Monday, February 28, 2005

War News for Monday, 28 February 2005 Bring ‘em on: More than 100 people have been killed in a massive car bomb attack in Hillah 100km south of the capital. Bring ‘em on: 20 miles north of Hillah in the town of Musayyib, another car bomb exploded at a police checkpoint, killing at least one policeman and wounding several others. Bring ‘em on: Gunmen have killed four people and wounded two in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul. Bring ‘em on: Police Commander kidnapped by insurgents in Baghdad. Bring ‘em on: US soldier killed Sunday evening in attack in Baghdad. Bring ‘em on: Iraqi police find the body of a headless woman in Baghdad, with a note attached denouncing her as a spy. The Police State UK’s anti-terror law goes rushing through Parliament: The government has said no changes will be made to the plans despite facing pressure to make concessions in order to avoid a backbench rebellion. The measures would enable the home secretary to detain terror suspects under house arrest without trial. Under the new orders, people suspected of terrorism could be subject to house arrest or other restrictions on movement, such as electronic tagging or curfews. Association and communication with specified people could be restricted, as could telephone and internet use. While the orders would mean an end to detention of suspects, breach of a control order could lead to imprisonment. The new orders could also be applied to British citizens - the law lords ruled the ATCSA powers that could only be used on foreign suspects were discriminatory. It is proposed that the orders would be imposed by the home secretary, rather than the courts. Digging In Operation Enduring US Bases? When Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld told reporters last December that he expected U.S. troops to remain in Iraq for another four years, he was merely confirming what any visitor to the country could have surmised. The omnipresence of the giant defense contractor KBR (formerly Kellogg, Brown & Root), the shipments of concrete and other construction materials, and the transformation of decrepit Iraqi military bases into fortified American enclaves—complete with Pizza Huts and DVD stores—are just the most obvious signs that the United States has been digging in for the long haul. It's a far cry from administration assurances after the invasion that the troops could start withdrawing from Iraq as early as the fall of 2003. And it is hardly consistent with a prediction by Richard Perle, the former chairman of the Defense Policy Board, that the troops would be out of Iraq within months, or with Iraqi National Congress leader Ahmed Chalabi's guess that the U.S. occupation would last two years. Take, for example, Camp Victory North, a sprawling base near Baghdad International Airport, which the U.S. military seized just before the ouster of Saddam Hussein in April 2003. Over the past year, KBR contractors have built a small American city where about 14,000 troops are living, many hunkered down inside sturdy, wooden, air-conditioned bungalows called SEA (for Southeast Asia) huts, replicas of those used by troops in Vietnam. There's a Burger King, a gym, the country's biggest PX—and, of course, a separate compound for KBR workers, who handle both construction and logistical support. Although Camp Victory North remains a work in progress today, when complete, the complex will be twice the size of Camp Bondsteel in Kosovo—currently one of the largest overseas posts built since the Vietnam War. Such a heavy footprint seems counterproductive, given the growing antipathy felt by most Iraqis toward the U.S. military occupation. Yet Camp Victory North appears to be a harbinger of America's future in Iraq. Over the past year, the Pentagon has reportedly been building up to 14 "enduring" bases across the country—long-term encampments that could house as many as 100,000 troops indefinitely. John Pike, a military analyst who runs the research group GlobalSecurity.org, has identified a dozen of these bases, including three large facilities in and around Baghdad: the Green Zone, Camp Victory North, and Camp al-Rasheed, the site of Iraq’s former military airport. Also listed are Camp Cook, just north of Baghdad, a former Republican Guard "military city" that has been converted into a giant U.S. camp; Balad Airbase, north of Baghdad; Camp Anaconda, a 15-square-mile facility near Balad that housed 17,000 soldiers as of May 2004 and was being expanded for an additional 3,000; and Camp Marez, next to Mosul Airport, where, in December, a suicide bomber blew himself up in the base's dining tent, killing 13 U.S. troops and four KBR contractors eating lunch alongside the soldiers. At these bases, KBR, a Halliburton subsidiary that works in cooperation with the Army Corps of Engineers, has been extending runways, improving security perimeters, and installing a variety of structures ranging from rigid-wall huts to aircraft hangars. Although the Pentagon considers most of the construction to be "temporary"—designed to last up to three years—similar facilities have remained in place for much longer at other "enduring" American bases, including Kosovo's Camp Bondsteel, which opened in 1999, and Eagle Base in Tuzla, Bosnia, in place since the mid-1990s. Al Faux News? The US plans to begin Arab-language television broadcasts to Europe later this year to try and win the hearts and minds of Arab Muslims there. Three-and-a-half years after Islamic activists based in Germany allegedly helped mount the 11 September 2001 attacks, US-backed TV channel Al-Hurra expects to transmit 24-hour programming to European Muslim communities seen as potentially hostile to the US. France and Germany, which have Western Europe's largest Muslim populations, will be a special focus for news and current affairs programmes intended to promote an American ethic of free speech and open debate. "The 9/11 hijackers came largely from Europe. It's a significant gap that we were not broadcasting in Arabic to Europe," said Kenneth Tomlinson, chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, the US agency in charge of US civilian TV and radio broadcasts overseas. "The reason for being [in Europe] is the same as our reason for being in the Middle East: To provide a different perspective ... of America and the world," said Norman Pattiz, who chairs the broadcasting board's Middle East committee. Expect to see adverts for the positions of Abdul O’Reilly and Muhammed Hannity in the Arab press very soon. Election News Many consider Abdel Aziz al-Hakim, the prominent cleric who leads the United Iraqi Alliance, to have emerged as the country's top Shiite power broker after the Jan. 30 elections. In an interview Sunday with The Associated Press, al-Hakim said the new Iraq must be an Islamic state with laws that do not offend the faith. He said Shiite leaders also envision a federal system that would rely on Iraqis to fight insurgents. AP: In the alliance there are some members who have their own agendas and might try to pressure the entire coalition. It is clear that this was the case during the nomination for the post of prime minister. What is your response? Al-Hakim: Yes. There were some people who were trying to make use of the media, and as you know our policy is not to let media interfere in all our issues, and not to let the media give an exaggerated picture of issues. The decision (to nominate al-Jaafari) was taken unanimously and this is very important. The brothers who nominated him vowed to stand by the prime minister to help him succeed. AP: Islamic Sharia and the constitution? Al-Hakim: There are three points: first, that there must be a respect for the Islamic identity. Second, that Islam is the official religion of the state. Third, that there should not be any law that violates Islam. AP: What is the position of the alliance toward federalism? Al-Hakim: We do not oppose the idea, as we said before. ... Our brothers the Kurds believe that federalism will solve their problems, and we see no harm in adopting this system in Iraq. ...


Sunday, February 27, 2005

War News for Sunday, February 27, 2005

Bring ‘em on: Has Syria discarded the six of diamonds?

Bring ‘em on: A bomb has ripped through a municipal building killing at least five people and injuring several in Hammam Alil, near the city of Mosul.

Bring ‘em on: IED explosion injures four soldiers during a patrol in Samara.

Bring ‘em on: Two US soldiers killed and two injured in bomb and gunfire attack in Baghdad.

Election News

Profile of a President? Ibrahim Jafari prefers to wear suits. But he could, by Shiite tradition, don the robes and turban of a cleric. His family traces its lineage directly to the Prophet Muhammad. While in exile in London, Jafari, a doctor by training, placed himself under the tutelage of a cleric. His studies earned him the distinguished rank of mujtahid, a person who can make religious rulings. "People know him as a politician," says Adnan Ali al-Kadhimi, one of Jafari's aides. "They don't know the depth of his knowledge about the ideology of Islam." That knowledge—and religious commitment—has some Iraqis worried.

