Friday, September 30, 2005

War News for Friday, September 30, 2005 Bring 'em on: Seven Iraqis killed, 30 wounded by car bomb in Hilla. Bring 'em on: Sixty-five Iraqis killed, 80 wounded by three car bombs in Balad. Bring 'em on: Five US soldiers killed by roadside bomb near Ramadi. Bring 'em on: Two Iraqi policemen killed, three wounded in Baghdad ambush. Bring 'em on: Suicide bomber captured in Baghdad. Bring 'em on: Anglican Church leaders in Iraq kidnapped, feared dead. Bring 'em on: Car bomb detonates at US installation in al Makhaweel. Bring 'em on: Four Iraqi policemen killed, one wounded in ambush near Basra. Bring 'em on: One Iraqi killed in mortar attack on Balad checkpoint. One battalion. "The Iraqi military has only one battalion — about 500-600 soldiers — capable of fighting on its own, U.S. commanders told lawmakers Thursday. Many Iraqi police are not being paid, and insurgents are infiltrating Iraqi police and military forces, the commanders acknowledged. Even so, Gen. George Casey, the top U.S. general in Iraq, said U.S. troops could start leaving next year if Iraqi voters back a proposed constitution and form a government." But clueless Lieutenant AWOL says: "The growing size and increasing capability of the Iraqi security forces are helping our coalition address a challenge we have faced since the beginning of the war. And General Casey discussed this with us in the Oval Office. See, it used to be after we cleared the terrorists out of a city, there wasn’t enough qualified Iraqi troops to maintain control — so when we left to conduct other missions, the terrorists would move back in. Now, the increasing number of more capable Iraqi troops has allowed us to better hold on to the cities we have taken from the terrorists. The Iraqi troops know their people, they know their language, and they know who the terrorists are. By leaving Iraqi units in the cities we’ve cleared out, we can keep the cities safe while we move on to hunt down the terrorists in other parts of the country." Support the troops! "Nearly a year after Congress demanded action, the Pentagon has still failed to figure out a way to reimburse soldiers for body armor and equipment they purchased to better protect themselves while serving in Iraq. Soldiers and their parents are still spending hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars for armor they say the military won’t provide. One U.S. senator said Wednesday he will try again to force the Pentagon to obey the reimbursement law it opposed from the outset and has so far not implemented. Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., said he will offer amendments to the defense appropriations bill working its way through Congress, to take the funding issue out of the hands of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and give control to military unit commanders in the field. 'Rumsfeld is violating the law,' Dodd said in an interview with The Associated Press. 'It’s been sitting on the books for over a year. They were opposed to it. It was insulting to them. I’m sorry that’s how they felt.'" Baloney. "Asked whether the insurgency has worsened, Casey said it has not expanded geographically or numerically, 'to the extent we can know that.' But he noted that current "levels of violence are above norms,' exceeding 500 attacks a week. 'I'll tell you that levels of violence are a lagging indicator of success,' he added. 'And what's really important is the fact that the Iraqis are at 98 percent registered to participate in the referendum, in the elections.'" Former Iraqi generals sound off. "It was meant to be a moment of reconciliation between the old regime and the new, a gathering of nearly 1,000 former Iraqi army officers and tribal leaders in Baghdad to voice their concerns over today's Iraq. But it did not go as planned. General after general rose to his feet and raised his voice to shout at the way Iraq was being run and to express his fear of escalating war. "They were fools to break up our great army and form an army of thieves and criminals," said one senior officer. "They are traitors," added another. The sense of hatred felt by these influential men, mostly Sunni Arabs, towards the new order installed by the US since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003 is palpable and it bodes ill for Iraq. The country is entering a critical political period that will see a deeply divisive referendum on the constitution on 15 October, the trial of Saddam four days later and an election for the National Assembly on 15 December. The Sunnis fear the constitution means the break up of Iraq and their own marginalisation." Rendition. "Italian authorities have ordered the arrests of a former U.S. Embassy official here and two other people in connection with a "rendition" case in which CIA operatives allegedly kidnapped a radical Muslim cleric from Milan and flew him to Egypt, where, he has said, he was tortured. The new arrest warrants bring to 22 the number of people sought on suspicion of planning and executing the plot and apparently are the first direct connection to the U.S. Embassy in Rome. U.S. intelligence officials in Washington, though refusing to acknowledge the operation publicly, have sought to portray it as conducted by the spy-world equivalent of contractors." Whitewash. "The conduct of U.S. troops in Iraq, including increasing detention and accidental shootings of journalists, is preventing full coverage of the war reaching the American public, Reuters said on Wednesday. In a letter to Virginia Republican Sen. John Warner, head of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Reuters said U.S. forces were limiting the ability of independent journalists to operate. The letter from Reuters Global Managing Editor David Schlesinger called on Warner to raise widespread media concerns about the conduct of U.S. troops with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who is due to testify to the committee on Thursday." Another whitewash. "An Army inquiry has found no evidence to prove that American military personnel sent graphic photographs of Iraqi war dead to an Internet site in exchange for online pornography, Army officials said Wednesday." That was the fastest investigation I've ever seen. Commentary Analysis:
If the referendum on Iraq's draft constitution next month is conducted fairly, it now appears very likely that the document will be defeated by a two-thirds majority in the three Sunni-dominated provinces of Anbar, Salahadeen and Nineveh, plunging Iraq into a new political crisis. However, one way such a defeat could be averted is by massive vote fraud in the key province of Nineveh. According to an account provided by the US liaison with the local election commission, supported by physical evidence collected by the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq (IECI), Kurdish officials in Nineveh province tried to carry out just such a ballot-stuffing scheme in last January's election.
We've been treated to the spectacle of a Republican-controlled House and Senate abdicating their constitutional responsibility to conduct rigorous oversight of actions and failings of the executive branch of government. This has gone on for the four-plus years that George W. Bush has occupied the White House, and it looks as if we'll get more of the same for three more years and a bit. There have been 17 separate investigations of Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo and other prisoner abuse scandals. All have gone straight to the bottom of every case. All have consistently claimed that no one higher up the chain of command, including the civilian leadership in the Pentagon, bears any responsibility for any of this. Hogwash. BS. Nonsense. If the lowest private fails, then others have failed in training, leading and directing that private. The chain runs from sergeant to lieutenant to captain to lieutenant colonel to colonel to one, two, three and four stars, on to the longest serving, most arrogant secretary of defense in our history, Donald H. Rumsfeld, and beyond him to the commander in chief, President Bush. It's long past time for responsibility to begin flowing uphill in this administration. It's time for our leaders to take responsibility for what's being done in all our names and under our proud flag. It's time for Congress to do its job if the administration won't do its job. The Teflon is wearing off this administration in a hurry. It's past time for an end to strutting, victory laps, crowing to the skies and boasting "Bring 'em on!" Now is the time to provide the leadership our troops deserve. Now is the time to state plainly and unequivocally that we are Americans, and we live by a rule of law that protects everyone, even the worst terrorist who ever fell into our hands. Maybe especially the worst terrorist who ever fell into our hands.
Though most Americans have lost confidence in Bush as a war president and believe that the war was a mistake and we should start bringing our troops home, no elected leader of national stature is demanding an end to U.S. involvement or a new policy for victory. Our political elite is in paralysis. Sen. McCain talks of more troops, but has not broken with Bush on his refusal to send them. Sen. Feingold calls for a withdrawal timetable, but passed on the antiwar demonstration in Washington last weekend. Critics fear this war could end badly, if not disastrously, for the United States. No one wants to say anything that can be used to substantiate a future charge of having given aid and comfort to the enemy in a time of war and helping to ensure an American defeat.
Casualty Reports Local story: Florida airman killed in Iraq. Local story: Texas Guardsman killed in Iraq. Local story: Texas Guardsman killed in Iraq. Local story: Ohio soldier killed in Iraq. Local story: Pennsylvania Guardsman killed in Iraq.

JWN posts on Moqtada Sadr, Sistani, the Iraqi Sunnis, (Palestinian elections), and investigations of abuse by the US military (only two posts in all) I put two posts up on JWN on Sept. 29 dealing with Iraq. This one highlighted some of the perceptive analyses that the French-Lebanese specialist Gilbert Achcar has been making of the situation inside Iraq. His bottom lines:
  1. Shiite firebrand Moqtada Sadr is still trying to call for a coalition with the Iraqi Sunnis despite all the attacks Sunni extremists have made against Shiite civilians
  2. Ayatollah Sistani is still calling for the Shias to refrain from undertaking revenge attacks. (Both of these are good news, but...)
  3. It looks as though the US military is continuing to maintain a hostile, very confrontational attitude to most Iraqi Sunni communities in the lead-up to the October 15 referendum, and this may lead to low Sunni participation in that poll and a prolongation of sectarian tensions in the country (bad news).
(In that post I also note a strikingly parallel situation existing in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.) In this second post, I note further developments in the NTFU porn-site story (with some refernces to my role in it) and also the success at this stage of the ACLU lawsuit requesting the public release of some 70 reportedly horrific photos (and three videos) that show previously unpublished aspects of the abuse at Abu Ghraib. These images and videos have been seen by members of Comgress but not so far by the taxpaying public. I also note the importance-- in both the ACLU suit and the efforts being undertaken by Human Rights Watch and other groups-- of the campaign to push responsibility for the abuses committed by US military people as far up the chain of command as they need to go, rather than keeping them focused on the lower-ranking people.


