chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee said he would hold oversight hearings on the issue. Today, for two separate reasons, has been an incredible day in America. First, the United States has legitimized torture and secondly, the President has admitted to an impeachable offense. First, the media has been totally misled on the alleged Bush-McCain agreement on torture. McCain capitulated. It is not a defeat for Bush. It is a win for Cheney. Torture is not banned or in any way impeded. Under the compromise, anyone charged with torture can defend himself if a "reasonable" person could have concluded they were following a lawful order. The Bush-McCain torture compromise legitimizes torture. It is the first time that has happened in this country. Not in the two World Wars, Korea, the Cold War or Vietnam did the government ever seek or get the power this bill gives them. The worst part of it is that most of the media missed it and got it wrong. Secondly, the President in authorizing surveillance without seeking a court order has committed a crime. The Federal Communications Act criminalizes surveillance without a warrant. It is an impeachable offense. This was also totally missed by the media. If the events I am about to describe were taking place in a movie, or novel, I would lose my ability to suspend disbelief: Who could conceive of an American President and Vice President demanding that Congress give them authority to torture anyone, under any circumstances? Yet that is exactly what happened. Until Congress -- finally -- showed some institutional pride and told Bush and Cheney that it would not tolerate torture. The Bush/Cheney presidency has been pushing the nation toward an atrocity unmatched in the annals of American infamy and ignominy. Thankfully, a few wiser men and women in Washington have saved us from the national disgrace Bush and Cheney insisted upon imposing on the nation. House and Senate negotiators agreed Friday to a measure that would enable the government to keep prisoners at Guantánamo Bay indefinitely on the basis of evidence obtained by coercive interrogations. The provision, which has been a subject of extensive bargaining with the Bush administration, could allow evidence that would not be permitted in civilian courts to be admissable in deciding whether to hold detainees at the American military prison in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. In recent days, the Congressional negotiators quietly eliminated an explicit ban on the use of such material in an earlier version of the legislation. The measure is contained in the same military policy bill that includes Senator John McCain's provision to ban the cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of detainees in American custody worldwide. Mr. Bush reluctantly embraced Mr. McCain's ban on Thursday. The full House is expected to approve the compromise bill soon, with the Senate to follow in the next few days, Congressional officials said. The juxtaposition of the seemingly contradictory measures immediately led lawyers for Guantánamo prisoners to assert that Congressional Republicans were helping to preserve the utility of coercive interrogations that senior White House officials have argued are vital to the fight against war against terror. In a stinging defeat for President Bush, Senate Democrats blocked passage Friday of a new Patriot Act to combat terrorism at home, depicting the measure as a threat to the constitutional liberties of innocent Americans. The Senate voted 52-47 to advance a House-passed bill to a final vote, eight short of the 60 needed to overcome the filibuster backed by nearly all Senate Democrats and a handful of the 55 Republicans. Former President Jimmy Carter: "After visiting six of the twenty-five or so U.S. prisons, the International Committee of the Red Cross reported registering 107 detainess under eighteen, some as young as eight years old. The Journalist Seymour Hersh reported in May 2005 that Defense Secretaary Donald Rumsfeld had recieve a report that there were "800-900 Pakistani boys age 13-15 in custody." The International Red Cross, Amnesty International, and the Pentagon have gathered substantial testimony of torture of children (emphasis mine), confirmed by soldiers who witnessed or participated in the abuse. In addition to personal testimony from children about physical and mental mistreatment, a report from Brigadier General Janis Karpinski, formerly in charge of Abu Ghraib, described a visit to an eleven year old detainee in the cell block that housed high risk prisoners. The general recalled that the child was weeping, and "he told me he was almost twelve," and that "he really wanted to see his mother, could he please call his mother." Children like this eleven year old have been denied the right to see their parents, a lawyer, or anyone else, and were not told why they were detained. A Pentagon spokesman told Mr. Hersh that "age is not a determining factor in detention." German politicians expressed surprise on Thursday at reported U.S. comments that Washington had apologized and paid money to a German citizen it abducted to Afghanistan and held for months as a terrorist suspect. The case of Khaled el-Masri, who is suing the Central Intelligence Agency for wrongful imprisonment and torture, took a new twist with comments from Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble in parliament on Wednesday. Schaeuble shed new light on a conversation on May 31, 2004, between his predecessor Otto Schily and then-U.S. ambassador Daniel Coats, at which Coats first told the German government that one of its citizens had been detained. Coats had said that Masri "had received an apology, agreed to keep quiet and been paid a sum of money", Schaeuble said. Hans-Christian Stroebele, deputy leader of the opposition Greens, said the question of whether the United States had paid Masri was a significant new element. "That is an additional admission. You don't pay money unless you're conscious of making a serious mistake," he told Reuters. There are many costs the United States must pay for blundering into Iraq, and they cannot all be calculated in billions of dollars. Two of them are