Saturday, January 14, 2006

DAILY WAR NEWS FOR SATURDAY JANUARY 14, 2006 Bring ‘em on: “Falcon Sweep” nets huge weapons cache in the village of Shakaria. US soldiers killed six insurgents and detained one insurgent also. Two of the killed insurgents were reportedly wearing suicide belts. Bring ‘em on: US helicopters go down in Mosul with two killed. Bring ‘em on: Two policemen killed and five wounded by car bomb in Baquba. Body of a policeman found in Iskandariya. He had been shot. An insurgent was blown up on Thursday evening near Tal Afar when the explosive he was planting detonated. Bring ‘em on: IED killed two policemen and wounded four other people next to a police station on eastern Baghdad. Gunman killed Sunni cleric Abdul-Ghafour al-Rawi, a member of the Muslim Scholars’ Association, just west of Ramadi. Gunman killed Hadi al-Wa’ili, a Shi’ite cleric in Baghdad. US Marine died of gunshot wounds from combat in Ramadi. One civilian killed and two wounded by IED near town of Hilla. Bring ‘em on: Iraqi killed in his car in central Fallujah on Saturday at the hands of US snipers. IED exploded in Baghdad, injuring five people. Bring ‘em on: At least 500 people and more than 50 US troops have been killed since the December 15th election. Bring ‘em on: Gunmen hit Iraqi police station in Yathreb. It was newly constructed by not occupied yet. Two police killed and five wounded in bomb blast in the region of al Zaafaraniah (may be same as mentioned above in Baquba.) Bring ‘em on: IED after effects in Baghdad on video. This IED killed two police and wounded four police and six civilians, including children, in Baghdad. This happened near a police patrol, not a police station, so it appears it is a different attack than the one mentioned above. Bring ‘em on: Nine civilians wounded when suicide car bomber targets US forces in Fallujah. Sixteen people were wounded by car bomb attacks to the west and northeast of Baghdad. Bring ‘em on: Two civilians killed and three women wounded by US soldiers firing at their bus in Haweija. Sniper killed policeman in Fallujah. Three wounded by US fire after bomb explosion in Fallujah (mentioned above) that was targeting US forces. Bring ‘em on: Helicopter crashes in Iraq war since 2003 _ Jan. 13, 2006: A U.S. Army OH-58 Kiowa helicopter went down near Mosul after coming to the aid of Iraqi police under hostile fire, and its two pilots were killed. _ Jan. 7, 2006: A Black Hawk helicopter carrying eight U.S. troops and four American civilians crashed near Tal Afar, killing all aboard. _ Dec. 26, 2005: Two U.S. pilots were killed after their Apache collided with another helicopter just west of Baghdad. The second helicopter was able to land and its pilots were uninjured _ Nov. 2, 2005: A U.S. Marine AH-1W Super Cobra helicopter crashed near Ramadi, killing two crew members. _ June 27, 2005: A U.S. Apache AH-64 attack helicopter crashed in Mishahda, north of Baghdad, killing both pilots. _ May 31, 2005: An Italian AB-412 helicopter crashed south of Nasiriyah, killing four Italian troops aboard in what a spokesman said was likely an accident. _ May 26, 2005: Insurgents shot down an OH-58 Kiowa helicopter near Buhriz, north of Baghdad, killing two U.S. soldiers. _ April 21, 2005: A Russian-made Mi-8 helicopter is shot down by missile fire north of Baghdad, killing 11 people, including six American contractors. _ Jan. 26, 2005: A CH-53 Sea Stallion transport helicopter crashed in bad weather in western Iraq, killing at least 31 Marines aboard. _ Dec. 10, 2004: An Apache collided with a UH-60 Black Hawk that was on the ground at an air base in Mosul, killing two U.S. soldiers and injuring four. _ Oct. 16, 2004: Two Kiowa helicopters crashed in southwest Baghdad, killing two and wounding two. _ April 11, 2004: Gunmen shot down an Apache attack helicopter in western Baghdad, killing two crew members. _ Feb. 25, 2004: A Kiowa crashed in a river west of Baghdad, killing the two crewmembers on board. _ Jan. 23, 2004: A Kiowa crashed near the northern town of Qayyarah, killing the two pilots. _ Jan. 8, 2004: A Black Hawk medevac helicopter crashed near Fallujah, killing all nine soldiers on board. _ Jan. 2, 2004: A Kiowa was shot down near Fallujah, killing its pilot and wounding another soldier. _ Nov. 15, 2003: Two Black Hawks crashed in Mosul, killing 17 soldiers and injuring five. The military said the helicopters collided during a likely rocket-propelled grenade attack. _ Nov. 7, 2003: A Black Hawk was downed near Tikrit, apparently by a rocket-propelled grenade, killing all six on board. _ Nov. 2, 2003: A Chinook transport helicopter was shot down near Fallujah, killing 16 and injuring 26. _ May 19, 2003: A CH-46 Sea Knight transport helicopter crashed shortly after takeoff in Hillah, killing four Marines. Another Marine drowned trying to rescue them from a canal. _ May 9, 2003: A Black Hawk crashed near Samarra, killing three soldiers, in an apparent accident. REPORTS THE TRAGEDY OF IRAQ: From Juan Cole’s blog: US investigators have confirmed that the Saddam Hussein regime used chemical weapons against the Shiites who rose up against his regime in 1991. Some 60,000 Shiites were killed in April of 1991 when Saddam used helicopter gunships and armor to crush the rebellion. The US could have interdicted the helicopters from firing, but chose not to. Then Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney maintained that the Saudis had expressed unhappiness about the prospect of a Shiite take-over of Iraq. (These facts reflect Cheney’s total lack of concern over the Iraqi people and their future wellbeing. – Susan) NEWS: US Troops Welcomed with Candy and Tea, but Get Little Information from Iraqis When Capt. Pat Flynn and his squad knock on doors in Mosul in search of intelligence tips, Iraqis often welcome them inside with chocolate candy and tea in tiny glasses. When he asks if they have been intimidated or threatened, they emphatically shake their heads "no." That's a bad sign. "Ninety percent of them say it's the safest place in the world to live," said Flynn, 29, a platoon commander in the 172nd Stryker Brigade's 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment. "But we know that's a lie because it's that 10 percent that comes and tells you what's really