Our Man in Baghdad? U.S. officials said last week they would work with whoever is elected, although they would have preferred current Prime Minister Ayad Allawi or Adel Abdul Mehdi, the interim government's finance minister. But U.S. officials have cause for concern. Al-Jaafari resisted U.S. offensives against insurgents in Fallujah and Najaf, leading to speculation that he could try to halt future American attacks. And while al-Jaafari has declared publicly that he favours human rights and an inclusive Iraqi government, he wants religion to have a key role in the government. Al-Jaafari was one of the Shiite leaders who walked out during deliberations on Iraq's transitional law because he feared it would not make Islam the sole source of Iraqi law.

Juan R. Cole, an expert on Iraq at the University of Michigan, said al-Jaafari may not suit the Americans as well as Allawi would have, but he is not expected to be hostile. "He'll get along with them," Cole said. But many here worry that Shiite clerics could pressure al-Jaafari. The Khomeini-like turbaned image of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the Iranian-born spiritual leader of Iraq's Shiites, was ubiquitous on campaign posters before the Jan. 30 elections. Al-Sistani's tacit endorsement was considered key to the success of al-Jaafari's slate.

Journalism and the Election. "The (Iraqi) election coverage I thought was outrageous. It was completely manipulated by this government. We were led to believe there would be 5,000 attacks that day and when there were only 300 that was a victory. Everything was designed to manipulate us, and we were manipulated. I guess you can argue that in Iraq there's no access for the press, they can't do anything, they can't go anywhere, it's very hard for them but, jeez, what a bad job we've done.''

A Harris poll taken earlier this month suggests just how bad a job: Sizable numbers of Americans still believe Saddam Hussein helped plan and support the 9/11 hijackers (47 percent), that some of those hijackers were Iraqi (44 percent) and that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction when the U.S. invaded (36 percent). None of which is true.

Or it may suggest that people only believe what they want to believe.

The Case for War

Fresh evidence has come to light suggesting that Tony Blair committed himself to war in Iraq nearly a year before the American and British assault in March 2003. The news will heighten the pressure on the Prime Minister to reveal how Britain was drawn into the conflict, in a week when a leading QC has called into question the legal advice on which the Government went to war. Such anxiety is felt in official circles that Special Branch detectives had questioned MPs over leaks, it emerged this weekend. Downing Street has consistently refused to disclose the date on which Mr Blair promised George Bush that Britain would join the US in an invasion of Iraq. But evidence obtained by the IoS suggests that it was as early as April 2002, when the Prime Minister met President Bush at his ranch in Crawford, Texas. A ruling by the Parliamentary Ombudsman, seen by the IoS, says the Government sought advice about the legality of a possible invasion of Iraq in the spring of 2002 as the result of "statements made in a particular press release".

Torture and War Crimes

Nearly 50 British soldiers - three times as many as previously admitted – face prosecution for murder, assault and other offences committed in Iraq, according to secret military documents seen by The Telegraph . The allegations are revealed in briefing papers sent to ministers by the Royal Military Police that contain details of 137 incidents.

Of the 137 incidents listed, 62 refer to investigations into military operations that resulted in the deaths of one or more Iraqi civilians or insurgents. Another 48 relate to military operations in which Iraqi civilians were injured. The documents also list eight investigations into the deaths of Iraqis who were in British military detention and 10 into allegations of "non-fatal" abuse. Seven of the 137 investigations were into road accidents and two others are described as operational non-violent and detainee non-violent.

Among the most serious allegations is the alleged murder of Ahmed Jabber Kareem, a 16-year-old who was arrested by three Irish Guards on May 8, 2003. The documents state that Kareem and three other Iraqis were marched at gunpoint to a dock near the Shatt al-Arab waterway in Basra. The document states: "All were released by being forced to jump into the Shatt al-Arab. K was a non-swimmer and drowned. One of the suspects' conscience got the better of him several months after the incident, as a result of which all suspects were identified."


Saturday, February 26, 2005

War News for Saturday, February 26, 2005

There are some who, uh, feel like that, you know, the conditions are such that they can attack us there. My answer is: bring 'em on. We got the force necessary to deal with the security situation." - George W. Bush, July 2, 2003

Bring ‘em on: One US soldier killed in Al Anbar province. Two civilians killed by a roadside bomb west of Baghdad. Kidnapped female Iraqi television presenter found shot dead in Mosul. One Iraqi National Guard soldier killed and seven people injured in car bomb attack near Mussayyib. Car bomb attack near an ING convoy in Iskandariyah, no casualties reported.

So, ok, in this one story we find five people dead including an executed journalist and an American soldier, and at least seven wounded, three bombings against people – so what’s the headline? Saboteurs Strike Oil Pipeline in Iraq.

Good to see our pathetic excuse for a media has its priorities straight.

Bring ‘em on: Three US soldiers killed and eight wounded in explosion in Tarmiyah. At least 15 people killed in suicide attack on police headquarters in Tikrit. Two US soldiers killed and two wounded in separate bomb attacks in Qaryat and near Samarra. Five people killed in Iskandariyah in suicide attack on the local headquarters of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution party. Two people killed and one wounded when gunmen attacked a bakery in Baghdad. Four ING soldiers killed by two bombs in Qaim. Two policemen killed and three injured in ambush of police patrol in Kirkuk.

Bring ‘em on: Three Iraqis killed, 15 wounded in clashes between US Marines and gunmen in Ramadi in fighting reported to last several hours. Two people killed in bomb blast near the headquarters of Iraq’s leading Sunni religious organization. Three Iraqi women killed by mortar rounds striking their homes near Dhuluiyah. Turkish truck driver killed by RPG. One Iraqi soldier killed, five wounded in car bombing at Mussaieb. Driver killed and a journalist seriously wounded when gunmen attacked their car. Eleven people, including four women, a policeman, and two civil servants were kidnapped in a string of abductions in the area south of Baghdad.

General lawlessness or something else?: Two Iranian border guards killed and three others injured in an ambush carried out by “bandits” on the south-western border with Iraq.

Revenge killings: Shiite Muslim assassins are killing former members of Saddam Hussein's mostly Sunni Muslim regime with impunity in a wave of violence that, combined with the ongoing Sunni insurgency, threatens to escalate into civil war.

The war between Shiite vigilantes and former Baath Party members is seldom investigated and largely overshadowed by the insurgency. The U.S. military is preoccupied with hunting down suicide bombers and foreign terrorists, and Iraq's new Shiite leaders have little interest in prosecuting those who kill their former oppressors or their enemies in the insurgency.

The killings have intensified since January's Shiite electoral victory, and U.S. and Iraqi officials worry that they could imperil progress toward a unified, democratic Iraq.

Oh look. A tunnel with a light at the end: The Iraqi interim government announced the arrest of a man it described as a key figure in the country's most feared terrorist group and expressed confidence Friday it was tightening the noose around his leader, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

Word of the capture came as insurgents ambushed a U.S. patrol, killing three American soldiers and wounding nine. Friday's attack took place in Tarmiyah, about 20 miles north of the capital.

But they say fewer Americans are dying!: Nearly two years after the U.S.-led invasion, and almost a month after elections, Baghdad remains a terrifying place.

U.S. and Iraqi authorities spoke of a post-election lull, attributing a drop in attacks to ramped-up security before the Jan. 30 vote. But that's all relative.

More than 40 people were killed on election day alone, while nearly 100 died last weekend.