America's loss of confidence in itself and a drift back to isolationism more profound than before the World Trade Center attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. "Preoccupied with war abroad and growing problems at home, U.S. opinion leaders and the general public are taking a decidedly cautious view of America's place in the world," begins the summary of national surveys taken through last month by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press in collaboration with the Council on Foreign Affairs in New York. "Opinion leaders have become less supportive of the United States playing 'a first among equals' role among the world's leading nations. ... As the Iraq war has shaken the global outlook of American influentials, it has led to a revival of isolationist sentiment among the general public." A striking 42 percent of poll respondents among the general public agreed with this statement: "The United States should mind its own business internationally and let other countries get along as best they can on their own. A little over a year after a rocket-propelled grenade ripped into her helicopter cockpit over Iraq and shattered her legs, Army Major L. Tammy Duckworth is out of the hospital and preparing to take on a new challenge: Congress. The 37-year-old pilot was expected to announce Sunday afternoon that she will enter the race to replace retiring U.S. Rep. Henry Hyde. Even though she's a Democrat, Duckworth believes her "leadership and ability to make tough choices" will resonate with voters in Chicago's affluent western suburbs, represented by the conservative Hyde for 32 years. "As a soldier, when I make a decision it could actually mean that somebody might get shot at or killed," she told The Associated Press on Saturday. "I look around and see that the Bush administration has made some really bad choices when it comes to Iraq." Interview with General Casey: How do you expect the insurgency to adapt now that the election is over? The insurgency will adapt and we’ll adapt to it. On the security side, there are three tacks: developing Iraqi forces, defeating the terrorists and transitioning to Iraqi forces. There have been three elections now. Why should people believe that this election is going to lead to anything different? I don’t know that it is, if you’re looking for this election to result in a diminution of the violence. The violence is about insurgency and it’s about people who feel they’re disenfranchised using violence to achieve their political ends. And what you’re seeing now is after a rejection of the political process by the Sunni population, you’re seeing a buy-in to the political process, and that’s a huge step. But it’s not going to cause the violence to stop overnight because the root causes are the political and economic disenfranchisement, and that’s going to take some time. I think the levels of violence will go down over time. I got here 18 months ago, and you’re looking out here--we wrote a campaign plan to get us here, they wrote a constitution, getting all that done in 18-month window is huge. And the fact that the Iraqi people have participated in increasing numbers in the elections and the referendum, that’s a huge step forward. Pierre Tristam: "Iraq, Ourselves" traces the descent of American values into various circles of hell. The lust and gluttony for power, the greed for cheap and easy profit from Iraq's ruins, the wrath of our terrified military, of our mercenary "private security" goons, and now of Iraq's government-backed death squads and their hunt for heretics: All of it combines into a three-ring circus of violence with the Tigris for a River Styx and the Potomac for a Rubicon. Our imperial president crossed that one three years ago, with fraud on his lips and hubris in his plastic laurels. He, of course, is the head writer of this shameful testament, its editor-in-chief, though he cannot see past fictions. The White House has become his very own Eighth Circle where he wallows in the sloth of flatterers, false prophets, falsifiers, counterfeiters and roving hypocrites. He plays with them in their little ditches, then rises every once in a while to spin their tales in front of big audiences in uniform before sending them off to etch their marble stones while he retreats back to his circle, unrepentant. The Bush-Pentagon vast disinformation campaign in Iraq is finally generating the reaction it ought to have generated back when, in the earliest days of the war, the Pentagon was spilling Jessica Lynch-like lies as liberally as it was spilling other people's blood, staging statue-toppling victory parades in the heart of Baghdad and manufacturing a "Mission Accomplished" celebration on the deck of an aircraft carrier. No one should be surprised about the vast right-wing confabulations that take their source in the White House's messianic conviction that its little junta should represent the Middle East's second coming. But the sense of outrage isn't discouraging still more dangerous fantasies on the part of the administration's foot soldiers. Television's fair-and-bollix propagandists, radio's dittoheads, the blogosphere's approximation of a mobosphere -- they think more disinformation abroad, more censorship at home, more of the same policies and strategies everywhere, including torture and secret prisons, are the answer. Derrick Z. Jackson: Perhaps Bush feels safe to talk about civilian deaths because the United States is no longer responsible for the majority of them. In the first six weeks of the invasion, according to calculations by Iraq Body Count, US-led forces were responsible for 94 percent of the 7,299 civilian deaths. Today, as the invasion/occupation remains riddled with suicide bombings, flickers of a civil war and general lawlessness, the percentage of civilians killed by the US forces has receded to 32 percent. Perhaps Bush felt that the passing of time erased the fact that the US killings -- under his false pretenses of weapons of mass destruction -- remain the most intense of the war. US forces killed an average of 315 Iraqi civilians a day, nine times more than the worst month of anti-occupation and criminal violence during the next 23 months, according