going on." That disconnect reflects the task the U.S. Army faces in Mosul, a city that has been hailed as a major success in recent months. Free to move around the city as never before, U.S. troops are realizing that they simply are no longer the main target. "We have determined a significant change in who the insurgents are targeting," said Maj. Richard Greene, the executive officer of Flynn's unit. "Up to the elections, they were targeting the Iraqi police and the Iraqi army. They don't want to tangle with us. Now we've noticed a lot of the violence seems to be intimidation of civilians." The problems in Mosul, where troops mostly escape attack but civilians do not, exemplify a larger issue in Iraq. NEWS: Electricity Shortage in War-Ravaged Iraq Forces Young Married Couples to Have Less Sex in Winter Making love for many of Iraq's Muslim population not only requires a willing partner but also a sure supply of water - preferably hot in the winter - to enable the participants to take a shower afterwards before going to pray. No hot water means no hot shower and therefore prayers, which take place five times a day for devout Muslims, can become a problem. Either a couple avoids sex or they are forced to take a cold dip, not a pleasant prospect during the winter months. "I have less sex than I want because there is no hot water to wash with afterwards," moaned Hadi, 25, a Baghdad local who works in the water sector and has only been married for two weeks. THE SHAME OF AMERICA: 'I'm a door kicker-inner,' one young Marine blurted out - to the dismay of his superiors “WHY can’t we live together in peace?”, read the graffiti written on a wall in Fallujah by a weary American soldier. Next to it a colleague had scrawled: “Die ragheads die!” The US military has struggled to improve the cultural sensitivity of its troops — often raw youths on their first trip abroad — since the start of the occupation when the first soldiers to hit Baghdad slipped a Stars and Stripes over the head of Saddam Hussein’s statue. Jittery superiors swiftly ordered them to replace it with an Iraqi flag. Long before the Abu Ghraib scandal, there were numerous examples of brutality and insensitivity by US troops to match tales of their courage. Sometimes it was purely a lack of local knowledge: a minor riot ensued when dogs — considered unclean in the Muslim world — were used to sniff staff entering the Oil Ministry. That contempt was quickly detected by the population, which was dismayed to see US forces obsessed with their own protection and doing little to halt the breakdown of law and order. Much of the damage was done early on. Battle-hardened troops launched house raids that horrified Iraqis, who jealously guard their privacy and the modesty of their women. Doors were kicked in. Money and valuables were reported stolen. But little has changed. “I’m a door kicker-inner,” one young Marine blurted out in Fallujah last month, to the dismay of his superiors. NEWS: Five Danes Guilty of Iraq Abuse A Danish army captain and four military police sergeants have been found guilty of abusing prisoners while they were based in southern Iraq. But the judge ruled that because of "extenuating circumstances", the five would not be punished. He said they had not received clear guidelines from the Danish military. Capt Annemette Hommel and the others were convicted of verbal humiliation and forcing prisoners to maintain painful postures during interrogation. (Sounds pretty mild compared to what some US and British troops have done. – Susan) NEWS: German Secret Agents in Iraq Since 2003 Contradicting an earlier statement, German foreign minister Franz-Walter Steinmeier on Thursday confirmed that German secret service agents have operated in Iraq since 2003 when the war that toppled Saddam began. Steinmeier was an undersecretary in the office of former chancellor Gerhard Schroeder - a staunch opponent of the US-led invasion of Iraq. He was reacting to news reports that claimed German agents had helped during US military operations in Iraq. NEWS: Basra: What really happened (This is a report on the incident last year where two British agents were arrested and detained by Iraqi police, and then the British military invaded the local jail to set them free.) However, according to sources spoken to by The Independent, as many as 200 troops were dispatched to deal with the situation. Those on the ground that day put the number of protesters at nearer 1,000, with at least nine Iraqis shot dead. All day, in intense heat, the fighting continued. As many as three Warriors were in flames. One soldier said: "The first place we went, we were told the SAS were in a different location. The next minute, there was a big crowd in the streets. It was just hairy. It just happened so quickly. There were bricks, blocks and petrol bombs. There hadn't been anything like that before." NEWS: Hundreds of Iraqi Police Candidates Head for Training After Surviving Suicide Attack Hundreds of Iraqi police candidates left restive Anbar province Friday for training in the capital, including 200 men who survived a suicide bombing last week that killed 58 people. Half of the 400 police candidates that left in a convoy from Ramadi for Baghdad were from Qaim, a frontier town near the Syrian border that has been the scene of repeated fighting between U.S. forces and insurgents - including many foreign fighters. Anbar is predominantly Sunni Arab and is the focal point of much of the insurgency in Iraq. The other 200 candidates were from Ramadi, an insurgent hotbed where a suicide bomber hit applicants at a police recruitment center on Jan. 5, killing more than 30 people. "Despite that attack, the recruits returned en masse today," Marine Capt. Jeffrey S. Pool said. The men are part of an effort to return police to Anbar, including Ramadi and nearby Fallujah. NEWS: An Iraqi Police Station, by Greg Rollins (A CPT member in Iraq) The other day I accompanied a friend to an Iraqi police station. He was detained there for a couple weeks for no reason. It might sound odd that he was held while innocent, but that is how things are done in Iraq. Iraqis a place where the police are not always your friends. Some police are responsible for kidnappings, torture, and murders. Many Iraqis they