Although exact figures are not available, attacks against Iraqis seem to have increased steadily as militant groups vow to undermine what the government and the U.S. military see as progress.

An enabler speaks the truth, for once: South Carolina U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, back from a weeklong journey overseas, offered the sobering assessment Friday that American troops will be in Iraq for years and casualties are likely for some time to come. Graham vowed to push to increase the size of the military, attracting recruits through bonuses and benefits. But, he said, there is no need for a draft.

"The Iraqi people are more empowered but the security situation is worse," he said. "We had a lot less freedom to move around. In many ways in terms of security it is not better off than all."

Spreading liberty, we are: Covered in layers of flowing black fabric that extend to the tips of her gloved hands, Jenan al-Ubaedy knows her first priority as one of some 90 women who will sit in the national assembly: implementing Islamic law.

She is quick to tick off what sharia will mean for married women. "[The husband] can beat his wife but not in a forceful way, leaving no mark. If he should leave a mark, he will pay," she says of a system she supports. "He can beat her when she is not obeying him in his rights. We want her to be educated enough that she will not force him to beat her, and if he beats her with no right, we want her to be strong enough to go to the police."

Spreading justice too: One of the four Britons released from Guantanamo Bay last month said he was tortured by the Americans at a separate holding camp and spent many hours trussed like an animal with a bag over his head.

Moazzam Begg, 37, who was released by the Metropolitan Police without charge and reunited with his wife and four children after three years' imprisonment, also accuses his American captors of beating two detainees to death at the Bagram air base near Kabul in Afghanistan. In his first interview since his release, he told Channel 4 News he "witnessed two people get beaten so badly I believe it caused their deaths".

And we’re spreading freedom of the press as well: Reporters Without Borders called today for the reopening of the enquiry into who was really responsible for the US Army's "criminal negligence" in shooting at the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad on 8 April 2003 and causing the death of two journalists - Ukrainian cameramen Taras Protsyuk (of Reuters news agency) and Spaniard José Couso (of the Spanish TV station Telecinco).

The call came in a report of the press freedom organisation's own in-depth investigation of the incident, which gathered evidence from journalists in the hotel at the time, from others "embedded" with US Army units and from the US military soldiers and officers directly involved.

The report said US officials at first lied about what happened and then, in an official statement four months later, exonerated the US Army from any mistake or error of judgement. The report provides only some of the truth about the incident, which needs to be further investigated to establish exactly who was responsible.

But that's not all we're spreading: It has been known for years that thousands of light and lethal shoulder-fired missiles are in black-market circulation. What is not known is exactly who has them and whether many have fallen into the hands of terrorists or criminals.

The State Department estimates that about 1 million shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles have been produced worldwide since the 1950s. The number believed to be in the hands of "nonstate actors,'' such as terrorist groups, is "in the thousands,'' the department says.

In his book "Ghost Wars,'' author Steve Coll wrote that as recently as 1996 the CIA estimated there were about 600 Stingers still unaccounted for in Afghanistan.

There also are an unknown number of SA-7 and other types of shoulder-fired missiles in the hands of insurgents in Iraq.

Iran and oil: The Iranians are about to commit an "offense" far greater than Saddam Hussein's conversion to the euro of Iraq’s oil exports in the fall of 2000. Numerous articles have revealed Pentagon planning for operations against Iran as early as 2005. While the publicly stated reasons will be over Iran's nuclear ambitions, there are unspoken macroeconomic drivers explaining the Real Reasons regarding the 2nd stage of petrodollar warfare - Iran's upcoming euro-based oil Bourse. In 2005-2006, The Tehran government has a developed a plan to begin competing with New York's NYMEX and London's IPE with respect to international oil trades - using a euro-denominated international oil-trading mechanism. This means that without some form of US intervention, the euro is going to establish a firm foothold in the international oil trade. Given U.S. debt levels and the stated neoconservative project for U.S. global domination, Tehran's objective constitutes an obvious encroachment on U.S. dollar supremacy in the international oil market.


Pat Buchanan: Leaders alchemize wars begun over lesser interests into epochal struggles for universal principles because only thus can they justify demands for greater sacrifices in blood and treasure. But Bush has gone Wilson one better. He is not only going to make the world safe for democracy, he is going to make the world democratic. Where Lincoln abolished slavery in the South, Bush is going to abolish tyranny from the earth: “So it is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world.”

A conservative knows not whether to laugh or weep, for Mr. Bush has just asserted a right to interfere in the internal affairs of every nation on earth. Why? Because the “survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands.” But this is utterly ahistorical. The world has always been afflicted with despots. Yet America has always been free. And we have remained free by following the counsel of Washington, Jefferson, and Adams and staying out of foreign quarrels and foreign wars.

So whydja endorse him, Pat? You couldn’t see this kind of crap coming? All the regular readers of this blog could.

Andrew Greeley: How long can the administration get along with its policies of spinning big lies into truth -- as it has more recently done on Social Security?

Note the three most important Cabinet positions. Rice said that it was better to find the weapons of mass destruction than to see a mushroom cloud. "Judge" Gonzales said the Geneva Convention was "quaint" and in effect legitimated the de facto policy of torture. Rumsfeld repealed the "Powell Doctrine" -- only go to war when you have the massive force necessary to win decisively and quickly. Brilliant businessman that he is (like Robert McNamara of the Vietnam era), he thought he could win with 130,000 (unlike at least 200,000 as the army chief of staff insisted) and hence made the current "insurgency" inevitable.

The presence of these three towering giants in the administration certainly confirms that the president is confident that he is "right" on Iraq and that he has a mandate from the American people and from God which confirms that he is "right."

You can still get away with the "big lie" as long as Karl Rove and his team of spinners keep providing persuasive rationalizations. The American public is still supine, uneasy about the war, but not willing yet to turn decisively against it. Will that still be the case next year when we "celebrate" the third anniversary of the war? Is the patience of the American people that long suffering? Is there no outrage left in the country?

Casualty Reports

Local story: Waterloo, IA, soldier killed north of Baghdad in explosion.

Local story: Two central Illinois soldiers killed in Iraq.

Local story: First Fort Sam Houston soldier killed in Iraq.

Local story: Corning, NY, soldier killed by small arms fire in Iraq.

Local story: Eagle Lake, TX, soldier killed in Mosul.

Local story: Benecia, CA, Marine killed in helicopter crash in Iraq.


Thursday, February 24, 2005

War News 24 February 2005 An opportunity for all of you out there to gather the news from Iraq today. Please contribute all that you have read today. Regards. FF


Wednesday, February 23, 2005

War News for Wednesday, February 23, 2005

There are some who, uh, feel like that, you know, the conditions are such that they can attack us there. My answer is: bring 'em on. We got the force necessary to deal with the security situation." - George W. Bush, July 2, 2003

Bring ‘em on: Two people killed, 14 wounded in Mosul car bombing. One civilian shot dead by US troops in Mosul when he approached their convoy too closely.

Bring ‘em on: One Iraqi police officer killed, one wounded in attack by gunman in Kirkuk.

Bring ‘em on: One US soldier killed in roadside bombing in Tuz Khurmatu.

Bring ‘em on: Two Iraqi civilians killed and one seriously wounded in RPG attack near Kirkuk. Dawa Party local representative assassinated in Moqdadiyah.

Bring ‘em on: Three Iraqis killed in Haqlaniya when they drove toward a building occupied by US Marines during the offensive into Haqlaniya presently being conducted.

Vehicle accidents: One US Marine and one US soldier dead in two separate vehicle accidents.

