Saturday, December 31, 2005

War News Update, Saturday, December 31, 2005 Via Reuters:
BAGHDAD - One civilian was killed and three others injured when a mortar round hit a house in central Baghdad on Saturday, police said. KHALIS - Five people were killed and two injured when their car struck a roadside bomb outside the local headquarters of the Iraqi Islamic Party in Khalis, 60 km (40 miles) north of Baghdad, police said. BAGHDAD - Two policemen were killed and one was injured when a roadside bomb struck their car in the centre of Baghdad. Police said four civilians were also injured. BAGHDAD - Four police commandos were seriously injured when a roadside bomb struck their car in al-Dura district in southern Baghdad, police said. BAIJI - One civilian was killed and another injured when a U.S. patrol opened fire after a roadside bomb went off nearby in Baiji 180 km (112 miles) north of Baghdad. No casualties were reported among the U.S. patrol, the U.S. army said.
Before the year ends I want to mention a very notable ambassador by the name of Craig Murray. You can visit his website here (blocked the last time I tried it) and look at the lies, hipocrisy and filth that spews from the British Government regarding the torture of innocents in this so called war on terror.

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


Friday, December 30, 2005

War News Predictions 2006 It's the time of year to join a gym and make resolutions and predictions. Leaving aside the gym and resolutions, I want to see how many mystical posters we have here. It's time for predictions on the War on Terror and the Bush Junta for 2006. Here are mine.
· Casualties of the Coalition of the Killing will hit the 3,000 mark in early July. · Bush’s approval ratings will be the lowest in living memory for a President of the United States. · Today in Iraq will be viewed by over 2m posters by November.
So OK, I cheated on the above, they were just extrapolations. Now, for the mystical stuff.
· Saddam will be alive on Dec 31, 2006 · Zarqawi (and OBL) will still be “officially” alive on Dec 31, 2006 · Iran will not be attacked. · Syria will be under heavy UN sanctions but Assad still in power. · US troop levels will not fall below 130,000. · Oil barrel prices will pass the $80 dollar mark in June. · Iraq will remain a quagmire.

War News for Friday, December 30, 2005 Bring 'em on: Five Iraqis killed in mortar attack in Baghdad. Bring 'em on: A policeman was killed and two others wounded when their patrol was struck by a roadside bomb in the town of Iskandariya. Bring 'em on: U.S. soldiers killed two people in a car on Thursday night near the Himreen mountains, 75 miles south of Kirkuk. Bring 'em on: Police said four mortar rounds landed on a police commandos' headquarters on Thursday night in the town of Samarra. Mr .89% coup: Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Chalabi has assumed direct control of the powerful oil ministry as crude exports ground to a halt due to sabotage attacks and logistics problems, officials said on Friday. Chalabi, who has been improving his relations with Washington after falling out with the U.S. administration, was appointed acting oil minister after the incumbent Ibrahim Bahr al-Uloum was given leave, the officials said.I predicted he would be PM, remember? War on Terror widens: Al Qaeda in Iraq said it had launched missiles at Israel from Lebanon as part of a "new attack" on the Jewish state, a statement posted on the Web said on Thursday. It appeared to be the first claim of responsibility from al Qaeda for an attack on Israel from Lebanon. A senior Israeli security source questioned the claim. Big Brother is watching all of us: In a posting on his googlewatch.org website a privacy activist, Daniel Brandt, says he discovered that the NSA was using tracking devices when he logged on to the agency website on Christmas Day. He found the site was using two persistent cookies that would not expire until 2035, well beyond the life of most computers. While the use of cookies is seen as a convenience at commercial websites, allowing a visitor access without laboriously retyping passwords, their utility for government websites - which do not typically have repeat visits - is uncertain. Stalin would be Proud: The broad-based effort, known within the agency by the initials GST, is compartmentalized into dozens of highly classified individual programs, details of which are known mainly to those directly involved. GST includes programs allowing the CIA to capture al Qaeda suspects with help from foreign intelligence services, to maintain secret prisons abroad, to use interrogation techniques that some lawyers say violate international treaties, and to maintain a fleet of aircraft to move detainees around the globe. Other compartments within GST give the CIA enhanced ability to mine international financial records and eavesdrop on suspects anywhere in the world. Goebbels would be Proud: But one observer sees the Iraq "payola" issue and the new Murrow programme as "an example of the difference between democracy in theory and practice". Prof. Beau Grosscup of the University of California at Chico told IPS, "The same people who set up a programme to promote 'independent journalism' are the same folks who defend funding public relations firms, conservative think tank connected jingoist individuals and embedded journalists as 'independent' media." "It's all about public relations and media control. Joseph Goebbels (Adolph Hitler's propaganda minister) would be proud." Who cares about Gitmo?: The number of detainees involved in a hunger strike at the US internment camp in Cuba's Guantanamo Bay has more than doubled in the past week. The US authorities say 84 prisoners are now refusing food, with 46 more joining the protest on Christmas Day. The US military is believed to be force-feeding some of the inmates, who are protesting against the conditions in which they are being held and their continued detention without trial. No Oil: Iraq's largest oil refinery has been shut down following death threats to tanker drivers, jeopardising supplies of electricity across northern Iraq. The threats followed a steep rise in the price of petrol earlier this month, ordered by the government. Were they Unfair?: team of international monitors has said it is ready to visit Iraq to review complaints that parliamentary elections held this month were unfair. The monitors' offer has been welcomed by leading Sunni Arab and secular Shia parties, who have alleged that the vote was marred by fraud and intimidation. Meanwhile those in Power: Far from the violence of this country's turbulent capital, the emerging Shiite and Kurdish leaders of Iraq's new democracy hunkered down in a northern mountain retreat to plan, they say, a pluralistic government that would embrace disenfranchised Sunni Arabs. The stakes of such meetings are enormous. While certainly the beginning of political horse-trading that will stretch over the coming weeks, the challenge will be to unite groups with widely different views into one ruling coalition. A consensus-based process could create a government stabilized through the buy-in of all Iraqis. White Man's Burden: "The bottom line will be that the Iraqi army and the Iraqi police will gain in competence, that they will be able to take on more and more of the territory, whether or not there are still insurgents in that area," he said in an interview with a small group of reporters, including The Associated Press, aboard a military plane en route to the United Arab Emirates. Amid congressional pressure and growing public opposition to the war, the Bush administration last week announced plans to reduce U.S. combat troops in Iraq to below the 138,000 level that prevailed most of this year. More White Man's Burden: American commanders are planning to increase significantly the number of soldiers advising Iraqi police commando units, in part to curtail abuse that the units are suspected of inflicting on Sunni Arabs, a senior commander in Iraq said Thursday. Under the plan, which the officer said he expected would be formally approved in a few weeks, the number of advisers working with the Iraqi units would be greatly expanded. The advisers themselves would be under the command of American officers. More Prisons: American forces in Iraq have launched a £30 million programme to expand military prisons after the number of suspected insurgents in custody doubled to 15,000. The programme forms part of a two-pronged scheme which aims to ensure there is space to keep captured gunmen locked up and to hand over the task to the Iraqis. South Korea: South Korea's parliament approved a government plan Friday to bring home one-third of the country's troops in Iraq but extended the overall deployment for another year. The National Assembly vote was 110-31 with 17 abstentions. Kirkuk: The settlements' purpose is as blunt as their design: They are the heart of an aggressive campaign by the Kurds to lay claim to Kirkuk, which sits on one of the richest oil fields in the world. The Kurdish settlers have been moving into the area at a furious pace, with thousands coming in the past few months, sometimes with direct financing from the two main Kurdish political parties. The campaign has emerged as one of the most volatile issues dogging the talks to form a new Iraqi government. In this region, it has ignited fury among Arabs and Turkmens, adding to already caustic tension in the ethnically mixed city, U.S. and Iraqi officials say. Opinion and Commentary The Ultimate Quagmire:
Iraq is a giant, messy albatross hanging from President George W Bush's neck. The faith-based American president believes "we are winning the war in Iraq". The reality-based global public opinion - not to mention 59% of Americans, and counting - know this is not true. Bush felt that "God put me here" so he could conduct a "war on terror". Somebody up there must have a tremendous sense of humor - once again manifested in the way He allotted winners and losers in Iraq's December 15 parliamentary elections. The Shi'ite religious parties in the United Iraqi Alliance (UIA) were the big winners - from 70% to 95% of the vote in the impoverished southern provinces; 59% in Baghdad; and nationally, well over 40% of the total (they've won in nine of Iraq's 18 provinces plus the capital). It's a relatively unexpected success considering the dreadful record of Ibrahim Jaafari's Shi'ite-dominated government. All those intimately allied with the US invasion and occupation were big losers. The Iraqi National List of US intelligence asset and former prime minister Iyad Allawi, also known as "Saddam without a moustache", the man who endorsed the Pentagon bombing of the Shi'ite holy city of Najaf and Sunni Arab Fallujah - got a pitiful 14%. Convicted fraudster and former Pentagon ally Ahmad Chalabi received less than 1% in Baghdad. The neo-conservatives of the American Enterprise Institute were predicting 5% for Chalabi (their overwhelming favorite) and 20% for Allawi; that's proof enough they have no clue about what's going on in Iraq. Bush's new Iraq is pro-Iran. It will not recognize Israel. And it wants the Americans out; one of the first measures of an emerging, powerful parliamentary alliance between roughly 38 Sadrists of Shi'ite nationalist cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and roughly 50 Sunni Arabs will be to call for an immediate end of the occupation. The details to be ironed out hinge on whether the UIA majority aligns itself with the Sunni Arabs, the Kurds, or with both in a government of "national unity" - as it is being called by the current vice president Abdel Mahdi (a free marketer) as well as current president Jalal Talabani, a Kurd. "National unity" is improbable; the Shi'ites simply won't forgo their majority. The Kurds for their part know it will be a foolish move to try to break their strategic alliance with the UIA. Sunni Arab votes were split between the neo-Ba'athist National Dialogue Council of Salih Mutlak and the Islamist, Sunni National Accord Front of Adnan Dulaimi. But what matters is that they are both part of the Sunni Arab resistance. Their common line is that their presence in parliament develops a new political front - what we have called the Sinn Fein component of the Sunni Arab resistance. The big problem is that once again in Iraq Shi'ites voted for Shi'ites, Sunnis for Sunnis (they won in four provinces, Anbar, Salahuddin, Nineveh and Diyala, but got only 20% in Baghdad) and Kurds for Kurds (they also won in four provinces, including Kirkuk). Liberal democrats who were dreaming of a democratic, federal, anti-sectarian Iraq have been totally sidelined. Arguably no politician in Iraq is thinking about the future of the country as a whole. No national projects are being discussed. The constitutional vote in October had already institutionalized the sectarian division - 80% of the Sunni Arabs in the four main Sunni provinces voted against what they saw as an American-designed charter. Washington believed the vote would undermine the resistance. The exact opposite happened. The December elections now paint a vivid picture of a country fractured on sectarian lines. But this is what the Americans wanted in the first place. Elections or no elections, Iraq enters 2006 mired in the same, usual, gruesome rituals. The Pentagon believes it can subdue the Sunni Arab resistance by bombing them to death while the resistance keeps bombing, suicide bombing and assassinating en masse.
Analysis The Shia Majority:
When the SCIRI leadership refused to back down on control over the Interior Ministry, the Bush administration relented rather than create a political crisis. This time, however, the stakes are higher. If sectarian violence continues to worsen, the White House risks a collapse of political support at home. And the administration has already warned publicly that it will not accept a continuation of the status quo. For Shiite party leaders, U.S. pressure to share state power with secular or Sunni representatives -- especially on internal security -- touches a raw nerve. They regard control over the organs of state repression as the key to maintaining a Shiite regime in power. If Abdul Aziz al-Hakin and other SCIRI leaders feel they have to choose between relying on U.S. military protection and the security of their regime, they are likely to choose the latter. They could counter U.S. pressures by warning they will demand a timetable for withdrawal of U.S. troops if the United States continues to interfere in such politically sensitive matters. That would not be an entirely idle threat. Last October, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani was reported by associates to be considering such a demand. The implication of calling for a relatively rapid U.S. withdrawal would be that the Shiite leaders would turn to Iran for overt financial and even military assistance, in line with their fundamental foreign policy orientation. The Bush administration's strategy of pressure on Shiite leaders over the issue of control over state security organs thus has the potential to spin out of control and cause another policy disaster in Iraq and the entire Middle East.


Thursday, December 29, 2005

War Profit News, Thursday/Friday, December 29/30, 2005 I'll be putting up a news thread late tomorrow because I have to go to a funeral for a work colleague. But this is literally priceless:
The Marine Corps is paying $100,000 apiece for a revamped military jeep that some critics call a rip-off of taxpayers, according to a news report Thursday. The Marines budgeted to buy more than 400 vehicles, called Growlers, under a contract that could total $296 million including ammunition, USA Today said, citing Pentagon records.
A commercial version of the jeep costs just $7,500. The Marines' version has considerable upgrades from the commercial and Dominican models, the Corps and contractor said, including a turbo-diesel engine, disc brakes and other systems adapted from modern vehicles. But some critics charge that the unarmored vehicle makes no sense for today's missions, the paper said.
Wow, $92,500 for a turbo-diesel engine, disc brakes and other systems adapted from modern vehicles. Me and Matt met for a pint today, we talked a lot and we have some blog ideas for Today in Iraq; share your thoughts now.

War News for Thursday, December 29, 2005 Bring 'em on: A Task Force Baghdad Soldier was killed when an improvised explosive device struck his vehicle while on patrol in eastern Baghdad Dec. 29. Bring 'em on: A suicide bomber, wearing a police uniform, killed four Iraqi policemen and wounded five at checkpoint close to the interior ministry in Baghdad on Thursday Bring 'em on: U.S. fighter jets dropped two 500-pound (225-kg) bombs on a village in northern Iraq, killing 10 Iraqis they suspected of planting explosive devices on a nearby road, the U.S. military said on Thursday. The incident occurred on Tuesday in a small village near the town of Hawija Bring 'em on: The Department of Defense announced today the deaths of two soldiers who were supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom. They died in Baghdad, Iraq, on Dec. 27, when an improvised explosive device detonated near their dismounted patrol. (CENTCOM never released anything on this attack.) Bring 'em on: The head of Saklawiya police station was seriously wounded when gunmen attacked him while he was heading to Falluja, 50 km (30 miles) west of Baghdad, police said. Bring 'em on: In Balad, 80 kilometres north of Baghdad, two Iraqi soldiers were killed when gunmen opened fire on the vehicle in which they were travelling. Bring 'em on: Spc. Dane O. Carver, 20, of Freeport, Mich., died in Khalidiyah, Iraq on Dec. 26, when his HMMWV came under attack by enemy forces using small arms fire. Carver was assigned to the Army National Guard's 1st Battalion, 125th Infantry Regiment, Saginaw, Mich. (CENTCOM never released anything on this attack.) Bring 'em on: In Tikrit, northern Iraq, gunmen attacked an Iraqi army patrol west of the city, killing two soldiers and wounding seven. Bring 'em on: Three policemen were wounded when a car bomb attacked their patrol in the town of Samarra. Bring 'em on: Gunmen killed two soldiers and wounded seven in an ambush on an Iraqi army patrol on Tuesday in Dhibai village near Dujail, about 60 km (40 miles) north of Baghdad, police said. The patrol was struck by a roadside bomb before gunmen fired upon the soldiers, in an apparently well-planned attack. Bring 'em on: One of the Mortar rounds landed close to the 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines’ combat operations center — less than 100 yards away from the chow hall — wounding one officer when shrapnel tore through the front door of the building. A week from the forgotten battlefield: Seven people were killed in a gunbattle in a tribal region near the Afghan border as Pakistani Islamic militants raided homes searching for rivals, residents and a representative of the militants said on Thursday. Two rebels and a policeman have been killed in a shootout in central Afghanistan. An Afghan Interior Ministry spokesman says coalition soldiers and Afghan police were on patrol when 15 rebels attacked them. But a U-S military spokesman says the attack by enemy forces was "a failure." Five Afghan police officers are recovering from injuries suffered in an attack by suspected insurgents.Authorities say the militants opened fire in eastern Afghanistan at a convoy of vehicles carrying a provincial police chief. The chief wasn't hurt, but five of his escorts were. One policeman and three Taliban militants were killed Friday in a firefight between the two sides in Afghanistan's southern province