arrest are innocent. I asked my friend if the police abused him or tortured anyone while he was in jail. My friend said no, the police treated everyone well but he did meet some prisoners who were tortured in the summer, their bodies still scarred or deformed. According to these prisoners the police tortured and abused them on a regular basis until the U.S. forces stopped them. The story goes that U.S. soldiers were visiting the station when they heard the screams of a prisoner being tortured. They entered the room where the torture was taking place, took the man off the wall and took away the badges of the police in the room. To make sure the police don't continue abusing prisoners, the U.S. forces now inspect the police station every couple days. Yet the conditions are still poor. My friend said the cells are cold,dirty and overcrowded. He told me that he slept on a thin foam mattress onthe floor with another prisoner. Because the cell was so crowded, the only available place for them to sleep was near the toilet where the floor was wet and dirty from people constantly walking in and out. My friend said he believed about two-thirds of the prisoners there were innocent. The day my friend and I went to the police station, the police had asked him to come back simply to go over a few matters. To be on the safe side my friend asked me and another CPTer to go along with him. What made the trip interesting was while we waited in the reception area, a policeman walked by that my friend knew from his stay in jail. When the two saw each other, they shook hands and kissed each other on the cheeksthree times like old friends in Iraq do. My teammate and I laughed. This was not something we expected to see, especially considering the reputation of the police. I asked my friend why he kissed the policeman. My friend replied that while he was in jail the policeman treated him with respect. He said there were several there who did the same. Our work at the police station was short. The policeman who called my friend in was uncomfortable seeing my teammate and me, so business was handled quickly and we went on our way. My friend was glad to leave. He was grateful that they hadn't arrested him again without any reason. That was how it happened the first time; they called him up and wanted to talkto him about something he had seen. Two and half weeks later they let him go home. GOOD NEWS: Another Iraqi Child Finds Hope for a Healthier Life in East Tennessee In the last week, Gunner, from WIVK, has watched his family grow. The radio personality is sharing his home with Abdul Alayass and his daughter, Gufran. "We have become very close already," says Gunner. "He cannot believe that he is here and he's just happy to see that there is hope," says translator Lina Shatara for Alayass. Hope for his little girl who has Spina Bifida. Since Gufran was born, Alayass has dreamed of treatment. He did not think it would ever be possible until he met 278th soldiers in Baghdad. GOOD NEWS: Baby Noor Leaves Hospital The Iraqi infant who underwent surgery for spinal birth defects was released from a hospital Friday to recover at an Atlanta-area home where her father and grandmother have been staying, hospital officials said. She will have to return to the hospital later for additional evaluation but no date has yet been scheduled, officials said. Surgeons on Monday removed a fluid-filled sac from the baby's back and positioned her spinal cord in its proper place. Doctors had been monitoring the 3-month-old for any buildup of spinal fluid in her brain, which can lead to a dangerous buildup of pressure in the brain. THE WAR AT HOME: National Security Agency Mounted Massive Spy Op on Baltimore Peace Group, Documents Show The National Security Agency has been spying on a Baltimore anti-war group, according to documents released during litigation, going so far as to document the inflating of protesters' balloons, and intended to deploy units trained to detect weapons of mass destruction, Raw Story has learned. According to the documents, the Pledge of Resistance-Baltimore, a Quaker-linked peace group, has been monitored by the NSA, who was working with the Baltimore Intelligence Unit of the Baltimore City Police Department. (This is so stupid. – Susan) ELECTIONS IN IRAQ IRAQ ELECTION RESULTS: Shi’ite Bloc Short of Iraq Parliament Majority The Islamist Shi'ite Alliance bloc will fall short of retaining its parliamentary majority after last month's election, according to an almost final tally of seats in the chamber obtained by Reuters on Friday. With six of 275 seats yet to be allocated, the Alliance and their present Kurdish coalition partners were also one seat shy of the two-thirds majority needed to change the constitution, figures provided by source at the Electoral Commission showed. Final results are expected next week following a review of procedures by international observers responding to complaints of fraud by minority Sunni Arab and secular parties. No major change in the results from the December 15 vote is expected. The other main grouping, the cross-sectarian secular Iraqi National List led by former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, had 25 seats on the provisional count, 15 less than at present. Disappointed with that result after a highly visible public campaign, it is not yet clear whether Allawi and his allies will take part in negotiations on joining a new coalition. Among other groups who have won seats, the Kurdish Islamic Alliance had five seats according to the latest figures, Risaliyoon, a party also linked to Sadr, had two, as had the Reconciliation and Liberation bloc led by Sunni politician Mishaan al-Jibouri. The Shi'ite Patriotic Rafidain group and the Turkish-speaking Turkmen Front won one seat each. The source said the bulk of the six remaining seats would be most likely allocated to such smaller parties. Among the more than 200 groups that failed to win a seat on December 15 was that led by Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Chalabi, a controversial, high-profile figure, the electoral source said. NEWS: Iraq Shi’ite Leader Says No Negotiation on Core Constitutional Principles Iraqi Shi'ite leader Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) said this week