Thursday, September 29, 2005

Note to Readers, Thursday, September 29, 2005 I can't provide an update today. Please take the time to read cervantes' perceptive and insightful analysis of the current situation in Iraq. And a bunch of fine, upstanding and pissed-off veterans are collaborating on a new blog, Main and Central, that offers original commentary on military issues and foreign affairs. Both are worth a visit and a bookmark. Alert readers can post links to news stories in the thread below. Thanks, YD


Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Special Post for Thursday, September 29, 2005 A Letter From An Honorable Man The following letter was sent to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) on Sept. 16: Dear Senator McCain: I am a graduate of West Point currently serving as a Captain in the U.S. Army Infantry. I have served two combat tours with the 82nd Airborne Division, one each in Afghanistan and Iraq. While I served in the Global War on Terror, the actions and statements of my leadership led me to believe that United States policy did not require application of the Geneva Conventions in Afghanistan or Iraq. On 7 May 2004, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld's testimony that the United States followed the Geneva Conventions in Iraq and the "spirit" of the Geneva Conventions in Afghanistan prompted me to begin an approach for clarification. For 17 months, I tried to determine what specific standards governed the treatment of detainees by consulting my chain of command through battalion commander, multiple JAG lawyers, multiple Democrat and Republican Congressmen and their aides, the Ft. Bragg Inspector General's office, multiple government reports, the Secretary of the Army and multiple general officers, a professional interrogator at Guantanamo Bay, the deputy head of the department at West Point responsible for teaching Just War Theory and Law of Land Warfare, and numerous peers who I regard as honorable and intelligent men. Instead of resolving my concerns, the approach for clarification process leaves me deeply troubled. Despite my efforts, I have been unable to get clear, consistent answers from my leadership about what constitutes lawful and humane treatment of detainees. I am certain that this confusion contributed to a wide range of abuses including death threats, beatings, broken bones, murder, exposure to elements, extreme forced physical exertion, hostage-taking, stripping, sleep deprivation and degrading treatment. I and troops under my command witnessed some of these abuses in both Afghanistan and Iraq. This is a tragedy. I can remember, as a cadet at West Point, resolving to ensure that my men would never commit a dishonorable act; that I would protect them from that type of burden. It absolutely breaks my heart that I have failed some of them in this regard. That is in the past and there is nothing we can do about it now. But, we can learn from our mistakes and ensure that this does not happen again. Take a major step in that direction; eliminate the confusion. My approach for clarification provides clear evidence that confusion over standards was a major contributor to the prisoner abuse. We owe our soldiers better than this. Give them a clear standard that is in accordance with the bedrock principles of our nation. Some do not see the need for this work. Some argue that since our actions are not as horrifying as Al Qaeda's, we should not be concerned. When did Al Qaeda become any type of standard by which we measure the morality of the United States? We are America, and our actions should be held to a higher standard, the ideals expressed in documents such as the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Others argue that clear standards will limit the President's ability to wage the War on Terror. Since clear standards only limit interrogation techniques, it is reasonable for me to assume that supporters of this argument desire to use coercion to acquire information from detainees. This is morally inconsistent with the Constitution and justice in war. It is unacceptable. Both of these arguments stem from the larger question, the most important question that this generation will answer. Do we sacrifice our ideals in order to preserve security? Terrorism inspires fear and suppresses ideals like freedom and individual rights. Overcoming the fear posed by terrorist threats is a tremendous test of our courage. Will we confront danger and adversity in order to preserve our ideals, or will our courage and commitment to individual rights wither at the prospect of sacrifice? My response is simple. If we abandon our ideals in the face of adversity and aggression, then those ideals were never really in our possession. I would rather die fighting than give up even the smallest part of the idea that is "America." Once again, I strongly urge you to do justice to your men and women in uniform. Give them clear standards of conduct that reflect the ideals they risk their lives for. With the Utmost Respect, -- Capt. Ian Fishback 1st Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, North Carolina Via Main and Central


War News for Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Bring ‘em on: One policeman killed by gunmen in northeastern Baghdad. Six people, later found shot dead in the Baghdad morgue, detained by men wearing commando uniforms in Baghdad’s Huriya district. Two policemen wounded in roadside bombing on the Doura highway in southern Baghdad.

Bring ‘em on: One police major with a counterterrorism unit killed, one other police officer wounded in an attack by armed men in Kirkuk. One Iraqi soldier killed and one wounded in an attack by gunmen on the Kirkuk-Tikrit road. Five Iraqi civilians wounded in a car bomb attack near a US convoy in Baghdad.

Bring ‘em on: At least 10 Iraqis killed and 28 injured in a suicide bomb outside a police recruiting centre in Baquba. Bodies of three Iraqis, bound and blindfolded, found dead with gunshot wounds near Latifiya. One Iraqi civilian killed and two policemen injured in a roadside bombing directed at a police patrol in Kirkuk. Five civilians wounded near a restaurant in central Baghdad's Nidhal street in a car bombing directed at a convoy of foreign security contractors.

Bring ‘em on: Local official killed by gunmen in the Hashimiya district of western Baquba. A pipeline junction on Iraq's crude oil export line to Turkey was bombed and nine employees of an oil complex were briefly detained by insurgents in the city of Kirkuk.

Bring ‘em on: Four police officers and two detainees killed and eight detainees wounded when gunmen fired on a minibus bound for Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad. Police officer killed in Kirkuk by a roadside bomb. One US Marine assigned to the Second Marine Expeditionary Force killed by a homemade bomb during combat operations west of Baghdad.

Bring ‘em on: Seven people killed and 37 wounded in suicide bomb attack on an army recruitment center in Tal Afar. One person killed and 14 wounded in suicide car bomb attack on a police patrol in Baquba. One US Marine dead from a “non-hostile” gunshot wound suffered Monday near Fallujah.

Bring ‘em on: Seven bodies, shot to death, handcuffed and blindfolded, found in Taji.

Bring ‘em on: Two Iraqis killed when a vehicle carrying a Jordanian diplomat came under fire in Baghdad. No Jordanian nationals were injured.

Bring ‘em on: One US soldier killed and one wounded by a roadside bomb in Safwan.

A first: Iraq's first female suicide bomber blew herself up outside a U.S. military office in the northern Iraqi town of Tal Afar on Wednesday, killing herself and at least five others and wounding 53, police said.

It marked the first time since an insurgency by Sunni Arabs began that a female suicide bomber had launched an attack in Iraq, in a new tactic common among Chechen suicide bombers operating in Russia but rare in the Middle East.

The U.S. military said in a statement the bomb targeted Iraqi citizens filing for compensation at a Civil Military Operations Centre. Iraqis visit such centres to claim compensation if they lose relatives, or suffer damage to property, because of U.S. military action.

Another first- at least, that they've admitted...: A car bomber penetrated the heavily fortified Green Zone in the center of the capital on Tuesday but was stopped by U.S. Marines at a checkpoint before he was able to detonate the vehicle, the military said.

U.S. troops destroyed the explosives-rigged car and detained the bomber, a military spokesman said.

The U.S. military's Baghdad press office offered no details on the incident, and it was not immediately clear how the bomber was able to enter the most secured compound in Iraq, which houses the U.S. Embassy and the Iraqi government. Thousands of Iraqis and foreigners live and work inside the Green Zone.

CBS gets a clue: Behind the blood and chaos of the insurgents' bombs, there is an undeclared civil war already underway in Iraq, between the Sunni minority who ruled this country under Saddam and the Shiite majority. CBS News correspondent Lara Logan reports there is a secret, ruthless cleansing of the country's towns and cities. Bodies — blindfolded, bound and executed — just appear, like the rotting corpses of 36 Sunni men that turned up in a dry riverbed south of Baghdad. CBS News traced 16 of those men to a single street in a Baghdad suburb, where family members showed CBS News how the killers forced their way into their homes in the middle of the night and dragged away their sons and fathers. "My uncles were tortured, they even poured acid on them," a young boy told CBS News. Clutching photographs of the murdered men, the women and children left behind came together to grieve. One woman said as her husband was marched away she sent her son after him with his slippers, but his abductor sent the child back with a chilling message: No need for slippers — he will come back dead.

Workaday life: “I get used to mutilation: it’s like lunch and supper for us — something you get twice a day,” says Ismail Fadhil, blank-faced, stubbing out another cigarette butt. “It is usual to load up body parts, half bodies. Once, in Al-Amel, most of the victims were kids and they were in bits.”

Working 24-hour, day-on day-off shifts, Ismail, 39, drives an ambulance for Yarmouk Hospital, and is usually scrambled to emergencies alone, without even a radio. His decrepit Saddam-era ambulance, pocked with bullet holes, has not so much as a bandage: the hospital’s equipment, looted in 2003, has yet to be replaced.

“I’ve got no first-aid measures at all,” says Ismail. “It’s like driving a cab. The best I can do if I find a guy with his guts hanging out is stuff them back in and shove him into the vehicle.”

When his work is done he slops the blood out with a bucket of water. “We haven’t even got disinfectant. It is like cleaning out a garage.”

For every sick person, Ismail collects ten victims of violence. He has been shot at by insurgents, US soldiers, Iraqi police and national guards. At the scene of one suicide bomb attack last year he saw ambulance crews hit by a second bomber.

Peace, Fallujah-style: Iraqi and U.S. troops recently ended a joint military operation in Tal Afar, which they say has long been a stronghold of insurgents. The U.S. military said during the operation it killed or captured over 500 people whom it called "terrorists or foreign fighters".

They hailed the full-scale assault on the town as a success and said they had brought Tal Afar, which U.S. forces say has been used as a conduit for foreign fighters entering Iraq from Syria, back under their control.

But previous military operations against insurgency strongholds have not led to peace, and sectarian violence continued on Wednesday.

Signs: U.S. Marines took down a sign warning Iraqi citizens not to cooperate with the Americans. The blue sign with yellow writing bears the signature of al Qaeda in Iraq, the terrorist group led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. It stood along Iraq's desert highway leading into Qaim, near the Syrian border.

Such signs have been reported in other cities around the region, which includes Husayba, New Ubeydi, Karabila and Sa'dat, Col. Stephen Davis, whose forces operate in the western Al Anbar province, told CNN.

The Marines have also received reports of fliers telling residents of Sa'dat, west of Qaim, to leave the city or die, said Davis, the commander of the Marines Regimental Combat Team 2. And Marines have seen civilians leave, he added.

With the Iraqi army: Juwad's battalion has responsibility for northwest Fallujah, a sector called the Jolan. With its centuries-old souk, or marketplace, a twisting labyrinth of alleys and cluttered shops, the Jolan was infamous during 2004 as the lair of arch-terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Down the street from Juwad's makeshift fort stood the abandoned warehouse where in May 2004 Zarqawi had beheaded the easygoing Californian entrepreneur/adventurer Nicholas Berg. Zarqawi timed and videotaped the murder so that Al Jazeera television received the tape in time for its evening news.

The jundis are under no illusions about the attitudes of the Sunni residents of the Jolan. A year ago, about 5,000 Kurds, some of whom had lived in the Jolan for generations, were forced to flee for their lives when the Sunni fundamentalists temporarily ruled the city, Taliban-style. Practically all the jundis in Juwad's company are Shiites who feel unwelcome in the city.

