Friday, January 20, 2006


Photo above: A man grieves for a relative who died in an ambush on a convoy of telecommunications workers in Baghdad. Ten security guards were killed and two African engineers were kidnapped. By Hadi Mizban -- Associated Press

Bring ‘em on: Wave of violence kills 50 in Iraq on Wednesday. Gunman ambushed a convoy of telecommunications workers in Baghdad, killing ten security guards and kidnapping two African engineers. The kidnapped sister of Interior Minister Bayan Jabr was freed Wednesday. Bring ‘em on: In the oil city of Baiji, a formidable foe for US troops. This month, Army commanders frustrated by fatalities from bombs, mines and, more recently, suicide car bombings began building up sand walls with bulldozers, digging ditches and setting up barricades to sharply restrict entry to the city. They completely sealed off a section of Baiji -- the village of Siniyah -- with a six-mile-long, eight-foot-high berm.

"Most of the people fighting the Americans tell me they do nothing for us but destroy the houses and capture people," Adil Faez Jeel, a director at the Baiji refinery, said of the U.S. forces.

"There are no jobs, no water, no electricity." Bring ‘em on: Police station in Zubair attacked by rockets. No casualties reported. Bring ‘em on: Three killed after placing IED near Tal Afar. US soldiers destroyed the IED. Bring ‘em on: Two policemen killed and five wounded when a suicide bomber targeted a police patrol near the home of politician al Hakim. Bring ‘em on: Bodies of five men, all wearing civilian clothes, found with bullet wounds to the head. They were found floating in the Qaid River near Swera, south of Baghdad. Bring ‘em on: Iraq police fear 34 recruits killed after ambush. Bring ‘em on: This report says fifty police recruits were kidnapped north of Baghdad on Monday (yesterday’s reports said 35), and their fate is unknown at this time. Meanwhile, Iraqi army found 30 bodies in an open area north of Meshahadah, which is north of Baghdad. These bodies are Iraqi army and police, including two officers, and some were government employees. They all had their hands tied behind their backs and were shot in the head. This has raised the fears that the 50 kidnapped police recruits may also be killed.

Also, 15 civilians were kidnapped, and two civilians were killed, after US troops cordoned off a main road after a helicopter crash on Monday and forced the civilians to take back roads. Bring ‘em on: Two civilians killed and three wounded by IED targeting a US patrol in Baghdad, Karada district.

Bring ‘em on: Bodies of seven civilians found in the village of Dujail, where 35 police recruits were abducted on Tuesday.

Bring ‘em on: One policeman killed and four wounded by IED in Miqdadia.

Bring ‘em on: US patrol hit by IED in southern Baghdad, but no injuries reported.

Bring ‘em on: Police commando shot dead in Kerbala.

Bring ‘em on: Former Baath party member, Abdoun Hmood, found dead from gunshot in playground in Kerbala. He was blindfolded and his hands were bound.

Bring ‘em on: Iraqi police detained five insurgents trying to launch rockets in Mussayib, near Kerbala.

Bring ‘em on: Seven people wounded, including four policemen, when a car bomb targeted a police patrol in northern Baghdad. Bring ‘em on: Four Christian Peace activists still held in Iraq. Bring ‘em on: Five Iraqis kidnapped late Thursday by 15-masked gunman dressed like Iraqi police. They were kidnapped from a restaurant in central Baghdad, and the victims included the restaurant owner and his son, and Iraqi police colonel, a businessman and a man who worked under the prior regime as a bodyguard.

Bring ‘em on: Gunman fatally shot two people working inside a cell phone shop in Baghdad around 6 PM on Thursday. Also, two barbers where shot inside their shop in Baghdad. Bring ‘em on: Attacks in the city of Baquba wounded 13 people, including 10 members of the Iraqi police and military. Bring ‘em on: Irving, Texas company (Dyncorp) has lost 26 employees in Iraq war. This company offers military support services. Bring ‘em on: Three Iraqi policemen were seriously injured when a bomb on a bus exploded in Mustansiriya. Bring ‘em on: 230 British troops have been injured in the Iraq war, including 40 with life-threatening injuries. Bring ‘em on: U.S. and Iraqi troops also launched a major military operation in southern Baghdad's Dora neighborhood at dawn Friday in the hunt for two local insurgent leaders believed to control several hundred militants, including non-Iraqi Arabs, said Iraqi Army Gen. Mehdi al-Gharawi. Bring ‘em on: Three people killed in area near Ramadi. They were thought to be involved with trafficking trucks and small vehicles on the highway linking Iraq with Jordan and Syria. According to the source, an armed group identified as the Factions of the Mujahedeen Army pursued the gang and decided to killed them after leaving leaflets beside their corpses reading “This is the fate of thieves, road pirates and saboteurs.” Bring ‘em on: The provinces will be sealed off for 48 hours starting Friday morning to prevent acts of terrorism at the time of the announcement of the election results," television said. There were no immediate details on the measures taken, but they likely included the closing off of roads and increased security checks in towns. Bring ‘em on: Iraq rebels plan bombs, not talks, after polls. "We'll spread snipers in all of Iraq’s cities," said Abu Huda al-Aslam, a senior member of the Iraqi militant group Mujahideen Army Brigades, who served in Saddam’s army. "The coming period will witness a military escalation against occupation forces and the Iraqi army. We will focus on planting roadside bombs," he added. Such attitudes, echoed by some other insurgent leaders interviewed by Reuters, contrast with hopes of U.S. and Iraqi officials that the high Sunni Arab turnout in the polls heralded success for their strategy of drawing the once-dominant minority into politics to defuse the insurgency.

Bring ‘em on: Insurgents fired rockets at two US bases in Ramadi on Friday. Bring ‘em on: Baghdad roadside bomb kills four Iraqis. Target was passing US military convoy. Bring ‘em on: 77 journalists have been killed since March 2003 while doing their job.