Operation River Blitz: U.S. Marines fought their way into the insurgent stronghold of Haqlaniya on Wednesday, intensifying a campaign to bring Iraq's restive western province of Anbar under control.

A column of tanks and armoured vehicles rolled into the town, about 240 km (150 miles) west of Baghdad on the Euphrates river, before dawn and were immediately ambushed.

Marines' forces responded with heavy machinegun fire and several tank rounds.

"We were hit by an IED (improvised explosive device), a daisy chain (three IEDs linked together) and then we took a rocket propelled grenade," said Sergeant Larry Long, speaking as occasional shots and blasts echoed across the western desert.

Guerilla profile: Ali (not his real name) tries to appear calm, though he is clearly concerned, his eyes darting apprehensively around my hotel room. It always surprises me how nervous fighters are when I meet them--they assume that if I'm with the US military, I've got unseen backup somewhere. But the man who has set up the meeting is someone we both trust, and he knows that if anything goes awry, things will be very bad for his family. These are the grounds on which we've decided to meet. I try to put Ali at ease, but he makes me nervous. Hiba, the translator I work with, is downright frightened. It's not hard to understand why--without prompting, Ali launches into tales of murder and mayhem.

"We have boys as young as 13 fighting with us," Ali says. "Some of them we use to tell us where American troops are, others we give grenades and they throw them at Humvees and Bradleys. We recently killed a man who owned a uniform company because he was making uniforms for the Iraqi army. We kidnapped a cousin of Mowaffak al-Rubaie [national security adviser for Iyad Allawi's provisional government] and killed him.... There are so many stories of operations. Four days ago we killed four police officers. We warned them three times to quit. We have agents in the government, in the police." Garbage collector: Scott Walton studied government history in college. The U.S. Army trained him as an armor officer. He knew nothing about water-treatment plants or electrical substations. But in his year as a cavalry company commander in Iraq, Capt. Edward S. Walton has spent as much time dealing with electrical power, sewage and garbage collection as he has fighting the insurgency. He's now a resident expert in what the Army calls SWET — sewage, water, electricity and trash.

Soldiers such as Walton are at the forefront of a long, tedious and often frustrating endeavor. Building water-treatment plants and setting up garbage-collection routes is hardly glamorous, and work is regularly brought to a halt by insurgents. But the infrastructure projects are the third pillar of the U.S. exit strategy, along with battling insurgents and training Iraqi forces.

Journalists leave: Italy's foreign correspondents in Iraq left or were leaving the country Tuesday after Rome warned of threats against the media and urged them to return home, a Foreign Ministry official said. "They have all left or they are in the process of doing so," the official said, adding that he believed about 20 Italian journalists had been in Iraq at the end of last month.

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, one of President Bush's key allies in the Iraq war, said the journalists had been urged to quit the country based on information from Italian intelligence services.

Liberated women: Nearly two years after the invasion of Iraq, women there are no better off than under the rule of ousted dictator Saddam Hussein, the human rights group Amnesty International said in a report released today.

The report, ''Iraq -- Decades of Suffering," said that while the systematic repression under Hussein had ended, there was an increase in murder and sexual abuse, including some abuse by US forces.

Washington asserted that Hussein's ouster would free Iraqis from oppression and set them on the road to democracy. But Amnesty International said postwar insecurity had left women at risk of violence and curtailed their freedoms.

Ibrahim al-Jaafari

Profile: He is a soft-spoken general practitioner whose life's work has been guiding a secretive Islamic party in exile in Iran and Britain. It has made him resolute and cautious. He doesn't even use his real family name.

Now the ascetic man in the background, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, will likely end up as the prime minister of Iraq.

The name of al-Jaafari's Dawa party loosely translates as "Islamic Call" or "Islamic Propagation." While his priorities are protecting the rights of all citizens and ending the war that has claimed tens of thousands of lives, Islam is at the center of his party's vision for the country.

As a politician, Jaafari presents a blend of a secular style, human-rights rhetoric, and commitment to Islamic values that sometimes seem contradictory to Western observers.

Potential conflicts: Ibrahim al-Jaafari, a Shiite doctor with an Islamist bent, was chosen Tuesday by the victorious Shiite alliance as its candidate to become Iraq's new prime minister. The decision may well open a period of protracted and rancorous negotiations with a coalition of secular leaders intent on sharply curtailing Dr. Jaafari's powers or blocking him and his clerical-backed coalition.

Ayad Allawi, the current prime minister, and Barham Salih, a Kurdish politician and deputy prime minister, said in separate interviews on Tuesday that without guarantees renouncing sectarianism and embracing Western democratic ideals they were poised to block Dr. Jaafari's nomination and possibly peel off enough members from the Shiite's United Iraqi Alliance to form a government of their own.

Indeed, initial indications were that a potentially polarizing battle was possible, one that could expose the deep fissures in Iraqi society that have been held in check since the fall of Saddam Hussein. Those fissures not only cut across sectarian and ethnic lines but also track a wide disagreement about the nature of the Iraqi state: whether it should be religious or secular, centrally led or governed by a federal system, allied to Iran or anchored in ties to the West.


One in six: For 14 months while stationed in Iraq, the battered Illinois National Guard 1544th Transportation Company had endured more than 100 mortar attacks and had driven more than 580,000 hostile miles transporting supplies and ammunition.

But while the 1544th's battles in Iraq are done, the war is still not over for them and this community. Over the next few weeks and even months, in scores of individual homes here and in neighboring towns, returning veterans and their families will be quietly struggling try to deal with the hidden scars of the war. According to the military, one of every six service members will return from Iraq with a mental disorder, and some experts believe the number could be even higher. Twenty-three percent of Iraq veterans treated at Veterans Affairs facilities have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Shoshana Johnson: She often asks herself why her life was spared.

Surviving 22 days as a prisoner of war in Iraq has been a burden to her soul, the impetus to live an honorable life as she raises a child.

Shoshana Johnson, the United States' first black female prisoner of war, spoke boldly Tuesday of her capture after an ambush to her convoy in Nasiriyah on March 23, 2003. Johnson, a cook, was shot in the ankle as she scrambled for cover underneath a truck.

The infamous ambush received national attention, producing two protagonists: Johnson and Jessica Lynch, a 19-year-old soldier who became the nation's most famous POW and a media darling who netted $1 million in a book deal.


Sick: Military police are investigating a hoax in which a man wearing an Army dress uniform falsely told the wife of a soldier that her husband had been killed in Iraq. Investigators are trying to determine why the man delivered the notice and whether he was a soldier or a civilian wearing a uniform. "Whatever motivation was behind it, it was a sick thing to do," Ft. Stewart spokesman Lt. Col. Robert Whetstone said Tuesday.

Heartless: Officials with the Department of Homeland Security are warning the public about two new Iraq-related Internet scams, including one directed at the relatives of fallen U.S. soldiers.

"These new Internet fraud schemes are among the worst we have ever encountered," said Michael J. Garcia, assistant secretary of homeland security for immigration and customs enforcement. "Most troubling is the fact that some are targeting the relatives of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq. We are also concerned about the fact that these criminals are impersonating (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) agents and referring to ICE's official Web site in an effort to steal money from Americans who have lost loved ones."

Foreign Affairs

The diplomat: President George Bush's attempt to heal the rift with Europe on Iraq was marred by fresh differences over the role of Nato.

Tony Blair joined Mr Bush in hailing the alliance as the "cornerstone" of the trans-Atlantic relationship, under repair in the wake of the war.

But French President Jacques Chirac backed German suggestions that Nato should take a back seat to the European Union.

Mr Bush hit back with a warning that the "most successful alliance in the history of the world" must not be taken for granted.

