Saturday, April 30, 2005

War News for Saturday, April 30, 2005 Bring ‘em on: Fifty Iraqis killed, 114 wounded in 17 bomb attacks across Iraq on Friday. Bring ‘em on: Two US soldiers killed by car bomb near Diyara. Bring ‘em on: Four US soldiers killed, two wounded by roadside bomb near Tal Afar. Bring ‘em on: Seven US soldiers wounded in multiple attacks in the Baghdad region. Bring ‘em on: Two Iraqis killed, 10 wounded in car bomb attack on US/Iraqi patrol in Baghdad. Bring ‘em on: US convoy attacked by car bomb in western Baghdad. Four US soldiers injured in vehicle accident near Abu Ghraib. Copping a plea. “Pfc. Lynndie R. England, the woman seen holding an Iraqi prisoner on a leash in the iconic photo from the Abu Ghraib prison, will plead guilty to seven charges stemming from abuse of prisoners there, her attorney said yesterday. With a general court-martial scheduled to begin Monday at Fort Hood, Tex., England agreed to a plea agreement yesterday, Rick Hernandez said. The deal will reduce the maximum sentence she faces to 11 years in prison. On Monday, he said, England will make a personal appeal to a military jury for a lighter sentence.” Copping a promotion. “Wojdakowski recently was named acting deputy commander of U.S. Army Europe, filling in for Lt. Gen. William Ward, the State Department's designated monitor of Israel-Palestinian peace efforts. Wojdakowski is one of five senior Army officers who have faced criticism for leadership lapses in connection with Abu Ghraib. However, the Army said last week that after thoroughly reviewing all the circumstances it could substantiate allegations against only one of the five officers _ Army Reserve Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, who has been given a letter of reprimand.” Contractors. "The government's poor management of private contractors is partially responsible for last year's Abu Ghraib prison scandal, a study released Friday by the investigative agency of Congress found. The report came after U.S. Rep. David Price, D-N.C., sent a letter nearly a year ago to the Government Accountability Office, which audits the federal government, requesting that it investigate the Department of Defense's use of private contractors in Iraq. The letter, signed by more than 100 other congressmen, cited the prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib in which contractors allegedly participated as justification for a deeper examination of private companies' roles in war-related work. ‘They have confirmed our concerns,’ Price said. ‘There is confusion about the tasks assigned to contractors, a lack of oversight to ensure their safety, question as to their chain of command and inadequate information on their cost and effectiveness.’” Taxpayer funded professional sports training. “A new policy is poised to go in place that could change the face of West Point athletics, allowing Army athletes in any sport who sign a pro contract to serve two years active duty and six in the reserves upon graduation. The proposal is expected to be approved by Army officials within weeks. Former Army baseball/football player Josh Holden, an outfield prospect in the Cincinnati Reds organization, would be the first West Point graduate granted his release. He should finish his active duty on May 31. Reds assistant director of player personnel Grant Griesser expects Holden to report that day to Cincinnati's spring training facility in Sarasota, Fla. Holden used leave time to attend a portion of spring training. ‘I've got most of the paperwork and it's signed by (Secretary of the Army) Francis J. Harvey,’ Griesser said. ‘It's a brand new policy. Josh has a dream of making it to the big leagues and we hope he gets to live it.’” Who needs an officer corps when military academies can devote their resources to training professional football players? Pat Tillman would be so proud of this policy. Recruiting. “Nationally, African-Americans dropped from 23.5 percent of active Army recruits in 2000 to 15.9 percent in 2004. Female recruits dropped from 22.1 percent to 19.2 percent during the same period, Smith said. In February, the Army was 6 percent below the year-to-date recruiting target, said Lt. Col. Bryan Hilferty, spokesman for the Army Office of the Chief of Personnel.” Guardsman sounds off. “In November 2003, my Guard unit was called up and I was deployed to Camp Anaconda, north of Baghdad. During my first R & R break, in June 2004, I flew to Miami, where I boarded a charter flight to Cuba. There was a special urgency about this visit. I was serving in a war zone, where U.S. troops were being attacked and killed almost every day. But I was not allowed to fly to Havana. The Bush administration recently had announced its intention to severely limit travel to Cuba, even for family visits, to once every three years. Even though I arrived in Miami two days before the travel restrictions went into effect on June 30, the charter company said it was not allowed to take any more passengers to Cuba. The calculations behind the travel restriction were simple. While U.S. troops were trying to bring democracy to Iraq, President Bush was trying to ensure his re-election by catering to a small but politically powerful group of anti-Castro extremists who demand complete isolation of Cuba as the price of their support. Bush met their demands, but it is average Cubans, and families like mine, that have paid the price.” Calipari. “Italy asked its state prosecutors on Saturday to step up their probe into the killing of an Italian agent by U.S. troops in Iraq after the two allies failed to reach agreement in a joint investigation. The dispute over the killing of intelligence officer Nicola Calipari in Baghdad on March 4 has strained ties between the two countries and prompted fresh criticism of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's staunch support for the war in Iraq.” Makes me want to puke. “At a ceremony on a Pentagon parade ground that overlooks the Potomac River, Wolfowitz reviewed a military honor guard and was presented with a Defense Department medal for distinguished public service which cited him as an ‘internationally recognized voice for freedom.’ Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld praised his top deputy for intellectual firepower and perseverance, noting that he was a leading force in Rumsfeld's drive to modernize the military. ‘The threatened, the oppressed and the persecuted around the world must know in their hearts that they had a friend in Paul Wolfowitz,’ Rumsfeld said. ‘You are one of those rare people who, as the Talmud puts it, would rather light candles than curse the darkness.’” Commentary Editorial: “The last refuge of those who continue to insist that Saddam Hussein must have had weapons of mass destruction was virtually eliminated by the chief weapons inspector this week. Not willing to accept the unpalatable truth that the search for W.M.D. in Iraq had come up empty, die-hard supporters of the war had clung to the possibility that Mr. Hussein might have shipped his weapons off to Syria to avoid their capture. Never mind that American military leaders said that he could not have pulled that off during the war, when his regime was collapsing too fast to salvage much of anything, and that reconnaissance craft had seen no major arms shipments at the borders. Perhaps the wily dictator had spirited off the weapons before the war began.” Editorial: “If high-ranking military officers have escaped legal censure, so has the civilian leadership at the Pentagon and elsewhere in the Bush administration. In fact, some officials who either knew of the abuse or should have known about it have been retained or promoted. There was a time in this country's history when officials were fired or demoted when they were caught up in scandal. There also was a time when soldiers were called on to protect those in their charge. No less than Gen. Douglas MacArthur admonished his subordinates in 1946: ‘The soldier, be he friend or foe, is charged with the protection of the weak and unarmed. It is the very essence and reason for his being.’ Today, thousands of men and women in uniform share this noble commitment. It is they, among others, who have been repudiated and insulted by this wretched and dishonorable whitewash.” Opinion: “The Iraqis have thrown us another curveball. Ahmad Chalabi - convicted embezzler in Jordan, suspected Iranian spy, double-crosser of America, purveyor of phony war-instigating intelligence - is the new acting Iraqi oil minister. Is that why we went to war, to put the oily in charge of the oil, to set the swindler who pretended to be Spartacus atop the ultimate gusher? Does anybody still think the path to war wasn't greased by oil?” Opinion:
Lt. Col. Ross Brown, Thunder Squadron commander _ a man I greatly admired for his openness, honesty and deep, abiding concern for the men serving under him _ said it first over dinner one evening. "You know what gets me," he said, engaging me eye-to-eye, as he is prone to do, "is very few people back home even know we are at war." It first struck him, he said, in his everyday experiences as he prepared to head to Iraq. He'd go to, say, the supermarket and forget for a moment that America was at war. Only when a soldier dies, he said, does a headline appear. I figured this was, well, just soldier-talk. And then Tuesday morning, I went to the Internet pages of the newspapers I read every morning: The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post and both local newspapers. Not a single story on the Iraq war made the front page of any of them. Amazing. I realize now, what I hadn't before, why I keep volunteering in my job to go to Iraq. I have wanted to understand, firsthand, since that first bomb intended for Saddam Hussein went off more than two years ago, why we truly are there. I also wanted to understand, up close and personal, the sacrifice so many Americans charged with prosecuting this war are making, why so many are so willingly giving up their lives and body parts. And here is the thing: The reason America invaded Iraq changes like the leaves of trees in fall. We are first told of weapons of mass destruction and imminent danger to the homeland. Somewhere down the line comes this fostering the spread of democracy and freedom in the Middle East. What is immutable has been the considerable cost of it all in American blood and treasure.
Analysis: “Some call it tribal revenge, others have dubbed it ethnic cleansing, but with dozens of Iraqis killed every day in attacks on homes, mosques and in the street, some officials are starting to utter the ultimate taboo in Iraq’s multi-ethnic politics: civil war. ‘The war is not between the Iraqis and the Americans. It is between the Shia and the Sunni,’ Colonel Salem Zajay, a police commander from one of the frontline districts in southern Baghdad, said — on a day when at least 24 people were killed in a string of car bombs in the capital.” Casualty Reports Local story: Iowa soldier killed in Iraq. Local story: California soldier wounded in Iraq. (Scroll down to the end of this story.) Local story: Iowa Marine wounded in Iraq.