Two other journalists are still missing : Frédéric Nérac of ITV News (UK), since 22 March 2003 and Isam Hadi Muhsin Al-Shumary Suedostmedia, 15 August 2004

These are the names and affiliations of those journalists who died in the line of duty in Iraq starting as early as the first days of war:

Terry Lloyd, 22 March 2003, ITV News correspondent; disappeared in southern Iraq and was declared dead a day later.

Paul Moran, 22 March 2003, freelance Australian cameraman; killed when an apparent human bomber detonated a car at a military checkpoint in north-eastern Iraq.

Gaby Rado, 30 March 2003, correspondent for Britain’s Channel 4 TV; fell to his death from the roof of his hotel in the town of Sulaymania in northern Iraq.

Kaveh Golestan, 2 April 2003, Iranian freelance cameraman on an assignment for the BBC; killed after stepping on a landmine in northern Iraq.

Michael Kelly, 3 April 2003, US journalist and Washington Post columnist; killed while traveling with the US army’s 3rd infantry division in Iraq.

Kamaran Abd al-Razaq Muhammad, 6 April 2003, translator working for BBC; killed in northern Iraq in a "friendly fire" incident.

David Bloom, 6 April 2003, NBC journalist; died due to illness.

Julio Anguita Parrado, 7 April 2003, New York correspondent for El Mundo daily Spanish newspaper; killed in a missile attack while accompanying the US army’s 3rd infantry division south of Baghdad.

Christian Liebig, 7 April 2003, reporter of German weekly magazine, Focus; killed in a missile attack while accompanying the US army’s 3rd infantry division south of Baghdad.

Tariq Ayoub, 8 April 2003, Aljazeera TV channel correspondent; killed in a US air strike at Aljazeera office in Baghdad.

Taras Protsyuk, 8 April 2003, Reuters cameraman; killed when a US tank opened fire on Palestine hotel.

Jose Couso, 8 April 2003, cameraman for Spain’s Telecinco TV; killed when a US tank opened fire on Palestine hotel.

Mario Podesta, 15 April 2003, correspondent for Argentina’s America TV; died in a car crash while travelling from the Jordanian border to Baghdad.

Veronica Cabrera, 15 April 2003, freelance camerawoman for Argentina’s America TV; died in a car crash while travelling from the Jordanian border to Baghdad.

Elizabeth Neuffer, 9 May 2003, foreign correspondent for the Boston Globe; killed in a car accident in Iraq.

Walid Khalifa Hassan Al-Dulami, 9 May 2003, translator accompanying foreign correspondent for the Boston Globe in Iraq; killed in a car accident.

Richard Wild, 5 July 2003, British freelance cameraman; gunned down in central Baghdad.

Jeremy Little, 6 July 2003, Austrian journalist with NBC News and embedded with the US 3rd infantry division; died of post-operative complications, days after being injured in a grenade attack.

Mazin Dana, 18 August 2003, a Palestinian cameraman with Reuters; shot dead by US soldiers while filming outside Baghdad’s Abu Gharaib prison.

Mark Fineman, 23 September 2003, Los Angeles Times correspondent in Baghdad; died as a result of an apparent heart attack while waiting for an interview in the office of the Iraqi Governing Council (IGC).

Ahmad Shawkat, 28 October 2003, editor of the Iraqi weekly Bilah Ittijah (Without Direction); killed by unknown gunmen in the city of Mosul.

Duraid Isa Muhammad, 27 January 2004, producer and translator for CNN; killed in an ambush carried out by unknown assailants outside Baghdad.

Ali Abdul Aziz, 18 March 2004, cameraman for Dubai-based al-Arabiya TV channel; shot dead by US troops in central Baghdad.

Ali al-Khatib, 18 March 2004, al-Arabiya TV channel journalist in Iraq; shot dead by US troops in central Baghdad.