And in an echo of US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's dig at "old Europe", he pointedly said "new" East European members did not do so.

Problems for Blair: The full picture of how the government manipulated the legal justification for war, and political pressure placed on its most senior law officer, is revealed in the Guardian today.

Robin Cook, the former foreign secretary and leader of the Commons, yesterday described the Guardian's disclosure as alarming. "It dramatically reveals the extent to which the legal opinion on the war was the product of a political process." he said.

Sir Menzies Campbell, the Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman, said the government's position had been seriously undermined. "The substance of the attorney general's advice, and the process by which it was partially published, simply do not stand up to scrutiny," he said.

A happy member of the coalition of the willing: Pakistan has issued new rules of engagement permitting its Army to fire at US forces that cross the border from Afghanistan without coordinating first, according to a report contributed to the magazine ‘American Conservative’ by a former CIA officer. Philip Giraldi, now an international security consultant and writer of intelligence matters, writes in the February 28 issue of the magazine’s ‘Deep Background’ column that “President Musharraf has been receiving angry reports from his military that US forces have been engaging in hot pursuit across the border in violation of bilateral agreements. Earlier Giraldi, quoting Seymour Hersch, reported in ‘Intelligence Brief,’ a newsletter he co-edits that the White House has given the Pentagon permission “to operate unilaterally in a number of countries where there is a perception of a clear and evident terrorist threat,” including Algeria, Sudan, Yemen, Syria, Malaysia and Tunisia. The chain of command reportedly includes Donald Rumsfeld and two of his deputies.

Another happy ally: The hottest selling book in Turkey is a thriller that portrays a fictional war between the United States and Turkey. The book describes a surprise U.S. attack on its longtime ally and fellow NATO member touched off by a clash between American and Turkish troops in northern Iraq. Staggered by the simultaneous bombing of Ankara and Istanbul, Turkey turns to the European Union and Russia for help. The novel, "Metal Storm" or "Metal Firtina," has proved popular even among senior Turkish government officials and has sparked its own war of words between the two countries, striking a nerve at a time when relations are strained over real events. "The fact that it is being read so widely among the military and Foreign Ministry quarters is of concern to us," said a high-ranking U.S. diplomat in Ankara, the Turkish capital. "It reflects a certain underlying attitude, a hostility to the U.S."

(Link via War and Piece. Thanks!)

The American System of Justice

Sibel Edmonds: The Department of Justice has abandoned its claim that allegations made by a fired FBI translator are secret, paving the way for a court case that will air embarrassing allegations about incompetence, poor security and possible espionage in the translation unit of the Bureau's Washington Field Office.

At issue are the claims of Sibel Edmonds, a contract translator for the FBI hired in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.

Edmonds reported that many of those hired to work in the unit could barely speak English; that they left secure laptop computers lying around while they went to lunch; that they took classified material home with them; and -- even more disturbing -- that one co-worker had undeclared contacts with a foreign organization that was under FBI surveillance.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Sibel Edmonds case, this article is well worth reading (and in the Moonie Times, too! Will wonders never cease?). If our pathetic excuse for a media gives this case the airing it deserves a whole bunch of Bush’s 9-11 derelictions will come into public view. But it is equally important for the panalopy of sins it spotlights in the aftermath of 9-11: the abuse of power to cover up mistakes, improper classification of embarrassing documents, the attempt to declare information already released to the public domain retroactively classified, usurpation of powers belonging to the legislative branch…

Ahmed Abu Ali: Attorneys for the Justice Department appeared before a federal judge in Washington this month and asked him to dismiss a lawsuit over the detention of a U.S. citizen, basing their request not merely on secret evidence but also on secret legal arguments. The government contends that the legal theory by which it would defend its behavior should be immune from debate in court. This position is alien to the history and premise of Anglo-American jurisprudence, which assumes that opposing lawyers will challenge one another's arguments.

Ahmed Abu Ali was arrested in June 2003 in Saudi Arabia. He and his family claim the arrest took place at the behest of U.S. officials who, though unable to bring a case against him, have encouraged the Saudis to keep him locked up. The facts are murky, and Judge John D. Bates refused in December to dismiss the case, writing that he needed more information before he could decide whether a U.S. court has jurisdiction.

Since then, the U.S. government has acted to frustrate all reasonable searches for answers. It has moved to stay discovery based on secret evidence. It has proposed adding to the facts at Judge Bates's disposal by submitting secret evidence that Mr. Abu Ali's attorneys would have no opportunity to challenge. Most recently, it urged that the case be dismissed on the basis, yet again, of secret evidence -- this time supplemented with what a Justice Department lawyer termed "legal argument [that] itself cannot be made public without disclosing the classified information that underlies it."

This one’s a honey too. Here the Bush administration is essentially trying to eliminate a basis of our judicial system – the right to know of what you are accused and to challenge those accusations with arguments of fact. It is simply astonishing that these cases are so little known, much less discussed. Commentary Editorial: There is a new government taking shape in Iraq, and that is important. But it cannot overshadow the violence that continues to plague the land.

The impressive turnout in the Jan. 30 election, while in direct defiance of terrorists trying to prevent a new government from forming, does not appear to have discouraged them. More than 90 people were killed last weekend during holy days for Shi'ite Muslims, who through the elections have replaced the minority Sunnis as the nation's leaders.

These kinds of things will not magically halt when a constitution is written and put to a vote in October. The Sunnis show no sign of accepting defeat, either militarily or democratically. There are now 155,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, and it appears they will be there in like numbers for years to come.

Comment: Jim Wilson understands how it is for most of us. We're busy. We're not being directly affected by what's going on in far-off Iraq.

"Most are just living their lives," he said. "Maybe they catch a blurb at the end of the newscast about some kid who's been killed. They stop for a second and say, 'That's a shame.' Then they're off to go out for dinner or to a Timberwolves game."

That's not the way it is for people such as Jim and Gayle Wilson of Wayzata. Their son, Cpl. John Wilson, is somewhere in Iraq. There's not a day that goes by that the Wilsons aren't offering up "a million prayers" for his safety. Not a meal that goes by that they don't talk about their son. Where is he? Is he safe? How much longer before he comes home?

Casualty Reports

Local story: Elk Grove Village, IL, Marine killed in Al Anbar province during his third tour of duty in Iraq.

Local story: North Little Rock, AK, soldier who died in Iraq of non-combat related injuries is laid to rest.

Local story: Phoenix, AZ, soldier killed in bomb attack in Tal Afar while serving his second tour of duty in Iraq.

Local story: Hardin County, KY, soldier killed in non-combat related incident north of Baghdad. .


Tuesday, February 22, 2005

War News for Tuesday, February 22, 2005

There are some who, uh, feel like that, you know, the conditions are such that they can attack us there. My answer is: bring 'em on. We got the force necessary to deal with the security situation." - George W. Bush, July 2, 2003

Bring ‘em on: Two Iraqi special forces soldiers killed, 30 wounded in car bomb attack on their convoy outside of the Green Zone in Baghdad.

Bring ‘em on: One guerilla killed in attack on Shiite mosque in western Baghdad. Suicide bombing attempt foiled in Adnan Khair Allah hospital in north Baghdad. US military convoy hit by roadside bomb attack in Doura neighborhood of south Baghdad, no casualties reported. US troops exchange fire with guerillas in Samarra. One Iraqi killed by mortar fire in Samarra.

Bring ‘em on: One US Marine killed in Al Anbar province.

Bring ‘em on: Three US soldiers killed, eight wounded in Baghdad when a roadside bomb detonated near a helicopter carrying a medical team responding to a vehicle accident in which one US soldier was injured.