Friday, April 29, 2005

War News for Friday, April 29, 2005 Bring ‘em on: One US soldier killed, four wounded by car bomb near Hawija. Bring ‘em on: Four Iraqis killed in mortar attack on US position near Musayyib. Bring ‘em on: One Iraqi policemen wounded in police patrol ambush in Baghdad. Bring ‘em on: Fifteen Iraqis killed, 54 wounded in six car bombings in Baghdad. Bring ‘em on: Iraqi general assassinated in Baghdad. Bring ‘em on: Insurgents reportedly execute six Sudanese truck drivers. Bring ‘em on: Five Iraqis killed, 14 wounded by three car bombs near Madain. Bring ‘em on: Two Iraqi policemen killed, five wounded by roadside bomb near Samarra. Bring ‘em on: Three US soldiers, four Iraqi soldiers and nine civilians wounded by car bomb near Tikrit. Bring ‘em on: One Iraqi soldier killed, two wounded by roadside bomb near Basra. Lieutenant AWOL speaks. “U.S. President George W. Bush said on Thursday that despite a violent insurgency, progress was being made in Iraq which just formed a new government, but he refused to set a timetable for withdrawing American troops. ‘I believe we're making really good progress in Iraq,’ Bush said. ‘They saw a government form today. The Iraqi military is being trained by our military, and they're performing much better than the past.’” Desperation. “There are claims that US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld during his last visit to Iraq met with ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. According to a news article based on Iraqi Baath sources in Jordan published in the London based Al-Quds Al-Arabi newspaper, Rumsfeld met with Saddam in his cell in Bagdat (Baghdad) and the US Secretary of Defense asked Saddam to end the insurgence. The paper claims that Rumsfeld asked him on a television broadcast to make a call for insurgents to end the resistence against US and multi-national forces as well as the Iraqi security forces.” Iraqi authorities have arrested five journalists over the last two weeks. Chalabi’s in. “Ahmed Chalabi, a onetime Pentagon ally in Iraq, was named a deputy premier and the acting energy minister, as the Iraqi government seeks a permanent candidate to oversee the world's third-largest oil reserves. Chalabi, 60, who will be one of four deputy prime ministers, replaces Thamir Ghadhban, a veteran of Iraq's oil industry who helped boost oil production to about 1.9 million barrels a day. The total is still about 25 percent lower than levels in early 2003, before the U.S.-led invasion to topple Saddam Hussein.” Now he says he’s sorry. “Former CIA Director George Tenet said he regretted assuring President Bush in 2002 that he had ‘slam dunk’ evidence that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. ‘Those were the two dumbest words I ever said,’ Tenet told about 1,300 people at a Kutztown University forum Wednesday. The theory was a leading justification for the war in Iraq.” Cover-up. “Italy said on Thursday it would not endorse a U.S. report expected to exonerate the U.S. soldiers who shot dead an Italian agent in Iraq if it was unconvinced by the findings. Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, speaking minutes after his new cabinet won a final confidence vote in parliament, told journalists that Italy ‘will not sign off on anything that does not convince us.’ He said both countries were having difficulties reconciling their positions in a joint report into the death of military intelligence officer Nicola Calipari, who was shot dead after a hostage rescue in Baghdad in March.” Guardsman sounds off. “An Iowa Army National Guard commander has complained that incompetent training and other problems at a U.S. Army base in Texas last year shortchanged his unit's preparations for combat in Iraq, according to a report obtained by The Des Moines Register. Capt. Aaron Baugher of Ankeny, whose detachment was the first Iowa infantry unit trained at Fort Hood before being deployed to Iraq, wrote in an ‘after-action report’ that the 2004 training ‘was of very little value and poorly instructed’ by soldiers who typically had never served in Iraq or Afghanistan. Baugher's unit of 58 soldiers, the 194th Long-Range Surveillance Detachment of Johnston, returned to Iowa in late February after nearly a year in Iraq. ‘Having been in Iraq . . . conducting combat operations on a wide spectrum, we can confidently say we did not learn a thing at Fort Hood,’ Baugher wrote.” Abu Ghraib. “Amnesty International on Thursday blasted the United States for failing to launch an independent probe into Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison scandal, a year after images of abused detainees first shocked the world. The organization said there were signs of fresh torture and sexual abuse by the Iraqi prison authorities.” Commentary Editorial: “President Bush offered a rosy assessment Thursday of developments in Iraq, but the reality is that Iraqi politicians spent most of the nearly three months since their widely hailed national election settling old scores and maneuvering for sectarian gains. They dithered as insurgents regained their momentum. This week's declaration by Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, that insurgents are as able to wreak havoc now as a year ago calls into question the credibility of his other assertion that the United States and the Iraqi people are "winning" this fight. More than 100,000 American troops patrol the nation and more than 100,000 Iraqi security forces have supposedly been trained, yet guerrillas show increasing coordination in their attacks. We'd hate to imagine what "losing" this fight would be like.” Editorial: “Our leaders, most notably Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who should have resigned after Abu Ghraib, have decided it is necessary to abandon 200 years of humane and enlightened legal principle to engage with an enemy that has thrown away the rule book. In doing so, we surrendered the moral high ground, to the dismay of our allies and the joy of our enemies. For the public, the pictures from Abu Ghraib, and the sickening descriptions of sexual humiliation, torture and murder were a scandal that challenged our deeply held view of ourselves and our role in the world. For our leaders, it was only a public relations problem, easily solved by the sacrifice of underlings. If in the belief that the ends justify the means we have lowered ourselves to the level of our enemies and become the evil we seek to defeat.” Editorial: “It is interesting to note that the Army, after careful consideration, found that there were no lieutenants, captains, majors, lieutenant colonels, colonels or others complicit in the maltreatment of prisoners. The mistreatment was conceived of and inflicted by privates, specialists and a sergeant, the Army concludes. One could be excused for wondering how the inspector general could reach this conclusion. An independent panel led by former Defense Secretary James Schlesinger earlier noted that Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, senior commander in Iraq during the time of the abuses, failed to ensure his staff was dealing with Abu Ghraib's problems. Another investigation found that Sanchez approved the harsh interrogation practices which led indirectly to some of these abuses.” Editorial: “The Bush administration is still stalling on supplying Levin with documents detailing who ultimately gave the orders to abuse detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. Thursday was the first anniversary of the release of the photos depicting the torture that Levin maintains was ordered from the top, Pentagon assertions to the contrary. Levin should keep after those documents. Levin's Iraq findings haven't generated the outrage they should. There's more than partisan ‘Gotcha!’ involved. Knowing where our intelligence community and policy makers failed is paramount to avoiding a repeat of the situation in Iraq. Recently, he asked Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to seek permission from the new Iraqi government to maintain a U.S. military presence in Iraq, so we no longer seem an occupying force.” Opinion: “Now, all these months later, it is Cheney who has been discredited. Just this week Charles A. Duelfer, the administration's chief Iraqi weapons hunter (head of the Iraq Survey Group), reported that U.N. sanctions and inspections had actually ‘dampened the regime's ability to retain its WMD expertise’ -- just as Blix and ElBaradei had maintained. Oops. But taking the nation to war for false reasons is not a minor blip. It is an unpardonable feat of hubris for which, on a daily basis, Americans die in Iraq. American voters, though, have been oddly forgiving (see the last election), and the Bush administration has neither apologized nor fired anyone for getting things so very, very wrong. The conclusion is inescapable: This was not a war for the wrong reason; this was a war for any reason.” Opinion: “Torture, of course, can occur anywhere. What matters—and what determines whether torture is a mere aberration or state policy—is how a government responds. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld recognized this when, shortly after the first public revelations, he ‘[Said] to the world: Judge us by our actions. Watch how Americans, watch how a democracy deals with wrongdoing and scandal and the pain of acknowledging and correcting our own mistakes and weaknesses.’ Then-Secretary of State Colin Powell recognized this, too, when he told foreign leaders: ‘Watch America. Watch how we deal with this. Watch how America will do the right thing.’ Regrettably, however, the United States is not doing the right thing. Rather, it is doing what authoritarian governments do the world over when their abuses are discovered—loudly proclaiming its respect for human rights while covering up and shifting blame downwards to low-ranking officials and ‘rogue actors.’ Ten investigations by the Pentagon have only looked down the chain of command, while prosecutions have targeted only those privates and sergeants directly involved in abuse. Just last week, the Army cleared Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the former senior U.S. commander in Iraq, of any wrongdoing. Yet just before the worst abuses at Abu Ghraib, Gen. Sanchez authorized interrogators to ‘exploit Arab fear of dogs.’ They did, and we know what happened.” Analysis:
Fitted together with this posture of waiting is a shift in military tactics in Iraq. General Richard Cody, the US Army's second ranking general, told New York Times reporter Eric Schmitt that "a shift from combat operations" to US "leadership" over Iraqi troops has been under way since the January 30 election. Babakr Badarkhan Ziabri, the Iraqi commanding general, told the Arabic-language paper Al-Zaman that US troops would withdraw into bases within six months, emerging only when Iraqi troops needed support, but avoiding offensive operations. While this military strategy could slow or halt the disintegration of the forces stationed there (and lessen the wear and tear on their dangerously fraying equipment), it has already proved quite detrimental for the "pacification" effort. In early April, for example, the Washington Post quoted US officials conceding that "many attacks have gone unchallenged by Iraqi forces in large areas of the country dominated by insurgents". At the same time, the Shi'ite resistance, led by young cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's forces, has re-emerged as a major force in many cities of the south. These new strategies, therefore, are likely in the long run to erode further the US military position and strengthen the resistance, and so may lead - as US president Richard Nixon's Vietnamization program did decades ago - to the increased use of US air power against resistance strongholds. Such a strategy would promise an intolerable rate of civilian casualties, as well as the devastation of homes and neighborhoods wherever the resistance is strong. This, in turn, would, of course, only heighten support for the guerrillas and increase pressure on US forces. The Bush administration is likely to find itself increasingly trapped, wound in an ever-tightening knot of failing policy and falling support, at the heart of which lies a decision about reconstituting a draft. How this will resolve itself will be one of the complex dramas of our time.
The Foxification of US - and global - media has a corollary: the Pentagon considers independent journalism an act of subversion. An investigation by the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders has reached the same conclusions. Most covering the war on Iraq remember how the Pentagon intentionally targeted the media-saturated Palestine Hotel in Baghdad on April 8, 2003, killing a Ukrainian and a Spanish journalist. Four months later, the US Army absolved itself from any possible mistake. Eason Jordan, a top CNN executive for more than a decade, was forced to resign after saying that the Pentagon targeted journalists in Iraq. As far as the Sgrena tragedy is concerned, Reporters Without Borders has called for a UN-led independent investigation - to no avail. Ann Cooper, executive director of the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), said, "We are deeply troubled by the reported disagreement between US and Italian officials." The CPJ calls for "a thorough and credible investigation to determine what happened, who is responsible, and what steps are being taken to prevent similar incidents from occurring again in the future". The CPJ has conclusively determined that at least nine journalists and two media workers have been killed by the US military in Iraq since March 2003. At least four journalists were killed at checkpoints. The Berlusconi government at first said the Pentagon had not been fully briefed on the Italian negotiations to liberate Sgrena. Then Gianfranco Fini, the Italian foreign minister, was forced to acknowledge "differences" between the US and Italian versions. Fini admitted that Calipari was issued US military passes and was in contact with the US military leadership. But he refused the possibility of an ambush as "nonsense". On the night of the shooting, according to Fini, the US military knew about the Toyota (the Pentagon says no) because it had been informed by the top local Italian liaison official, General Mario Marioli. But the military didn't know the car was carrying Sgrena, Fini said.
Casualty Reports Local story: New York Marine killed in Iraq. Local story: Pennsylvania soldier wounded in Iraq.