Here is a full list: 28.11.2005 - Akeel Abdul Rwdha, AL-Iraqia 07.11.2005 - Ahmed Hussein Al Maliki, Tall Afar 19.10.2005 - Mohamed Haroun, Union of Iraqi Journalists general secretary 21.09.2005 - Firas Al-Maadhidi, Al-Safir 20.09.05 - Hind Ismail, Al-Safir 19.09.2005 - Fakher Haydar Al-Tamimi, New York Times 27.08.2005 - Rafed Al Rubaii, Al Irakiya 02.08.05 - Steven Vincent, freelance journalist 22.06.2005 - Yasser Al Salihy, Knight Ridder 03.07.2005 - Maha Ibrahim, Baghdad TV 01.07.2005 - Khaled Sabih al Attar, al-Iraqia 28.06.2005 - Wael Al Bakri, Al Charkiyah 22.06.05 - Jassim Al Qais, Al Siyada 15.05.2005 - Najem Abed Khodair, Al-Madaa and Tariq al-Shaab 15.05.2005 - Ahmad Adam, Al-Madaa and Sabah 23.04.2005 - Saleh Ibrahim, Associated Press 15.04.2005 - Shamal Abdallah Assad, Kirkuk TV, Kurdsat 14.04.2005 - Ali Abrahim Aissa, Al-Hurriya TV 14.04.2005 - Fadel Hazem Fadel, Al-Hurriya TV 01.04.2005 - Ahmed Jabbar Hashim, Al Sabah 14.03.2005 - Houssam Hilal Sarsam, Kurdistan-TV 10.03.2005 - Laik Ibrahim, Kurdistan-TV 25.02.2005 - Raeda Mohammed Wageh Wazzan, Iraqiya 09.02.2005 - Abdel Hussein Khazaal, Al-Hurra TV 01.11.2004 - Dhia Najim, Reuters 27.10.2004 - Liqaa Abdul-Razzaq, Al-Sharqiya 14.10.2004 - Karam Hussein, European Pressphoto Agency 14.10.2004 - Dina Mohamad Hassan, Al Hurriya Television 7.10.2004 - Ahmad Jassem, Nivive television 12.09.2004 - Mazen al-Tomaizi, Al-Arabiya 26.08.2004 - Enzo Baldoni, Diario della settimana 15.08.2004 - Mahmoud Hamid Abbas, ZDF 15.08.2004 - Hossam Ali, freelance 03.06.2004 - Sahar Saad Eddine Nouami, Al-Mizan, Al-Khaima, Al-Hayat Al-Gadida 27.05.2004 - Kotaro Ogawa, Nikkan Gendai 27.05.2004 - Shinsuke Hashida, Nikkan Gendai 07.05.2004 - Mounir Bouamrane, TVP 07.05.2004 - Waldemar Milewicz, TVP 19.04.2004 - Assad Kadhim, Al-Iraqiya TV 26.03.2004 - Bourhan Mohammad al-Louhaybi , ABC News 18.03.2004 - Ali Abdel Aziz, Al-Arabiya 18.03.2004 - Ali Al-Khatib, Al-Arabiya 18.03.2004 - Nadia Nasrat, Diyala Television 28.10.2003 - Ahmed Shawkat, Bila Ittijah 17.08.2003 - Mazen Dana, Reuters 02.07.2003 - Ahmad Karim, Kurdistan Satellite TV 07.04.2003 - Julio Anguita Parrado, El Mundo 07.04.2003 - Christian Liebig, Focus 08.04.2003 - Tarek Ayoub, Al Jazeera 08.04.2003 - Taras Protsyuk, Reuters 08.04.2003 - José Couso, Tele 5 04.04.2003 - Michael Kelly , Washington Post 02.04.2003 - Kaveh Golestan , BBC 23.03.2003 - Terry Lloyd, ITV News 22.03.2003 - Paul Moran, Australian Broadcasting Corporation Luaay Salam Radeef, Al-Baghdadia Cameraman Allan Enwiyah, American journalist Jill Carroll’s interpreter 21.09.05 - Ahlam Youssef , Al-Iraqiya TV 17.09.2005 - Sabah Mohssin, Al-Iraqiya 28.08.2005 - Waleed Khaled, Reuters TV 23.07.2005 - Adnan Al Bayati, Rai, Mediaset, TG3 and Panorama 02.09.2004 - Ismaïl Taher Mohsin, Associated Press 25.08.2004 - Jamal Tawfiq Salmane, Gazeta Wyborcza 29.05.2004 - Mahmoud Ismael Daood, bodyguard, Al-Sabah al-Jadid 29.05.2004 - Samia Abdeljabar, driver, Al-Sabah al-Jadid 27.05.2004 - Unknown, translator 25.05.2004 - Unknown, translator 21.05.2004 - Rachid Hamid Wali, cameraman assistant, Al-Jazira 29.04.2004 - Hussein Saleh, driver, Al-Iraquiya TV 26.03.2004 - Omar Hashim Kamal, translator, Time 18.03.2004 - Majid Rachid, technician, Diyala Television 18.03.2004 - Mohamad Ahmad, security agent, Diyala Television 27.01.2004 - Duraid Isa Mohammed, producer and translator, CNN 27.01.2004 - Yasser Khatab, driver, CNN 07.07.2003 - Jeremy Little, sound engineer, NBC 06.04.2003 - Kamaran Abdurazaq Muhamed, translator, BBC 22.03.2003 - Hussein Othman, translator, ITV News REPORTS THE TRAGEDY OF IRAQ: Veteran Reporter Says 3,000 – 4,000 Iraqis Killed Every Month

Between 3,000 and 4,000 Iraqis are killed every month, rendering "ridiculous" US President George W. Bush's estimate of about 30,000 civilian casualties since the start of the war, veteran British journalist Robert Fisk said Wednesday. The figures were compiled during several recent trips to the country occupied since March 2003 by US-led forces, The Independent newspaper's Beirut-based correspondent told a news conference in Madrid where he was promoting his book "The Great War for Civilisation". The casualty rate meant up to 48,000 Iraqis a year were dying in the conflict, "the figure of 30,000 plus is ridiculous", Fisk said, adding that the West did not care about Iraqi deaths. NEWS: US Military Called on to Compensate Iraqi Civilians

U.S.-based humanitarian groups are urging the administration of President George W. Bush to compensate the families of innocent Iraqi citizens killed as a result of aerial bombings by the U.S. military. The call comes after U.S. military officials admitted that they had mistakenly bombed a civilian residence in the northern Iraqi town of Baiji over a week ago. The air raid that killed at least six people in their home prompted widespread anger among local communities. "When mistakes happen, we have a responsibility to help the victims and their loved ones," said Sarah Holewinsky, director of the Washington, D.C.-based Campaign for Innocent Civilians in Conflict (CIVIC). "Keeping as accurate a record as possible and compensating victims is important for the U.S. to maintain the respect and support of the Iraqi people," Holewinski said.

Like CIVIC, other groups have not merely expressed their concern over the loss of innocent Iraqi lives, but have scathingly criticized the way the Pentagon has conducted the war operations in Iraq. Last year the New York-based Human Rights Watch released a report deploring the U.S. military for resorting to indiscriminate aerial strikes. It accused the U.S. of "imprecise targeting" of strikes against Saddam loyalists. Out of 50 so-called "decapitation strikes" against members of Saddam Hussein's regime, none were hit, the group said, but 40 civilians were killed because planners relied on rough Global Positioning System locations derived from satellite phones. THE TRAGEDY OF IRAQ: US Forces Close Road, Forcing Iraqi Drivers Onto a Killing Field

The horror began after American and Iraqi forces cordoned off part of a highway north of Baghdad following the deadly crash of a U.S. helicopter. With traffic directed onto narrow dirt roads, insurgents turned the area into a killing field. They set up makeshift checkpoints, grabbed motorists and slaughtered about 40 over a two-day period, police said.A local tribal leader, Mohammed al-Khazraji, told The Associated Press he saw "dozens of corpses" strewn over the ground Wednesday, victims of the insurgents' culling.