of Kandahar, a spokesperson of the Interior Ministry said Saturday. A primary school in the Afghan southern province of Kandahar was set on fire by suspect Taliban militants Thursday night, said an Afghan official on Friday. Two suspect Taliban militants crashed into the school of Cholghar village of Panjwayee district of Kandahar last night setting fire to the library, desks and books, Abdul Hakim Angar, an intelligence officer of Kandahar told Xinhua. Fortunately it took place at night and caused no casualty, he added. A rocket explosion shook Afghan capital Kabul Saturday night but left no casualty, a local official said. Three persons including one policeman were kidnapped Saturday by Taliban militants in Afghanistan's western province of Farah, a local official said Sunday. A land mine exploded on a highway in southern Afghanistan, killing four suspected Taliban insurgents as they tried to plant the explosive on the road, a government official said Sunday. Two soldiers from the NATO-led peacekeeping force in Afghanistan and two Afghan civilians were wounded on Monday in an explosion in the north of the country, officials said. A top Taliban commander said more than 200 rebel fighters were willing to become suicide attackers against U.S. forces and their allies -- a claim dismissed as propaganda Monday by Afghanistan's government, which said the hard-line militia was weakening. A roadside explosion hit a patrol of international peacekeepers in northern Afghanistan, injuring two foreign soldiers and two Afghan civilians, officials said. The nationalities of the peacekeepers were not immediately released, but several sources said they were Dutch and British. A consignment of over 100 tonnes of explosives meant for use by Border Road Organisation for road construction in Afghanistan has gone missing from a merchant ship off the coast of Mumbai, sending alarm bells in security establishments. A U.S. soldier was killed and four others injured in a vehicle roll-over accident on Wednesday in Afghanistan's southern province of Kandahar, the U.S.-led coalition forces said. A remote-control bomb exploded on a mountainous road in eastern Afghanistan on Wednesday, killing one U.S. service member and wounding two, officials said. Al-Qaida insurgents attacked a Special Forces camp in Afghanistan during a visit by U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, The New York Daily News reported. No U.S. personnel were injured in the attack on the base. Politics: On the Iraq Election: Noam Chomsky interviewed by Andy Clark: Police Infiltrate Protests, Videotapes Show: Undercover New York City police officers have conducted covert surveillance in the last 16 months of people protesting the Iraq war, bicycle riders taking part in mass rallies and even mourners at a street vigil for a cyclist killed in an accident, a series of videotapes show. In glimpses and in glaring detail, the videotape images reveal the robust presence of disguised officers or others working with them at seven public gatherings since August 2004. The officers hoist protest signs. They hold flowers with mourners. They ride in bicycle events. At the vigil for the cyclist, an officer in biking gear wore a button that said, "I am a shameless agitator." She also carried a camera and videotaped the roughly 15 people present. Beyond collecting information, some of the undercover officers or their associates are seen on the tape having influence on events. At a demonstration last year during the Republican National Convention, the sham arrest of a man secretly working with the police led to a bruising confrontation between officers in riot gear and bystanders. A New Phase of Bright Spinning Lies About Iraq: Three days before Christmas, the Bush administration launched a new salvo of bright spinning lies about the Iraq war. “In an interview with reporters traveling with him on an Air Force cargo plane to Baghdad,” the Associated Press reported, Donald Rumsfeld “hinted that a preliminary decision had been made to go below the 138,000 baseline” of U.S. troops in Iraq. Throughout 2006, until Election Day in early November, this kind of story will be a frequent media refrain as the Bush regime does whatever it can to prevent a loss of Republican majorities in the House and Senate. By continuing to fortify large military bases in Iraq -- and by continuing to escalate an air war there courtesy of U.S. taxpayers but largely outside the U.S. media frame -- the White House is determined to exploit every weakness and contradiction of antiwar sentiment inside the United States. Mayor of London Calls Bushies "A Gang of Thugs" Ken Livingstone, the Mayor of London, England, threw a bash for anti-war activists this evening and denounced the Bush Administration as "a gang of thugs." He praised the work of those present from the US and the UK who have worked to end the war, including offering high praise for Cindy Sheehan, who also spoke. "You are the majority of Londoners," Livingstone said, referring to those who want the war ended and who view the behavior of the Bush Administration as criminal. In reference to reports that Bush wanted to bomb the headquarters of Al Jazeera, Livingstone said "Anywhere else we call that Murder Incorporated." About Iraq on the Record: 237 specific misleading statements made by Bush: On March 19, 2003, U.S. forces began military operations in Iraq. Addressing the nation about the purpose of the war on the day the bombing began, President Bush stated: “The people of the United States and our friends and allies will not live at the mercy of an outlaw regime that threatens the peace with weapons of mass murder.” Two years later, many doubts have been raised regarding the Administration’s assertions about the threat posed by Iraq. Prepared at the direction of Rep. Henry A. Waxman, Iraq on the Record is a searchable collection of 237 specific misleading statements made by Bush Administration officials about the threat posed by Iraq. It contains statements that were misleading based on what was known to the Administration at the time the statements were made. It does not include statements that appear mistaken only in hindsight. If a statement was an accurate reflection of U.S. intelligence at the time it was made, it was excluded even if it now appears erroneous. For more information on how the statements were selected, see the full methodology. The Iraq on the Record Report is a comprehensive examination of these statements. Iraq on the Record Voice Of God Revealed To Be Cheney On Oval Office Intercom: Telephone logs recorded by the National Security Agency and obtained by Congress as part of an ongoing investigation suggest that the vice president may have used the Oval Office intercom system to address President Bush at crucial moments, giving categorical directives in a voice the president believed to be that of God. While journalists and presidential historians had long noted Bush's deep faith and Cheney's powerful influence in the White House, few had drawn a direct correlation between the two until Tuesday, when transcripts of meetings that took place in March and April of 2002 became available. In a transcript of an intercom exchange recorded in March 2002, a voice positively identified as the vice president's identifies himself as "the Lord thy God" and promotes the invasion of Iraq, as well as the use of torture in prisoner interrogations. A close examination of Bush's public statements and Secret Service time logs tracking the vice president reveals a consistent pattern, one which links Bush's belief that he had received word from God with Cheney's use of the White House's telephone-based intercom system. CONYERS CALLS FOR BUSH IMPEACH: Powerful, Congressional representative and Detroit Democrat John Conyers has introduced a House resolution to create a Select Committee with subpoena authority to investigate the misconduct of the Bush Administration. Conyers' resolution cites "the Iraq war and ... possible impeachable offenses; as well as resolutions proposing both President Bush and Vice-President Cheney [that] should be censured by Congress based on the uncontroverted evidence of their abuse of power." The report is entitled "Demand Censure and Accountability for Misconduct by Bush and Cheney in Iraq War." War News: ICRC stretched to the limit in 2005: The director of operations at the Geneva-based International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) tells swissinfo that 2005 has been a "very demanding" year. Pierre Krähenbühl said natural disasters, armed conflicts and visits to around 2,400 prisons in nearly 80 countries had prompted a record response from the Swiss-run organisation. Challenge of the IEDs: One of the most difficult challenges in Fourth Generation military theory is the problem Fourth Generation war poses for operational art. Put simply, 4GW is hard to operationalize. Operational art is not a thing, but a linkage: the connection between the tactical and strategic levels of war. General Dynamics Awarded $19 Million for Bradley Fighting Vehicle Reactive Armor: General Dynamics Armament and Technical Products, a business unit of General Dynamics (NYSE:GD) , received a $19 million contract modification from the U.S. Army (Picatinny, N.J.) for the production of enhanced-capability reactive armor tile sets for the Bradley Fighting Vehicle System. This award modifies a contract initially awarded on November 5, 2004, and brings the total contract value to $122 million. The reactive armor system is composed of tiles that fasten to the vehicle's exterior and provide the ability to withstand direct hits from a variety of anti-armor munitions, including shoulder-fired rocket propelled grenades. Installed on U.S. Army's Bradley Fighting Vehicles currently in Iraq, the General Dynamics reactive armor system is saving lives and preventing crippling vehicle