that Shi'a would not negotiate on the core principles outlined in the Iraqi Constitution. His remarks contradict an agreement Shi'ite and Kurdish leaders forged with Sunni Arabs in October, and threaten recent attempts to bring Sunni Arab parties into a national unity government. Al-Hakim, who also headed the winning United Iraqi Alliance (UIA) slate in Iraq's 15 December parliamentary elections, told followers during his Eid Al-Adha sermon at SCIRI headquarters in Baghdad on 11 January that any political group intent on participating in a national unity government must show commitment to certain "constants" -- accepting the constitution, de-Ba'athification, and rejecting terrorism. "We [Shi'a] have a group of constants that we will never relinquish; they became constants after long, immense suffering. These constants, therefore, should be taken into consideration in any future coalitions. Any party seeking alliance with us in order to participate in the government, should abide by these constants," al-Hakim said. The Shi'ite leader's comments are sure to draw fire from Sunni Arab parties -- particularly the Iraqi Islamic Party -- which supported the constitution in the 15 October referendum after the UIA and the Kurdistan Coalition agreed that the incoming National Assembly would have four months to amend the document. NEWS: Iraqi Election Results Delayed Iraq's electoral commission won't release final results from last month's election in coming days because the panel is waiting on international monitors to finish investigating fraud complaints, a senior Iraqi election official said Saturday. "It is impossible to have the final election results this week," Safwat Rashid, a senior member of the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq told The Associated Press. He was referring to the Islamic week, which began Friday and ends on Thursday.A senior official with an international team assessing the results at the request of the IEIC said the group won't issue its own findings for at least another week. Although leading politicians have expressed hopes a government could be formed in February, most experts and officials agree it could take two to three months, as it did after the January 2005 elections for an interim government. IMPEACHMENT BUSH: The Impeachment of George Bush Finally, it has started. People have begun to speak of impeaching President George W. Bush--not in hushed whispers but openly, in newspapers, on the Internet, in ordinary conversations and even in Congress. As a former member of Congress who sat on the House Judiciary Committee during the impeachment proceedings against President Richard Nixon, I believe they are right to do so. I can still remember the sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach during those proceedings, when it became clear that the President had so systematically abused the powers of the presidency and so threatened the rule of law that he had to be removed from office. As a Democrat who opposed many of President Nixon's policies, I still found voting for his impeachment to be one of the most sobering and unpleasant tasks I ever had to undertake. None of the members of the committee took pleasure in voting for impeachment; after all, Democrat or Republican, Nixon was still our President. At the time, I hoped that our committee's work would send a strong signal to future Presidents that they had to obey the rule of law. I was wrong. Like many others, I have been deeply troubled by Bush's breathtaking scorn for our international treaty obligations under the United Nations Charter and the Geneva Conventions. I have also been disturbed by the torture scandals and the violations of US criminal laws at the highest levels of our government they may entail, something I have written about in these pages [see Holtzman, "Torture and Accountability," July 18/25, 2005]. These concerns have been compounded by growing evidence that the President deliberately misled the country into the war in Iraq. But it wasn't until the most recent revelations that President Bush directed the wiretapping of hundreds, possibly thousands, of Americans, in violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA)--and argued that, as Commander in Chief, he had the right in the interests of national security to override our country's laws--that I felt the same sinking feeling in my stomach as I did during Watergate. BLAIR: Only Way Out is to Impeach Blair! It is not a sufficient excuse for Mr. Blair to say that he acted in good faith and that his decisions were based on the intelligence he had been given. For it is the clear responsibility of people in his position to test intelligence. No intelligence can ever be taken at face value. Indeed it is negligent to do so.Parliament should therefore ascertain how far the prime minister did evaluate intelligence regarding WMD and how he assessed the reliability of the many sources that provided that intelligence. It should ask him what corroborating evidence there was for his specific statement about WMD — and why more use was not made of the UN inspectors on the ground in Iraq to test the validity of that statement. It should inquire just how much he discounted the mass of intelligence that came in from the Iraqi National Congress — a body that had a vested interest in removing Saddam from power. The list of possible questions is huge and would no doubt be usefully expanded during any hearings.