Two pilots died in Monday's crash of the U.S. Army AH-64 Apache helicopter near Mishahda, 25 miles north of Baghdad. "Hundreds of people were detained by the militants and many were killed all because of a helicopter crash that killed two Americans," al-Khazraji said.Thirty people were dragged from their cars Wednesday and shot dead execution-style in farming areas in Nibaei, a town near Dujail, about 50 miles north of the capital, said police Lt. Qahtan al-Hashmawi. "Most of the victims were Iraqi policemen, soldiers or commandos," he said.

Another 11 men were killed in similar fashion Tuesday and dumped about a mile from Nibaei, said another policemen, Capt. Ali al-Hashmawi. THE TRAGEDY OF IRAQ: Calls Intensify for Release of Kidnapped American Journalist

According to figures compiled by the Washington-based Brookings Institution, there was an average of two kidnappings a day of Iraqis in Baghdad in January 2004 and 10 a day in December of that year. Last month, the think tank said kidnappings of Iraqis averaged 30 a day nationwide. NEWS: Iraqi Criticizes Secret US Contacts with Insurgents

Iraq’s national security adviser complained bitterly in an interview published about secret US contacts with Iraqi insurgents, warning that the "policy of appeasement" would undermine security. National Security Adviser Mowaffak Rubaie told the Washington Times that the contacts with so-called Iraqi "rejectionists" were being carried out behind the back of the Shiite-dominated government.

"I think the Americans are making a huge and fatal mistake in their policy of appeasement and they should not do this. They should leave the Iraqi government to deal with it," he was quoted as saying. "I repeat: Any policy of appeasement is a fatal mistake. It makes them misinterpret their opponents' actions as coming from a position of weakness," he said. THE TRAGEDY OF IRAQ: Power Shortages Continue to Affect Millions

Lengthy power cuts over the past two weeks due to insecurity and a decrease in oil production are seriously affecting the lives of Iraqis in the capital, Baghdad. With temperatures below zero degrees centigrade, residents of the city are currently getting fewer than eight hours of electricity per day, making them dependant on generators which require fuel that is both in short supply and prohibitively priced.

Khalid Ala'a, a senior official at the electricity ministry, blames the deteriorating security situation: "The difficulties in guaranteeing security to our employees and the increase of demand for power during the winter season have caused a decrease in the production of power at our plants," Ala'a said. Iraqi employees working for foreign energy companies have received threats on a regular basis, while dozens have been killed for what insurgents see as a betrayal.

At least four power plants were critically affected during the invasion of Iraq in early 2003, when energy infrastructure represented a primary target for insurgents fighting US-led forces. Three years later, local electricity production remains lower than pre-war levels. After more than three years of occupation, Iraqis have become increasingly frustrated by an overall deterioration of living conditions. "During Saddam's time, we always had power, clean water and better food than we have now," complained Baghdad resident, Bassan Yacoub. NEWS: Iraqi Insurgents Fighting Foreign Militants, Says US Military

Foreign fighters and Iraqi insurgents are battling each other in the western town of Ramadi, and elsewhere in the country, the US military said. “We are finding indications where Iraqi rejectionists are taking up arms and informing on terrorists and foreign fighters," US military spokesman Major General Rick Lynch said. "The area where we are seeing it is in Ramadi." The US military believes that the rejectionist element of the insurgency can be neutralized through political progress in the country. Lynch also said that Iraqis are increasingly informing coalition forces about the activities and whereabouts of foreign Islamist militants in Salaheddin, Diyala and particularly Anbar province. NEWS: Cleric Sees No End to Insurgency in Iraq

Despite his calm demeanor, al-Hakim has a reputation for toughness honed by years as the commander of the Badr Brigade, a Shiite militia which fought Saddam's regime until it collapsed in the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. That has given al-Hakim a fearsome reputation among Sunni Arabs, many of whom believe the Badr militia has infiltrated government security forces and are responsible for abuses against Sunnis. The Badr Brigade and al-Hakim's Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq deny the allegations.

During the interview, al-Hakim, who speaks a little above a whisper and was accompanied only by an aide acting as a translator, acknowledged the need to bring Sunni Arabs into the new government, which will be formed once the new parliament convenes. "The doors are open for them and no one wants to confront, harm or deprive them from their legitimate, constitutional rights," he said. "They are our brothers and they will get their rights."

We are convinced of the necessity that the Sunnis should participate along with us in the government because they are an important component in Iraq," al-Hakim said. "As for who is going to join the government with us, this matter is related to who is closer to us regarding the principles we believe in." But al-Hakim added: "The important thing is that (Sunnis) believe that there is a new reality in Iraq. The important thing that is they believe in the necessity of the participation and shouldering responsibility in the (parliament) and government."

"Every day we are getting closer to accepting this reality. But there are some groups that will not accept this," al-Hakim said, citing religious extremists and Saddam loyalists. "Those people will continue confronting the government. ... Those people should be confronted firmly by the government." To do that, al-Hakim said the Iraqis and their coalition partners must agree on a greater counterinsurgency role for Iraqi forces and "allow the Interior and Defense ministries to operate and to allow the leaderships in those two ministries to make decisions and move to achieve their goals." The Interior Ministry, currently controlled by al-Hakim's party, has been particularly criticized by Sunnis for alleged abuses. NEWS: Iraq’s Oil Shock

We know that the Bush administration was flat wrong about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. And now, nearly three years after the beginning of the war, it's also clear that top Bush officials were just as delusional about Iraq's energy business and how critical the energy sector would be to achieving security and stability in Iraq. Continuing failure with this vital part of the reconstruction is costing the United States -- and the Iraqi people -- very dearly.