Of the 140 jundis in Juwad's company, 10 are Kurds and the rest are Shiites from southern Iraq. The pay—$430 a month—is excellent by Iraqi standards. Juwad estimates he has 80 soldiers ready for duty on any given day. No one in the company lives anywhere near Fallujah. Taking leave and being away from the company on other duties is an elastic concept. Jundis come and go at times and in ways often mysterious to their advisers. When they want to go home for a week or so, they wear civilian clothes and hire taxis or hitch rides to Baghdad, where they disappear in the crowds and make their way from there. A recurrent request is for small pistols they can conceal in their waistbands, in case insurgents stop their bus or taxi.

Old news worth repeating: About 30,000 fighters are believed to be involved in the insurgency in Iraq, approximately 90 per cent of whom are Sunni Arab Iraqis motivated by fear of Shiite domination or anger over lost power, according to a report released this month by the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Of the estimated 3,000 foreign fighters, the largest number -- about 20 per cent -- are from Algeria, followed by Syria and Yemen, with about 18 and 17 per cent, respectively, said the report, which was issued on Monday.

About 350 Saudis entered Iraq by August of 2005, about 130 of whom are believed to have been killed or captured, it says.

Admitting the obvious: The nation’s top military officer said Tuesday that the killing last weekend of a senior leader of the al-Qaida in Iraq organization will hurt the terrorists but perhaps only in the short term.

Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was asked at a Pentagon news conference with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld about the killing of Abdullah Abu Azzam on Sunday.

“It will have some effect, but over time they will replace people,” Myers said.

“There are others, foreign fighters, marching to the guns on a regular basis,” who can be promoted to leadership roles, he added, although in many cases they are less experienced and qualified in planning and executing attacks.

Whack a mole: Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's network of al Qaeda-linked insurgents is emerging as a self-sustaining force, despite repeated blows by U.S. forces and the reported death of his second-in-command, U.S. intelligence officials and other experts say.

The Zarqawi network, responsible for some of the Iraqi insurgency's bloodiest attacks, has grown into a loose confederation of mainly native Iraqis trained by former Baath Party regime officers in explosives, small arms, rockets and surface-to-air missiles.

"The suggestion is that this has shifted from being a terrorist network to a guerrilla army," said Vali Nasr, a national security affairs expert at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California.

U.S. military officials on Tuesday said they had killed Zarqawi's No. 2 in Iraq, an operative identified as Abu Azzam. Al Qaeda did not verify the U.S. claim.

But intelligence officials said the death of Zarqawi himself would not mean al Qaeda's defeat in Iraq, partly because he has ceded authority over day-to-day operations to regional commanders and tribal leaders who operate according to his strategic guidelines.

"If he died in the cause, that's huge. That's what everybody wants. Then he's a giant figurehead and everybody can do something in his name," one intelligence official said.

"He has enough force in place to sustain operations," the official added. "Al Qaeda in Iraq ... regenerates very quickly. You knock off a guy who's in charge in a certain area, another person steps into the gap."

Gee, I Feel Better Already

Because this kind of thing is so worrisome: When it comes to ominous warnings about the future of Iraq, none have been more dire than those coming from Prince Saud al-Faisal. He is Saudi Arabia's foreign minister and the first Arab leader to have spoken out in public about Iraq in such pessimistic terms in recent months. Prince Saud said last week that he has been warning the Bush administration that Iraq was heading rapidly toward disintegration. He can foresee a fracturing of that unstable country into three hostile factions of Sunnis, Shias and Kurds - a prelude to an uncontrollable civil war that could destabilize the Persian Gulf and other parts of the Middle East, with incalculable consequences.

If what he envisions were to come true, U.S. troops would not be able to maintain control and would be pulled out; the Shia government, facing defeat by Sunni insurgents, would ask the Shia clerics ruling Iran for help and Iranian troops would cross the border to fight Sunnis; Kurds would pull away into an independent state and Turkey, fearing its own Kurdish guerrillas would find a safe haven, would invade Kurdistan.

Good thing we have a big strong man to protect us!: President Bush on Wednesday warned there will be an upsurge in violence in Iraq before next month's voting, but said the terrorists will fail. "Our troops are ready for them," he said.

Bring ‘em on!

And his ultracompetent administration is our first line of defense: The US Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (Fincen) has shut down its QuikNews e-mail messaging system after unidentified hackers used it to broadcast disturbing images of civilian casualties in Iraq.

The breach of security is a huge embarrassment for the US Treasury Department agency, which is responsible for enforcing regulations against money laundering and terrorist financing.

The mass e-mail to Fincen subscribers included photos of pools of blood and an Iraqi child in a hospital bed and contained the message: "take back your monsters (army)/you killed my father and mother/what you want???/ i know (oil) [sic]."

In a statement, Fincen sought to reassure subscribers that "Bank Secrecy Act data and all other sensitive information maintained on internal systems by Fincen are secure and were in no way, shape or form compromised by this incident."

Feeling reassured?

Rule Of Law

The Germans get it: Just a few weeks ago, a highly significant judicial decision was handed down by the German Federal Administrative Court but barely mentioned in the German media. With careful reasoning, the judges ruled that the assault launched by the United States and its allies against Iraq was a clear war of aggression that violated international law.

Further, they meticulously demonstrated that the German government, in contrast to its public protestations, had assisted in the aggression against Iraq without having any legal right to do so. Although the decision was made three months ago, the judgement and its legal arguments have only just been made available in written form, comprising more than 130 pages.

The decision was made in relation to legal proceedings initiated by a German army officer who had refused to obey an order following the invasion of Iraq by the US-led coalition of forces because he feared that he would in effect be supporting the war. As a result, he was demoted from major to captain and the army filed a criminal complaint against him for insubordination. In its latest judgement, the Federal Administrative Court reversed the demotion and said the charges against the officer contravened Article 4, Paragraph 1 of the German Constitution, which guarantees the right to freedom of conscience.

Freedom of the press: The conduct of U.S. troops in Iraq, including increasing detention and accidental shootings of journalists, is preventing full coverage of the war reaching the American public, Reuters said on Wednesday. In a letter to Virginia Republican Sen. John Warner, head of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Reuters said U.S. forces were limiting the ability of independent journalists to operate. The letter from Reuters Global Managing Editor David Schlesinger called on Warner to raise widespread media concerns about the conduct of U.S. troops with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who is due to testify to the committee on Thursday. Schlesinger referred to "a long parade of disturbing incidents whereby professional journalists have been killed, wrongfully detained, and/or illegally abused by U.S. forces in Iraq." He urged Warner to demand that Rumsfeld resolve these issues "in a way that best balances the legitimate security interests of the U.S. forces in Iraq and the equally legitimate rights of journalists in conflict zones under international law". At least 66 journalists and media workers, most of them Iraqis, have been killed in the Iraq conflict since March 2003.

Kidnapping: A branch of the U.S. Navy secretly contracted a 33-plane fleet that included two Gulfstream jets reportedly used to fly terror suspects to countries known to practice torture, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press.

At least 10 U.S. aviation companies were issued classified contracts in 2001 and 2002 by the obscure Navy Engineering Logistics Office for the "occasional airlift of USN (Navy) cargo worldwide," according to Defense Department documents the AP obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request.

Two of the companies — Richmor Aviation Inc. and Premier Executive Transport Services Inc. — chartered luxury Gulfstreams that flew terror suspects captured in Europe to Egypt, according to U.S. and European media reports. Once there, the men told family members, they were tortured. Authorities in Italy and Sweden have expressed outrage over flights they say were illegal and orchestrated by the U.S. government.

While the Gulfstreams came under scrutiny in 2001, what hasn't been disclosed is the Navy's role in contracting planes involved in operations the CIA terms "rendition" and what Italian prosecutors call kidnapping.

War Porn

Disgusting trade: An Islamic civil-rights group has asked Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to investigate an Internet site on which U.S. service members have posted graphic pictures of mutilated and dismembered Iraqis and Afghans in return for free access to Internet pornography.

“This disgusting trade in human misery is an insult to all those who have served in our nation’s military,” said Arsalan Iftikhar, legal director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, in a letter to Rumsfeld.

The Washington-based group brough the Web site to national attention in a statement to the media Sept. 27. Army and Pentagon officials said they are investigating.

“Obviously, it is an unacceptable practice,” said Bryan Whitman, a spokesman for Rumsfeld.

Whoa, Bryan, that’s an awfully harsh condemnation! Sure you don’t want to tone it down a bit?

The lightning investigation: The Army is investigating complaints that soldiers posted photographs of Iraqi corpses on an Internet site in exchange for access to pornographic images on the site, officials said Tuesday.

An Army spokesman, Col. Joseph Curtin, said the Criminal Investigation Division recently began investigating the matter on behalf of Lt. Gen. John Vines, commander of the Multinational Corps in Iraq.

Another Army spokesman, Paul Boyce, said later that the preliminary criminal inquiry determined, based on available evidence, that felony charges could not be pursued. But the matter, including the possibility of disciplinary action, was being handled in coordination with other military services, he said.

It’s because they’re decisive: US Army has ALREADY concluded that they won't press charges against soldiers based on the death-photos-for-porn scandal. Gee that was fast.

Fast, and rather disgusting. And rather poorly timed, the same day Lynndie England is convicted for her Abu Ghraib big adventure. Think about how crass the Pentagon is. DOD is contacted about this scandal earlier today, tell the press they're investigating, because of course they only JUST heard of this horrible scandal recently (that's why they didn't act sooner, of course), and then a few hours later says sorry, we can't prosecute but we'll be sure to consider disciplinary action. Huh?

Our Helena gets around: The story of NTFU and its unusual exchange of free porn for gory war photos was first picked up by an Italian blogger named Staib, and then the Italian news agency ANSA. Blogger/journalist Helena Cobban, who pens a column for the Christian Science Monitor, asked her blog readers for an English translation of the ANSA article and quickly received many versions that clarified what the site was about.

Cobban was horrified by the gory photos, but tried to make sense of the motivation of people who posted them -- and tried hard to grasp the idea of a serious discussion of war on a porn site. She told me that taking and posting "trophy" photos of dead Iraqis was a gross show of disrespect and a violation of the Geneva Conventions. But she put the blame on the direction of military leadership.

"The important thing is for the U.S. military and political leadership at the highest levels to recommit the nation to the norms of war including the Geneva Conventions, and to be held accountable for the many violations that have taken place so far," Cobban said via e-mail. "What I don't think would be helpful would be further punitive actions that are still limited to the grunts and the foot soldiers, who already have the worst of it."

The Geneva Conventions include Protocol 1, added in 1977 but not ratified by the U.S., Iraq or Afghanistan. It mentions that all parties in a conflict must respect victims' remains, though doesn't mention the photographing of dead bodies. This could well be a judgment call, and the celebratory and derogatory comments added on NTFU make the case more clear.