Wednesday, April 27, 2005

War News For Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Bring ‘em on: Two bodyguards killed and an Iraqi police Brig. Gen. wounded in attack by gunmen in Baghdad. One Iraqi soldier killed and three injured in bomb attack on joint US/Iraqi patrol in Samarra. Shiite cleric shot to death in Najaf. Coalition base attacked in Tikrit, four suspects detained by US troops.

Bring ‘em on: Iraqi guerillas claim to have killed two Iraqi Interior ministry officials and three of their bodyguards in a Baghdad ambush.

Bring ‘em on: Iraqi parliament member shot dead outside her Baghdad home, believed to be the first National Assembly member killed.

Bring ‘em on: Iraqi guerillas release video of kidnapped Romanian journalists, threatening to kill them if Romanian forces are not withdrawn from Iraq.

Bring ‘em on: Three Iraqi barbers shot dead when attackers sprayed their storefronts with gunfire in the al-Shaeb district of Baghdad. Police say this brings the total of assassinated barbers to nine.

Those pesky elusive WMDs: The U.S.-led group that scoured Iraq for weapons of mass destruction has found no evidence Iraq hid such weapons in Syria before the U.S. invasion in March 2003, according to a final report on the investigation.

The 1,700-member Iraq Survey Team, responsible for the weapons hunt, also said in a report released late on Monday it found no Iraqi officials with direct knowledge of a transfer of weapons of mass destruction developed by former President Saddam Hussein.

President Bush and other U.S. officials cited a grave threat posed by Iraq's chemical and biological weapons and Baghdad's efforts to acquire a nuclear arms capability as a justification for war. No such weapons were found but U.S. officials said it was possible Saddam sent them to Syria for safekeeping.

The report said the WMD investigation had gone as far as feasible and there was no reason to continue holding many of the Iraqis who had been detained in the process.

Speaking of which: Half of all Americans, exactly 50%, now say the Bush administration deliberately misled Americans about whether Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, the Gallup Organization reported this morning. "This is the highest percentage that Gallup has found on this measure since the question was first asked in late May 2003," the pollsters observed. "At that time, 31% said the administration deliberately misled Americans. This sentiment has gradually increased over time, to 39% in July 2003, 43% in January/February 2004, and 47% in October 2004." Also, according to the latest poll, more than half of Americans, 54%, disapprove of the way President Bush is handling the situation in Iraq, while 43% approve.

Those pesky elusive terrorists: U.S. forces in Iraq believe they just missed capturing most-wanted terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in a February raid that netted two of his associates, a senior U.S. military official said Tuesday.

The official, who discussed the operation on the condition of anonymity, could provide no details on how Zarqawi escaped. U.S. forces recovered a computer belonging to Zarqawi, the official said, although he did not say how it was obtained.

Troops with a covert military unit were reportedly in place to arrest him as he was on his way to Ramadi, but he caught wind of them, ABC News reported late Monday, citing an unidentified senior military official.

The official said that just before the meeting was scheduled, a car was pulled over as it approached a checkpoint. A pickup truck trailing the car then turned and headed in the opposite direction.

Officials believe Zarqawi was in the fleeing truck, but when U.S. teams pulled the vehicle over several miles later, he was not inside, ABC reported. The official told the network that Zarqawi apparently jumped out of the vehicle when it passed beneath an overpass and hid there before escaping.

Inside the truck, the official told ABC, U.S. troops found Zarqawi's computer and about $104,000.

Journalists: Five journalists have been arrested in the past two weeks in Iraq, which press freedom organisation Reporters Without Borders believes underlines a policy of "hasty and arbitrary" arrests and "disgraceful" treatment of journalists.

"We are very worried about the increase in arrests of local journalists, often without any evidence or for unknown reasons," said Reporters Sans Frontieres in a statement.

"We appeal to the Iraqi authorities to be more discerning and restrained, and not carry out hasty and arbitrary arrests."

The group said the employers and family members of arrested Iraqi journalists are often given no explanation for the arrests.

It is also concerned about Iraqi police brutality, and that the bailing of arrested reporters is being used as a form of extortion.

"The police have sometimes behaved in a completely unacceptable fashion, both in the beatings given to [Reuters cameraman Nabil Hussein] and two of his assistants, and in exorbitant bail requests that are tantamount to extortion."

The organisation has called on the Iraqi authorities to put an end to such "disgraceful practices" and to quickly produce evidence against the journalists or release them.

Police have not told Reuters what Hussein has been charged with since his April 24 arrest. His father was also arrested when he tried to visit his son.

Commandos: The 12,000-strong commandos, made up of former special forces from Saddam Hussein's military, have been battling in hot spots like Ramadi, Samarra and Mosul for months.

They have been lionised in a nightly television show called "Terrorists in the Grip of Justice" that shows confessions extracted from detainees.

But their strong-arm tactics have triggered a backlash from the election-winning Shiite alliance which is considering purging the division when it finally assumes the leadership of a new governing coalition.

The commandos have been dogged by torture allegations and at least one of their detainees in Samarra turned up dead last month.

The Pentagon Follies

We are definitely winning: The insurgency in Iraq is "about where it was a year ago," in terms of attacks, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said but he said American and Iraqi troops are gaining ground in the two-year-old conflict.

Gen. Richard Myers told reporters Tuesday that the number of insurgent attacks has run between 50 and 60 a day in the past week, up from a recent average of about 40 a day.

However, he said half of those attacks are ineffective, and the level remains "nowhere near" the volume of attacks ahead of Iraq's January elections. In addition, he said, Iraqis are more willing to come forward with intelligence about the insurgents, and Iraq's security forces are taking on more responsibility.

"Almost any indicator you look at, the trends are up. So we're definitely winning," he said. "However, there will be a lot of challenges ahead. Like any insurgency, we become impatient. And in the end, the Iraqis must do this for themselves."

There’s no change in the attack levels, but we are definitely winning: After a postelection respite, the pace of insurgent attacks in Iraq has increased in recent weeks to approach last year's levels, Pentagon officials said Tuesday.

"Where they are right now is where they were almost a year ago, and it's nowhere near the peak," said Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in a Pentagon press conference.

That's about 400 attacks a week of all kinds: bombings, shootings, rocket and mortar attacks, Pentagon officials said. About half cause significant damage or injure or kill someone.

Though they vary daily, those figures are close to the rate of attacks that took place through much of last year, except for spasms of violence in Najaf, Fallujah and elsewhere. In pre-election violence in January, the number spiked to twice the usual rate.