During the run-up to the war, the Bush administration denied that oil was a factor in its desire to oust Saddam Hussein from power: Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, during a November 2002 interview with CBS News' Steve Kroft, declared that the approaching U.S. invasion had "nothing to do with oil, literally nothing to do with oil." But four months later, as U.S. troops seized Iraq's oil infrastructure and closed in on Baghdad, then-Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz (now the president of the World Bank) made it clear that Iraq's oil was going to save American taxpayers a lot of money. Wolfowitz told Congress on March 27, 2003, that the U.S. was "dealing with a country that can really finance its own reconstruction, and relatively soon." He added that Iraq's oil revenues could "bring between $50 billion and $100 billion over the course of the next two or three years."

Instead of the energy riches predicted by Wolfowitz, millions of Iraqis are now living in dire energy poverty. In Baghdad, there is little or no electricity, little or no motor fuel, and little or no kerosene for home heating. Moreover, according to energy expert Jim Placke, who has been following Iraq's oil business since 1959 when he worked for the State Department in Baghdad, the situation appears to be getting worse.

Last year, Iraqis were paying about 5 cents for a gallon of gasoline. The International Monetary Fund agreed to forgive much of Iraq's debt if the country cut its fuel subsidies. In December, the Iraqi government agreed and raised prices. But the resulting surge in prices has led to widespread anger among Iraqis who are now paying up to 65 cents per gallon. That may sound cheap by U.S. standards, but even the best-paid workers in Iraq make only about $130 a month, and a quarter of the population lives on just $1 per day.

The U.S. military's energy consumption in Iraq is soaring. According to recent data from the Defense Department, the U.S. military is now using about 3 million gallons of fuel per day in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. While fuel prices are soaring, Iraq's oil exports are falling. In December, exports were just 1.1 million barrels per day. That's less than half of the 2.8 million barrels per day Iraq was exporting back in 1990. NEWS: Sunni Areas Are Under Destruction!

Yarmouk neighborhood, a predominantly Sunni neighborhood. Yarmouk is where the most famous streets in Baghdad are. They are called The Four Streets. they are know because they are extraordinarily beautiful and there are no streets like them in a resident neighborhood anywhere else in Iraq. These are four streets, the main two ones are three-lane streets, and the other two are two-lane ones. They go through Yarmouk neighborhood from the beginning to the end and are very vital to Baghdad’s traffic. Two months ago, suddenly, the government decided to do some reconstruction in these streets. I don’t know what the deal is or why these streets need to reconstructed so badly that they should be done before the rest of Baghdad’s poor neighborhoods, which some of them are not paved yet even. So, the municipality workers started digging. Two months ago, they dug a huge hole in the middle of the Four Streets that prevented cars from using the streets the normal way and people now have to make a detours and U turns to find a way to go to their destinations. After they dug that hole, nothing happened. The bulldozers surprisingly jammed and died in the middle of the Four Streets and no one is trying to move them or fix the hole that ruined the neighborhood. It’s been two months and I pass by that place every day to see the bulldozers in their place, not an inch away. (Pictures are included, and be sure to read the opinion piece below called “You Missed My Point! As Usual!” by the same author. – Susan) NEWS: Detainees In Iraq

The U.S. military was holding 14,105 security detainees following the release of about 500 guerrilla suspects on Sunday; such periodic amnesties keep down numbers among the majority of prisoners who are held for months without charge. Eight of those held are women, a U.S. military spokesman said; the detention of women offends many Iraqis and U.S. forces seek to avoid it in most cases; two high-ranking women, both weapons scientists for Saddam Hussein, were freed last month.

Most suspects are held at Abu Ghraib prison on the western outskirts of Baghdad, notorious under Saddam Hussein and for a U.S. military abuse scandal in 2003, and at Camp Bucca, a temporary base near Umm Qasr in the south of the country. The U.S. military justifies detentions under powers given to it in 2004 by the U.N. Security Council under Resolution 1546; detainees are guaranteed a review of their case every six months by a nine-member Combined Review and Release Board, comprising six Iraqi officials and three U.S. officers. The United Nations human rights chief in Iraq criticised the system last month, complaining of a lack of due process. The Iraqi Justice Ministry says it holds 7,000 convicted criminals, including an unspecified number of women. The Interior Ministry holds up to 2,000 suspects, the U.N. says, and was the focus of controversy when U.S. troops found dozens of abused Sunni men in a secret jail last year. NEWS: Reuters Journalists Among 509 Detainees Freed in Iraq.

The prisoners had been held for several months without charge at Abu Ghraib prison on the outskirts of Baghdad, at Camp Bucca, a US jail in southern Iraq, and at Camp Suse near to the Kurdish city of Sulaimaniyah. "The US military freed all the prisoners this morning," said a spokesman for the ministry, adding that they had been cleared of terror-related charges. US-led coalition forces are still holding more than 12,000 Iraqis in prisons across the country on suspicion of taking part in the insurgency that has plagued Iraq for almost three years.

Reuters welcomed the release of television cameraman Ali al-Mashhadani, who was arrested in August, and correspondent Majed Hameed, who was taken in September. Hameed also works from the television channel Al-Arabiya. Both men are based in the restive Sunni-stronghold of Ramadi in western Iraq. NEWS: Release of Iraqi Female Detainees Not Imminent: Pentagon

Kidnappers on Tuesday threatened to kill 28-year-old freelance reporter Jill Carroll if the United States failed to meet a 72-hour deadline to free all female prisoners. "I don't have any information on any imminent releases," said Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman. Iraq's justice ministry said Wednesday that six of eight women detainees held by US forces would be released within days, but it denied there was any link with the kidnappers' demands.

"I have no insight on that," Whitman said. NEWS: Iraqi Workers Organize!

Following the fall of Saddam Hussein, oil workers in Basra reorganized one of Iraq's oldest unions, and faced the occupation's prohibition on collective bargaining in the public sector. Oil workers forced US contractor KBR to leave the oil districts, and defended Iraq's oil against the threat of privatization. They helped dockers organize in the ports, and together forced Stevedoring Services of America and the Maersk Corporation to give up their privatized concessions. Workers in power generation and other industries have organized as well. This photodocumentary project shows people at work on the rigs in the refineries and the ports, their unions and leaders, and their life at home with their families. NEWS: Regiment’s Rotation Out of Tal Afar Raises Questions about US Strategies.