—Dawn/The Guardian News Service BUSH: Most Popular Idea at Last Weekend’s Out of Iraq Events? Impeachment. A long list of peace organizations put together over 150 town hall forums last Saturday on the topic of getting out of Iraq. Reports, and audio and video, from dozens of these events have been posted at http://www.afterdowningstreet.org/. What I gather from reviewing the reports, and from the two events I attended, is that the most popular topic was not the horrors of war or any legislation to end it, but the demand to impeach President Bush and Vice President Cheney. And it means more now that Congressman John Conyers has introduced a bill to create an investigation into grounds for impeachment, and the bill has begun to pick up cosponsors. Judging by Congress Members' remarks on Saturday, there should be some more cosponsors on the list soon. BLAIR: Impeach Blair on Iraq, Says General A former general has called for impeachment proceedings against Tony Blair, accusing the prime minister of misleading parliament and the public over the invasion of Iraq. General Sir Michael Rose, commander of UN forces in Bosnia in 1994, writes in today's Guardian: "The impeachment of Mr Blair is now something I believe must happen if we are to rekindle interest in the democratic process in this country once again". Britain was led into war on false pretences, he says. "It was a war that was to unleash untold suffering on the Iraqi people and cause grave damage to the west's prospects in the wider war against global terror." BUSH: What We Don’t Know Can Hurt Us There is a bill in Congress to investigate Bush for impeachable crimes. Did you know that? If not, maybe you should be asking your local media outlets why you don’t know about it. There are now eight members of Congress who have put their names to a bill calling for a special committee of the House to investigate impeachable crimes by the Bush administration. To date, all of them are Democrats. So far, you'd be hard-pressed to know about any of this--including the very fact that Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), the low-key and soft-spoken but dedicated ranking minority member of the House Judiciary Committee, had even submitted such a bill--as well as two companion bills calling for censure of both Bush and Cheney for abuse of power. Apparently in the editorial cloister of our once proud Fourth Estate, where decisions as to what it is safe or appropriate for us in the public to know, it has been determined that we do not need to know that the notion of impeachment of the president is starting to grow. Most of the major corporate media have yet to let the public know that several respected polls have shown a majority of Americans to favor impeachment if Bush lied about the reasons for going to war against Iraq, which if combined with polls showing that two-thirds of Americans or more think he did lie about those reasons, tells you all you need to know about the public attitude on impeachment. The same paternalistic and pro-administration mindset was at work when the editor and publisher of the New York Times decided a year ago to squelch for a year a story they had about the NSA warrant less spying program. They felt that we the people didn't need to know about that story in a presidential election year, even if the target of that spying may well have been the administration’s electoral opponents, just as it was in the 1972 Watergate spying scandal. (Our priceless, priceless media. – Susan) SHOULD BE BUSH AND BLAIR INSTEAD: Two to Stand Trial in Memo Leak Two men who leaked a document suggesting U.S. President George W. Bush considered bombing Al-Jazeera television have to stand trial. David Keogh, a British civil servant, is accused of passing a memo to Leo O'Connor, a former parliamentary researcher. The memo was then leaked to a British newspaper last November. It alleged that Bush spoke of targeting Al-Jazeera's headquarters in Qatar in a meeting he had with British Prime Minister Tony Blair at the White House in 2004. Both men have been charged with violations of the Official Secrets Act. The story said one British government source dismissed Bush's comments as a joke, but another said he was serious. (It is no joke to the people working at al Jazeera. Hard to believe we have a president of the USA so opposed to freedom of the press that he would suggest bombing them. This strikes me as an impeachable offense, and I applaud the whistle blowers. – Susan) COMMENTARY OPINION: An Incendiary Threat in Iraq Iraq's most powerful Shiite politician has just dealt a huge blow to American-backed efforts to avoid civil war through the creation of a new, nationally inclusive constitutional order. That leader, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, leader of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, has turned his back on the crucial pledge, made before last October's constitutional referendum, that the new charter would be open to substantial amendment by the newly elected Parliament. Instead, Mr. Hakim, who runs the dominant, Iranian-supported fundamentalist party, now says no broad changes should be made. In particular, he defends the current provisions allowing substantial autonomy for the oil-rich Shiite southeast. Mr. Hakim's latest position is a prescription for a national breakup and an endless civil war. It is also a provocative challenge to Washington, which helped broker the original promise of significant constitutional changes. On the basis of that promise, Sunni voters turned out in large numbers, both for the constitutional referendum and for last month's parliamentary vote. Drawing Sunni voters into democratic politics is vital to creating the stable, peaceful Iraq that President Bush has declared to be the precondition for an American military withdrawal. The most unacceptable defect of the new constitution for Sunnis is its provision for radically decentralizing national political and economic power, dispersing it to separate regions. OPINION: There are three political cards to play in Iraq, they are all dirty The first two, though already dirty and worn out because of excessive use, are still effective. It is hard to predict the third since it hinges on innuendoes and exaggerated estimates the various factions give about their potential power. The first card is raised when a certain political faction in the country warns of relying on a foreign power – the U.S., Iran, or an Arab country – to achieve its agenda. In the second card the factions mobilize the Iraqi street by playing on Iraqi people’s sectarian, ethnic, tribal or religious nerves. The last card is ostensible but hard to predict. In it the factions try to inflate their political base and military power as part of a continuing psychological war to scare opponents. Each faction would like to leave the other in the dark regarding its numerical strength and military prowess. And as a result there is now mounting ambiguity and confusion of who is who in Iraq. The third card today plays a pivotal role in the country’s politics. It has led to the