Bring ‘em on: Iraqi civilian killed near Al-Saqwaliya when two roadside bombs blew up after a US military patrol passed by.

The Wolfowitz Metric Apparently the new Iraq isn't a coalition member: The number of coalition military forces killed by hostile actions has declined significantly since Iraq's Jan. 30 election, according to military officials.

As of Monday, the 28 coalition forces killed from hostile fire or roadside bombs in February represented the lowest fatality rate since last March, according to iCasualties.org. The daily average of 1.33 soldiers killed in hostile actions after the election compares to 2.42 during the previous 10 months, based on Philadelphia Inquirer calculations.

Officials say Iraqi insurgents seem to be targeting Iraqi armed forces and civilians with greater frequency.

While the number of troops killed in hostile actions has declined recently, the coalition forces reported an increase in accidental deaths because of the large number of troops deploying into and out of the country at the same time. Not counting the 31 Marines and Navy personnel who were killed in a single helicopter crash on Jan. 26, the Army alone had 18 noncombat deaths in January, the second-highest monthly total since the war began. It's ok, US casualties are down: Eight suicide bombers struck in quick succession Saturday in a wave of attacks that killed 55 people as Iraqi Shiites marched and lash themselves with chains in ritual mourning of the death of the founder of their Muslim sect 14 centuries ago. Ninety-one people have been killed in violence in the past two days.

For the second year running, insurgent attacks shattered the commemoration of Ashoura, the holiest day of the Shiite religious calendar, but the violence produced a significantly smaller death toll than the 181 killed in twin bombings in Baghdad and the holy city of Karbala a year ago.

The Saturday carnage was the deadliest of any day since last month's elections for a new national assembly in which the Shiite ticket, the United Iraqi Alliance, won 48 percent of the vote in Iraq's first democratic balloting.

But they aren't American barbers, are they: Iraq's insurgency has long targeted other Iraqis - police, government leaders and national guardsmen - as a means of destabilizing the nascent democracy, but now guerrillas have taken aim at a far more unlikely line of work.

In what some describe as a Taliban-like effort to impose a militant Islamic aesthetic, extremists have been warning Iraqi barbers not to violate strict Islamic teachings by trimming or removing men's beards. Giving Western-style haircuts or removing hair in an "effeminate" manner, they say, are crimes punishable by death.

Since the threats began a little more than a month ago, at least eight barbers have been killed, and a dozen shops have been bombed, colleagues and police say.

And US hospitals are managing. No story here!: Overwhelmed by a daily influx of trauma cases from insurgent bombings and ambushes, Baghdad's antiquated and ill-equipped hospitals are nearing breaking point.

Just Friday, more than 50 Iraqis were brought to Yarmuk hospital following a string of suicide and other attacks on Shiite targets in and around Baghdad.

Yarmuk has no more than four to six ambulances available at any one time and just 13 surgical beds in its emergency department.

"Medicine is in short supply, the beds and equipment are old, and recently running water was cut for two days," said Doctor Hazem Ismail, struggling to make himself heard amid the screams of a man who suffered gunshot wounds during a robbery.

"When there is an attack, we move the other patients onto beds in the service corridor in order to free up an extra room. Sometimes, we even have to treat people on the floor," said another doctor.

Why aren't they attacking the export pipelines?: Insurgent attacks to disrupt Baghdad's supplies of crude oil, gasoline, heating oil, water and electricity have reached a degree of coordination and sophistication not seen before, Iraqi and American officials say.

The new pattern, they say, shows that the insurgents have a deep understanding of the complex network of pipelines, power cables and reservoirs feeding Baghdad, the Iraqi capital.

The shadowy insurgency is a fractured movement made up of distinct groups of Sunnis, Shiites and foreign fighters, some of them aligned and some not. But the shift in the attack patterns strongly suggests that some branch of the insurgency is carrying out a systematic plan to cripple Baghdad's ability to provide basic services for its six million citizens and to prevent the fledgling government from operating.

A new analysis by some of those officials shows that the choice of targets and the timing of sabotage attacks has evolved over the past several months, shifting from economic targets to become what amounts to a siege of the capital.

More War News

Fallujah the second: U.S. Marines and Iraqi troops set up checkpoints and imposed an 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew on the rebellious city of Ramadi on Sunday, part of a nationwide effort to restore order after last month's election.

It was not clear if the troops of the 1st Marine expeditionary force and Iraqi soldiers, launching Operation River Blitz, would carry out a larger offensive on Ramadi, 110 km west of Baghdad, which has essentially been in guerrilla hands for most of the past year.

U.S. forces were expected to attack Ramadi at the end of last year to try to restore security before the election, but instead focused their offensive on the rebel enclave of Falluja, just 60 km to the east.

Then, U.S. Marines battled for weeks to defeat insurgents, losing more than 100 men and killing an estimated several hundred militants, the U.S. military.

U.S. figures show that since the March 2003 war to overthrow Saddam Hussein, Ramadi has been one of the deadliest places for U.S. soldiers to serve, with 71 troops killed in the city alone. In the whole of Anbar, nearly 400 U.S. troops have been killed.

Our hope for the future: Iraq's special forces are billed as elite rapid intervention units which can take on the most ruthless insurgents. But as one U.S. Marine discovered just getting some of them out of bed can be a challenge.

"Its time for your morning duty. Wake up " he told an Iraqi soldier laying motionless under a blanket. "You can help us pick up the garbage and go back to sleep in an hour."

Since thousands of men deserted the army and security forces last year, U.S. and Iraqi officials have constantly praised the special forces as the cream of the units leading the battle against guerrillas.

But three days with special forces last month in the former rebel town of Falluja showed that while one unit had a disciplined Iraqi commander, it was a struggle to motivate his soldiers.

Prison riot: A bloody inmate riot three weeks ago at the biggest U.S.-run detention facility in Iraq has exposed an increasingly hard-core prison population that is confronting U.S. forces with a growing risk of prison violence, according to military officers.

U.S. troops who dealt with the clash tell of a chaotic and threatening situation. They say the extent of violence surprised them. They also say the nonlethal weapons available to them at the time for crowd control proved largely ineffectual.

Four inmates died and six were injured in the uprising the morning of Jan. 31, the most deaths in a prison disturbance since U.S. forces invaded Iraq two years ago.

Howard breaks his word: Australia announced a 50 percent increase in its troop strength in Iraq Tuesday, saying the 450 new soldiers will guard Japanese engineers and train the Iraqi army after the withdrawal of Dutch soldiers from southern Iraq.

Prime Minister John Howard said the decision to deploy extra troops, to be based in Iraq's Muthanna province, followed a request from Japan and British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Iraqi Politics

Perle’s crying now: Interim Iraqi Vice President Ibrahim al-Jaafari was chosen Tuesday to be his Shiite ticket's candidate for prime minister after Ahmad Chalabi dropped his bid, senior alliance officials said.

Pressure from within the ranks of the winning United Iraqi Alliance forced the withdrawal of Chalabi, a one-time Pentagon favorite, said Hussein al-Moussai from the Shiite Political Council, an umbrella group for 38 Shiite parties.

“Unauthorized” “back channel” negotiations: While U.S. officials would not confirm the details of any specific meetings, sources in Washington told TIME that for the first time the U.S. is in direct contact with members of the Sunni insurgency, including former members of Saddam's Baathist regime.

Pentagon officials say the secret contacts with insurgent leaders are being conducted mainly by U.S. diplomats and intelligence officers. A Western observer close to the discussions says that "there is no authorized dialogue with the insurgents" but that the U.S. has joined "back-channel" communications with rebels. Says the observer: "There's a lot bubbling under the surface today."