The mayor of this city in western Iraq is unhappy that his friends in the U.S. Army's 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment are going home soon, and he's written to President Bush and Gen. George Casey, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, begging them to extend the regiment's tour of duty until it's finished pacifying Tal Afar.

The mayor, Najim Abadullah al Jibouri, is a Sunni Muslim Arab and a former officer in Saddam Hussein's army who's not from Tal Afar. The provincial police chief in Mosul last summer appointed him a brigadier general to replace the local police chief, a Shiite who was turning a blind eye to police commando units that were "disappearing" suspected insurgents, all Sunnis. Terrorists had blown up the police stations and driven out most of the policemen who weren't killed. On a U.S. recommendation, he was later promoted to mayor.

Since then, al Jibouri has worked hand in glove with Col. H.R. McMaster, the commander of the 3rd ACR, and Lt. Col. Christopher Hickey, who commands Sabre Squadron, which is based inside Tal Afar. The mayor doesn't want them to leave when their yearlong deployment is over in March. NEWS: Iraq Needs $20B to End Chronic Electricity Crisis

Iraq needs 20 billion dollars over the next five years to solve a chronic electricity crisis after US reconstruction funds failed to flick the right switches, the Iraqi electricity minister said. "When you lose electricity the country is destroyed, nothing works, all industry is down and terrorist activity is increased," said Mohsen Shlash. Power cuts are part of daily life for millions of Iraqis who paradoxically have an ever increasing need for energy because of an influx of electronic goods, such as air conditioners, over the past three years.

Total power production is lower than before the March 2003 US-led invasion, at about 3,700 megawatts, because of insurgent attacks and other reconstruction problems, according to a Western diplomat with expertise in the sector. Pre-war production peaked at about 4,300 megawatts -- well under half of Iraq's potential capacity. The United States earmarked 4.7 billion dollars for the neglected electricity sector in 2003, but much of the money has gone and there is little to show for it, Shlash said. THE SHAME OF AMERICA: Some Iraq Rebuilding Funds Go Untraced

More than 18 months after the Pentagon disbanded the Coalition Provisional Authority that ran Iraq, neither the Justice Department nor a special inspector general has moved to recover large sums suspected of disappearing through fraud and price gouging in reconstruction. Earlier audits by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction -- a post Congress created in late 2004 -- found that oversight of contractors by the Authority was so lax that widespread abuse was likely. An audit in April 2005, for example, found "significant deficiencies in contract administration," which meant that "there was no assurance that fraud, waste, and abuse did not occur in the management and administration of contracts" the U.S. awarded with Iraqi oil money administered by the United Nations.

Nevertheless, there hasn't been a concerted effort to trace what happened to the money and make recipients pay back any ill-gotten gains. The inspector general's office said it doesn't plan to ask the Justice Department to file lawsuits or to conduct widespread audits of individual contracts to look for fraud.

It isn't clear how many contracts the Authority issued, in part because the inspector general's office says it hasn't located many of the contracts. But among those awarded large ones were Fluor Corp., Parsons Corp. and Washington International Group. One question facing the government is whether to seek recovery of funds paid to the largest contractor, Halliburton Co.'s KBR unit, which was awarded multibillion-dollar no-bid contracts beginning shortly before the U.S. invaded Iraq to rebuild oil fields and provide logistical support to the U.S. military.

A series of 2004 audits by the Defense Contract Audit Agency, the Pentagon's contract-auditing arm, found expenses of $1.48 billion unsupported by adequate documentation on KBR's two largest contracts, which were valued at a total of $9.5 billion.

In a recently disclosed letter, the audit agency said it has passed on findings about Halliburton to the Justice Department, to consider whether a criminal investigation is warranted. THE SHAME OF AMERICA: Soldier Thought Iraqi Had Information on Saddam

A soldier charged in the death of an Iraqi general testified Thursday that he thought the man knew where to find Saddam and weapons of mass destruction when he used an improvised interrogation technique as a last resort. Chief Warrant Officer Lewis Welshofer Jr. is accused of murder in the slaying of Maj. Gen. Abed Hamed Mowhoush in 2003. He faces life in prison if convicted. Welshofer said he had been unable to get any useful intelligence from Mowhoush during five interrogation sessions before covering him in a sleeping bag and straddling his chest while asking questions. Prosecutors say Mowhoush, placed headfirst in a sleeping bag and bound with an electrical cord, died from suffocation. THE SHAME OF AMERICA: Officer Said Interrogation Rules Not Followed

An Army officer charged with killing an Iraqi general during questioning said interrogation rules were being flouted "every day" in Iraq, a witness testified late Wednesday at the officer's court-martial. The witness, who testified from behind a screen to cloak his identity, said he spoke with Chief Warrant Officer Lewis Welshofer Jr. on Nov. 25, 2003, the day before Maj. Gen. Abed Hamed Mowhoush's death at an Iraqi detention camp. The witness said he asked Welshofer if he was aware of a memorandum from Welshofer's commanding general that required authorization for the use of certain interrogation techniques. "He said he was aware of them, but said he was pretty sure they were breaking those rules every day," said the witness. THE SHAME OF AMERICA: Former NC Soldier Must Pay Toward Son’s Funeral

A former Army sergeant who served in Iraq must pay $1,000 for his son's funeral after pleading no contest to a charge of involuntary manslaughter in the boy's death. In a Johnston County courtroom Thursday, a judge ordered Jessie Ullom to pay the money to the baby's grandmother to reimburse her for the funeral of his son, Christian Norris. A violent shaking in 2002 left Christian blind. He never walked or talked before he died in December 2004 a few weeks before he turned 3.