When I contacted military public affairs people in the U.S. and Iraq, they didn't seem aware of the site and initially couldn't access the site from their own government computers. Eventually, they told me that if soldiers were indeed posting photos of dead Iraqis on the site, then it's not an action that's condoned in any way by the military.

"The glorification of casualties goes against our training and is strongly discouraged," said Todd Vician, a U.S. Defense Department spokesman. "It is our policy that images taken with government equipment or due to access because of a military position must be cleared before released. While I haven't seen these images, I doubt they would be cleared for release. Improper treatment of captured and those killed does not help our mission, is discouraged, investigated when known, and punished appropriately."

Capt. Chris Karns, a Centcom spokesman, told me that there are Department of Defense regulations and Geneva Conventions against mutilating and degrading dead bodies, but that he wasn't sure about regulations concerning photos of dead bodies. He noted that the Bush administration did release graphic photos of the dead bodies of Uday and Qusay Hussein to the media.

Good point: The American administration has failed to issue a satisfactory response to the fact that its army violates the laws of war. It has suggested successfully, according to American public opinion, ­that the units of military police that were photographed humiliating prisoners at Abu Ghraib were not obeying any order of the army or the intelligence services. With soldier Lynndie England, who appeared in the photographs, standing before a military tribunal at Fort Hood for the past week, will America accept the official version according to which this entire matter was one of unguided "lost soldiers?"

The American pacifist movement has not seized on these questions. Its principal and laudable concern ­ epitomized by the image of Cindy Sheehan, traumatized by her son’s death in Iraq - is to preserve the life of American soldiers. As is often in war, it is difficult to listen to the other, the foreigner, the "enemy.”

While authorizing its army to perpetrate what international law describes as "serious violations of the laws of the war," such as "torture" or "inhumane treatment" of prisoners ­ and "war crimes" in the case of executions - the United States placed itself in a position of illegality in the service of the cause that they allege to defend: freedom, justice and democracy faced with the "the madness of Allah." But every time an Afghan or Iraqi is killed wrongly or tortured, and precisely because the United States is a democratic country, it is a defeat for America and all who defend the values and morals for which it claims to embody.

More pragmatically, the use of torture is one less chance for Washington to win its wars, because for each martyred prisoner, for each image of Abu Ghraib or Guantanamo, ten fighters rise against the United States.


Opinion: More than a third of the U.S. soldiers based in Iraq belong to the Reserves or National Guard. Weekend warriors intended to supplement full-time active duty troops now fight for 14 months on average. But most are still treated like part-timers, and prepped and outfitted for combat accordingly. New equipment goes to the Army while Guardsmen and Reservists get hand-me-downs. This bodes badly for part-time soldiers who have become a major fighting force in Iraq.

August was the deadliest month for citizen soldiers. Five Pennsylvania Guardsmen died when the second-class humvee they were in was blown up. They had requested permission to use some of the 12 brand new, fully up-armored vehicles issued to a nearby active duty unit. The request was denied. The trucks stood idle when the Guardsmen died.

A total of 46 National Guard and Reserve soldiers were killed in August, more than half the 83 troop deaths. The disproportionately high -- and rising -- casualty rates of citizen soldiers are part of a trend. Pentagon statistics released at the end of 2004 showed losses sustained by Army National Guard soldiers in Iraq were 35 percent higher than that of regular enlisted. The elevated mortality rate of citizen soldiers is unparalleled. Of the 58,209 U.S. deaths in Vietnam, 94 were Guardsmen, and none were killed in the Persian Gulf War, USA Today has reported.

Long, hazardous duty is one reason why Army National Guard and Army Reserve recruitment numbers are off by 23 percent and 20 percent, respectively. In the first half of 2005, the Seattle Army Reserve office missed its target of about 100 recruits by 75 percent. Oregon recruitment is down 40 percent. Several battalions have lost more than half their members. One Reserve unit saw 70 percent of its members leave within a few months of coming home.

Half the soldiers leaving active duty service have traditionally joined the Guard, but since that likely means a quick trip back to Iraq, the number has dropped to about 35 percent. With so many first responders in Iraq, we have fewer first responders -- fire, police and emergency medical technicians -- in our communities.

While the Guard and Reserve are particularly hard hit, our entire country is suffering from the Iraq war. Rep. Michael McNulty, D-N.Y., recently noted that more than 16,000 U.S. troops have been killed or wounded in Iraq, and that the government has spent more than $200 billion on the war so far, saying, "The war has been a tremendous failure by both measures." He was announcing his support for legislation to require that U.S. troops begin their withdrawal from Iraq by October 2006.

It's time we add Homeland Security to the growing list of casualties of the war in Iraq.

A related story: The 69 Iowa National Guard mechanics at Camp Liberty are the best of the best. This isn't just talk. The Army selected them based on high test scores, then put them together with soldiers from Maine and Washington in a kind of super unit to fix what breaks down. If it has an engine, these men and women of the 3655th Maintenance Company can make it run. Humvees, armored personnel carriers, tanks. Anything. So the Army sent them to Iraq. But most of these soldiers haven't gone near a wrench during their deployment. They've been here since April standing guard duty atop the wall that separates this military base from Baghdad. And they sit outside checking IDs at dining halls and the PX , the military all-purpose store.

Opinion: A marketing campaign, launched shortly after the war began and continuing to this day, has sought to link support for the men and women serving in this country's military forces with support for even the most foolhardy and dangerous of the president's policies. There are even bumper stickers that declare: "Support President Bush and the Troops."

But this is just political gamesmanship, nothing more.

How do we know?

Because House Majority Leader Tom DeLay tells us so.

Back in 1999, after President Bill Clinton had ordered U.S. forces to begin a massive bombing campaign and missile strikes against Yugoslavia, the House of Representatives considered a resolution supporting the mission.

The leading opponent of the resolution was DeLay, who dismissed the notion that opposing the war was in any way an affront to the troops. In a visceral floor statement delivered in March of that year, DeLay declared, "Bombing a sovereign nation for ill-defined reasons with vague objectives undermines the American stature in the world. The international respect and trust for America has diminished every time we casually let the bombs fly. We must stop giving the appearance that our foreign policy is formulated by the Unabomber."

As the war progressed, DeLay condemned "(President Clinton's) war," and grumbled in April 1999, "There are no clarified rules of engagement. There is no timetable. There is no legitimate definition of victory. There is no contingency plan for mission creep. There is no clear funding program. There is no agenda to bolster our overextended military. There is no explanation defining what vital national interests are at stake. There was no strategic plan for war when the president started this thing, and there still is no plan today."

Opinion: If you need yet another reminder why the Democrats continue to teeter on the verge of becoming a permanent minority party, I suggest you pick up the Boston Herald and watch CBS News. At the same time the situation in Iraq continues to deteriorate, with CBS reporting on the "undeclared civil war" raging between Shiites and Sunnis and the Saudi Foreign Minister telling the world that Iraq is "going toward disintegration," there was John Kerry giving a speech arguing that "progress" was being made. As the Boston Herald put it, Senator John Kerry "back-pedalled on blistering criticism of the war."


Andrew Gumbel's latest HuffPost turns a flashing red spotlight on why we need to reform our voting systems. But even the most corruption-free voting system in the world isn't going to help Democrats if they keep offering up candidates who make the kind of absurd pronouncements on Iraq Kerry did this week.

Editorial: After a day of stunningly large antiwar demonstrations that surrounded a beleaguered White House while its occupant attended to a more natural disaster, the Lincoln words bit hard.

''We of this Congress and this administration will be remembered in spite of ourselves," observed Lincoln long ago in a written message to Congress after the gore of Antietam but just a month before the Emancipation Proclamation. ''No personal significance or insignificance can spare one or another of us. The fiery trial through which we pass will light us down in honor or dishonor to the latest generation. We, even here, hold the power and bear the responsibility."

Indeed. The inspiring words of the past mock the poses of the present.

Earlier that day, there had been a demonstration downtown that dwarfed official expectations. In an interesting abandonment of post-9/11 paranoia, the parade permit allowed a virtual encirclement of the White House by a throng that easily exceeded 300,000 peaceful souls from around the country. I have either been in or covered every peace demonstration around here since 1967, and this one was more than reminiscent of the whoppers in the Nixon years.

The people are currently leagues beyond the politicians. The link between the ongoing war and the literal storms of the past month is in the opinion polls, with solid majorities not only of the opinion that the invasion of Iraq wasn't and isn't worth its cost but demanding that money being sent overseas be invested in reconstruction at home. The problem is that no one prominent in politics is really listening.

Opinion: As far as Iraq goes, "stuck on stupid" could be the operating motif for politicians on both sides of the aisle. Already mired in a hopeless mess of his own making, the president pushes on, ignoring public opinion, the evidence on the ground and the apparent thinking of his own commanders and allies.

Last week, Saudi Foreign Minister Saud Faisal warned that Iraq is "gradually going toward disintegration," and the British newspaper The Guardian reported, "Diplomats in the Foreign Office are working frantically in private on what they refer to as the 'exit ticket' from Iraq."

What's more, the United States' eagerness to rush approval of an Iraqi constitution, according to a report from the Brussels-based think tank, the International Crisis Group, has made that process "a new stake in the political battle rather than an instrument to resolve it...

"The United States has repeatedly stated that it has a strategic interest in Iraq's territorial integrity, but today the situation appears to be heading toward de facto partition and full-scale civil war."