Mullahs and Baathists: Militant Islamist groups that originated in Iraqi Kurdistan are responsible for most of the attacks now taking place in the northern insurgent stronghold of Mosul, while activity by nationalist insurgents linked to the former government has slowed there, senior Kurdish officials say.

The activities of Ansar al-Sunna and Ansar al-Islam, two jihadist groups with close ties, have recently overshadowed those of the nationalist insurgent cells in Mosul led by members of the former ruling Baath Party, the officials say. The nationalist fighters have quieted down since December, when the Americans increased the number of troops in Mosul in advance of the Jan. 30 elections, the Kurdish officials say.

Defacto independence: Since the fall of Saddam Hussein, the Kurds have made known their determination to retain a degree of autonomy in the territory they have dominated for more than a decade. Now, after their strong performance in the elections last month, Kurdish leaders are for the first time spelling out specific demands.

From control of oil reserves to the retention of the Kurdish militia, the pesh merga, to full authority over taxation, the requested powers add up to an autonomy that is hard to distinguish from independence.

"The fact remains that we are two different nationalities in Iraq - we are Kurds and Arabs," Mr. Barzani said as he sat in a reception hall at his headquarters in Salahuddin. "If the Kurdish people agree to stay in the framework of Iraq in one form or another as a federation, then other people should be grateful to them."

Sunni perceptions: Battling the perception of many Sunnis that they will be mistreated is one of the toughest challenges for the new government, after a coalition of leading Shiite religious parties captured a slim majority of 140 seats in the new 275-member Iraqi assembly elected on January 30. A key moderating factor will be the Kurdish parties, which, with 75 seats, will be the deal-makers in the new government. They, along with Allawi's allies who won only 40 seats, will push a more secular vision.

For the first time, Iraq will have a powerful Shiite prime minister. For the traditionally dominant Sunnis, one benchmark will be how the new government handles de-Baathification. The victorious Shiite slate has pledged a renewed effort to weed out officials once loyal to Saddam's regime. Still, leading Shiite politicians are trying to allay Sunni fears by promising to pursue national reconciliation.

But when de-Baathification was first introduced by the U.S. occupation government in 2003, it involved near-blanket firings for high-level Baathists. Many cheered the ousting of former tormentors. But some Iraqis, especially Sunnis, were very critical, pointing out that many officials had joined the party simply to get a better job or earn a promotion.

Diplomat George

Get over it, guys: President Bush appealed to Europe on Monday to move beyond animosities over Iraq and join forces in encouraging democratic reforms across the Middle East. He also prodded Russia to reverse a crackdown on political dissent, demanded that Iran end its nuclear ambitions and told Syria to get out of Lebanon.

Bush did not rule out using military force in Iran, saying all options remain on the table. But, addressing widespread concerns in Europe that Iran is the next U.S. target after Iraq, Bush said: "Iran is … different from Iraq. We're in the early stages of diplomacy."

Talk is cheap: Since the U.S. helped defeat fascism in World War II, then joined with Western Europeans in holding the line against communism, the greater goals of the alliance have overwhelmed differences.

But that Cold War bargain came tumbling down with the Iraq war. The U.S. invaded without giving diplomacy the chance Europeans wanted. Since then, apart from Britain, they haven't felt obliged to help much as Iraq has deteriorated.

As Bush arrives, the conciliatory mood music is loud. At a press conference last week, Bush went out of his way to say he cares about European concerns such as world hunger, disease and the environment. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice preceded him with a charm offensive of her own. But good intentions only go so far. The real test will be actions to bridge widening gaps.

Two Unrelated Stories

Negroponte: Congress might still have to confirm the full extent of his powers, but there is little doubt that John Negroponte’s new position in Washington as George Bush’s first Director of National Intelligence (DNI) will be omnipotent.

Not only will he be in overall control of all 15 agencies involved in the war against terrorism but he will have unprecedented power in deciding and executing policy, allocating budgets and giving the authority for covert operations.

In appointing Negroponte, a career diplomat, Bush has brought a new and, to many, unwelcome twist to the US war on terror. Coming on top of his statement that he would support Israel if it mounted an attack against Iran’s nuclear facilities, and following recent talk of enforcing regime change in Iran and Syria, it sends the signal that the US is entering a new phase in its operations against those countries suspected of sponsoring al-Qaeda and its allies.

Torture: Americans, and the world, have become accustomed to accounts like Mustafa’s in connection with Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison. But his story hints at another scandal—one that has received little sustained media attention and sparked no public outrage. Over the past three years, numerous reports—from Afghan and American human rights groups, and from the Pentagon itself—have documented allegations of abuse inside U.S. compounds in Afghanistan. Hundreds of prisoners have come forward, often reluctantly, offering accounts of harsh interrogation techniques including sexual brutality, beatings, and other methods designed to humiliate and inflict physical pain. At least eight detainees are known to have died in U.S. custody in Afghanistan, and in at least two cases military officials ruled that the deaths were homicides. Many of the incidents were known to U.S. officials long before the Abu Ghraib scandal erupted; yet instead of disciplining those involved, the Pentagon transferred key personnel from Afghanistan to the Iraqi prison. “Had the investigation and prosecution of abusive interrogators in Afghanistan proceeded in a timely manner,” Human Rights Watch executive director Brad Adams noted in an open letter to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld last fall, “it is possible that…many of the abuses seen in Iraq could have been avoided.”

US Military News

Suck it up, NG and Reserves: Older, further along in their careers and often with larger families than their active-duty peers, members of the National Guard and Reserve, experts say, have been especially affected by the demands of lengthy -- and in some cases repeated -- deployments to Iraq.

And while Pittman experienced an extreme scenario, thousands of soldiers are returning home and finding a range of difficulties -- from paperwork hassles to losing their homes and businesses -- as they try to fit back into civilian life. And officials are scrambling to solve that problem before tens of thousands more troops come home.

Suck it up some more: As America enters the third year of the Iraq conflict, the deployment is taking a financial toll on part-time soldiers who make up about half of the 150,000 troops there. Forty-one percent of National Guard and Reserve soldiers are losing thousands of dollars through a "pay gap" between their civilian salary and military pay, officials said.

While part-time soldiers assume some risk of being called to active duty when they sign up, today they are serving tours far longer and more frequently than their counterparts in past wars.

"We've gone way over the top in the frequency and duration of deployments," said Robert F. Norton, a retired Army colonel and deputy director of government relations for the Military Officers Association of America. "Some of these units are on their second or third rotation."

Gee, who woulda thought: The active-duty Army is in danger of failing to meet its recruiting goals, and is beginning to suffer from manpower strains like those that have dropped the National Guard and Reserves below full strength, according to Army figures and interviews with senior officers.

For the first time since 2001, the Army began the fiscal year in October with only 18.4 percent of the year's target of 80,000 active-duty recruits already in the pipeline. That amounts to less than half of last year's figure and falls well below the Army's goal of 25 percent.

Driving the manpower crunch is the Army's goal of boosting the number of combat brigades needed to rotate into Iraq and handle other global contingencies. Yet Army officials see worrisome signs that young American men and women -- and their parents -- are growing wary of military service, largely because of the Iraq conflict.

Your tax dollars at work: Faced with a persistent demand for personnel in Iraq and elsewhere, the Army and some of the military's elite commando units have dramatically increased the size and the number of cash bonuses they are paying to lure recruits and keep experienced troops in uniform.