creation of an atmosphere of instability, mistrust, incredibility and fear. No Iraqi is immune from terror and violence. Death is everywhere. OPINION: Any Division in Iraq May Cause Chaos (Turkish Press) ''Iraqi people will decide on the administration type of their country. Autonomous status of north of Iraq is not a new thing. Turkey closely follows developments regarding Kirkuk. Oil and gas company of Turkey (TPAO) was instructed to explore oil in the north of Iraq,'' he noted. When asked whether Turkey will take part in an initiative to settle security of Iraq after the United States withdraws from that country, Gul said, ''currently there are not such projects. But if Iraqi government has such a demand or need in the future, this can be discussed.'' OPINION: Unchecked Abuse Congress voted by an overwhelming margin last month to ban all U.S. personnel from inflicting "cruel, inhuman or degrading" treatment on any prisoner held anywhere by the United States. President Bush, who had threatened to veto the legislation, instead invited its prime sponsor, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), to the White House for a public reconciliation and declared they had a common objective: "to make it clear to the world that this government does not torture and that we adhere to the international convention of torture." His national security adviser, Stephen J. Hadley, said that "the legislative agreement that we've worked out with Senator McCain" makes the ban on cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment "a matter of law that applies worldwide, at home and abroad." From all that, it might be concluded that the Bush administration has committed itself to ending the use of practices falling just short of torture that it has used on foreign detainees since 2002. But it has not. Instead, it is explicitly reserving the right to abuse prisoners, while denying them any opportunity to seek redress in court. Having publicly accepted the ban on cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, Mr. Bush is planning to ignore it whenever he chooses. As a practical matter, there may be no change in the operations of the CIA's secret prisons, where detainees have been subjected to such practices as painful shackling, mock execution, induced hypothermia and "waterboarding," or simulated drowning. (Hard to believe that we have a president of the USA who believes in, and recommends, torture. What happened to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” anyway? – Susan) SICK OPINION: Pentagon to families: Go Ahead, Laugh When the stress of the war in Iraq becomes too severe, the Pentagon has a suggestion for military families: Learn how to laugh. With help from the Pentagon's chief laughter instructor, families of National Guard members are learning to walk like a penguin, laugh like a lion and blurt "ha, ha, hee, hee and ho, ho." No joke. "I laugh every chance I get," says the instructor, retired Army colonel James "Scotty" Scott. "That's why I'm blessed to be at the Pentagon, where we definitely need a lot of laughter in our lives." (They are losing their minds. – Susan) ANOTHER SICK OPINION: Turmoil in Iraq is Part of Progress, Bush Says President Bush warned Americans yesterday that they can expect to see more violence in Iraq over the next year but called this the price of progress as the country stands up its own security forces and moves toward democracy. Speaking to members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Bush said that in the coming weeks Iraq is likely to be the scene of "a good deal of political turmoil" as factions jockey for position and vie for power. Rather than being alarmed by those developments, he said, "we should welcome this for what it is: freedom in action." (Well then, if continuing and increasing violence is progress, we should see lots of progress in Iraq. Too bad the Bush twins won’t join in on all this progress. – Susan) OPINION: Situation in Iraq is Civil War (Rep. Murtha) According to the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, Second Edition, the definition of a civil war is a "war between political factions or regions within the same country." That is exactly what is going on in Iraq, not a global war on terrorism, as the President continues to portray it. 93 percent of those fighting in Iraq are Iraqis. A very small percentage of the fighting is being done by foreign fighters. Our troops are caught in between the fighting. 80 percent of Iraqis want us out of there and 45 percent think it is justified to kill American troops. (Rep. Murtha will be on 60 minutes this Sunday to discuss why he changed his mind on Iraq and what he thinks we should do now to get out of Iraq. – Susan) OPINION: The Boomerang Effect in Iraq: If “Kurdistan”, Why Not Assyria? If all the efforts now being made in Northern Mesopotamia are for bestowing the Kurds with their long-desired independent state, why so far have those who are passionately struggling for an independent Kurdistan failed to voice the same independence or autonomy arguments for other ethno-religious groups in the region? And in any case, could the latter follow the Kurdish example and demand greater autonomy? Historical residents of Mesopotamia, the Assyrians would make a capable nation, especially considering their sizeable and wealthy diaspora. They might follow the example of the Armenian diaspora, which has constantly blamed the Turkish state for what happened in eastern and southeastern Anatolia in the early 20th century. They have done so because the Turkish state, then the Ottoman Empire, was the most relevant official entity against which those accusations and claims could be levied. Yet if it becomes independent, a Kurdish state would adopt all the rights and responsibilities of a sovereign state, and as such could be targeted as well by the very same diasporas, since it would have to account for the accusations in the court of public opinion and, perhaps, under international law. The Assyrian communities either inside Turkey or abroad have not yet voiced their claim for territorial self-determination or autonomy. However, they might be encouraged to do so by certain pressure groups in the West who are deeply interested in reviving and promoting the ancient Christian heritage in the traditional Kurdish territories.