Cervantes: This is the truth. There is no good news from Iraq. The "democratically elected" government is controlled by two Shiite religious parties, with the cooperation of Kurdish representatives whose only long-term goal is independence but who are playing along for now in order to win territory on the cheap. The Shiite parties also envision an independent Shiite theocracy closely associated with Iran's clerical rulers. These factions wrote the new constitution in order to achieve these ends. The only effective units of the Iraqi army are actually militias of these Shiite and Kurdish parties who wear Iraqi Army uniforms, and these are the "Iraqi" soldiers who now fight alongside U.S. forces against Sunni Arabs -- when they aren't commiting atrocities on their own. Why on earth the United States would be spending blood and treasure to advance these objectives is incomprehensible. Opposing this project through guerilla warfare are secularist Iraqi nationalists, principally Sunni Arabs who were associated with or had a stake in the former regime; and Sunni Islamic factions including Iraqis and a small number of foreigners. The Shiite movement of Muqtada al Sadr, who has a huge following, opposes the present government politically and is allied with the Sunni insurgency against the intended breakup of Iraq. Although his fighters have been observing a cease fire for more than a year now, that appears to be breaking down, and U.S. forces are again skirmishing with his Mahdi Army. Meanwhile, there is no basic security or civil order in Iraq. Gangs of vicious criminals operate freely, commiting kidnappings for ransom and robberies that have the Baghdad middle class huddling behind closed doors. Women and girls are afraid to leave the house, and the social equality and freedom they enjoyed under the secular Baath regime has been lost. Child malnutrition is widespread. Most people with the means to get out of the country are doing so, notably the physicians and other professionals who would be essential to the rebuilding of Iraqi society. The police and other security forces, as well as the government ministries, are completely corrupt, and loyal to their factions. The police are as dangerous as the criminals, or perhaps indistinguishable from them. Daily attacks on the oil infrastructure have reduced production to below pre-war levels. Electricity in Baghdad is available for only a few hours a day. Sewage still flows in the streets. The government hides behind 12 foot blast walls in a closed zone of central Baghdad controlled and secured by the American occupiers, to which American "reporters" (actually transcriptionists of Central Command briefings) are confined. And then there is the occupation. War is not glorious, or pure, or honorable. It is brutalizing, grotesque, beyond morality. The Americans drop bombs on houses from airplanes, killing people indiscriminately. They fire 50 caliber machine guns at cars that they think have approached them too closely, and at everyone in sight if they have been attacked. They break down doors in random searches of entire neighborhoods, destroy and loot people's property, beat and humiliate ordinary citizens. They routinely abuse and torture people they arrest, and they hold tens of thousands of prisoners, the vast majority on nothing but slight suspicions, under grim conditions. They besiege and demolish entire cities, driving their inhabitants into squalid refugee camps. They do this even though they do not understand who they are fighting and they have no evident goal or cause. Some of them have taken to posting photgraphs of themselves laughing at the gory remains of Iraqis on an Internet porn site. Ironically, that's about the only place Americans can see for themselves the reality of war, because the television and the newspapers won't show it to us. The whole world knows all this. But our political leaders, of both parties, and our corporate media, will not confront the truth. There is a cancer on our national soul.

Casualty Reports

Local story: Baltimore, KY, National Guardsman who died in a roadside bombing near al Khalis memorialized in Leitchfield.

Local story: Mesa, AZ, National Guardsman killed in roadside bombing in Baghdad.

Over at JWN: Fishback's letter, and the NTFU porn story
[Matt just told me he'd missed this little post when I first posted because I didn't put a bold headline on it. So he went ahead and posted the whole text of the Fishback letter, which you'll see above. I'm cool with that. It's a fine letter! Note to self, though: Blogger is different from the software I use over at JWN, so here I have to remember to insert a special headline. Also, how come I ain't seeing "underline" here? Oh well. Blogger does also have its strong points... ~HC]
Hi. Today over at Just World News I give nearly the whole text of the fine letter that Ian Fishback, a captain in the 82nd Airborne and West Point grad, wrote to Sen. McCain about the way that-- as Fishback has seen in Iraq and Afghanistan-- the "confusion" over the Geneva Conventions at the highest levels of the US command has led to the commission of major abuses in the field. In his letter, Fishback described the search he had made up the chain of command for some clarity on what, in fact, was allowed and what not allowed in the treatment of detainees. And also, the frustration he experienced in that search. He argued:
we can learn from our mistakes and ensure that this does not happen again. Take a major step in that direction; eliminate the confusion. My approach for clarification provides clear evidence that confusion over standards was a major contributor to the prisoner abuse. We owe our soldiers better than this. Give them a clear standard that is in accordance with the bedrock principles of our nation.
Fishback was almost certainly the informant described only as "C" in the recent Human Rights Watch report on torture and abuse. On JWN, I also have a post noting that the story on the solicitation of body-part photos from soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan by the "Nowthatsfuckup" porn website is finally starting to make its way into the MSM. A number of bloggers, I among them, had started writing about this in English more than a month ago. What took the highly paid MSM types so long?


Tuesday, September 27, 2005

War News for Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Bring ‘em on: Five Shiite schoolteachers and their driver murdered by gunmen as classes ended at the Al-Jazeera Elementary School in the village of Muelha, 30 miles south of Baghdad. Six people wounded in suicide car bombing in Iskandariyah. Senior official from SCIRI kidnapped and murdered in Qurna. Two US soldiers killed in a roadside bombing in western Baghdad. One US soldier killed in a bombing 50 miles southeast of the capital.

Bring ‘em on: Two Iraqi policemen and five civilians killed, 30 wounded in suicide car bombing at the gates of the Iraqi police academy. One person killed and four wounded when US forces opened fire on a minibus. It is unclear from the article where these incidents occurred – Baghdad, presumably.

Bring ‘em on: Eight people, including some Mahdi army militiamen, killed in long-running gun battle between US and Iraqi soldiers and Sadrist militiamen in Sadr City. This is not good news.

Bring ‘em on: Egyptian engineer working for Iraqna Mobile Company kidnapped in western Baghdad.

Bring ‘em on: Two guards killed, two guards and five bystanders wounded when robbers attacked a column of armored vehicles and made off with over half a million British pounds worth of cash.

Bring ‘em on: Bodies of 22 men, blindfolded and with their hands bound, found near Kut. All had been shot to death.

Bring ‘em on: Heavy fighting rages in Ramadi, two people reported killed and eight wounded. US armored vehicle reported destroyed in the fighting. One US soldier killed in roadside bombing between Ramadi and Fallujah. One US soldier killed in Ramadi gunbattle. Four US soldiers attached to the Marines killed Monday in two separate roadside bombings. Continued skirmishes between US forces and insurgents reported along the Euphrates. Gosh, a major battle in Ramadi? Why didn't I hear about this on CNN? Oh, wait...no white women disappeared there.

Another lost opportunity: In the chaotic, hopeful April of 2003, Baghdad's Karrada district was one of those neighborhoods where residents showered flowers on U.S. forces entering the capital. Revelers threw water on one another and the Americans, exuding joy at the crushing of a dictatorship that had silenced, tortured and killed their people.

Now, with the end of the third and in many ways hardest summer of the U.S.-led occupation, the lights of Karrada are dimmer. The collapse of Iraq's central power system has left Baghdad averaging less than eight hours of electricity a day.

The crowds on the sidewalks have thinned -- kidnapping and other forms of lawlessness since the invasion mean Baghdad's comparatively liberated women seldom leave home without a good reason.

Car bombings and other insurgent attacks, as unknown in Baghdad before the invasion as suicide subway bombings were in London until this summer, have killed more than 3,000 people in the capital since late spring.

Leaving the house for work each day has become a matter of turning the key and consigning one's fate to God, said Jassim Mohammed, 41, a Karrada merchant who has lost two of his closest friends and one of his lighting shops in car bombings since the Americans came.

"Now in Iraq, no one and nothing can protect you but that. Every morning you kiss them goodbye," Mohammed said, referring to his wife and children, "because you don't know if you will be back or not. Everyone in Iraq does that now."

Change of policy?: Shiite leaders have called on their followers to refrain from revenge attacks against Sunnis, fearing a civil war could result, though Sunnis have accused Shiite militias of carrying out some killings of Sunni figures.

But in one of the first public calls for individual Shiites to take action, a prominent Shiite cleric, Ayatollah Mohammed al-Yaaqubi, issued a religious edict Monday allowing his followers to "kill terrorists before they kill."

"Self-restraint does not mean surrender. ... Protecting society from terrorists is a religious duty," al-Yaaqubi said.

Government by militia: A leading Iraqi voice in favor of a negotiated power-sharing arrangement between Sunni and Shiite forces in Iraq charged this weekend that militias in the service of the U.S.-backed Iraqi government in Baghdad tried to kill him, former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, and other secular Iraqi nationalists by planting a car bomb in the Baghdad neighborhood where they live.

Aiham Al Sammarae, a former minister of electricity in Allawi's government, says that the bomb was discovered and defused. "I live next door to Allawi," says Sammarae, who returned to Iraq from a conference of leading Iraqi Sunnis in Amman, Jordan, on Sunday. "We found a car bomb behind Allawi's house. It would have destroyed the entire neighborhood." According to Sammarae, who spoke to me in a lengthy telephone interview from a hotel in Amman, militias tied to the Iraqi government are conducting death squad-style attacks against Sunnis who oppose the Iraqi regime, which is controlled by a pair of ultra-religious, sectarian parties. "A lot of our guys are being killed," he says. The attacks are being carried out "by the government, by militias that are part of the government."

Constitutional flaws...there might be one or two...: Iraq's proposed constitution -- and the process used to draft it -- have deepened the divide among Iraq's factions and will likely trigger civil war unless changes are negotiated quickly to accommodate the concerns of Sunni Muslims, warned a new report by the International Crisis Group.

The report comes less than three weeks before an Oct. 15 referendum on Iraq's proposed constitution. The ICG calls on the Bush administration to engage in a "last-ditch, determined effort" to broker a compromise among the country's three largest ethnic and religious groups.

"Unless the flaws of its draft constitution can be corrected in the next few weeks before the Iraqi people vote on it, Iraq is likely to slide toward full-scale civil war and the break-up of the country," says the ICG, an independent, nonprofit nongovernmental organization working to resolve conflict in 50 countries on four continents.

The group charges that the constitution was rushed, which cost the process any possibility of consensus. Critical parts of the constitution -- notably on the federal arrangements that will decentralize power -- are also so vague that they already "carry the seeds of future discord," the report says.

This is the good news: Up to 200 Iraqi Sunni politicians and scholars have pressed for voting down the draft constitution in the October referendum and threatened to declare civil disobedience if the US-led onslaughts on Sunni towns continue.

Wrapping up a two-day meeting in the Jordanian capital Amman on Saturday, September 24, Sunni leaders from Al-Anbar province sought the formation of a committee to collect five million signatures to block the charter, the London-based Arabic-language newspaper Al-Hayat reported Sunday, September 25.

"We are mobilizing Sunnis to vote down the draft if our demands were ignored," by the Shiite and Kurdish blocs, Ali Al-Sadoun, a Sunni politician and member of the Iraqi Council for National Dialogue (CND), told the mass-circulation daily.

As Juan Cole points out, if they started a campaign of civil disobedience it would be a major improvement…

Iraqi Security Forces

Still need work: But while it has provided evidence that the capabilities of Iraq's security forces are improving, the operation in Tal Afar has also laid bare the challenges.