damage. Only one Medal of Honor given in conflicts: American troops have been fighting and dying in Iraq and Afghanistan for more than four years, but just one soldier from those wars has received the Medal of Honor, the nation's highest military honor for bravery. The lack of such medals - by comparison, two were awarded for fighting in Somalia - reflects today's unconventional warfare and the superior weaponry of U.S. forces, military experts say. It's not that today's troops lack valor, but they lack opportunities to display it in the extraordinary way that would merit the Medal of Honor. Resources: DNO finds oil in north Iraq well: Norwegian oil group DNO has struck oil in a well in the Kurdish area of northern Iraq, the company said. It said that the Tawke number 1 well, spudded on November 28, had found oil in a first prospective reservoir at a depth of 350 metres. It said that the oil was similar to oil found in other similar reservoirs in Northern Iraq. Iraq must decide who controls oil: To entice foreign companies to develop Iraq's oil sector, the nation's next government will not only have to tackle violence that has scared away investors, it also will have to determine who controls the country's lucrative oil fields. Despite the oil industry's many problems — falling production, crumbling infrastructure and relentless insurgent attacks — the prize of one of the world's largest proven reserves is so enticing that some foreign companies have taken the risk of investing. Most have been small companies that bypass the central government in Baghdad and sign agreements with regional Kurdish officials in the north, just to get a foothold in the market. The real test will be if Iraq can manage to entice the world's top oil companies, which are needed to rebuild the industry. Iraq hopes to produce 2.5 million barrels of oil day by end-2006: Iraq hopes to produce at least 2.5 mln barrels of oil a day by the end of 2006 but will need significant foreign investment to reach that target, Iraqi Finance Minister Ali Allawi told CNBC Europe television. Iraqi Oil Minister Ibrahim Bahr al-Ulum earlier this month said the country hoped to turn out 3 mln barrels a day by the end of 2006 and 3.5 mln by December 2007, compared with current production of about 2 mln barrels a day. The United States and the Iraqi Oil Prize: "America, our coalition, and Iraqi leaders are working towards the same goal -- a democratic Iraq that can defend itself, and that will serve as a model of freedom for the Middle East." This is how President Bush summarized the White House's policy in Iraq in his 18 December 2005 address to the nation. In his address, the president sought to reassure the US public about events in Iraq. Three days have passed since the 15 December legislative elections, which were held under extremely tough conditions and which will possibly represent an important step towards pacifying the situation and bringing it back to normal. Yet, the basic question that needs to be asked is: Which political forces will gain legitimacy through these elections, and who will head the sovereign government in "liberated" Iraq? S Iraq Oil Exports Still Down On Bad Weather: Iraq's southern oil exports remained shut in Wednesday due to strong winds, officials and agents said. Tuesday, calm seas had revived hopes that four tankers berthed alongside Basra and Khor al-Amaya terminals since Saturday would be able to set sail after the resumption of pilot services. But renewed strong winds prevented the pilot tugs reaching Iraq's two offshore terminals, where 16 or 17 tankers are now waiting to load cargoes. "The weather is horrible," said a shipping agent in Iraq. "And it looks like it will remain for at least two more days." Kurds plan to invade South: Kurdish leaders have inserted more than 10,000 of their militia members into Iraqi army divisions in northern Iraq to lay the groundwork to swarm south, seize the oil-rich city of Kirkuk and possibly half of Mosul, Iraq's third-largest city, and secure the borders of an independent Kurdistan. Five days of interviews with Kurdish leaders and troops in the region suggest that U.S. plans to bring unity to Iraq before withdrawing American troops by training and equipping a national army aren't gaining traction. Instead, some troops that are formally under U.S. and Iraqi national command are preparing to protect territory and ethnic and religious interests in the event of Iraq's fragmentation, which many of them think is inevitable. The soldiers said that while they wore Iraqi army uniforms they still considered themselves members of the Peshmerga — the Kurdish militia — and were awaiting orders from Kurdish leaders to break ranks. Many said they wouldn't hesitate to kill their Iraqi army comrades, especially Arabs, if a fight for an independent Kurdistan erupted. Crude Oil: OPEC To Decide On Production Cuts In January: The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, or OPEC, won't decide on possible production cuts until the end of January, OPEC President Sheikh Ahmad Fahad Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah said, Russian news agency Interfax reported Monday. Energy Watch: U.S. sanctions against Iran do not allow for the possibility of direct investment of American firms, while European hopes of new upstream deals in Iran wane, leaving room for Asian majors such as China and India to fill the void. But Iran is no easy market to break. Despite signing several memoranda of understanding for major oil development projects over the past year, Indian and Chinese firms remain unsatisfied over Iran`s buyback scheme, which asks companies to pay back from the proceeds of incremental production. Such contracts can deliver an acceptable rate of return of over 15 percent, but are not the most attractive types of investment. Chinese firms have outbid major rivals in Iran where foreign investment is thorny. Sinopec recently sent a delegation to Iran to hold talks on the progress of an MoU, which gave the Chinese firm a 51 percent stake in development of the onshore Yadavaran field on the condition that Sinopec remains committed to a 30-year contract to purchase Iranian liquefied natural gas. But it remains uncertain whether Sinopec has the means to receive the 250 million tons foreseen in the MOU, or for that matter whether Iran has the ability to produce such volumes. After a number of Western firms dropped out of the race, India`s Oil and Natural Gas Corp. remains the only foreign firm to possibly hold a stake in the Yadavaran field, with an arrangement similar to China`s. But Indian firms also face similar problems in Iran. After a consortium of Indian firms secured a 25-year contract with the oil ministry`s National Iranian Gas Export Co. six months ago, the deal has yet to materialize as it awaits approval from the Supreme Economic Council, chaired by Iran`s new president, who is fighting to appoint a new oil minister. UAE set to earn $39b in oil revenue this year: The UAE is projected to net a record $39 billion in oil export revenues in 2005 and oil income will surge above $40 billion next year, according to official US data. Strong crude prices have already filled the UAE's coffers as its income soared to its highest ever level of around $29.8 billion in 2004, when crude prices averaged nearly $36 a barrel, said the Energy Information Administration(EIA) of the US Energy Department. 'The UAE's net oil export revenues are expected to climb to $39 billion in 2005 and rise further to reach $42.7 billion in 2006 due to high oil prices,' EIA said. The 2005 revenues were calculated on the basis of an average oil price of around $45 a barrel and the UAE's average output of nearly 2.3 million bpd. Higher revenues in 2006 means crude prices are expected to remain strong and the UAE will continue to produce as high as 2.3 million bpd or even more. Egyptian oil minister says Egypt will build world's biggest refinery: Egypt is to build the world's biggest oil refinery in conjunction with Arab investors, Egypt's Petroleum Minister Sameh Fahmy said in comments published Friday. The refinery will have a capacity of 500,000 barrels per day, the Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Siyassah quoted Fahmy as saying. It was not clear why the minister reportedly said the refinery would be "the world's biggest" as South Korea, for instance, has two refineries with a capacity of 650,000 barrels a day and more. Kuwait may ask oil giants back: Kuwait Ending nearly a decade of debate and delays, Kuwait is close to opening up its lucrative oil production business to foreign companies, 30 years after they were first expelled from the country OPEC Exploring Oil in Moscow: On Saturday, an OPEC delegation headed by president of the cartel Ahmad al-Sabah arrived in Moscow. The delegation wants to find out Russian plans of oil production and export in an attempt to coordinate their efforts. OPEC is afraid again that Russia will increase its share on the world market for the cartel account. However, exactly in this moment Russian oil production export is having big problems. China, DPRK agree on joint offshore oil exploitation: China and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) signed an agreement here Saturday on the joint exploitation of offshore oil. The document was signed after Chinese Vice Premier Zeng Peiyan met with a DPRK government delegation led by Vice Premier Ro Tu Chol. Vast natural gas reserves could supply South America: Deep under the earth in Bolivia lies enough natural gas to supply South American consumers and industry for years, a windfall that could ease the astonishing poverty in one of the continent's poorest countries. The problem: Morales is trumpeting a vague plan to "nationalize" a gas exploration and production industry dominated by foreign companies, but Bolivia doesn't have the cash or