Ok, lemme see here, um…50 to 60 attacks a day, half of ‘em are “effective”, that is, “cause significant damage or injure or kill someone”…call it 25 a day, so slightly more than one an hour 24 hours a day, seven days a week for the last 365 days…so that comes out to 9,125 significant attacks in the last year, except these numbers are “nowhere near the peak” so let’s just be conservative and say that in the last year there were around 10,000 militarily significant attacks in Iraq and we note that the rate of attacks is not decreasing and this is in a country under full military occupation by the most powerful army in the world…

This indicates two things:

One, we here at Today in Iraq aren’t doing more than scratching the surface with our ‘Bring ‘em on’ entries.

And two, with all due respect, Gen. Myers, your head is so far up your ass that the light at the end of the tunnel you’re seeing is the reflection from your dentures.

More Highlights From Tuesday’s Press Conference

"In terms of the number of incidents, it's right about where it was a year ago," he said. "And weeks will differ, and months will differ a little bit. But if you look at the scope of this, over time since May of 2003, that's the conclusion you draw."

"Almost any indicator you look at, the trends are up. So we're definitely winning

"I think we're definitely winning. I think we've been winning for some time."

- General Richard Myers

"We're focusing a reasonable portion of our efforts at the present time not on counterinsurgency at all. We're focusing it on training Iraqi security forces in increasing amounts. So you can make a case that, gee, if the level's about the same, then the insurgency must be down because we're paying less attention to it and encouraging Iraqi security forces to pay greater attention."

"The United States and the coalition forces, in my personal view, will not be the thing that will defeat the insurgency. So therefore, winning or losing is not the issue for 'we', in my view, in the traditional, conventional context of using the word winning and losing in a war."

- SecDef Donald Rumsfeld

Iraqi Politics

All the cabinet positions are assigned except for the ones that aren’t and the ones where the people we chose won’t serve but it’s ok because we aren’t going tell you who’s in it anyway: Iraq’s Prime Minister-designate Ibrahim Jaafari handed President Jalal Talabani his proposed cabinet list Tuesday, state television reported, after nearly three months of protracted consultations which tested Washington’s patience. Jaafari also unveiled the list before a restricted meeting of his winning United Iraqi Alliance (UIA), said Iraqiya TV. But it was not immediately known when the Parliament would be asked to approve it. A senior member of the Shia-dominated alliance, Jawad Maliki, said “the government will be announced tonight, but no names will immediately be made public”. “There are still problems in deciding who will hold the oil and interior ministries,” he cautioned.

Three Sunni members of the UIA said Tuesday they were withdrawing from the list, which holds 146 seats in the 275-member parliament, for being too ‘sectarian’, Mudher Shawket, one of the three, said.

Discord persists: Bickering over different ministerial candidates threatened to delay the announcement of the new Iraqi government for another day, Shiite officials said Wednesday, in spite of intense U.S. pressure to end a crippling political stalemate.

Iraq's prime minister-designate has proposed appointing a broad-based 36-member Cabinet — including a deputy premier from each of Iraq's main Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish factions — but discord among the groups persisted.

Among the main points of contention was the winning Shiite alliance's opposition to some Sunni Arab candidates who they believe were former members of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party, which brutally repressed the majority Shiites and the Kurds.

Infighting within the majority-winning United Iraqi Alliance over who would be oil minister was also stalling progress, said Sami al-Askari, a Shiite lawmaker.

God help us if US leaders get any more active: Rising casualties, well-coordinated rebel attacks and the failure of Iraqi politicians to form a new government are pushing U.S. leaders toward a more active role in Iraqi politics. The recent surge in violence suggests a hands-off approach may not be enough and democracy in Iraq is still an open question.

The inability of rival factions to name a new transitional government has extended a leadership vacuum, played into the hands of an emboldened Iraqi insurgency and slowed momentum created by the Jan. 30 elections.

It has also clearly frustrated President Bush's national security team, despite the president's own repeated assertions that democracy didn't come overnight to the United States and can't be expected to flower quickly in Iraq.

Despite the increased U.S. pressure, Iraqi politicians failed again Monday to end the nearly three-month deadlock.

What the future holds for Iraq "is a remarkably open question" right now, said Anthony Cordesman, an Iraq expert with the Center for Strategic and International Studies. "It's particularly open when you remember that the administration went to war thinking that this whole period of stability operations and nation-building would last about three months."

The Global War On Terror

We need General Myers to tell us we're winning some more: The U.S. count of major world terrorist attacks more than tripled in 2004, a rise that may revive debate on whether the Bush administration is winning the war on terrorism, congressional aides said on Tuesday.

The number of "significant" international terrorist attacks rose to about 650 last year from about 175 in 2003, according to congressional aides briefed on the numbers by State Department and intelligence officials on Monday.

The State Department last year initially released erroneous figures that understated the attacks and casualties in 2003 and used the figures to argue that the Bush administration was prevailing in the war on terrorism.

It later said the number of people killed and injured in 2003 was more than double its original count and said "significant" terrorist attacks -- those that kill or seriously injure someone, cause more than $10,000 in damage or attempt to do either of those things -- rose to a 20-year high of 175.

The State Department last week unleashed a new debate about the numbers by saying it would no longer release them in its annual terrorism report but that the newly created National Counterterrorism Center that compiles the data would do so.

Italy Gets Bushwhacked

No wrongdoing: A U.S. military investigation has cleared American troops of any wrongdoing in the shooting death last month of an Italian security agent in Baghdad, according to a senior Pentagon official.

The agent's death strained relations between the United States and Italy, two stalwart allies in the Iraq war.

The U.S. soldiers involved will face no disciplinary actions, the Pentagon official said Monday.

Imbroglio: Tensions between the United States and Italy surged today, as Italian politicians and citizens reacted furiously to leaked reports in the Italian news media that a joint investigation into the shooting death of an Italian agent in Baghdad would absolve American soldiers of guilt in the incident.

The United States ambassador to Rome, Mel Sembler, met twice with Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and his top aide at the government headquarters to try to avert a crisis that could cost the United States one of its staunchest European allies in the Iraq conflict.

Mr. Berlusconi has kept 3,000 Italian troops in Iraq, even though Italy's involvement is wildly unpopular here. The news that the inquiry might absolve the American soldiers of all guilt comes at an extremely vulnerable moment for the beleaguered Mr. Berlusconi, who was forced to resign temporarily last week; he has since formed a new and tenuous coalition government.

The findings of the investigating team, which includes an Italian general and an Italian ambassador, have yet to be released. But, on Sunday and Monday, unidentified Army officials in the United States described some of its conclusions to reporters, setting off the current imbroglio.

An insult: Italian opposition parties branded a report that cleared U.S. soldiers of blame for the killing of an Italian agent in Iraq an insult Tuesday and urged the government to press for a fuller investigation.

A U.S. Army official, briefing reporters in Washington on the preliminary results of the investigation, said Monday that the soldiers had followed their rules of engagement and should therefore face no charges of dereliction of duty.

The probe was conducted jointly with the Italians but the Army official said Italy, a close ally in Iraq, had balked at endorsing the report. Rome disagreed with its findings on the car's speed and whether the Italians kept U.S. troops informed.

The Italian Foreign Ministry declined comment, saying the report was still not official.

Giuseppe Fioroni, a leader of the opposition center-left Margherita party, urged the government of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to demand full cooperation from the U.S. authorities to determine who was responsible for Calipari's killing.

"A one-sided conclusion absolving anyone of blame that the Italian side does not accept is an insult to the truth and to the memory of Nicola Calipari apart from being a serious act of arrogance toward Italy," Fioroni said in a statement.

A slap in the face: An Italian journalist who was held hostage in Iraq has criticised a US military report into the killing of the agent who helped secure her release.

Ms Sgrena described the conclusion of the leaked report as a "slap in the face".

"The greatest disappointment would be if our authorities were to accept this insult without reacting," Ms Sgrena wrote in a front page editorial in her newspaper, Il Manifesto.

"All the words said about Calipari would turn into hypocrisy... and Nicola would have been our government's hero, just for one day."

Inquiry continues: While US investigators have concluded that American soldiers who shot and killed an Italian intelligence officer at a Baghdad checkpoint followed instructions for dealing with potential threats, Italian government said the inquiry will continue.

According to Italian news reports, Italian officials disagreed with the US findings and were refusing to sign it. Ben Duffy, a US Embassy spokesman in Rome, said the United States was still hoping for a combined report.

In Rome, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, a US ally facing strong opposition at home to his decision to send troops to Iraq after the US-led invasion, assured Parliament yesterday that the investigation into the killing was not over.

Berlusconi apologized for what he called ''an unfortunate leak" suggesting that the investigation was completed. He spoke shortly after the US ambassador to Italy met with the premier's top aide to see if crucial differences over the investigation could be worked out.

Forensics: Prosecutors in Rome will begin inspecting a car pierced by gunfire in Iraq when American soldiers mistakenly killed an Italian intelligence agent at a Baghdad checkpoint last month.

The Toyota Corolla was flown aboard an Italian air force cargo plane from Baghdad to the Practica di Mare air base near Rome where the prosecutors will inspect it, a base spokesman, Capt. Diego Simondini, said today.

Analysis of the gunfire damage to the vehicle is expected to provide crucial information about how close the soldiers were to the car and from what angle they fired. Photos of the car shown on Italian TV show its side windows shattered and bullet holes on the side of the vehicle.