Because the ranks of the Iraqi police and army are filled mostly with Shi'ite Arabs and ethnic Kurds, they are perceived in many Sunni sections not as national forces, but as factional hit squads bent on persecution. The tensions were evident in Tal Afar, a city of 200,000, largely Sunni Turkmens.

Most of the forces ''are from the Badr Organization and the peshmerga," said Ibrahim Khalil, 20, one of about 4,000 Tal Afar residents, almost all of them Sunnis, living in a camp established by the Iraqi Red Crescent outside the city. He was referring to the Shi'ite and Kurdish militias.

''They wear the military uniform for disguise," he said. ''Their treatment is very bad. They were taking people to detention prisons just because they are Sunnis."

The Iraqi soldiers from the peshmerga, which for many years was targeted by the Sunni-led army of Saddam Hussein and has long supported Kurdish forces fighting the Turkish government, spoke openly of their zeal to fight the Tal Afar insurgency, led by Sunni Turkmen, according to US soldiers who worked with them.

Meanwhile, US commanders grounded the mostly Shi'ite police commandos a few days into the operation, alleging overly aggressive tactics.

I’ll bet this makes Rustamiya residents happy as hell: NATO inaugurated an officer academy on the outskirts of Baghdad today, boosting its share in training Iraqi security forces.

NATO, which was nearly torn apart in 2003 in a row over the US-led war, has no combat role in Iraq. But it agreed last year to support US-led training of Iraqi soldiers with courses aimed at turning out 1,000 senior officers a year.

The 26-member alliance will shift the bulk of its training mission in Baghdad's heavily fortified international zone to the academy in the suburb of Rustamiya some 20 km south.

Oh Boy! We Got An Al Qaeda Guy! We’re Winning!

Woo hoo! USA! USA!: Al Qaeda's second-in-command in Iraq, Abu Azzam, was shot dead in Baghdad this week, the U.S. military said on Tuesday, a potential a blow to the group at the heart of Iraq's insurgency. U.S. and Iraqi forces tracked Azzam, said to be the right- hand man of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the most wanted man in Iraq, to a high-rise apartment building where he was shot on Sunday, U.S. military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Steve Boylan said. "We had a tip from an Iraqi citizen that led us to him," Boylan said. "We've been tracking him for a while." The death may mark progress against militants but attacks continued unabated. A suicide bomber blew himself up among a crowd of Iraqi police recruits north of Baghdad on Tuesday, killing at least 10 and wounding about 30, police said. It is uncertain how much intelligence Azzam's killing will deliver, particularly since it appears he was shot without being interrogated.

People who follow Bush’s war closely know that this has to be the 50th or 60th really important al-Qaeda bigwig claimed to be killed or captured. Yippee. It means jack to the insurgency, which is Iraqi. It means jack to the overall “War on Terror” since al-Qaeda has mutated into a decentralized network fueled by Islamic rage against US policies – losing one guy, no matter how important to a local effort, isn’t going to deal them a knockout blow. And we don’t even know if it’s true. I mean, check it out – as mentioned further on in the article, 500 detainees were just released from Abu Ghraib as a goodwill gesture to placate Sunnis. Which means there was dick to charge them with. But you can bet that CENTCOM claimed all those people were ‘suspected terrorists’ when they were detained, that is, if there was any public mention of it at all. So excuse me if I’m a bit skeptical about this claim. And anyway…

Why Killing An Al Qaeda Leader Means Jack In Iraq

Iraq is a violence wracked society where hurt people can’t even get to a hospital: When an Iraqi civilian is hurt, the reality is that for nearly half of them help will never arrive. And every violent attack in Baghdad is another strain on an overwhelmed health care system.

One reason why is that driving an ambulance in Baghdad is a risky business. There is the aftermath of insurgent bombs. And drivers, like Mohammad Hassan Hamoodi, are sometimes viewed as a threat by the military.

As he says, "Who do you fear more, insurgents or soldiers? Soldiers. American or Iraqi."

Hamoodi drives one of only 35 working ambulances in this city of more than 5 million people. In one makeshift dispatch center, four phones ring almost constantly — when the phones are working. The call log of one center reads like an emergency room nightmare: shooting, baby born, shooting, shooting, shooting.

And just getting to an emergency can take up to an hour if the ambulance gets there are all.

Where the educated classes are fleeing as fast as they can: One of Iraq's most precious resources -- doctors -- are fleeing the country in increasing numbers, scared off by persistent violence and drawn to safer, better paying jobs abroad, officials say.

A steady trickle of skilled workers has been flowing out of the country since the 2003 invasion, but in the past year, with the sharp rise in assassinations and kidnappings by insurgents, the exodus of doctors has picked up, they say.

"Iraq is like a battlefield, doctors face danger just getting to work because of terrorist acts," said Aakif al-Alusi, a senior member of the Iraqi Doctors' Syndicate, the official medics' register, who worries about the long-term social impact of the medical brain-drain.

The syndicate estimates 1,500 medical professionals -- doctors, nurses, dentists and pharmacists -- have fled in the past year alone, although precise numbers are difficult to obtain. Almost as many left in 2003 and in 2004, Alusi said.

Where thousands of people are displaced from their destroyed homes: The United Nations and its partners have delivered food and non-food items to over 16,000 people in the northern Iraqi city of Talafar where recent fighting between Coalition forces and insurgents displaced several thousand families, a UN statement said on Friday.

Working with the Iraqi Ministry of Displacement and Migration, the prime minister's office, the Iraqi Red Crescent Society (IRCS) and national NGOs, the UN had provided food, water, non-food items and tents to more than 4,000 displaced families in towns surrounding Talafar, the statement noted.

The UN, however, said it was concerned access to food, water and medical services had continued to be hindered by the presence and activities of armed elements. "The UN asks that all actors follow international humanitarian law and guidelines for civil-military interactions," said the statement.

On Wednesday, the IRCS said nearly 1,500 displaced Iraqi families had returned to the city after Coalition forces ended an operation to rout insurgents hiding there. Returnees said dozens of their homes had been totally destroyed.

Despite the returns, however, thousands of displaced people were still living in camps surviving on aid from various humanitarian organisations.

Where the quisling government and occupying forces are destroying the economy: The failure to rebuild key components of Iraq's petroleum industry has impeded oil production and may have permanently damaged the largest of the country's vast oil fields, American and Iraqi experts say. The deficiencies have deprived Iraq of hundreds of millions of dollars in potential revenue needed for national rebuilding efforts and kept millions of barrels of oil off the world market at a time of growing demand.

Engineering mistakes, poor leadership and shifting priorities have delayed or led to the cancellation of several projects critical to restoring Iraq's oil industry, according to interviews with more than two dozen current and former U.S. and Iraqi officials and industry experts. The troubles have been compounded in some cases by security issues, poor maintenance and disputes between the U.S. and its main contractor, Houston-based KBR, a subsidiary of Halliburton Corp., according to the interviews and documents. Despite the United States' spending more than $1.3 billion, oil production remains below the estimated prewar level of 2.5 million barrels per day and well below a December 2004 goal of up to 3 million barrels per day.

And where insiders make out big while everyone else pounds sand: Corruption in Iraq's oil sector looms as one of the biggest threats to the country's economy, yet it has gone largely unaddressed since the toppling of Saddam Hussein's regime in April 2003. In testimony before the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee in July, RAND Corp. senior economist Keith Crane said it is estimated that a third of Iraqi imports of gasoline and diesel fuel is stolen annually, which this year will cost the country about $2 billion. A report released earlier this year by the auditing firm KPMG disclosed that $69 million in oil produced in Iraq during the second half of 2004 disappeared, sparking concern that it had been smuggled. "People in government, or with government ties, are making hundreds of millions of dollars from the current situation," Crane said in a recent interview. "And they don't want to see that changed." As a result, money earmarked for crucial reconstruction projects disappears, a fragile, one-commodity economy stagnates and a restive, war-weary public grows increasingly mistrustful of its fledgling government.

So pardon me if I don’t get too excited about one dead terrorist. Granted, Iraq would be much better off without an al-Qaeda presence but it would still be a basket case and the US invasion and occupation is the reason. There was no al-Qaeda in Iraq until we went in. This is why we don’t give a lot of play to these ‘success’ stories. You want to read happy crap about Iraq, go to CENTCOM’s website. I was there this morning and I see they fixed up another school.

Speaking Of Rebuilding A Destroyed Nation

Bound to get it right sometime: The U.S. military plans to take over responsibility from the State Department for providing assistance to Iraq's Defense and Interior ministries, following a determination that greater resources and technical expertise are needed.

Getting the ministries to exercise effective control over Iraq's fledgling security forces remains key to enabling those forces to operate on their own and allow the withdrawal of U.S. troops. But while the number of Iraqi forces has grown steadily to more than 192,000, the ministries have yet to put in place many of the budgeting, contracting, personnel management and other systems necessary to administer the country's military and police units, U.S. military officers and diplomats said.

Responsibility for the ministries has rested with the State Department's Iraq Reconstruction Management Office, while the Pentagon has overseen training of Iraq's fielded forces. This division of tasks was intended to reinforce the principle of civilian control of the security services, according to officials here, but it has led to some gaps.

The State Department office has struggled to fill all the adviser slots allotted to it, especially at the Interior Ministry, where at least 10 of 51 positions remain vacant. Several U.S. military officers also said that a number of advisers had tended to play only limited roles, helping Iraqi authorities to identify problems but not to solve them.

And what the hell, it’s not like we can’t just throw more money at it: The Senate would give President Bush $50 billion more for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as part of a $440 billion defense spending measure a panel approved Monday.

The House already has approved $45 billion more for the wars as part of its $409 billion version of the bill providing money for the Defense Department for the budget year that begins Oct. 1.

Both the Senate and House versions provide for a 3.1 percent pay raise for the military, but the bills differ in other areas. The conflicts must be sorted out before Congress sends the final bill to the president for his signature.

Overall, Congress already has given the president about $350 billion for combat and reconstruction in Iraq and Afghanistan and fighting terrorism worldwide since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, according to the Congressional Research Service, which writes reports for lawmakers. That total includes $82 billion that lawmakers approved in May.

The Bush administration has not yet asked for more war money, but lawmakers are reluctant to wait for a formal request. Costs are certain given that there's no end in sight to involvement in Iraq or Afghanistan.

And you know our expenditures will be most carefully monitored: When Joseph E. Schmitz took over as the Pentagon's inspector general in 2002, the largest watchdog organization in the federal government was under fire for failing to fully investigate a senior official, falsifying internal documents and mistreating whistle-blowers. He publicly pledged to clean it up. Three years later, similar accusations now surround Schmitz.