Military officials have admitted that Ullom should have been kicked out after his child-abuse conviction in March 2004. Federal law and military policy ban soldiers convicted of domestic violence - including child abuse - from being sent overseas, because they can't legally carry a gun. Ullom spent much of 2004 with the 82nd Airborne in Iraq. Ullom led soldiers on home raids in Iraq and confiscated an untold number of illegal weapons. (Imagine what he did to the Iraqi people, if he is capable of killing his own son. – Susan) THE WAR AT HOME: Army raises enlistment age to 40. (USA) They are also doubling signing up bonuses. (I’m hoping some of those pro-war keyboarders will sign up! – Susan) THE WAR AT HOME: A Message From Kevin Benderman

Monica Benderman recalled the Army’s reactive, paranoid strategy to deal with Sgt. Benderman’s CO request, and she witnessed it up close. At one point, Mrs. Benderman was even asked to sign paperwork for her husband, and she was encouraged to try and change his mind. Right and wrong are not something easily or casually impressed upon someone. Ethics and morality are not a suit of clothing worn until something more comfortable is offered. Too bad for the U.S. Army. And in some ways, too bad for Prisoner Benderman – convicted and sentenced to fifteen months confinement, then transferred in the dark of night 3000 miles away from Kentucky to Washington in what may only be assumed was punitive harassment of both Benderman and his spouse.

In a fascinating irony, at the time the Army was fumbling Benderman’s CO paperwork, one of the officers in Sgt. Benderman’s chain of command was under investigation for and later convicted of privately selling bulletproof vest plates purchased by taxpayers for our soldiers deploying to Iraq. A military court sent down a far shorter sentence than the one they deemed appropriate for Sgt. Benderman. It is clear which type of "crime" the Army brass considers more dangerous.

From Benderman:

“I, for one, believe in the Constitution when it says that the ultimate responsibility for ensuring that this country is run correctly lies with the American people and not solely with this government. While we do hire people to do the work of government it is up to us, the citizens, to ensure that they are doing this in accordance with the law of the land.

True freedom requires eternal diligence and it will take everyone doing their share of keeping watch to prevent freedom from slipping out of our hands. It is the small things that add up to keep all of us in line. Which brings to mind three small words spoken by a woman who had had enough, "I ain't movin'." The woman was Rosa Parks. We should think about her courage when we feel as if we are too small to matter.

"I ain't movin'." Are you?” ELECTIONS IN IRAQ NEWS: Iraqi Shias Win Election Victory

The alliance took 128 of the 275 seats - 10 short of an outright majority. Kurdish parties have 53 seats and the main Sunni Arab bloc 44. The Shias will now be expected to form a coalition government. The UIA's 128 seats was down from its total of 146 in the old transitional parliament elected last January. The main Kurdish alliance also lost ground, down from 75 to 53, as a smaller rival group gained five seats. Sunni Arabs increased their representation - a boycott of the January 2005 elections left them with just 17 seats in the old chamber.

275-seat Council of Representatives will have four-year term

18 provinces are taken as separate constituencies

230 seats allocated according to population

45 seats distributed to parties whose ethnic, religious or political support is spread over more than one province

15 million eligible voters

One third of candidates in each party must be women. NEWS: Sunnis Must Form Coalition to Rule Iraq

A Sunni ticket, the Iraqi Accordance Front, won 44 seats. Another Sunni coalition headed by Saleh al-Mutlaq finished with 11 seats, Rasheed said. A few other Sunnis won seats on other tickets. That will give the Sunni Arabs a bigger voice in the legislature than they had in the outgoing assembly, which included only 17 from the community forming the backbone of the insurgency. Many Sunnis had boycotted the January vote. Kurds saw their seat total reduced. An alliance of the two major Kurdish parties won 53 seats, down from the 75 they took in the January 2005 vote. A rival Kurdish ticket, the Kurdish Islamic Group, won five seats, a gain of three from the outgoing parliament.

A ticket headed by former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, a secular Shiite, won 25 seats, down from 40 in the outgoing assembly. The United States installed Allawi as interim prime minister in 2004 and applauded both his tough stand against insurgents and his secular approach to politics. This time, however, American diplomats in Baghdad appeared resigned to the fact that Iraqis would generally vote along sectarian lines and that secular candidates would not fare well.

U.S. officials here had said privately they hoped only that religious Shiites would win fewer seats to curb their power somewhat, and that more-moderate Sunnis candidates like Adnan al-Dulaimi would fare better than hard-liners - which was the case. Sunnis fared better - and Kurds poorer - because of a change in the election law between the two national elections last year. In the Jan. 2005 balloting, seats were allocated based on the percentage of votes that tickets won nationwide. In the December vote, candidates competed for seats by district. This meant that Sunnis were all but guaranteed seats from predominantly Sunni areas. NEWS: Iraqi Voting Found to Be Flawed But Mostly Fair; Sunnis Are Skeptical

Experts who were asked to investigate allegations of fraud in Iraq's elections in December released a positive report on Thursday, concluding that the vote was flawed but declining to endorse calls for new elections. The report came as Iraqis braced for the expected release of the election results on Friday, an event that is likely to be met with a surge of insurgent attacks, American military officials say.

The report, by the International Mission for Iraqi Elections, a monitoring group based in Jordan, noted that some vote-rigging had been documented, and added that "some additional fraud in all probability went undetected, although its exact extent is impossible to determine under current circumstances." But the panel generally praised the election as an impressive exercise of democracy under difficult conditions. Sunni Arab and secular politicians, whose accusations prompted the investigation, expressed disappointment about the report, which was released via e-mail. COMMENTARY

OPINION: US Raid Killed Qaeda Leaders, Pakistanis Say

I'm sure that as a good liberal, Kevin Drum doesn't think of himself as a racist, but let's suppose that the 18 innocent bystanders had included a group of American journalists. Would Drum still be so cocksure that their deaths were justifiable? The dead were of course tribal people whose names we'll almost certainly never know. I've yet to hear anyone argue that in the war on terrorism it's acceptable that Americans run the risk of becoming "collateral damage." If it's not acceptable that American bystanders get ripped to shreds, why should it be an acceptable for anyone else?