expertise to take over the job, Latin American experts and oil analysts say. Morales said this week that there will be no seizures of assets of the big oil companies who have invested $3.5 billion in Bolivia: Brazil's Petroleo Brasileiro SA, Britain's BG Group PLC, France's Total SA and the Spanish-Argentine Repsol YPF SA. He also suggested this week that Bolivia will "strengthen our relations with state oil companies and welcome and value their proposals." But he also says the nation's gas reserves have been "looted," and insists that current gas production contracts are illegal and must be re-negotiated. A Story About Oil You NEED To Hear: (from the Daily Kos) On March 23, 2006, the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System will cease publication of the M3 monetary aggregate. The Board will also cease publishing the following components: large-denomination time deposits, repurchase agreements (RPs), and Eurodollars. The Board will continue to publish institutional money market mutual funds as a memorandum item in this release. Casualty Reports: wounded: On his third or fourth day in Iraq, both of Camuso's eardrums were perforated when a roadside bomb exploded a few feet from his Humvee. Camuso has mild hearing loss and occasional headaches from the March 2004 blast. A homemade bomb that struck a military detachment in Iraq critically wounded city firefighter Michael J. McMullen, a Maryland Army National Guard sergeant whose unit reportedly was attacked Christmas Eve. He suffered abdominal and spinal injuries and that efforts were under way to stabilize and transfer the soldier to a military hospital in Europe. Lt. Col. Bob Chappell, commander of the Culpeper Army Reserve Unit serving in northwestern Iraq, was injured last week when his Humvee was attacked. Chappell, who required 14 stitches to his head, spent three days in the intensive care ward. He is now in Al Kasik, Iraq, recovering from wounds that included an injured right knee, cuts to his arms and hands, two black eyes and bruises on his leg, foot and ribs. Lance Corporal Matt Cummings was hit by shrapnel in both legs last year, and just finished physical therapy. Injured in Iraq last month, U.S. Army 1st Lt. Ryan Kules was moved out of intensive care last week. He suffered severe injuries Nov. 27 when he was thrown from his vehicle during a roadside bomb attack outside of Camp Taji, about 15 miles north of Baghdad. The force of the explosion threw Ryan nearly 100 feet. His left leg was severed just below the hip and his right arm below the shoulder, the father said. It's a question Cpl. John Chmill, bomb blast victim, has gotten a lot since returning from Iraq. He lost his left eye and part of his left hand when a suicide bomber in an Iraqi police car plowed into his truck. He could easily have been killed. The shot severed Jay's (Briseno) spinal cord and left him paralyzed from the chin down. Two subsequent cardiac arrests cut off oxygen to his brain, leaving him brain damaged. Kyle Anderson, a U.S. Marine who suffered brain damage in an Oct. 11, 2004, bomb explosion in Iraq, is out of the hospital and recovering at home. Anderson, 20, underwent successful surgery to reconstruct his skull in mid-November--yet to regain speech but has learned sign language--He gets around with the help of a walker but still suffers from nerve damage that limits the mobility of his right arm and leg. After months of surgery and recovery at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., Army Sgt. Tony Wood was back home yesterday for a Christmas Day homecoming his family had been wishing for. Wood was in a coma for 45 days. He endured several rounds of surgery to remove shrapnel lodged in much of his body. Shrapnel had ripped his right arm and chest and sliced through internal organs. Four days later, Wood was flown to Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Medics worked frantically to keep Tom Brooks from bleeding to death when a mortar attack in Iraq ripped open his left leg and blew away part of his foot. Today, Pfc. Damarcus Wilson will wake up in the comfort of his childhood home. The 20-year-old soldier had a piece of car bomb metal lodged in his brain and tubes draining fluid from his head. Nick Beintema has been coming to Lodi for Physical Therapy several times a week. What's amazing is he's not alone. One of his best friends who also lost a leg while fighting in Iraq is helping him along the way. Mitch Ehlke, a Marine reservist who lost a leg in Iraq will be one of the first injured Idaho soldiers to receive money under new traumatic injury insurance legislation. Sergeant Brent Bartlett suffered a pelvic fracture when he was pinned against a military vehicle. He's in Illinois now and will travel to Texas before returning to Alaska. Killed: Sgt. Regina Reali Sgt. Cheyenne Willey Sergeant Myla Maravillosa Tony O. Cardinal Spec. Dane Carver Sgt. Dominic R. Coles Army Chief Warrant Officer Richard Salter Army Chief Warrant Officer Richard M. Salter


Wednesday, December 28, 2005

DAILY WAR NEWS FOR WEDNESDAY DECEMBER 28, 2005 Bring ‘em on: Three Iraqis killed and six wounded in attacks in Kirkuk and in Mahaweel. Bring ‘em on: Three police and two civilians wounded by bomb blast in al Zuwairiah district of Baghdad. Police colonel killed by gunman in al Yarmouk district of Baghdad. Bring ‘em on: Eight dead in Iraqi prison shooting (other reports have different death tolls) in Baghdad. Prisoner grabbed a guard’s assault rifle and opened fire. Later update says six detainees escaped. Bring ‘em on: Gunman killed a major in the former Iraqi army and another civilian in the care with him in Baghdad. Gunman in Baghdad also killed Interior Ministry Brig. Haider Ali Saide. Bring ‘em on: Three civilians killed by US airstrike on their home in al Dolouieya. One victim was 12 years old and the daughter of a local police captain. Air raids are also being launched on Tikrit. Bring ‘em on: US forces thwarted two terrorist bombing operations in Baquba. One was a vehicle racing through a checkpoint. Driver was killed and two gunmen jumped out, one escaped and another one had a suicide belt on when detained. Gunmen attacked Iraqi army patrol in Tikrit, killing two soldiers and wounding seven. Bring ‘em on: US army fires on approaching vehicle and killed two civilians and critically wounded two others in al Khalidiya. Bring ‘em on: Life at Landstuhl is grim. Bring ‘em on: Family of four stabbed to death in Hilla. Three policemen wounded by a car bomb in Samarra. Two Iraqi soldiers killed and seven wounded in village near Dujail. They were first struck by roadside bomb, and then attacked by gunman. REPORTS THE TRAGEDY OF IRAQ: Lights Out in Baghdad Baghdad is getting only around six hours of electricity a day, down from 11 in October, and attacks on Iraqis working on U.S.-backed reconstruction projects are at a record, the U.S. military said on Wednesday. December was the worst month for such attacks, said Brigadier General William McCoy, head of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Six Iraqi contractors were killed, five wounded and two kidnapped in 32 assaults across the country. THE TRAGEDY OF IRAQ: Many Iraqi Soldiers See a Civil War on the Horizon Kirkuk lies just a few miles from one of the nation's largest oil fields, worth billions of dollars. Arabs figure that the city's oil wealth should belong to Iraq, while ethnic Kurds see it as part of a future nation of Kurdistan. "If the Kurds want to separate from Iraq it's OK, as long as they keep their present boundaries," said Sgt. Hazim Aziz, an Arab soldier who was stubbing out a cigarette in a barracks room. "But there can be no conversation about them taking Kirkuk. ... If it becomes a matter of fighting, then we will join any force that fights to keep Kirkuk. We will die to keep it." Kurdish soldiers in the room seethed at the words. "These soldiers do not know anything about Kirkuk," Capt. Ismail Mahmoud, a former member of the Kurdish Peshmerga militia, said as he got up angrily and walked out of the room. "There is no other choice. If Kirkuk does not become part of Kurdistan peacefully we will fight for 100 years to take it." Five days spent interviewing Iraqi army soldiers in northern Iraq - who are overwhelmingly Kurdish - made clear that many soldiers think that a civil war is coming. THE TRAGEDY OF IRAQ: US Raises Doubts Over Iraq Prison Control While the central government, with U.S. help, is trying to take charge of these prisons the Interior ministry, which runs them may have its own way of doing things, suggested State Department spokesman Adam Ereli. (Rewritten in normal English: The central Iraq government is trying to take charge of these prisons with US help. However, the Interior Ministry, which runs these prisons, may have their own way of doing things, suggested US State Department spokesman Adam Ereli. – Susan) "The problem has clearly not been solved and the problem is widespread," Ereli said. "We and the Iraqi government continue to have concern about the way prisoners are treated in Iraqi facilities and in facilities nominally under the control of the Iraqi government," the spokesman said. "And the United States, for its part, is going to do everything it can to ensure that the rights of Iraqi citizens are respected," Ereli added. The statement acknowledged weakness in the Iraqi government, but also credited it with trying to address a problem that undercuts the administration's case that reform is taking hold since the toppling of President Saddam Hussein. THE TRAGEDY OF IRAQ: Violence Defies Reason for Many in Iraq In Iraq, people are killed for many reasons: working with the Americans, joining the security forces or belonging to the wrong sect or ethnic group. But many others are killed without apparent reason in an often murky conflict that pits Islamic extremists and nationalist insurgents