Schmitz slowed or blocked investigations of senior Bush administration officials, spent taxpayer money on pet projects and accepted gifts that may have violated ethics guidelines, according to interviews with current and former senior officials in the inspector general's office, congressional investigators and a review of internal e-mail and other documents. The case has raised troubling questions about Schmitz as well as the Defense Department's commitment to combating waste, fraud and abuse of taxpayers' money, especially in politically sensitive cases.

Our New American Values: Torture, Death, And Porn

A sacred trust: "Command is a sacred trust. The legal and moral responsibilities of commanders exceed those of any other leader of similar position or authority. Nowhere else does a boss have to answer for how subordinates live and what they do after work." -- Dep't of the Army, Field Manual 22-100, sec. 1-61. With a sense of timing that can only be described as exquisite, the Secretary of the Army, Francis J. Harvey, and the Army Chief of Staff, General Peter J. Schoomaker, have published a defense of the Army's handling of the torture and prisoner abuse scandal in the National Review Online, just as another, particularly gruesome, chapter in this seemingly endless saga breaks across the front pages of the nation's newspapers. We are rapidly arriving at the point where the denials of military senior brass and political appointees who supervise them can only be viewed either as shirking responsibility or as confirmation that torture and abuse are official U.S. policy. It is hard to judge which of these alternatives is more harmful to the nation and its armed forces.

Army Values The Army is the oldest of the nation's institutions, antedating the Presidency, the Congress and the courts. It played a unique role in defining and unifying the nation and in fixing the traditions with which the country has been associated since its founding. First among these may well be the tradition of humane warfare, articulated by George Washington after the Battle of Trenton, December 24, 1776. "Treat them with humanity," Washington directed with respect to the captured Hessians. He forbade physical abuse and directed the detainees be quartered with the German-speaking residents of Eastern Pennsylvania, in the expectation that they would become "so fraught with a love of liberty, and property too, that they may create a disgust to the service among the rest of the foreign troops, and widen the breach which is already opened between them and the British." (Things unfolded exactly as Washington envisioned). Washington also set the rule that detainees be given the same housing, food and medical treatment as his own soldiers. And he was particularly concerned about freedom of conscience and respect for the religious values of those taken prisoner. "While we are contending for our own liberty, we should be very cautious of violating the rights of conscience in others, ever considering that God alone is the judge of hearts of men, and to Him only in this case are they answerable." Under Abraham Lincoln, in 1862, Washington's orders were expanded in the world's first comprehensive codification of the laws of war, General Orders No. 100 (1862), also called the Lieber Code. Among other points, Lincoln clarified what was meant by "humane" treatment. It could under no circumstance comprehend torture, he directed in article 16. This tradition has been a source of pride for our nation for over 200 years. The pressing question today is whether this legacy has been betrayed by those in the highest positions of our Government and in the Department of Defense. The evidence to this effect is now overwhelming.

Shirkers at the Top The torture and abuse saga has now raged on the public stage for 18 months, and a comparison of the Harvey/Schoomaker article with the current newspaper headlines suggests strongly that the Pentagon views the problem as little more than a public relations squabble. This scandal exposes an assault on core values of the Army by senior policymakers -- for the most part political appointees outside the scope of military investigation. The doctrine of humane treatment has been all but eviscerated. But for the long term, the damage done to the doctrine of command responsibility may be even more troubling. Under both military doctrine and U.S. law (Ex parte Yamashita, 327 U.S. 1 (1946)), command authority bears responsibility for the conduct of soldiers under its supervision. Where command authority fails to control the operations of its troops, particularly by permitting atrocities and war crimes, the command authority assumes criminal liability. Similarly, when crimes are committed and the command authority fails to punish those with supervisory responsibility, the result may be to pass criminal liability up the chain of command. In light of the disciplinary actions recommended and not carried out with respect to general and field grade officers, and the fact that detainee abuse remains unresolved after the passage of years, criminal responsibility has now been passed up the chain of command to those who exercise oversight, potentially including the authors of the National Review piece. This liability exists independently of liability that may arise from the formulation and implementation of policy that foments or permits abuse. As a highly regarded Army reserve lawyer -- now called up to active duty in Iraq -- recently wrote, these developments cumulatively reflect "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." The introduction of torture and abuse as interrogation practices has badly corrupted military intelligence and is undermining morale and discipline throughout the service. The decision to scapegoat the "grunts" for decisions that clearly were taken at or near the top of the chain of command has further undermined confidence in the chain of command and in the integrity of the Army as an institution. The systematic denial of the doctrine of command responsibility threatens the ethic of the military on the most fundamental level. One must wonder when and where this whirlwind of destruction that now engulfs our military and threatens to undermine our national security will end.

This is an outstanding article, well worth reading in its entirety.

A sacred trust, part 2: U.S. Army troops subjected Iraqi detainees to severe beatings and other torture at a base in central Iraq from 2003 through 2004, often under orders or with the approval of superior officers, according to accounts from soldiers released by Human Rights Watch. The new report, "Leadership Failure: Firsthand Accounts of Torture of Iraqi Detainees by the U.S. Army's 82nd Airborne Division," provides soldiers' accounts of abuses against detainees committed by troops of the 82nd Airborne stationed at Forward Operating Base Mercury (FOB Mercury), near Fallujah. Three U.S. army personnel - two sergeants and a captain - describe routine, severe beatings of prisoners and other cruel and inhumane treatment. In one incident, a soldier is alleged to have broken a detainee's leg with a baseball bat. Detainees were also forced to hold five-gallon jugs of water with their arms outstretched and perform other acts until they passed out. Soldiers also applied chemical substances to detainees' skin and eyes, and subjected detainees to forced stress positions, sleep deprivation and extremes of hot and cold. Detainees were also stacked into human pyramids and denied food and water. The soldiers also described abuses they witnessed or participated in at another base in Iraq and during earlier deployments in Afghanistan. According to the soldiers' accounts, U.S. personnel abused detainees as part of the military interrogation process or merely to "relieve stress." In numerous cases, they said that abuse was specifically ordered by Military Intelligence personnel before interrogations, and that superior officers within and outside of Military Intelligence knew about the widespread abuse. The accounts show that abuses resulted from civilian and military failures of leadership and confusion about interrogation standards and the application of the Geneva Conventions. They contradict claims by the Bush administration that detainee abuses by U.S. forces abroad have been infrequent, exceptional and unrelated to policy.

The Human Rights Watch report:

Leadership Failure - Firsthand Accounts of Torture of Iraqi Detainees by the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division

Silence: Where do American religious leaders stand on torture? Their deafening silence evokes memories of the unconscionable behavior of German church leaders in the 1930s and early 1940s.

Despite the hate whipped up by administration propagandists against those it brands "terrorists," most Americans agree that torture should not be permitted. Few seem aware, though, that although President George W. Bush says he is against torture, he has openly declared that our military and other interrogators may engage in torture "consistent with military necessity."

For far too long we have been acting like "obedient Germans." Shall we continue to avert our eyes -- even as our mainstream media begin to expose the "routine" torture conducted by US forces in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo?

The ramifications have not yet begun to unfold: This could become a public-relations catastrophe. The Bush administration claims such sympathy for American war dead that officials have banned the media from photographing flag-draped coffins being carried off cargo planes. Government officials and American media officials have repeatedly denounced the al-Jazeera network for airing grisly footage of Iraqi war casualties and American prisoners of war. The legal fight over whether to release the remaining photographs of atrocities at Abu Ghraib has dragged on for months, with no less a figure than Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Richard Meyers arguing that the release of such images will inflame the Muslim world and drive untold numbers to join al-Qaeda. But none of these can compare to the prospect of American troops casually bartering pictures of suffering and death for porn.

If American soldiers in the field are always considered representatives of their government, international law clearly prohibits publishing and ridiculing images of war dead. The First Protocol of the Geneva Conventions states that "the remains of persons who have died for reasons related to occupation or in detention resulting from occupation or hostilities ... shall be respected, and the gravesites of all such persons shall be respected, maintained, and marked." The first Geneva Convention also requires that military personnel "shall further ensure that the dead are honorably interred, if possible according to the rites of the religion to which they belonged."

No one can reasonably expect a war without war crimes. But thanks to modern communications technology, photographic evidence of its brutality will always be with us. Roughly two hundred soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan document their experiences in online "milblogs," and digital cameras are ubiquitous. No one can stop soldiers from posting pictures of eviscerated corpses for all to see, and no one should ever again be able to feign ignorance of war's human cost. Or so you'd think. Yet in the days since the European press uncovered the gore-for-porn story, not a single US print newspaper other than the Express has touched it.

Representatives from Amnesty International and Human Rights First even refused to comment, although both organizations ostensibly exist to condemn just this kind of practice. Perhaps no one wants to give Chris Wilson more publicity, or daily editors are too sensitive about being viewed as unpatriotic. Or perhaps the story is just too ugly to contemplate.

Americans have thousands of media outlets to choose from. But they still have to visit a porn site to see what this war has done to the bodies of the dead and the souls of the living. One of the pictures on Wilson's site depicts a woman whose right leg has been torn off by a land mine, and a medical worker is holding the mangled stump up to the camera. The woman's vagina is visible under the hem of her skirt. The caption for this picture reads: "Nice puss -– bad foot."

But don’t worry – we’ll punish the responsible parties!: Army Pfc. Lynndie England, whose smiling poses in photos of detainee abuse at Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison made her the face of the scandal, was convicted Monday by a military jury on six of seven counts.

England, 22, was found guilty of one count of conspiracy, four counts of maltreating detainees and one count of committing an indecent act. She was acquitted on a second conspiracy count.

The jury of five male Army officers took about two hours to reach its verdict. Her case now moves to the sentencing phase, which will be heard by the same jury beginning Tuesday.

The World Is Full Of Scumbags

Arrogant scumbags: Tony Blair is at now at odds with the public over keeping troops in Iraq according to a Guardian/ICM poll published today which shows that voters want Britain to set a timetable for pulling troops out of the country despite the worsening security situation.

The poll also shows rapidly rising dissatisfaction with Mr Blair's leadership. Only 41% of voters are persuaded by the prime minister's argument that troops have a duty to remain in the country until things improve. By contrast, a majority of voters, 51%, want the government to set out plans to withdraw troops from Iraq regardless of the situation in the country.