Checkpoint hell: The Sgrena case - or hit, as many Italians put it - has convulsed a country overwhelmingly against the war on Iraq, not only because of the tragic death of Calipari but because it has revealed in graphic detail to Italians and Europeans the grim reality faced by ordinary Iraqis, Sunni or Shi'ite. Iraqi civilians are now kidnapped by the hundreds. Iraqi civilians are routinely shot at by young, nervous American soldiers at checkpoints - as any correspondent who has covered Iraq knows so well. Iraqi civilian deaths are not even acknowledged by the Pentagon (remember Myers: "We don't do body counts").

Anybody who has covered the Iraq war has known - or has seen - checkpoint hell, where nervous American soldiers fire on anything that moves. The Toyota Corolla with Calipari and Sgrena was hit by only between eight and 10 rounds. Both Calipari and Sgrena were sitting in the back seat. Calipari was hit by a direct shot in the temple.

Ann Cooper, executive director of the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), said, "We are deeply troubled by the reported disagreement between US and Italian officials." The CPJ calls for "a thorough and credible investigation to determine what happened, who is responsible, and what steps are being taken to prevent similar incidents from occurring again in the future". The CPJ has conclusively determined that at least nine journalists and two media workers have been killed by the US military in Iraq since March 2003. At least four journalists were killed at checkpoints.

But Hey, Italians, Don’t Take It Personal

We also kill Bulgarians: The investigation into the death of Jr. Sgt. Bulgarian Gurdi Gurdev, who was killed in a friendly fire accident between Bulgarian and American troops in Iraq, is still on but there is no one to be blamed, General Fountain from the US commandment in Iraq said.

The Bulgarian soldier Gurdi Gurdev was killed accidentally by American forces in March when combat patrols from each country shot at each other in the dark in response to what each side thought was a hostile attack, the American military investigation has concluded. No Americans were held responsible for the shooting death, which a statement issued by the military headquarters in Baghdad called "a tragic accident." The statement said "no further investigation or administrative action is required."

And we’re not above popping the occasional Canadian: Foreign Affairs is investigating whether U.S. troops killed a Canadian on the weekend in Iraq.

A Foreign Affairs spokeswoman confirmed to the CBC on Tuesday that a Canadian, whom she did not identify, died on Saturday.

A source told Broadcast News that Ali Alwan may have died after U.S. forces "tracked" a target, using a helicopter gunship.

Oh, wait - by ESP we find the above cannot be true: The Foreign Affairs Department is investigating the death of a Canadian in Baghdad on Saturday, officials said yesterday.

Officials would not comment on a Canadian Press report that quoted an unidentified government source as saying Canada is investigating whether U.S. forces were involved in the death.

But a spokeswoman for the U.S. military in Baghdad said that she had checked with her headquarters and confirmed there was "no U.S. involvement in any attacks on Saturday involving a Canadian citizen."

And she knows this how? Do we check their passports before we shoot them? Or is it more like, “Hell, no, Sarge, none of these shredded body parts look Canadian to me.”

Filipinos beat feet: The United States said Wednesday it respects the Philippine government's bid to bring Filipino workers home from Iraq due to security concerns.

While Filipinos "play a crucial role in the allied effort to bring peace and democracy to a people who have been too long deprived of both," US officials also "recognize the government of the Philippines' concern for the welfare of its citizens," US embassy spokeswoman Karen Kelley said in a statement.

"This is understandable and we respect that position," she added.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo earlier this month asked Filipino workers in Iraq to leave that country immediately following the death of two Filipino drivers in suspected guerrilla attacks.

Our Pathetic Excuse For A Media

Kind of kept track: In their coverage of the death of Marla Ruzicka, an activist conducting a door-to-door survey of civilian casualties in Iraq who was killed by a suicide bomber on April 16, network news programs failed to note that her research apparently contradicts the Pentagon's repeated claims that it does not track civilian deaths.

News reports indicate that the Pentagon routinely claims it does not track civilian casualties for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The San Francisco Chronicle reported that "the United States adamantly refuses to estimate the number of people it kills in combat". The Washington Post reported that "Pentagon officials say they do not keep tallies of civilian casualties". Similarly, retired Gen. Tommy Franks, who led the U.S. military efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq, declared in March 2002: "We don't do body counts."

Yet other news reports suggest that the Pentagon does in fact track civilian casualties, a discrepancy that ABC and other media outlets failed to note in their coverage of Ruzicka's death.

CIVIC's website clearly states that Ruzicka's objective was to document civilian casualties and advocate for compensation for the families of innocent "victims of conflict." But neither the NBC nor CBS evening news broadcasts reported this mission, despite the fact that CIVIC's research prompted Congress to appropriate $2.5 million and $20 million for civilian victims in Afghanistan and Iraq, respectively, according to the Times.

NBC's only reference to the substance of Ruzicka's work was a clip of a friend, who said that "She kind of kept track of what happened to civilians, innocent civilians in the war."

More Creeping Stalinism

Sacrificing freedoms for a dubious security: It would be natural to expect that as president of an employee association that represents more than 1,000 federal air marshals, Frank Terreri would be a reasonably outspoken guy.

But since Mr. Terreri became the association's president two years ago, he has been effectively prohibited by the rules of the Federal Air Marshal Service from speaking in public about airline safety matters. He has never been quoted in a newspaper article or written letters to the editor or to members of Congress outside his district.

These limitations - based on a ban, imposed on all federal air marshals, on speaking about their work without explicit permission - set off a feud last year between Mr. Terreri and the marshal service, part of the Department of Homeland Security.

…the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit on Mr. Terreri's behalf in United States District Court in Riverside, Calif., claiming that the department was violating his free speech rights and jeopardizing public safety by preventing agents from serving as whistleblowers.

The case may end up serving as a test of restrictions imposed on workers throughout the Department of Homeland Security, whose rights to speak out publicly are often compromised, employee leaders say, because of excessive concern about the possibility that their comments might compromise public safety.

"They are abusing the power they have under the guise of national security," said Shawn Moran, vice president of National Border Patrol Council local in San Diego.

Supporting The Troops

Depending on volunteer brain surgeons, no joke: Faced with a shortage of neurosurgeons, the U.S. military's largest overseas hospital is becoming increasingly dependent on civilian doctors volunteering their time to treat troops who suffered severe brain and spinal injuries in Iraq.

Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, an Army-run hospital in southwestern Germany, began recruiting civilian neurosurgeons from the United States late last year after a rotation of active-duty physicians became stretched so thin that the hospital was left without coverage at times.

About 200 troops who had served in Iraq were admitted to Landstuhl's intensive care unit last year with severe brain or spinal injuries requiring neurosurgery, hospital officials said. While the vast majority were seen by U.S. military doctors, a handful had to be transferred to neighboring German hospitals for treatment.

"There's no question that neurosurgery is a critically short specialty in all the services," Cornum said. "But I have a commitment from my surgeon general to send people here. As long as they are high-quality people, it doesn't make much difference to us where they come from."

But at times - January 2004, for instance - the hospital has had no neurosurgeon on duty, said Col. Kory Cornum, who oversees the civilian volunteer program (and is married to the hospital commander). The month passed without any serious neurosurgery cases arriving from Iraq, but "we were one event downrange from being overwhelmed," he said.

Isn’t one enough?: John Pernaselli of Brighton is going through an especially difficult time as his oldest son, a soldier, arrives in Iraq exactly one year after youngest son died there.

On April 24, 2004, Michael Pernaselli was serving in the Navy when he was killed by a suicide bomber. On April 24, 2005, his brother, John, who is in the Army, landed there on a 6-to-8 week mission.


Analysis: The Washington Post reports today that the Army's inspector general has cleared several of the most senior officers involved with the Abu Ghraib scandal of any wrongdoing — let alone any conduct which might lead to a court-martial. I'm finding it very hard right now to square this result with the Army's leadership manual, FM 22-100.

In the Army's leadership schools for officers and sergeants, the doctrinal manual preaches quite a different result from the outcome of this investigation. Bottom line: commanders (and NCOs) are responsible for everything their unit(s) do or fail to do, period. A commander, especially a general officer, is not just responsible for those things he/she ordered, but for those things that he/she knew about — or should have known about. This is the essence of the mantle of command, as reflected in several passages of FM 22-100, the Army's field manual for leadership.

Today's news represents both an abandonment of this principle and the abdication of responsibility by the Defense Department and the Army. The question is not whether these officers actually directed the abuses or participated in them; rather, the question is how they acted as generals and leaders to facilitate the abuses, fail to prevent them, or fail to stop them. That is the standard to which commanders are held, and that is the standard which is not being enforced here today. I dare say that this story sends a staggeringly bad message to the soldiers and junior leaders now on the front lines: we will hold you, your sergeants and your lieutenants responsible for their actions, but we will not hold your colonels and generals responsible for theirs. It is hard to see how that message can possibly support the "good order and discipline" which is so essential for maintaining an effective fighting force.

(This brief set of excerpts barely does justice to the whole article. It’s certainly worth reading in its entirety.)

Blog: “For years Nuradeen Ghreeb has dreamed of bringing clean drinking water to his hometown. That town happens to be Halabja, where 17 years ago he and his parents cowered in a basement as Saddam Hussein's airplanes attacked with chemical weapons, killing at least 5,000 people.” ”But on Sunday, Mr. Nuradeen learned that his dream was over, because the United States had canceled the water project it had planned here as part of a vast effort to rebuild Iraq after the 2003 invasion. Ordinarily a quiet and reserved civil engineer, he sat on one of his beloved water pipes on hearing the news and wept, his tears glistening in the afternoon sun.”