against U.S. troops and Iraqi government forces. Their deaths not only leave families and neighbors baffled, they fuel a sense of vulnerability and insecurity. For a country increasingly polarized along ethnic and sectarian lines, it is perhaps ironic that the violence is so indiscriminate. Abbas said she did not know what the U.S. troops were firing at when they hit her husband's car as he was driving in the Abu Ghraib area in western Baghdad. "Eissa was sleeping in the arms of his brother. The bullet hit him in the head," Abbas said. "He died in his sleep. There was no time for him to wake up or move a muscle." When she saw her son's body, Abbas slapped her face, beat her chest and ripped off her flowing robe. She wailed and sobbed as U.S. troops tried to calm her. "It is a mistake. We didn't mean to kill the child. We will do anything you want," she said they told her. "They apologized, but I didn't accept their apology." She never heard from them since, she complained. She wants the U.S. military to pay her money in compensation. Queries to the U.S. military about the case went unanswered after an initial response that they would look into it. THE TRAGEDY OF IRAQ: Kurds in Iraqi Army Proclaim Loyalty to Militia Kurdish leaders have inserted more than 10,000 of their militia members into Iraqi army divisions in northern Iraq to lay the groundwork to swarm south, seize the oil-rich city of Kirkuk and possibly half of Mosul, Iraq's third-largest city, and secure the borders of an independent Kurdistan. Five days of interviews with Kurdish leaders and troops in the region suggest that U.S. plans to bring unity to Iraq before withdrawing American troops by training and equipping a national army aren't gaining traction. Instead, some troops that are formally under U.S. and Iraqi national command are preparing to protect territory and ethnic and religious interests in the event of Iraq's fragmentation, which many of them think is inevitable. The soldiers said that while they wore Iraqi army uniforms they still considered themselves members of the Peshmerga - the Kurdish militia - and were awaiting orders from Kurdish leaders to break ranks. Many said they wouldn't hesitate to kill their Iraqi army comrades, especially Arabs, if a fight for an independent Kurdistan erupted. BAD NEWS: Meanwhile, Iraqi oil officials quoted by Dow Jones said yesterday that the deputy prime minister Ahmed Chalabi would take over the oil ministry, replacing Ibrahim Bahr al-Ulum, who has taken a month’s leave. Mr Bahr al-Ulum is reported to be disgruntled with the current government and earlier this month threatened to resign over a rise in oil prices. (Unreal – Susan) GOOD NEWS: Four Iraqi Children Leave NY Hospital Four Iraqi children with life-threatening heart defects left a Bronx hospital Tuesday after successfully undergoing open heart surgery. Through its Operation Iraqi Hearts, Montefiore Medical Center has performed such operations on more than 500 children around the world in the past 15 years. The children's families had first sought help from the U.S. military. Rotary Club's Gift of Life International helped Satryano arrange for them to go to Jordan for treatment. Doctors there determined they needed surgery in the United States. The Rotary program paid for the hospital stays, along with the Rachel Cooper Foundation. An open-heart operation costs as much as $100,000. NEWS: Ukrainian, Bulgarian troops leave Iraq; Poland plans fewer troops. The U.S. coalition in Iraq saw its size dwindle Tuesday as Ukraine and Bulgaria said all their troops had left the country. Poland said it would remain but reduce its number of troops by 600 next year. The Polish government's decision, which is expected to be approved by President Lech Kaczynski, was a boost for President Bush, who has faced withering criticism at home and abroad over his handling of the Iraq war and the growing insurgency there. NEWS: Blogger in Iraq comments on the good news from Iraq Sadr City has 15 sewage pumping stations rebuilt. This area of Baghdad was one of the most neglected under Saddam. In the past, sewage flowed in the streets, today they are clean. Furthermore, water treatment plants are being built and extensive networks of water taps are being located in homes.The newly built Mashtal Employment center in the Tissa Nissan district provides job training in a rehabilitated bomb shelter. Sewing machines and computer training are part of the center. It took only 30 days to complete, yet another amazing accomplishment. It is stated more than 20 Iraqi workers were involved in the projects and I believe it. When the Iraqi people want something done, it is completed quickly and with dedication. (I’ve just run across this anonymous Iraqi blogger, and I wonder how a regular citizen would know about these projects in various parts of Iraq. – Susan) NEWS: Blogger from Iraq comments on propaganda by US military The US military is trying to re-package its failures in Iraq by continuing to buy favorable coverage In Iraqi media. Two weeks ago we heard of US military personnel writing articles which painted their efforts in Iraq in a positive light and placing them in select Iraqi media.Today, the Washington Post is reporting that the US military is undertaking the same effort on Iraq television channels. According to its article, the US military has been hiring blog writers (hmmm...why does this not seem so shocking?) to cover the war and show that the US is winning. Free and independent press? By what stretch of the mind does such a nomer apply here. Portray in a positive light and the say free and independent press. Pay the Iraqis 1000 dollars a month to air stories you suggest to them is hardly free or independent. It is agenda-setting. And it is coercion - with financial duress - backed by a rifle and tank parked outside. Hitler referred to the press in his country as free and independent. So did Stalin. And the Chinese. And the Egyptians. And Saddam and Idi Amin. (I have been following this blogger for a few months now. He is not in Iraq, but he is Iraqi and he has relatives living there. – Susan) NEWS: Blogger in Mosul comments on daily life These days the weather became very cold, the temperature is 2-3 degrees under zero … this cold weather synchronize with not only the raise in the oil, fuel prices but with its exiguity….yesterday my baby (20 months old) cried freezing at night, we have oil storage but we tried to sleep without (soba) an oil heater, to save it for the rest of winter. We get the electricity for ONLY 2 hours a day now, we also don't have hot water! Since a week now the gas stations in Mosul are shut down , therefore the gasoline in the black market is very expensive, going to my job plus my two daughters'& husband's transportation expense is at least 170000 ID whereas our income together ( my husband & I) is 501000ID !!! We also buy gasoline for the generator!!… About the safety situation these days while we are waiting for the elections results ,we witness every day the violence in the streets , today I was in my way back from work when suddenly the driver stopped and shouted "disembark quickly" ,as soon as I did a bullet flapped the pavement just beside my foot, I did not feel that, I was shocked , but we ran to a storage across the street , the storage owner kept saying 'Thank god you are ok ". I did not get that,then the driver (who could not make it & follow us to the storage) came after things calm down with some people were in the street telling me that they got terrified to see what happened & show me the bullet…. When Sunshine phoned her friend to wish her a merry Christmas, her friend was not happy at all, they could not leave the house because it's dangerous to go out & because they don't have gasoline. Some of our friends did not even go to the church because of the fear of bombing the church ….(I think you can see we are too busy with our life struggles to think about the elections results!)…. (This blogger belongs to a family of bloggers in Iraq. This is very legit. – Susan) NEWS from the “Some People are Just Plain Nuts” Department. The television commercials are attention-grabbing: Newly found Iraqi documents show that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction, including anthrax and mustard gas, and had "extensive ties" to al Qaeda. The discoveries are being covered up by those "willing to undermine support for the war on terrorism to selfishly advance their shameless political ambitions." The hard-hitting spots are part of a recent public-relations barrage aimed at reversing a decline in public support for President Bush's handling of Iraq. But these advertisements aren't paid for by the Republican National Committee or other established White House allies. Instead, they are sponsored by Move America Forward, a media-savvy outside advocacy group that has become one of the loudest -- and most controversial -- voices in the Iraq debate. While even Mr. Bush now publicly acknowledges the mistakes his administration made in judging the threat posed by Mr. Hussein, the organization is taking to the airwaves to insist that the White House was right all along. ELECTIONS IN IRAQ NEWS: Iraq Election Chief Says Complaints Endanger Lives Iraq's election body warned on Wednesday that accusations of fraud in last week's vote were endangering the lives of the commission's members and encouraging insurgents to attack them. Disappointed Sunni Muslim and secular parties have demanded a rerun of the Dec. 15 election and threatened to boycott parliament. Tens of thousands of their supporters have taken to the streets this week to protest at the results. "The commission is being put in an awkward situation through irresponsibility," Hussein Hindawi, head of the electoral commission, told a news conference. (Nobody said this during the Cedar Revolution or the Orange