Last month, the Pentagon said it would begin offering bonuses of up to $150,000 for long-serving Army, Air Force and Navy special operations troops who agree to stay in the military for up to six more years. The bonuses are the largest ever paid to enlisted troops. They reflect the difficulty in replacing highly valued troops such as Army Green Berets and Navy SEALs, whose training takes years and costs about $300,000 per person.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon is using cash bonuses on an unprecedented scale to try to boost re-enlistments, recruiting and morale among active-duty and reservist troops. The bonuses come as the demands of three years of war in Afghanistan and Iraq have raised questions in Congress about whether the U.S. military has enough troops to fight two major wars simultaneously.

Better increase the defense budget: Swelling costs for military pay and benefits threaten the Pentagon's ability to acquire new weapons systems and may not always help in holding on to the most valuable soldiers, sailors and airmen, a new report concludes.

"If the U.S. military is to continue in coming decades to recruit and retain the quality personnel it needs, it may need to make some significant changes in the way it compensates and manages its personnel," according to the study by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, a Washington think tank.

And buy some dope while you're at it: American soldiers traumatised by fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan are to be offered the drug ecstasy to help free them of flashbacks and recurring nightmares.

The US food and drug administration has given the go-ahead for the soldiers to be included in an experiment to see if MDMA, the active ingredient in ecstasy, can treat post-traumatic stress disorder.

Scientists behind the trial in South Carolina think the feelings of emotional closeness reported by those taking the drug could help the soldiers talk about their experiences to therapists. Several victims of rape and sexual abuse with post-traumatic stress disorder, for whom existing treatments are ineffective, have been given MDMA since the research began last year.

(Link via SILT3. Thanks!)

Yay Seymour

An American hero: Seymour Hersh of The New Yorker won his fifth George Polk Award for his accounts of prisoner abuse in Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison, making him the most-honored individual in the history of the awards. Reporters from The New York Times took three of the 2004 awards, and The Associated Press was a double winner.

Hersh won the magazine reporting prize for his Abu Ghraib stories 35 years after winning the Polk award for coverage of the My Lai massacre in Vietnam.


Editorial: Much of the $82 billion Mr. Bush sent to Congress last week as an emergency request should have been included in his regular budgets. In May, two months before Congress passed the current Pentagon budget, President Bush asked for a $25 billion supplemental. With the war clearly going way over budget, the administration still low-balled the 2004-05 budget.

For example, the new emergency request includes $5.7 billion to train and equip Iraqi troops, an increase of 10 times the amount sought in the 2004-05 budget. So the Pentagon is just figuring out that Iraqi troops haven't been properly trained?

The Washington Post, quoting Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., explains why the Bush administration prefers operating under the emergency label. "It removes from our oversight responsibilities," the senator said, "the scrutiny that these programs deserve." An example, noted in The New York Times, is $400 million for Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to hand out, solely at her discretion, to countries that have helped in Iraq.

The supplemental request does provide one fascinating insight: The insurgency has inflicted about $12 billion in damage on U.S. military equipment that must be repaired or replaced.

Comment: President George W Bush arrived in Europe on Sunday in the belief that the European Nato allies could be persuaded to 'turn away from the disagreements of the past' and open 'a new chapter' in transatlantic relations. But he is likely to go home without the concessions he wants.

He wants more help from the Europeans in Iraq, Afghanistan, and probably in other places yet to be announced; European backing for American policy on Iran (and Syria and Israel/Palestine); and no European arms sales to China. Those are Washington's priorities. There is a further list of secondary issues, commercial as well as political.

His trip will fail because he and his administration do not understand what really divides most continental European governments from the US today. At the same time, Europeans are mostly unwilling to confront these issues, because of the trouble with Washington they imply. But, unacknowledged or not, they count.

Opinion: So tell me again. What was this war about? In terms of the fight against terror, the war in Iraq has been a big loss. We've energized the enemy. We've wasted the talents of the many men and women who have fought bravely and tenaciously in Iraq. Thousands upon thousands of American men and women have lost arms or legs, or been paralyzed or blinded or horribly burned or killed in this ill-advised war. A wiser administration would have avoided that carnage and marshaled instead a more robust effort against Al Qaeda, which remains a deadly threat to America.

What is also dismaying is the way in which the administration has taken every opportunity since Sept. 11, 2001, to utilize the lofty language of freedom, democracy and the rule of law while secretly pursuing policies that are both unjust and profoundly inhumane. It is the policy of the U.S. to deny due process of law to detainees at the scandalous interrogation camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, where prisoners, many of whom have turned out to be innocent, are routinely treated in a cruel and degrading manner.

The U.S. is also engaged in the reprehensible practice known as extraordinary rendition, in which terror suspects are abducted and sent off to be interrogated by foreign regimes that are known to practice torture. And the C.I.A. is operating ultrasecret prisons or detention centers overseas for so-called high-value detainees. What goes on in those places is anybody's guess.

It may be that most Americans would prefer not to know about these practices, which are nothing less than malignant cells that are already spreading in the nation's soul. Denial is often the first response to the most painful realities. But most Americans also know what happens when a cancer is ignored.

Casualty Reports

Local story: Rochester Hills, MI, soldier killed in suicide bombing in Baghdad.

Local story: Eagle Lake, TX, soldier killed by small arms fire in Mosul.

Local story: Tinley Park, IL, Marine killed in Iraq.

Local story: Weslaco, TX, Marine killed in roadside bombing in Al Anbar province.

Local story: Orlando, FL, soldier killed in Huminayah on his third tour of duty.

Notification: When Army Lt. Col. Ken Leners pulls up in front of a house and steps out of his car -- every crease in his Class A uniform pressed sharp as steel -- he knows he is the last person people want to see coming up their sidewalk.

With a couple of brief sentences, the tall, soft-spoken Iowan will end the world they knew.

Leners, with the Army's 88th Regional Readiness Command based at Fort Snelling, is a "casualty notification officer" or, more simply, a "notifier." When a soldier dies, be it in combat, an accident, suicide or some other way, Leners is among the people assigned to break the news to the victim's relatives.

"It gets harder and harder and harder as it goes on," Leners said.

Gold Stars: They call themselves Gold Star Families for Peace. Organized less than two months ago, it is part support group and part activist organization, with members united by grief and the belief that their loved ones died in a war that did not have to happen. They represent a small percentage of the families that have lost someone in Iraq -- 50 families out of more than 1,450.

The fallen soldiers' obituaries indicate that many of their families continue to support the war. But the Gold Star Families say they support the soldiers because their mission is to speak out to help bring them home and minimize the human cost of the war.

They worry that as the war verges on entering its third year, the public seems to be losing interest in it. When Sheehan tells people she lost a son in the war, she said, she is sometimes asked, "Which war?"

Another casualty: He never was inclined to talk much about the damage, at least not to his wife and children. They knew -- it was obvious -- that a land mine in Vietnam took large portions of both of the Rev. Alan McLean's legs 38 years ago.

They knew that the single detonation in 1967 triggered ongoing waves of psychological temblors when McLean heard helicopters or when war footage appeared on the news. They knew that the decorated veteran was profoundly distressed by the Iraq war, an anxiety that ran as deep as the former Marine's patriotism.

But they didn't know about the .45-caliber pistol. Or the suicide note in his laptop, written but never printed out, seven days before he used that pistol. In it, McLean, the popular rector of St. Luke's Episcopal Church here, apologized to his wife, Betsy, and his children for not being stronger. The war in Iraq, he said, unbearably amplified his nightmares.

He said he'd had enough.


Hunter S. Thompson 1937-2005 RIP .


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