So, on the question about when such as attack would be justified? The answer is simple: Never!

Choice might not determine the outcome of a counterterrorism operation but it is always applied to the means. Saddam Hussein and his sons Uday and Qusay were all wanted dead or alive, yet if any of them was to be put on trial we all know which of them was preferred captured rather than killed. If you think that extra judicial killings are a matter of necessity when it comes to combating terrorism, how do you then go about arguing against any of President Bush's other ends-justify-the-means policies? OPINION: You Missed My Point! As Usual!

I cant believe you guys. I cant believe you attacked me this way. At least give yourself another entry to decide that this “totally cool blog,” is biased now and not worthy reading! I am frustrated and disappointed. “Hey, Sunni Areas Are Under Destruction” is Part One of a three-entry projects I wanted to publish here. It is a political-reconstruction-related point I am trying to make. Are you serious? I cant even believe how easy you are to change your mind people!One lesson I learned from this harsh experience: There is no such bullshit as “Free Press.”

We are deceiving ourselves. We ourselves Do Not want free press. Because free press sometimes means to contradict with our points of view and that is exactly what we don’t want to see or hear! What if I was biased? What if I were a Sunni and wrote about Sunni areas only?

Isn’t this “Free Press”? Isn’t it free press that I am allowed to write what I feel and what a faction of my people, that is the Iraqis, feel? Isn’t it free press that someone else writes about the Shiites and I should listen and try to check the facts? OPINION: “Why We Fight” Director Says He’s No Michael Moore.

Why We Fight" starts from President Dwight Eisenhower's 1961 farewell speech when the former World War Two general invented the term "military industrial complex" and warned Americans to be on their guard against its influence. The film examines links between politicians, think-tanks, arms manufacturers and defense contractors. It argues that with the economic livelihood of voters at stake, members of Congress are inclined to approve greater and greater spending on defense and the government has an economic motive to wage war. It also examines the argument for the policy of spreading democracy around the world, questioning whether the motive is to open up markets for U.S. companies and secure oil supplies. The character who holds the film together emotionally is retired New York City police officer Wilton Sekzer, whose 31-year-old son Jason died in the World Trade Center attacks. Sekzer describes in the film how he wanted revenge after 9/11. In 2003, Sekzer e-mailed military commanders to ask them to write the name of his son on a bomb. The Marines agreed and the bomb was dropped near Baghdad in April 2003. "Right after 9/11 when Bush gave us absolutely every indication that Saddam Hussein was responsible ... if my son had been called upon, I would have said to him 'Yes, go answer your country's call,'" said Sekzer, a Vietnam veteran. "When Bush said, 'I never said that Saddam Hussein had anything to do with this (9/11),' I almost jumped out of my chair," he said in an interview, describing the film as "an awakening."

"Each time we have a war it is later found out the reasons that were given to the public turn out not to be those that really drove us to battle," Jarecki said. "We have lost our way and the question is how are we going to get back." OPINION: Death From Above

U.S. Drone Planes Have a Nearly Perfect Record of Failure

In the dark, pre-dawn hours of Friday, the thirteenth of January, near the Afghan-Pakistani border, the buzz of an unmanned robot plane broke the silence. Half a world and 12 and a half time zones away, someone on the sixth floor of CIA headquarters keyed a command into a computer. The digitized message, relayed through the building's circuitry and transmitted skyward, bounced along an array of aircraft and satellites before arriving at the RQ-1 Predator drone plane hovering above the Bajaur region of Pakistan's Federally Administrated Tribal Areas (FATA). Four AGM-114N Hellfire II missiles, each purchased by American taxpayers from Lockheed Martin at a cost of $45,000, streaked off toward the hamlet of Damadola, five miles into Pakistan.

The four missiles, each carrying enough explosives to take out an armored vehicle, slammed into three local jewelers' houses at 950 miles per hour, nearly twice the speed of a passenger jet at cruising altitude. "The houses have been razed," reported a neighbor, a member of the Pakistani parliament. "There is nothing left. Pieces of the missiles are scattered all around. Everything has been blackened in a 100-yard radius." The target of this latest assassination attempt via missile strike, Al Qaeda second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahiri, wasn't there. At least 22 innocent civilians, including five women and five children, were killed. "They acted on wrong information," a Pakistani intelligence official said of the Americans.

This was only the latest botched U.S. attack. Eight days earlier, another attempt to kill al-Zawahiri failed when a missile blew up a house in the Saidgi area, also in the FATA, based on another incorrect report. Eight innocent civilians died. If insanity is repeating an action in expectation of different results, the assassination-by-joystick squad at Langley is clearly nuts. How many must die before they notice that precision airstrikes are anything but?

Attempted assassination bombings attempted by flesh-and-blood pilots haven't fared better. At the start of the 2003 invasion of Iraq George W. Bush ordered 40 cruise missiles fired at a Baghdad restaurant where Saddam Hussein was reported to be eating dinner. He wasn't. No Baathist officials died. Fourteen members of two Christian families, mostly women and children, did. PEACE ACTION: Woolsey for Peace is a national effort to raise funds for the reelection campaign of a leader in working to end the Iraq war. Congresswomen Lynn Woolsey, Co-Chair of the Progressive Caucus, has been at the forefront of the movement to bring our troops home. She was demanding an exit strategy long before the idea became popular.

Let’s thank her, and let’s keep her in Congress!

CASUALTY REPORTS Local Story: Fallen Soldier Returns to the Carolinas

Local Story: Funeral Services for Fourth Pendleton Soldier killed in Iraq Local Story: Fort Hood Division Suffers Heavy Casualties in Iraq. The 4th Infantry Division moved into Iraq in force in late December for another year-long deployment, and in less than a two-week period, 11 of its soldiers were killed. Local Story: Conway (Arkansas) Soldier Dies in Iraq QUOTE OF THE DAY: "The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate.... Returning violence for violence multiples violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that." -Martin Luther King, Jr.


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