[1] That said, an independent Kurdish state might presage further fragmentation in Mesopotamia, and perhaps the region. OPINION: The Global War Lords The foreign occupation turned the dream of having an Iraq without Saddam to a darker nightmare, a nightmare where Iraqis lost even the smallest benefits they used to have before the occupation while the political oppression stayed the same if not worse. The biggest irony in this nightmare is when the “liberators” compare themselves to the former dictator to market their “new” Iraq. “Saddam killed 300,000 but we just killed a 100,000 to make you vote”, this is the how the logic of the mainstream pro-war activists and media sounds like. The same people who used Saddam’s crimes to justify the war on Iraq are committing the very same crimes against Iraqis. It’s true that the emerging Iraqi democracy is still very new and primitive, even when you compare it to other local democracies in the Middle East, but this doesn’t reduce its importance. The Iraqi elections system falls short when compared to the Iranian, Lebanese, Egyptian and Jordanian experiences, or in the best scenarios is as good as some of them. But still, Iraqis can work on it in the future and build their own local trend of electoral system and democracy. Whether we liked the war or not, we should agree that it didn’t make Iraq a safer place for anyone rather than the extremists. People like AMZ (aka Zarqawi) freak out when the Iraqi political parties have an united stand, and at the same time, extremists in the US freak out as well. A stable Iraq with a strong national government rebuilding the war-torn country is not in the interest of both AMZ and GWB. OPINION: Pluses and Minuses Well, for the sake of argument, let's assume we do win the war, however strangely the Bush administration might decide to define victory. But let's assume we win. The insurgents are defeated. An elected government of pro-Iranian Shiites is in charge. What are the benefits to the American people?When a young Marine asked that of Vice President Dick Cheney, he reeled off a list of benefits for the Iraqi people, but said not a word about Americans. Since victory (stipulated only for the sake of argument) is paid for by American blood and American treasure, some benefit should accrue to the American people. What? I can tell you one positive thing about this war, if the American people will learn from it. We should never, ever again allow a bunch of academic ideologues and Washington lawyers who don't know crap about the real world to gain control of American foreign policy. The next American president should ask two questions of all the people who present themselves as Middle East experts. Have you lived in an Arab country? Do you speak and read Arabic? If the answers are no, then he should say, "Hit the road, Jack." Twenty-two hundred Americans probably would be alive if Bush had asked those questions of his neoconservative warmongers. OPINION: Anonymous poster on Juan Cole’s blog speaks words of wisdom: Just the Speculations, Ma'am May, could, would, should. Are Wolf and ABC purely speculative entities now, fact-free and emotive, led on by faceless, nameless anonymous "intelligence" sources? Can we speak of "intelligence" agencies whose role seems at most to be to blow up possible sources of otherwise irreplaceable and potentially exploitable "humint" from a known location? Is any sort of idiocy and blindness good if it involves a high-explosive "smart" bomb dropped from a high-performance airplane from a high altitude? Did they need to get permission from "the top" to drop? Did the lawyers approve? Why couldn't they just go in and seize/kidnap/arrest the guy? Or is that what they did, and then bombed to cover up? Hope springs eternal, but usually baselessly. (And the most intelligent thing to do often turns out to be the most moral thing to do. - Susan) OPINION: Smart-Bombing Iraqi Families While They Sleep But the air strikes (note the plural) were not ordered by forces "fighting insurgents on the ground". The strikes on the family's house were ordered by techno-dweeb operators of a robot surveillance craft who think they saw its camera recording three people "emplacing an improvised explosive device" beside a road. These TV experts on the Iraq insurgency, sitting in Florida, apparently declared that "The individuals left the road site and were followed from the air to a nearby building". The fly-boys were let loose to destroy the "nearby building". Their joy-bombing was followed by an official statement was that the attack had "successful effects against the insurgents". The trouble is that it was the wrong building. So the official statement was a sheer downright deliberate lie. The official line is that the slaughtered kids "May have been drawn into the air strike" that was essential to "defend our forces fighting insurgents on the ground." Even in the ludicrous Orwell-speak of modern military truth-destruction, the phrase "drawn into the air strike" achieves a new low in iniquitous distortion. The word 'may' is mandatory for all lie-speakers and serves to inject just that insidious doubt that is meat and drink to the pro-war media. The kids who were killed by US bombs and cannon fire directed deliberately by gung-ho yippee-shooting jet-jocks were not "drawn into" their barbaric bombing. This is one of the most disgusting attempts at mind-bending yet achieved by the robotic brain-washed fanatics of the US propaganda factories. These children were killed because the people who ordered their death and those who murdered them are devoid of pity and revel in the technical expertise that separates killer from victim. They have no connection with spouting blood and shattered limbs. They play real-life video games in which they cause children to die in many horrible ways. They are clinically detached from the death and destruction that is their joy and professional climax. They are monsters. Then the wondrous Colonel Johnson declared "We're now trying to determine in coordination with Iraqi security forces in the area exactly what casualties occurred, and why they occurred". This was after he assured the world that "precision-guided munitions" had been