Read that again. Take a deep breath and try to remain calm.

Because of the mess we created, we have to divert funds away from projects that were clearing up the mess that Saddam created. Because we didn't plan adequately for the aftermath of the war, and we let Iraq subsequently become a basket case - a honey pot for every yahoo with an AK-47 and a boner for his virgins - we can't now look after the people we said we were invading the country to save. Blair said yesterday: "I can't say I am sorry about it. I am not sorry about it. I think I did the right thing." That's did the right thing. Not doing the right thing. The line's been drawn. It's all in the past. Tony's moved on. Who speaks for Halabja now?

Comment: One thing is certain: the attack on Falluja has done nothing to still the insurgency against the US-British occupation nor produced the death of al-Zarqawi - any more than the invasion of Afghanistan achieved the capture or death of Osama bin Laden. Thousands of bereaved and homeless Falluja families have a new reason to hate the US and its allies.

Every time the prime minister claims it is time to "move on" from the issue of the war's legality and rejoice at Iraq's transformation since Saddam Hussein was toppled, the answer must be: "Remember Falluja." When the foreign secretary next visits Iraq, he should put on a flak jacket and tour the city that Britain had a share in destroying.

The government keeps hoping Iraq will go away as an election issue. It stubbornly refuses to do so. Voters are not only angry that the war was illegal, illegitimate and unnecessary. The treatment inflicted on Iraqis since the invasion by the US and Britain is equally important.

In the 1930s the Spanish city of Guernica became a symbol of wanton murder and destruction. In the 1990s Grozny was cruelly flattened by the Russians; it still lies in ruins. This decade's unforgettable monument to brutality and overkill is Falluja, a text-book case of how not to handle an insurgency, and a reminder that unpopular occupations will always degenerate into desperation and atrocity.

Casualty Reports

Local story: Nashau, NH, soldier who was killed in Ramadi interred.

Local story: Three Ohioans, two soldiers and one contractor, killed in Iraq.

Local story: Sioux City, IA, soldier killed in RPG attack in Baghdad.

Local story: Mount Pleasant, MI, Marine who was killed in Al-Anbar province honored.

Local story: Blasdell, NY, soldier killed near Baghdad.