Yesterday Mr Blair again argued that no arbitrary date should be set for withdrawal. In a BBC interview he said: "I have absolutely no doubt as to what we should do. We should stick with it."

But the poll, taken after last week's attack on British troops in Basra, shows that a clear majority, 64%, believe the situation in the country is worsening despite the presence of British forces. Just 12% now share Mr Blair's belief that British troops are actually helping to improve the security situation.

Cowardly scumbags: But on Iraq, a big disconnect exists between what registered Democrats believe about the war and what elected Democratic officials and alleged party leaders like Howard Dean are willing to do. Only two Democratic officeholders -- Representatives John Conyers of Michigan and Cynthia McKinney of Georgia -- planned to be anywhere near the antiwar rally scheduled this weekend in Washington.

Forget about standing up alongside Michael Moore. Merely speaking up against the war in Iraq continues to terrify Democrats. One exception is Senator Edward M. Kennedy, who voted against Roberts and is also a strong, consistent Democratic voice against Iraq. But Kennedy is not running for president.

Democratic senators who are in the presidential contender mix, such as Clinton, Kerry, and Joseph Biden of Delaware, have yet to label their votes to authorize war a mistake, even though the underlying rationale -- weapons of mass destruction -- was long ago revealed as false. Given the reluctance to admit mistakes in Washington, they probably never will. These Democrats, meanwhile, continue to tailor their opposition to the way the war is being waged, not to its underlying purpose or morality.

But There Are Still Some Heroes In Our Country

Ian Fishback: When Army Capt. Ian Fishback told his company and battalion commanders that soldiers were abusing Iraqi prisoners in violation of the Geneva Convention, he says, they told him those rules were easily skirted. When he wrote a memo saying Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld was wrong in telling Congress that the Army follows the Geneva dictates, his lieutenant colonel responded only: "I am aware of Fishback's concerns."

And when Fishback found himself in the same room as Secretary of the Army Francis J. Harvey at Ft. Benning, Ga., he again complained about prisoner abuse. He said Harvey told him that "corrective action was already taken." At every turn, it seemed, the decorated young West Point graduate, the son of a Vietnam War veteran from Michigan's Upper Peninsula, whose wife is serving with the Army in Iraq, felt that the military had shut him out. So he turned to those he knows best. He sought guidance from fellow infantry commanders and his West Point classmates, and learned that they agreed with him that abuse of prisoners was widespread and that officers weren't adequately trained in how to handle them. Then, in a lengthy chronology obtained Saturday by The Times, recounting what he saw in Iraq and his numerous efforts to get the Army's attention, he wrote that "Harvey is wrong." He wrote that Army guidance was "too vague for officers to enforce American values." He concluded that violations of the Geneva Convention were "systematic, and the Army is misleading America." This summer, after weighing the possible effects on his career, he stepped outside the Army's chain of command and telephoned the Human Rights Watch advocacy group. He later met with aides on the Senate Armed Services Committee. On Friday, he authorized them to make public his allegations, along with those of two sergeants, of widespread prisoner abuse they had witnessed when they served in Iraq in 2003 and 2004 as members of the Army's 82nd Airborne Division. Within hours, the Army announced it had opened a criminal investigation.

Contrast this honorable young man with the Air Force generals who are afraid to protest against the new US nuclear first strike policy that the Pentagon is proposing because it might damage their careers. What cowards they are.

Jed Rakoff: A federal judge Monday rejected a government argument that he was interfering with the president's constitutional authority to wage war by insisting that Guantanamo Bay detainees be asked if they want their names to be made public.

The government raised the objection after U.S. District Judge Jed S. Rakoff last month ordered the Defense Department to pose the question to detainees held at the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, naval base.

The judge wrote that the argument was without merit, and that it was offered improperly after he had already rejected the government's other reasons for insisting that the information not be released to The Associated Press.

In April, the AP filed a lawsuit asking for transcripts of 558 tribunals conducted in the last year to give detainees a chance to challenge their incarceration. The government released the documents but redacted facts about each detainee's identity.

In his ruling last month, Rakoff noted that the government had argued the identities should be kept secret to protect the privacy of the detainees rather than for national security reasons.

The judge said each detainee could answer "yes" or "no" to the question of whether he wanted his identity revealed.

"One might well wonder whether the detainees share the view that keeping their identities secret is in their own best interests," he wrote last month.

Maurice Hinchey: New York congressman Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) delivered a fiery critique of the Bush Administration's drive to war in Iraq, labeling the push part of a "conspiracy" to deceive Congress and occupy the country.

The speech, made Sept. 19 outside the District Courthouse in Binghamton, New York before the federal trial of the St. Patrick’s Four, was transcribed by RAW STORY's Jennifer Van Bergen.

Speaking of the four protesters who spilled their own blood at a military recruiting center, Hinchey said "what they were protesting was the conspiracy of the Administration of George W. Bush to bring about an attack and then an occupation of the country of Iraq, and as a result making the world a much more dangerous and difficult place than it was prior to those actions."

"It is that conspiracy," he added, "that conspiracy which has now been documented by among other things official British documents called the Downing Street Memo which are communications between the highest ranking officials of the British government – the head of the British Intelligence, the foreign officer, the prime minister himself."


Analysis: Posted on a bulletin board at Centcom headquarters here is a 1918 admonition from T.E. Lawrence explaining what he learned in training Arab soldiers: "It is better to let them do it themselves imperfectly than to do it yourself perfectly. It is their country, their way, and our time is short."

That quote sums up an important shift in U.S. military strategy on Iraq that has been emerging over the past year. The commanders who are running the war don't talk about transforming Iraq into an American-style democracy or of imposing U.S. values. They understand that Iraqis dislike American occupation, and for that reason they want fewer American troops in Iraq, not more. Most of all, they don't want the current struggle against Iraqi insurgents, who are nasty but militarily insignificant, to undermine U.S. efforts against the larger threat posed by al Qaeda terrorists, who would kill hundreds of thousands of Americans if they could.

I had a rare opportunity to hear a detailed explanation of U.S. military strategy this weekend when the Centcom chief, Gen. John Abizaid, gathered his top generals here for what he called a "commanders' huddle." They described a military approach that's different, at least in tone, from what the public perceives. For the commanders, Iraq isn't an endless tunnel. They are planning to reduce U.S. troop levels over the next year to a force that will focus on training and advising the Iraqi military. They don't want permanent U.S. bases in Iraq. Indeed, they believe such a high-visibility American presence will only make it harder to stabilize the country.

The commanders' thinking is conveyed by a set of "Principles for a Long War" for combating the main enemy, al Qaeda and affiliated movements. Among the precepts they discussed here: "use the indirect approach" by working with Iraqi and other partner forces; "avoid the dependency syndrome" by making the Iraqis take responsibility for their own security and governance; and "remove the perception of occupation" by reducing the size and visibility of American forces. The goal over the next decade is a smaller, leaner, more flexible U.S. force in the Middle East -- one that can help regional allies rather than trying to fight an open-ended American war that would be a recruiting banner for al Qaeda.

This article is by David Ignatius – I thought it was quite interesting but don’t really have a very good sense of whether he is a real journalist or another Beltway tool. Readers?

Opinion: Ms. Greenhouse and Mr. Greenfeld are only two of the many whistle-blowers done in by this administration so far. (Congressman Rahm Emanuel, Democrat of Illinois, lists nine on his Web site.) Even top government officials who are not whistle-blowers, merely truth-tellers, are axed. Lawrence Lindsey, the president's chief economic adviser, was pushed out after he accurately projected the cost of the Iraq war at $100 billion to $200 billion. Gen. Eric Shinseki, the Army chief of staff, was shunted aside after he accurately estimated the number of required troops ("several hundred thousand") for securing Iraq. Paul Wolfowitz and Donald Rumsfeld, who presented rosy scenarios of getting the job done with Iraqi oil income and low troop deployments, stayed on to bungle the war.

Their errors were compounded when the administration staffed the post-Saddam American occupation with exactly the same kind of appointees it would later bring to homeland security: the two heads of "private sector development" in Iraq were a former Bush fund-raiser in Connecticut and a venture capitalist who just happened to be Ari Fleischer's brother. As The Washington Post reported last year, major roles in the L. Paul Bremer regime were given to 20-somethings with no foreign service experience or knowledge of Arabic simply because they had posted their résumés at the Heritage Foundation, the same conservative think tank where Mr. Bremer had chaired a task force.

The damage done to the mission in Iraq and homeland security alike by Enron governance is immeasurable.

Opinion: George W. Bush will go down in history as the president who fiddled while America lost its superpower status.

Bush used deceit and hysteria to lead America into a war that is bleeding the US economically, militarily, and diplomatically. The war is being fought with hundreds of billions of dollars borrowed from foreigners. The war is bleeding the military of troops and commitments. The war has ended the US claim to moral leadership and exposed the US as a reckless and aggressive power.

Focused on a concocted "war on terrorism," the Bush administration diverted money from the New Orleans levees to Iraq, with the consequence that the US now has a $100 billion rebuild bill on top of the war bill.

The US is so short of troops that neoconservatives are advocating the use of foreign mercenaries paid with US citizenship.

US efforts to isolate Iran have been blocked by Russia and China, nuclear powers that Bush cannot bully.

The Iraqi war has three beneficiaries: (1) al Qaeda, (2) Iran and (3) US war industries and Bush-Cheney cronies who receive no-bid contracts.

Everyone else is a loser.

Casualty Reports

Local story: Elizabethtown, KY, soldier who died September 16 in a Baghdad roadside bombing interred in Cranks, KY.

Local story: Wilmington, VT, soldier killed in roadside bombing in Iraq.

Local story: Two Wisconsin National Guardsmen, one from Oshkosh and one from Mayville, killed in a roadside bombing in Iraq.

Local story: Vista, CA, soldier killed in Iraq by a hidden bomb.

Local story: Washington, NC, soldier killed in roadside bombing in Iraq.

Local story: Two California National Guardsmen, one from Antioch and one from Oceanside, killed in roadside bombing in Baghdad; and one California Marine, from Vista, killed in a bombing in Taqaddaum.

Local story: Hardwick, VT, soldier killed by a sniper near Ramadi. (To the servicemember who sent me this story – Thank you, and I’m sorry I wasn’t able to post it sooner.)

Note to Readers: I’d like to extend a warm personal welcome to our new blog colleague Helena. Her website is a valuable resource which I’ve constantly failed to take adequate advantage of and now that she’s going to be cross-posting here, I can stop feeling guilty about it. She’s going to be a great asset to the site. Welcome aboard, Helena.


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