used and that all the dead people were bad people. Then the Washington Post recorded that its correspondent "watched as the corpses of three women and three boys who appeared to be younger than 10 were removed Tuesday from the house outside the town of Baiji, 150 miles north of Baghdad" and that "Emergency workers also retrieved the bodies of three women -- a bloodied older woman whose head was wrapped in a black veil and two younger women whose hair was uncovered and who were dressed for bed. The head of one of the two young women was crushed." How did you sleep last night, you conquerors of the sky? Have you ever seen a woman's head that was crushed by your bombs? And how about you, Lieutenant Colonel Johnson? Do you enjoy happy dreams? I don't see how you can, given the lies you have told and the destruction and death you try so ineptly to conceal. But perhaps the new type of US military officer is schooled to ignore the crushing of women's heads and the extinction of kids. There will be no results from the investigation by US forces of what happened at Bayji. It would be ingenuous to expect that there could be any meaningful board of inquiry, because it could not possibly deliver the finding that the video-game controller of the photographing drone was entirely wrong about the three men he condemned to death for appearing as if they were placing a bomb alongside a road. He would be guilty of a war crime, which necessitates trial. And there is no way that the US is ever going to permit any citizen to stand trial on a war crime charge. (While preparing this article, I heard Bremer say on NPR that he is proud of the “noble mission” that the US military is doing in Iraq. Now, I am going to go get sick. – Susan) AND THE USA DOES NOT JUST BOMB IRAQ: US Targets Top Aide to bin Laden, Pakistanis Say 18 Dead The CIA and other U.S. counterterrorism agencies would not comment officially on speculation that Ayman al-Zawahri was among a group of suspected senior al-Qaida members killed in the airstrike near the Afghan border early Friday. Nor would they say on the record whether U.S. warplanes or unmanned Predator drones had dropped precision-guided missiles onto suspected terrorist hideouts in the area, as reported by Pakistani officials and witnesses. The Pakistanis said at least 18 people were killed and six wounded in the attack. An AP reporter who visited the scene about 12 hours after what villagers said was an airstrike saw three destroyed houses, hundreds of yards apart. Villagers, who denied links to the Taliban or al-Qaida, had buried at least 15 people, including women and children, and were digging for more bodies in the rubble. No security forces were in the area. Witnesses said 14 of the people killed in the blasts belonged to one family. Haji Haroon Rashid, a legislator from Bajaur, said he witnessed the attack and that a spy plane had been flying over the area for the past four days. UPDATE: CNN REPORTS ZAWAHIRI NOT KILLED IN STRIKE. EIGHT MEN, FIVE WOMEN AND FIVE CHILDREN KILLED. NO SURPRISES HERE. AND A WAR FAR, FAR WORSE: Congo’s 3.9 Million Victims Make it Deadliest Crisis for 60 Years The civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo has claimed 3.9 million lives, according to a study. It says starvation and disease caused by a conflict, which began in 1998, were by far the greatest killers. The results of the study, conducted by the International Rescue Committee, a New York-based relief agency, are published in the British medical journal The Lancet. "Congo is the deadliest crisis anywhere in the world over the past 60 years," said Richard Brennan, the study's main author. "Ignorance about its scale and impact is almost universal and international engagement remains completely out of proportion to humanitarian need." The committee found that Congo's war claimed 38,000 lives every month in 2004. PEACE ACTION: Women Say No to War Women are mobilizing women around the globe to call for an end to the occupation and the violence in Iraq. With the majority of people in Iraq, the U.S., the U.K., and around the world opposing this war, now is the time for women to step forward and make our opposition more visible and vocal. With the launch of Women Say No To War Campaign, we are asking women around the world to sign on to the Women’s Call for Peace. We hope to obtain a minimum of 100,000 signatures by International Women's Day on March 8, 2006, when US and Iraqi women will deliver these signatures to leaders in Washington DC and women around the world will deliver them to US embassies. CASUALTY REPORTS Local Story: Virginia Marine killed in Iraq Local story: Evansville (Indiana) soldier killed in Iraq laid to rest Local story: Honoring Monroe County (Michigan) fallen heroes Local Story: Memorial built for Indiana military killed in Iraq and Afghanistan Local Story: Maryland soldier dies after being wounded in Iraq Local Story: Two Iowa soldiers killed in Iraq Local Story: Local women (Washington state) among those killed in Black Hawk crash Local Story: Three Fort Carson soldiers killed in Black Hawk Crash Local Story: Oglala Sioux Tribe Member, a US Marine, killed in Iraq Local Story: Alaska National Guard crewmembers honored in Iraq Local Story: Garden City (Kansas) soldier dies in explosion in Iraq Local Story: Patriot Guard Riders attend soldier’s funeral in Alabama. The group is made up primarily of motorcyclists, most of who are also military veterans. Specifically, they will be shielding the family from an announced protest by the Rev. Fred Phelps and the members of Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kans. The church started last year picketing funerals of soldiers killed by improvised explosive devices. Phelps believes that casualties of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Hurricane Katrina, the recent death of 12 coal miners in West Virginia, and virtually every other tragedy, is the result of God’s anger with America. Phelps alternately explains that divine retribution stems from a tolerance of homosexuality or a plastic bomb set off in 1995 in the neighborhood where most of his congregation lives. QUOTE OF THE DAY: War creates peace like hate creates love. - David L. Wilson


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