to Iraq Body Count. Whatever Bush felt, he still shows no emotion for the men, women, and children who will never enjoy his liberation. He stated the 30,000 figure and went on to the next question. He claims to take responsibility for going to war on bad intelligence, then turns around and says in Philadelphia, ''Knowing what I know today, I'd make the decision again." That illustrates just how far Iraq has removed Bush from his own humanity. Without evidence of weapons, he would still order a war that kills thousands of innocent people. Bush now admits knowing the scorecard. But it still remains only a game. John Aravosis: We now know that for the past 3 years the Bush administration broke American law in order to spy on American citizens. Why? Bush says it's because the current law was so onerous that our spy agencies couldn't find the terrorists in a moment's notice.Maybe that's true, maybe it's not.But, if the president of the United States thinks US civil rights and privacy laws are too onerous and are hampering the war on terror, maybe - MAYBE - he breaks the law the first time the issue comes up - let's face it, he's afraid Osama is running out the door and Bush doesn't have time to call a judge. Okay, it's possible.But Bush didn't do this once. He did it for the past 3 years.The first time you break the law to catch a terrorist who is fleeing, I might forgive you. But after that incident passes, you go to Congress and you ask them to change the law to address this urgent need. You do NOT just shrug your shoulders and break the law repeatedly for 3 years because you're just too proud to ask Congress - to ask OUR ELECTED OFFICIALS - to weigh the case for and against your radical proposal to spy on the American people.This is incredibly serious. Bush did what a dictator does, not what an American president should have done. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: The Pentagon's action as part of TALON will be put forward as an oversight, but the idea of the Department of Defense maintaining files on American war protesters, perhaps with easy cross-reference to the NSA's records based on the results of their monitoring of phone calls and e-mails of potentially those same protesters, makes possible a very serious violation of Americans' civil rights. Without a serious leap of imagination, particularly with the list of those under surveillance not available to anyone outside the NSA and the Pentagon, it is also possible to project that political critics of the Bush administration could end up among those being tracked. The Nixon administration, a previous Republican administration beleaguered by war critics, maintained "enemies lists." The White House needs to tell the Pentagon promptly to destroy the records of protesters as required, within three months. It also needs promptly to tell the NSA to return to following the rules, to get the approval of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court before monitoring Americans' communications. The idea that all of this is being done to us in the name of national security doesn't wash; that is the language of a police state. Those are the unacceptable actions of a police state. Senator Robert Byrd: Our nation is the most powerful nation in the world because we were founded on a principle of liberty. Benjamin Franklin said that "those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety." Our founding fathers, intent on addressing the abuses they have suffered at the hands of an over zealous government, established a system of checks and balances, ensuring that there is a separation of powers within government, so that no one body may run amok with its agenda. These checks are what safeguard freedom, and the American people are looking to us now to restore and protect that freedom. So many have died protecting those freedoms. We owe it to those brave men and women to deliberate meaningfully, and to ultimately protect those freedoms Americans cherish so deeply. The American people deserve nothing less. Earlier today, the Senate voted to stop a bill that would have allowed the abuses of American civil liberties to continue for another four years. The message of this vote is not just about the Patriot Act: it is a message that the Senate can stand up against an over-reaching executive that has sacrificed our liberties and stained our standing in the world. The Patriot Act has gone too far. Secret renditions should be stopped. Torture must be outlawed. Our military should not spy on our own people.The Senate has spoken: let us secure our country, but not by destroying our liberties. Thank God for checks and balances. Thank God for the United States Senate. To get a sense of what it must feel like to have known, or loved, one of the 2,150 soldiers who have died in Iraq, maybe a good place to start is this Web site called fallenheroesmemorial.com. Look up "Brown, Nathan P." and this entry pops up: "Pfc. Nathan P. Brown, 21 of South Glens Falls, N.Y. Brown died in Samarra, Iraq, when his patrol was ambushed. He was assigned to the Army National Guard's 2nd Battalion, 108th Infantry, 1st Armored Division, Glens Falls, N.Y. Died on April 11, 2004." Those lines are then followed by several hundred messages - from friends, family members, strangers - including this one, buried far down the list: "'Love(,) your little sister Meggie.' Megan Ryan Brown of South Glens Falls New York United States." Brown didn't get much notice elsewhere but he was, and apparently remains, an icon in this small town. The Pentagon released the news Thursday night, four Fort Riley soldiers were killed this week in a roadside bombing near Baghdad. Their deaths mark the second-worst day of the Iraq war for the post. The four members of the Second Battalion, 70th Armor, Third Brigade Combat Team were killed in Taji, northwest of Baghdad. They're identified as: 20-year-old Specialist Peter J. Navarro of Wildwood, Missouri. 32-year-old Staff Sergeant Michael S. Zyla of Elgin, Oregon. 22-year-old Sergeant Brian C. Karim of Talcott, West Virginia. 32-year-old Specialist James C. Kesinger of Pharr, Texas. Post was put together by Matt.


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?