Tuesday, April 26, 2005

The View From Inside The Bubble Vindication: Two years after his much-maligned "mission accomplished'' speech aboard the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln, President Bush and his foreign policy team are trumpeting developments in the Middle East as a vindication of his Iraq policy. The notion that the world is more peaceful as a result of the U.S. invasion, let alone that the mission was a success, is far from universally accepted. In the two years since Bush declared an end to "major combat operations,'' thousands of Iraqis and nearly 1,500 Americans have been killed; U.S. taxpayers have spent more than $200 billion to secure the peace; troops discovered no weapons of mass destruction, which was the principal reason stated by Bush to justify the attack; and a majority of Americans now say they disapprove of the president's handling of Iraq. Yet the perception by critics that the mission is unproductive, or a debacle, shows no sign of resonating at the White House, where, quite to the contrary, it is evident that Bush feels emboldened by the past two years' experience. Meanwhile, In The Real World: War News For Tuesday, April 26, 2005 Bring ‘em on: At least 16 people killed and 57 wounded in double bombing in Baghdad’s al-Shu’lah neighborhood. At least six killed and 26 wounded in double bombing at Iraqi police academy in Tikrit. Three insurgents killed in premature detonation of a roadside bomb in Mahawil. One US sailor killed in combat operations in Fallujah. Seven Interior Ministry commandos wounded in mortar attack in the al-Baiya neighborhood of Baghdad. One AP cameraman killed and an AP photographer wounded in a crossfire between guerillas and US forces in Mosul. Nine Iraqi soldiers killed and 20 wounded in roadside bombing near Abu Ghraib. One Iraqi contractor working for the US military shot to death in Baghdad’s Jami’a neighborhood. (Note: This entry includes some attacks previously reported in posts on Sunday and Monday, but with additional information or changes in casualty counts.) Bring ‘em on: One Jordanian businessman and six Sudanese drivers working for the US military abducted by militants. Bring ‘em on: The toll from Sunday’s two double bombings in Baghdad and Tikrit has risen to 24 dead and 58 wounded. Bring ‘em on: Oil pumps blown up near Kirkuk. Desertions: Iraqi army and police units are deserting their posts after the recent escalation in insurgent attacks, according to reports from around the country yesterday. The end of a relative period of calm after the election has posed the first real test for the embryonic security forces since coalition troops started cutting back on their military operations in February. On average 20 Iraqis and two coalition soldiers have died every day this month. We never thought they were right to begin with: Just a few weeks after US military officials optimistically predicted that the Iraq insurgency was 'fizzling' because the number of attacks per day was down, many of those same officials now believe they were wrong, and that the insurgency is strengthening again. More troublesome is that these same military experts also believe that the insurgents "are making inroads toward sparking a full-blown sectarian war," and that it may not be possible for the US to reduce its troop strength as quickly as some recent Defense Department statements have indicated. The Wall Street Journal reported last Thursday that internal US Army analysis, written for US troops going to Iraq to prepare them for the kind of dangers they will face, concludes that the number of attacks in recent months haven't lessened very much, but have shifted away from US troops to attacks on Iraqi civilians. The Washington Post reports that many of the attacks have gone unchallenged by the Iraqi forces, particularly in areas of the country largely controlled by insurgents. US officials are also privately saying that "violence is getting much worse." Airport road: Samson has been delivering supplies to US military bases for a year. It's a good business that sends him to Baghdad International Airport daily. He reads Psalm 91 before every trip. He prays because the four-lane, six-mile stretch of road leading from central Baghdad to the country's main airport remains one of the most dangerous stretches of highway in Iraq, if not the world. It functions as a critical supply line into and out of the country, traversed daily by US military convoys as well as Iraqi and foreign businessmen, journalists, and aid workers. So why is this vital strip of concrete, which takes only minutes to travel, still so difficult to protect? Irreplaceable: It is two years since looters ravaged one of the world's most important museums, in central Baghdad. Saddam Hussein's power had collapsed and the newly arrived US-led coalition forces were unable to prevent a crime against history. Professional smugglers connected to the international antiquities mafia managed to break some of the sealed doors of the Baghdad Museum storage rooms. They looted priceless artifacts such as the museum's entire collection of cylindrical seals and large numbers of Assyrian ivory carvings. More than 15,000 objects were taken. Many were smuggled out of Iraq and offered for sale. There will be no end to the destruction of Iraq's heritage, unless the country's leaders take a political decision to consider archaeology a priority. For this, the ring of dealers in Baghdad has to be seized, looting in the south has to be effectively confronted and coalition forces have to be prevented from setting up base on archaeological sites. The longer Iraq finds itself in a state of war, the more the cradle of civilization is threatened. It may not even last long enough for our grandchildren to learn from. And all for lies: In his final word, the CIA's top weapons inspector in Iraq said Monday that the hunt for weapons of mass destruction has "gone as far as feasible" and has found nothing, closing an investigation into the purported programs of Saddam Hussein that were used to justify the 2003 invasion. "After more than 18 months, the WMD investigation and debriefing of the WMD-related detainees has been exhausted," wrote Charles Duelfer, head of the Iraq Survey Group, in an addendum to the final report he issued last fall. "As matters now stand, the WMD investigation has gone as far as feasible." In 92 pages posted online Monday evening, Duelfer provides a final look at an investigation that occupied over 1,000 military and civilian translators, weapons specialists and other experts at its peak. His latest addenda conclude a roughly 1,500-page report released last fall. Iraqi Politics White House pressure: Worried about a political deadlock in Iraq and a spike in mayhem from an emboldened insurgency, the Bush administration has pressed Iraqi leaders in recent days to end their stalemate over forming a new government, with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Vice President Dick Cheney personally exhorting top Kurdish and Shiite politicians to come together. The White House pressure, reported by Iraqi officials in Baghdad and an American official in Washington on Sunday, was a change in the administration's hands-off approach to Iraqi politics. The change was disclosed as insurgents unleashed a devastating technique, with twin double bombings at a police academy in Tikrit and an ice cream parlor in a Shiite neighborhood of Baghdad that killed 21 and wounded scores more. The impact of the White House pressure was unclear. On Sunday, Shiite leaders once again predicted they were on the verge of announcing their new government, perhaps as soon as Monday. Similar predictions have been proved wrong several times in recent weeks. Momentum sapped: The protracted delay in forming an Iraqi government is imperiling the appointment of its prime minister, providing a new impetus for the insurgency and fanning renewed suspicion of the U.S. role here, Iraqi and Western observers say. Doubts are growing that the government, once formed, will have time to complete the constitution-writing process — its principal task — by the mid-August deadline. Almost three months since lawmakers were chosen in the landmark Jan. 30 election, they have yet to agree on the composition of a government. The transitional National Assembly has held several meetings but, stymied by ethnic, religious and political divides, has yet to set its bylaws or begin discussing the constitution. The violence may well have surged even if a government had been in office. U.S. commanders say that peaks and troughs in attacks have characterized the 2-year-old insurgency. And there is a growing consensus that the insurgents will not be defeated for years. But on the streets and in the halls of power, Iraqis believe that the pro-democracy momentum of Jan. 30, when millions defied guerrilla threats and proudly displayed their ink-stained fingers after voting, has been sapped as negotiations for top posts have dragged on. One little step: Senior members of the Shia coalition with a majority in Iraq's parliament said yesterday they had agreed to have a Sunni Arab in the key post of defence minister. The decision follows weeks of political negotiations in which various Kurdish, Shia and Sunni parties that competed in elections in January have fought for representation in the new - and much delayed - government. Giving the defence post to a Sunni Arab is thought to satisfy one of their central demands. Sunni dominated the military and the ruling Ba'ath party under the regime of Saddam Hussein and now make up the bulk of Iraq's insurgents. It may be a step towards a long-sought political solution to the two-year guerrilla war. However, in a sign that the negotiations could be far from over, Mishaan al-Jaburi, a Sunni Arab legislator, said that while an agreement had been reached on the defence portfolio, there was still dispute over the number of cabinet posts allocated to Sunni Arabs. No Baathists: Sunni Muslim politicians have dropped their demand to include former members of Saddam Hussein’s party in Iraq’s new cabinet in a bid to get more ministries. As leaders of Iraq’s main Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish factions continued their backroom wheeling and dealing, Prime Minister-designate Ibrahim al-Jaafari again put off his long-promised Cabinet announcement. Alliance members, who control 148 seats in the 275-member National Assembly, have refuse to give any top posts to members of the party that carried out Saddam’s brutal suppression of the Shiites and Kurds. The issue is just one of many obstacles that have bogged down negotiations since the January 30 parliamentary elections. Further complicating negotiations, a rival Sunni coalition entered the fray yesterday, saying it too should have a place in the Cabinet. The Council of Arab and Sunni Negotiators and the National Dialogue Council both include groups that boycotted the elections and could help open talks with insurgents. Supporting The Troops Noncombat duty: When Dustin W. Peters, an Air Force supply technician, arrived in Kuwait in January 2004, all he and his fellow airmen knew was that they would be supporting US troops in Iraq. But when their unit received its assignment, they recalled, they were stunned: They would be protecting supply convoys traveling along Iraq's violent roadways. Peters, 25, was killed last summer when his Humvee was struck by a roadside bomb near the town of Bayji, placing him among at least 13 Air Force and Navy members to die in Iraq while on assignments that were different from what they signed up for -- and with far less training than military personnel who usually performed those missions, according to a Globe analysis of Pentagon statistics. At least 3,000 Navy and Air Force personnel such as Peters -- trained mainly in noncombat specialties such as mechanics and construction -- are serving on the front lines of the Iraqi insurgency. The Iraq war is the first military engagement in which such large numbers of air and naval personnel are serving in combat roles on the ground, facing imminent threat of attack. Most of them have received only crash courses in basic combat, in some cases after they've arrived in the Middle East and then been stationed near the front lines because of shortages of troops in the Army and Marine Corps. Though technically defined as support units, their jobs -- guarding convoys and oil facilities, or defusing bombs under fire -- bear little resemblance to traditional ''noncombat" duty in the safety of a base. This is so revolting: Monday, the Supreme Court refused to review whether Iraq should be held accountable for torturing U.S. prisoners of war during the first Gulf War. A group of 17 active and retired U.S. service members who were captured and abused by Iraqi forces during the first Gulf War filed suit against the Republic of Iraq in May 2002. In May 2003, after the fall of the Saddam Hussein regime, the president issued a determination that Iraq would no longer suffer sanctions under U.S. law as a terrorist state. The determination affected the statute under which the POW suit was filed. Two months later, a federal judge in Washington took jurisdiction in the suit and ruled against Iraq after that country's representatives failed to show up for trial. Total judgment for the former POWs and their families was $959 million. The Bush administration then filed to intervene, saying the presidential determination made the law -- under which the suit was filed -- inapplicable to Iraq. A federal appeals court eventually struck down the judge's verdict and dismissed the suit. The justices rejected the case without comment in a one-line order. American Moral Values A wall of impunity: Human Rights Watch's latest report on the use of torture in Abu Ghraib, Guantánamo and elsewhere claims "a wall of impunity surrounds the architects of the policies responsible for the larger pattern of abuses." The only way to penetrate that wall is for Congress to name a special prosecutor to investigate the culpability of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and ex-CIA Director George Tenet in cases of detainee torture and abuse. Great idea, won’t happen: Human rights groups expressed dismay yesterday over the Army's findings exonerating U.S. generals of prisoner abuse in Iraq, and renewed requests for an independent probe to examine the culpability of senior military and civilian defense officials. In a report released yesterday, the New York-based Human Rights Watch called on U.S. Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the roles of all U.S. officials "who participated in, ordered, or had command responsibility for war crimes or torture." Human Rights Watch also asked Congress to launch an independent and bipartisan probe -- similar to that of the 9/11 commission -- to investigate the roles of senior leaders in abuse, including President Bush, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and former CIA director George J. Tenet. But do they care?: Many adults in the United States think troops may have inflicted pain as a means of coercion during the military campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to a poll by Harris Interactive. 66 per cent of respondents believe that prisoners captured in either country have been tortured by Americans. 