Revolution. – Susan) NEWS: UN Official Rules Out Iraq Revote He said local and international observer groups have said that these elections were conducted "in accordance with international best practices." The number of complaints was low, the turnout was high, the day was "peaceful," and all communities participated in the vote -- which was for a 275-member parliament called the Council of Representatives. There has been an uproar among Sunni Arabs and others over what they say is fraud in the polling process. There have been mass demonstrations against the election process across the country, including one Wednesday in Samarra -- which is north of Baghdad in the Sunni heartland. NEWS: Election Protests in Samarra In another of continuing political demonstrations across the country, more than 4,000 people rallied Wednesday in Samarra, 60 miles north of Baghdad, in favor of the major Sunni Arab party, the Iraqi Accordance Front. Demonstrators carried banners say "We refuse the election forgery." NEWS: Iraq Prepares for New Government Iraqi political leaders will meet the president in his Kurdish homeland over the next few days to prepare the ground for the formation of a new government, a senior government official said on Tuesday. The announcement, part of efforts ease sectarian and ethnic friction following this month's election, came as around 5,000 supporters of former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi marched through Baghdad in the latest protest against the results. Sunni and secular parties are insisting the vote should be rerun -- at least in some key provinces where they say results were fixed to favor the powerful Shi'ite Alliance, which forms the backbone of the interim government. As political leaders prepared to talk to interim President Jalal Talabani in separate, bilateral meetings at his power base in the relatively peaceful Kurdish north, the violence afflicting much of the rest of the country continued. NEWS: Shi’ites, Kurds Agree to Open Government to Sunnis Leaders of the Shi'ite and Kurdish blocs that emerged triumphant in this month's Iraqi election agreed on Tuesday to push ahead with efforts to bring Sunni and other parties into a grand coalition government. The visit of Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim of the Shi'ite Islamist Alliance to the Kurdish capital Arbil opened a series of planned meetings among rival factions intended to ease friction over election results which Sunni and secular parties say have been rigged and to begin building a consensus administration. "We agreed on the principle of forming a government involving all the parties with a wide popular base," Kurdish regional leader Masoud Barzani told a joint news conference after talks with Hakim, the dominant force in the Alliance. Hakim, whose bloc has run the interim government for the past year in coalition with the Kurds, was due to meet the other main Kurdish leader, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, on Wednesday, launching a series of bilateral meetings that will include Sunni Arab and secular leaders disappointed in the vote. A provisional estimation by Reuters, based on preliminary results, puts the Alliance on about 130 seats in the 275-seat assembly, just short of its current slim majority, with the Kurds on 52, the main Sunni group the Accordance Front on 41 and Allawi's list on 24, well short of his present 40 seats. The secular Sunni National Dialogue Front would have nine seats. There is general agreement, supported with emphasis by the United States, that a "national unity" government is required to address sharply opposing interests among the armed communities. NEWS: Iraqi blogger comments on the elections and demonstrations So far, the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq has not announced the final results of the elections. But the big success that the 555 list (An all Shia list) has achieved so far is creating doubts of the commission's integrity, especially in Baghdad. Accusations and even threats are flying around right now. Just a few days ago, Sunnis organized a massive demonstrations in a few provinces. Some of my friends participated in the Baghdad demonstration. They say that hundreds of thousands were there, and from the pictures I have seen of it, I think they are right. They are demanding that the elections are to be repeated in the provinces that has seen some of these very un-expected results. The un-verified results can be found at the commission's official site. (His report of the number of protestors differs greatly from official reports. – Susan) COMMENTARY OPINION: Power That Bush Can’t Just Take All right: Given these overly kind assumptions, can this administration's usurpation of power somehow be justified? Every time I work it through, the answer I come up with is no. The president has no right to ignore the rule of law as if it were a mere nuisance. The problem is that if the president really were determined to do anything it takes to prevent another terrorist strike, why not suspend habeas corpus, as Lincoln did during the Civil War? That way you could arrest everyone who could possibly be a terrorist, or who once lived next door to a suspected terrorist's uncle, and you could hold those people as long as you wanted. Why stop at surveillance of international telephone calls and e-mails? Why not listen in on, say, all interstate calls as well? Or just go for it and scarf up all the domestic communications the National Security Agency's copious computers can hold? In Vietnam we destroyed villages in order to save them. In this war on terrorism, why not go ahead and destroy our freedoms in order to save them? OPINION: Fear Destroys What bin Laden Could Not One wonders if Osama bin Laden didn't win after all. He ruined the America that existed on 9/11. But he had help. If, back in 2001, anyone had told me that four years after bin Laden's attack our president would admit that he broke U.S. law against domestic spying and ignored the Constitution -- and then expect the American people to congratulate him for it -- I would have presumed the girders of our very Republic had crumbled. Had anyone said our president would invade a country and kill 30,000 of its people claiming a threat that never, in fact, existed, then admit he would have invaded even if he had known there was no threat -- and expect America to be pleased by this -- I would have thought our nation's sensibilities and honor had been eviscerated. If I had been informed that our nation's leaders would embrace torture as a legitimate tool of warfare, hold prisoners for years without charges and operate secret prisons overseas -- and call such procedures necessary for the nation's security -- I would have laughed at the folly of protecting human rights by destroying them. OPINION: Telling It Like It Isn’t American journalists frequently used the words of U.S. officials in the early days of the Iraqi insurgency — referring to those who attacked American troops as "rebels" or "terrorists" or "remnants" of the former regime. The language of the second U.S. pro-consul in Iraq, L. Paul Bremer III, was taken up obediently — and grotesquely — by American journalists. American television, meanwhile, continues to present war as a bloodless sandpit in which the horrors of conflict — the mutilated bodies of the victims of aerial bombing, torn apart in the desert by wild dogs — are kept off the screen. Editors in New York and London make sure that viewers' "sensitivities" don't suffer, that we don't indulge in the "pornography" of death (which is exactly what war is) or "dishonor" the dead whom we have just killed. Our prudish video coverage makes war easier to support, and journalists long ago became complicit with governments in making conflict and death more acceptable to viewers. Television journalism has thus become a lethal adjunct to war.Back in the old days, we used to believe — did we not? — that journalists should "tell it how it is." Read the great journalism of World War II and you'll see what I mean. The Ed Murrows and Richard Dimblebys, the Howard K. Smiths and Alan Moorheads didn't mince their words or change their descriptions or run mealy-mouthed from the truth because listeners or readers didn't want to know or preferred a different version.So let's call a colony a colony, let's call occupation what it is, let's call a wall a wall. And maybe express the reality of war by showing that it represents not, primarily, victory or defeat, but the total failure of the human spirit. OPINION: Military’s Interaction with Foreign Kids Will Be Long Remembered Another story involving children and American men came from the pages of the Citizen-Times, a story about U.S. troops interacting with Iraqi children. That article stated: “Soldiers generally believe the presence of children lowers the chance of enemy attack.” To believe such a thing, and to then go to where children are, would indicate that the soldiers are willing to use the children as human shields. I sincerely hope this is wrong. Children are generally delightful, and I am sure that is true no matter what part of the world they come from. In the article called “Winning Small Hearts and Minds in Iraq” the soldiers were giving candy and toys to the children in Iraq. At first, the children reacted with fear to their presence, which in light of the fact that they are in a war zone, would be the normal and expected response. They soon warmed up to the men, and it appears all had a good time. However, it was not prudent on the part of the soldiers to reduce the children’s fear of getting close to U.S. troops. It puts them at risk, since there are 80 to 100 attacks per day against U.S. troops in Iraq. (This is the overwhelming majority of attacks, by the way, even though we hear more about the attacks against civilians, which result in a higher death toll.) One teacher at this school stated very plainly: her primary concern was the sewers. It matters not if the children get candy and trinkets if they get sick from the unclean water and lack of sanitation. OPINION: Iraqi Civilian Deaths Mount—and Count In April 2004, Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt was asked about the images on Iraqi television of civilians being killed in Fallujah by American forces. His answer was, ''Change the channel. Change the channel to a legitimate, authoritative, honest news station." In light of recent revelations, one has to wonder if he meant for Iraqis to change to one of those Iraqi media outlets paid off by Pentagon contractors to print sugar-frosted stories of the invasion. In the United States, there was no channel to change. Iraqi civilians became invisible the moment Americans were wrongfully convinced by administration rhetoric to connect Saddam Hussein and the nonexistent weapons of mass destruction to the fears spawned by Sept. 11, 2001. They remained so inconsequential that just last March, a full two years after the invasion, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld boasted to Pentagon employees, ''Through an unprecedented combination of speed, precision and flexibility, US forces, with coalition support, seized Baghdad, having marched farther and faster than any armed force in military history. And they did it while avoiding large numbers of civilian casualties." That shows you exactly how small an everyday Iraqi has been all along in Rumsfeld's mind. As early as June 2003, the Associated Press estimated 3,240 civilians were killed in the invasion nationwide, 1,900 in Baghdad. By October of 2003, the Cambridge-based Project on Defense Alternatives estimated up to 4,300 in the first month alone. By November, Medact, the British affiliate of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, estimated up to 9,600 civilians. If 3,000, 4,000 or nearly 10,000 dead civilians does not impress Rumsfeld as ''large," then nothing will. That gets us to the 30,000 figure. The moment Bush uttered it, the White House and Pentagon backed away from it. Spokesmen said their boss was just citing public estimates. Iraq Body Count, a volunteer research group that compiles conservative estimates based on media reports, estimates that between 27,383 and 30,892 civilians have died. Since the media cannot be everywhere, many people say it is possible that many thousands more may have died. The most controversial estimate of 100,000 was published by researchers in the medical journal Lancet. Perhaps Bush feels safe to talk about civilian deaths because the United States is no longer responsible for the majority of them. In the first six weeks of the invasion, according to calculations by Iraq Body Count, US-led forces were responsible for 94 percent of the 7,299 civilian deaths. Today, as the invasion/occupation remains riddled with suicide bombings, flickers of a civil war and general lawlessness, the percentage of civilians killed by the US forces has receded to 32 percent. Perhaps Bush felt that the passing of time erased the fact that the US killings -- under his false pretenses of weapons of mass destruction -- remain the most intense of the war. US forces killed an average of 315 Iraqi civilians a day, nine times more than the worst month of anti-occupation and criminal violence during the next 23 months, according to Iraq Body Count. Whatever Bush felt, he still shows no emotion for the men, women, and children who will never enjoy his liberation. He stated the 30,000 figure and went on to the next question. He claims to take responsibility for going to war on bad intelligence, then turns around and says in Philadelphia, ''Knowing what I know today, I'd make the decision again." That illustrates just how far Iraq has removed Bush from his own humanity. Without evidence of weapons, he would still order a war that kills thousands of innocent people. Bush now admits knowing the scorecard. But it still remains only a game. OPINION: Iraq, Game Over The last hope for peace in Iraq was stomped to death this week. The victory of the Shiite religious coalition in the December 15 election hands power for the next four years to a fanatical band of fundamentalist Shiite parties backed by Iran, above all to the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI). Quietly backed by His Malevolence, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, sustained by a 20,000-strong paramilitary force called the Badr Brigade, and with both overt and covert support from Iran's intelligence service and its Revolutionary Guard corps, SCIRI will create a theocratic bastion state in its southern Iraqi fiefdom and use its power in Baghdad to rule what's left of the Iraqi state by force. The consequences of SCIRI's victory are manifold. But there is no silver lining, no chance for peace talks among Iraq's factions, no chance for international mediation. There is no centrist force that can bridge the factional or sectarian divides. Next stop: civil war. OPINION: The Unknown Enemy As Americans debate an exit strategy from Iraq, we still aren't sure of the size and power of the Sunni insurgency. Almost three years into the war, Washington still has very little sense of the size or power of the Sunni insurgency in Iraq. Whether the Sunnis would keep fighting if the Americans left, or, in a nightmare scenario, march on Baghdad, depends in large part on whether they have enough manpower or firepower for the job.Yet nobody seems to know the answer. Since Vice President Dick Cheney famously predicted in May that the insurgency was "in its last throes," both the White House and the Pentagon have scrupulously avoided providing any hard numbers for the fighters who remain. Last January, Gen. Mohammed Shahwani, Iraq's intelligence director, estimated that there were as many as 40,000 hard-core Sunni fighters. In October, Gen. John Abizaid, the head of Central Command (which includes Iraq), set the figure at "no more than 20,000." As for U.S. policy analysts, the only thing they can agree on is that, in the words of Michael O'Hanlon of the Brookings Institution (who tracks developments in Iraq's security and reconstruction), "nobody knows, and our estimates could easily be off by 50 to 100%." OPINION: Winners and Losers in Iraq Anyone who hoped that Iraq's broadest exercise in electoral democracy so far might strengthen women's rights, secular protections or national unity will be disappointed. But anyone who expected such gains cannot have been paying attention to recent developments in Iraq. Iraqi politics are settling into an unsettling pattern. Very few people vote as Iraqis; most vote as Shiites, Sunnis or Kurds. It is progress that Sunni Arabs turned out in large numbers, but that may not be enough to assure them a meaningful role in reshaping a dangerously divisive constitution and forming a broad-based government. If the Shiite parties can keep the support of their Kurdish allies and pick up a few independents, they may be able to assemble a two-thirds majority without Sunni participation and resist the changes Iraq badly needs. That would be a disastrous choice, foreclosing the possibility of containing the insurgency through political means and dimming the prospects for Iraq's survival as a stable, unified state. But it's a disaster that could be avoided if the victorious parties summoned the sense to reach out to a Sunni Arab community that now has one foot in the political process and the other in the insurgency. PEACE ACTION: American Friends Service Committee has an on-line petition to show support for Representative Murtha’s position on Iraq. Also, Murtha’s phone number is 202-225-2065 CASUALTY REPORTS Local Story: International spat upends lives of Turkish translators in Iraq. It's hard for Celik to explain what happened in Iraq - how he made a choice that he says unfairly branded him a traitor in Turkey and turned him into a political refugee in the United States. It's hard to talk about how he fears that returning to his homeland and family could mean prison, torture, even death. Local Story: West Virginia soldier laid to rest. Local Story: Fallen Aberdeen Soldier Burial in Pillipines Local Story: Maryland town mourns second soldier lost in Iraq Local Story: List of Ohio casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan. Local Story: Pride mixes with grief as troops pack up. They came here expecting a battlefield. Instead they found themselves in a different kind of war, in which the enemy was often gone long before his roadside bomb went off, and there was no way to avenge the resulting deaths of their comrades. A war in which it was impossible to tell insurgents from friendly Iraqis, and any car in the chaotic traffic might have been packed with explosives. QUOTE OF THE DAY: Blowing in the Wind, by Bob Dylan How many roads must a man walk down before you call him a man? Yes, 'n' how many seas must a white dove sail before she sleeps in the sand? Yes, 'n' how many times must the cannon balls fly before they're forever banned? The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind, the answer is blowin' in the wind. How many times must a man look up before he can see the sky? Yes, 'n' how many ears must one man have before he can hear people cry? Yes, 'n' how many deaths will it take till he knows that too many people have died? The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind, the answer is blowin' in the wind. How many years can a mountain exist before it's washed to the sea? Yes, 'n' how many years can some people exist before they're allowed to be free? Yes, 'n' how many times can a man turn his head, pretending he just doesn't see? The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind, the answer is blowin' in the wind.


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