30 different prisons but Sanchez knew nothing: Ali al-Shalal, nicknamed “clawman” by his US guards, said they attached electrodes to his body and tortured him at the height of the abuse scandal at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison. And he describes going through the same agony as a man in an infamous photo of a black-hooded prisoner, dressed like the grim reaper, humiliated and standing on a crate, with wires running from his body that captured the spirit of sadism in the US-run detention centre. A year after the revelations of rampant sexual and physical abuse leaked to the media, the 42-year-old Shalal has rebuilt his life, fighting for those abused in Iraq’s US-run prisons. But he is haunted by his own memories from the autumn of 2003 in the notorious prison on Baghdad’s western outskirts. “I consider speaking out part of a peaceful jihad (holy war),” says Shalal, a big man, with a touch of grey to his hair. Shalal responded to his ordeal by forming a prisoners’ rights group and joining a class action law suit in the United States against translation firms CACI International and Titan Corp, whose representatives were allegedly involved in the notorious actions at the prison facility, once dreaded as the main execution ground of Saddam Hussein’s regime. The senior commander of the US military in Iraq at the time of the scandal, Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, was cleared Friday of any wrongdoing by a US military probe. One Philadelphia-based attorney, Susan Burke, said the class-action suit, so far counts 120 former detainees, and spans incidents in some 30 prisons across Iraq. Italy Loyalty’s reward: A U.S. military investigation has cleared American troops of any wrongdoing in the shooting death last month of an Italian security agent in Baghdad, according to a senior Pentagon official. The agent's death strained relations between the United States and Italy, two stalwart allies in the Iraq war. The U.S. soldiers involved will face no disciplinary actions, the Pentagon official said Monday. News reports in Italy said officials there do not agree with the findings, the AP reported. Britain Wow, an opposition with a backbone - where could we get one?: Tony Blair was at the centre of a fresh row last night over the legality of the war in Iraq, as a new report claimed the Prime Minister was warned that the conflict breached international law. As opposition politicians and senior Labour figures intensified pressure on Mr Blair to publish in full the advice given by the Attorney General, the issue of the war in Iraq was propelled to the centre stage of the election campaign after a Sunday newspaper alleged that he was told the military action could be ruled illegal. Today's Mail on Sunday claims to list six "caveats" that were stripped from a summary of the advice published 10 days later on the eve of a crucial parliamentary debate on the war. They reportedly included warnings that only the United Nations could judge whether Saddam Hussein had defied its order to disarm and that Mr Blair could not rely on the American position that the war was legal. They'll even call a lie a lie!: Prime Minister Tony Blair has come under renewed pressure from his election rivals over the war in Iraq. Tory leader Michael Howard has accused him of lying about the conflict. Charles Kennedy says he must publish the attorney general's full legal advice on the war - after a newspaper claimed a memo raised legal concerns. The Lib Dem leader said the election could be a "referendum" on the decision to go to war. But Mr Blair insists the conflict was right and legal.==Speaking on Breakfast with Frost, Mr Howard said. "The intelligence that he had, as we know from the Butler report... was limited sporadic and patchy. "When Mr Blair came to report that to the country, he said he had intelligence that was extensive, detailed and authoritative. "Maybe you can reconcile those two different sets of words. I can't. I think that portraying the intelligence in that way was untrue." Romania Split: Romanians are split on whether to pull their troops out of Iraq, a demand of kidnappers holding three Romanian journalists there, a survey showed on Sunday. While 40 percent think the soldiers should go home, 42 percent think they should stay in Iraq, according to the poll by independent polling agency INSOMAR. The survey was carried out before Friday's threat by militants to kill the hostages unless Romania pulled out its soldiers within four days. Our Creeping Stalinism You paid for it but you can't see it: Federal agencies under the Bush administration are sweeping vast amounts of public information behind a curtain of secrecy in the name of fighting terrorism, using 50 to 60 loosely defined security designations that can be imposed by officials as low-ranking as government clerks. No one is tracking the amount of unclassified information that is no longer accessible. The public instead is losing access to large amounts of less-risky information through terms such as ''For Official Use Only," ''Sensitive But Unclassified," ''Not for Public Dissemination," and what Congress has estimated as 50 to 60 other designations developed by federal agencies to keep the public from seeing unclassified information. Although some of these secrecy terms predate the Bush administration, advocates of open government say their use has grown sharply over the past four years. Precise numbers of documents being shielded are unknown because the administration keeps no records. And there are only vague standards governing the types of documents that can be made secret. Florida leads the way, again: Everyone at Defense Tech HQ did a little hat dance after we heard about the demise of MATRIX, the far-flung, state-run, terrorist-profiling database. But it looks like we danced too soon. Officials in Florida -- who helped run the original data-mining effort -- have put out a call for information for MATRIX II, Defense Tech pal Ryan Singel reports in today's Wired News. And the sequel looks even more invasive than the original Multistate Anti-Terrorism Information Exchange. That system "allowed law enforcement to search a centralized database populated with records collected by states -- including criminal history, driver's license photos, property deeds and fishing licenses -- and billions of commercial data records," Ryan writes. To that, MATRIX II's architects would like to see insurance and financial information added. That's a giant red flag. Came as a surprise: The National Security Agency, which eavesdrops on electronic communications around the world, receives thousands of requests each year from U.S. government officials seeking the names of Americans who show up in intercepted calls or e-mails — and complies in the vast majority of cases without challenging the basis for the requests, current and former intelligence officials said. The volume of requests and the NSA's almost reflexive practice of disclosing Americans' identities — which under federal law are shielded unless there is a compelling intelligence reason for releasing a name — have come as a surprise even to some members of Congress and government officials deeply involved in intelligence matters. "Significantly more than half" of the requests come from the CIA and other agencies in the U.S. intelligence community, the official said. The FBI and law enforcement agencies account for a tiny fraction of the total, while the rest come from policymakers such as Bolton and officials in other agencies. The NSA declined to answer questions about the scope of the practice, refusing to say how many requests it fields, what percentage are granted or which agencies account for the largest number. Slightly OT Item #58398345934 in the annals of Republican hypocrisy: File this under, priceless. Senator Isakson R-GA) on the floor of the United States Senate extolling the virtues of the filibuster to protect the rights of the minority from being overrun by the majority. "Don't you fear that the Shi'ites inevitably being in the majority, that you will be overrun? And he says, 'oh no, we have a secret weapon.' Mr. President, this is a Kurdish leader, in the middle of Iraq in the 21st century who said he had a secret weapon. And when asked what it was, he said one word, 'filibuster'" [...] "It is one of their minority leaders, proudly stating one of the pillars and principles of our government, as the way they would ensure that the majority never overran the minority." Commentary Opinion: A new State Department report to Congress earlier this month cited the "poor performance" in Iraq of the Kellogg, Brown & Root subsidiary of the Texas-based firm Halliburton. The Department of Defense had previously questioned $212 million of $1.69 billion in charges that KBR submitted for payment for fuel imports into Iraq in 2003 and 2004. The poor performance this time involved major cost overruns on a $1.2 billion KBR contract to repair Iraq's southern oil fields. Last week Vice President Dick Cheney, chairman of the board and chief executive officer of Halliburton for the five years preceding his election, released his 2004 tax return. It showed $194,852 in deferred compensation for Mr. Cheney from Halliburton, only slightly less than the $203,000 he earned as vice president. No one is asking Mr. Cheney to take his $194,852 from Halliburton and give it to the poor. At the same time, the coincidence of a company that pays the vice president a lot of money each year while chiseling on U.S. government contracts isn't exactly complimentary - to him or to Halliburton. Personal story: In November 2003, my Guard unit was called up and I was deployed to Camp Anaconda, north of Baghdad. During my first R & R break, in June 2004, I flew to Miami, where I boarded a charter flight to Cuba. There was a special urgency about this visit. I was serving in a war zone, where U.S. troops were being attacked and killed almost every day. But I was not allowed to fly to Havana. The Bush administration had recently announced its intention to severely limit travel to Cuba, even for family visits, to once every three years. Even though I arrived in Miami two days before the travel restrictions went into effect on June 30, the charter company said it was not allowed to take any more passengers to Cuba. The calculations behind the travel restriction were simple. While U.S. troops were trying to bring democracy to Iraq, President Bush was trying to ensure his reelection by catering to a small but politically powerful group of anti-Castro extremists who demand complete isolation of Cuba as the price of their support. Bush met their demands, but it is average Cubans, and families like mine, that have paid the price. Editorial: No matter what else George W. Bush does in office, historians will define his presidency primarily by his Global War On Terror, initiated after the terrorist attacks of September 11. Yet the Bush administration is trying to hide important data that might very well lead historians and the American public to conclude that the GWOT has been disastrous for U.S. and global security. Since the Iraq war went south, mainstream U.S. media feel safe in prominently displaying some of the unpleasant facts about that conflict—for example, allegations that the Bush administration pressured intelligence agencies to exaggerate Iraq’s efforts to acquire weapons of mass destruction. Yet the searing effect of 9/11 still makes the press leery of criticizing similar administration pressure on intelligence analysts to hide the apparent failure of the GWOT. Such media skittishness is reminiscent of their behavior prior to the Iraq invasion, when it was impolitic to question the administration’s march to war. The media buried in its back pages a declassified CIA report indicating that Saddam Hussein was unlikely to use any weapons of mass destruction against the United States or give them to terrorists unless backed against the wall during a U.S. invasion. Apparently, the nation’s leading intelligence agency destroying the main rationale for its boss’s misguided and aggressive policy wasn’t headline news. Alas, the same is now occurring with data indicating that the administration’s grandiose GWOT may very well be counterproductive. If the U.S. news media weren’t so timid about covering such explosive facts, perhaps the American public would just say “no” to government policies that endanger Americans and other people everywhere. Opinion: Spring has come again 30 times since the last April agonies of the Republic of South Vietnam. None of us who were there in that final collapse are likely to forget it: The seemingly endless columns of refugees snaking ever southward, the infectious fear that ran through the streets of Saigon, the sudden suicides, some of them in public places, the rumors and pathetic false hopes that some kind of deal would be made, that the Communists would not come after all. The American armed forces had already left in the summer of '73. There was supposed to have been peace. But peace did not come, and 30 years of American policy was going up in smoke before our eyes. Today, 30 years on, we are embarked in another military action. Like Vietnam, the war in Iraq began with a falsehood. The Tonkin Gulf incident, the alleged firing upon American ships, turned out to be as bogus as weapons of mass destruction and Al Qaeda links would be in the present war. And in this war as it was then, there were towns that had to be destroyed in order to save them. Back then another powerful secretary of defense, Robert McNamara, succumbed to hubris, and would later admit he knew nothing of the land of his adversary. He was warned, of course, but chose not to listen as Donald Rumsfeld refused to listen when he was offered advice by experts whom he thought to be ideologically wanting. We cannot foresee the end of the Iraq war, but the real trouble will come, as it did in Vietnam, after American troops have left. In reality we have invaded three countries in Iraq, and war between factions would demolish all our hopes. The Kurds see us now as liberators, but will not wish to be thwarted in their hard-won autonomy. The Sunnis will probably never be reconciled to what the United States wants for them, and that leaves the Shia who will tolerate us as long as power is within their grasp, but not for long afterwards. The democracy we seek to impose may not be to our liking as the forces of militant Islam may yet win out in the end. Bob Herbert: In a horrifying incident that occurred in the spring of 2003, an Iraqi woman threw two of her children, an infant and a toddler, out the window of a car that had been hit accidentally in an American rocket attack. The woman and the rest of her family perished in the black smoke and flames of the wreckage. The toddler, whose name was Zahraa, was severely burned. She died two weeks later. The infant, named Harah, was not badly hurt. She was photographed recently on the lap of Marla Ruzicka, a young humanitarian-aid worker from California who was herself killed a little over a week ago in the flaming wreckage of a car that was destroyed in a suicide bomb attack in Baghdad. The vast amount of suffering and death endured by civilians as a result of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq has, for the most part, been carefully kept out of the consciousness of the average American. I can't think of anything the Bush administration would like to talk about less. You can't put a positive spin on dead children. There's been hardly any media interest in the unrelieved agony of tens of thousands of innocent civilians in Iraq. It's an ugly subject, and the idea has taken hold that Americans need to be protected from stories or images of the war that might be disturbing. As a nation we can wage war, but we don't want the public to be too upset by it. So the public doesn't even hear about the American bombs that fall mistakenly on the homes of innocent civilians, wiping out entire families. We hear very little about the frequent instances of jittery soldiers opening fire indiscriminately, killing and wounding men, women and children who were never a threat in the first place. We don't hear much about the many children who, for one reason or another, are shot, burned or blown to eternity by our forces in the name of peace and freedom. Out of sight, out of mind. Casualty Reports Local story: Long Beach, CA, soldier killed in Mosul. Local story: Nevada, IA, contractor killed in helicopter crash in Iraq. Local story: Portland, OR, sailor killed in Fallujah. Local story: South Amherst, OH, Marine seriously injured while clearing unexploded mortar shells in an area northwest of Baghdad. Local story: Willards, MD, Marine killed in nonhostile incident in Karmah. Local story: Swarz Creek, MI, soldier killed in Iraq.


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