Sunday, January 01, 2006

The face of grief. Another year, another day, in Iraq. Some Iraqis in Baghdad said their New Year's Eve wish is that U.S. troops will pull out. "God willing, the occupation of our country will end and we will get rid of the Americans," said Noor Ali, who shopping at a Baghdad store. At a nearby restaurant, Mohammad Jassem said he hoped for "water and electricity, security and stability." DAILY WAR NEWS FOR SUNDAY JANUARY 1, 2006 Bring ‘em on: Bodies of six men found blindfolded, shot and dumped in a sewage plant in Baghdad. Mortar round killed a policeman in Baghdad and gunman fatally shot the owner of a supermarket in Baghdad. US soldier killed by mortar attack in Baghdad. Bring ‘em on: Two policemen died, two policemen wounded, and two civilians were wounded in bomb blast in the north part of Baghdad. Four police commandos wounded by a second explosion in the south part of Baghdad. Three people, including a policeman, kidnapped east of Tikrit. Bring ‘em on: Six Iraqis killed and 23 injured in two explosions in Baghdad (on Saturday or Friday, can’t tell which). One was a car bomb, the other was a mortar shell falling on a garage for passengers transport on al Kifah street, causing casualties in a nearby café. Bring ‘em on: Eleven members of a Shi’ite family killed by having their throats slit inside their home just south of Baghdad on Thursday. The family had been warned to move out of the Sunni district, but had not done so. Bring ‘em on: Gunmen shot nine men and injured 16 as they sat along the banks of the Tigris river in Baghdad on Saturday. The reason for the shootings is unclear, but the men were drinking alcoholic beverages at the time. Inspectors of Iraqi run jails in Baghdad and Tal Afar found overcrowding and signs of prisoner abuse. Bring ‘em on: Three raids by US and Iraqi military in Muqdadiyah and Tel Afar yielded 23 suspected terrorists. And no need for a trial either because Central Command says “None of the Soldiers involved in the two days of operations were injured as they continued to remove those responsible for acts of terrorism and violence against the civilians and security forces in the area.” Bring ‘em on: Five bodies found in a stream about 30 miles southeast of Baghdad and another body fournd in a deserted area of Madaen on Saturday. A mortar fell on a house in central Baghdad, killing a man and his son. A policeman was shot to death in Baghdad’s Sadr City slum. Two Iraqi policemen killed and six injured in Baghdad (Engineering College of Mustansariya). Another roadside bomb in Baghdad killed five policemen, and a bomb targeting a convoy in north Baghdad killed two policemen and two civilians. Bring ‘em on: Early reports of up to eight bombs going off in Baghdad on New Year’s morning, with two near restaurants and two near police patrols. “But US military commanders in Baghdad say that reduced casualty numbers in recent attacks are an indication of the success US and Iraqi forces have had in disrupting guerrilla activity.” (Seems to me there is no “reduced casualties” among the Iraqi population. – Susan) Bring ‘em on: Five more car bombs go off across Iraq, with 20 reported injured, but no reports of fatalities on New Years Day. One suicide attacker died. A dozen gunmen attacked a police checkpoint in Mosul, killing one civilian and wounding three policemen. Police killed two protesters in Kirkuk. They were “rioting” over a gasoline shortage. The protestors set fire to a fuel station and attached police. Palestinian Embassy in Baghdad reported gunman killed the son of a attaché. But there’s always some explanation for why it keeps getting worse instead of better: U.S. Brig. Gen. Donald Alston said Sunday that officials had expected attacks to increase after the security measures put in place for the Dec. 15 parliamentary elections were relaxed. "We're seeing that increase right now," he said. "This is perceived, inappropriately I would say, or inaccurately perhaps, by the enemy as a time of vulnerability as the government transitions ... to a permanent government." Bring ‘em on: Four Iraqi soldiers killed by roadside bomb in Fallujah on Sunday. Five more were wounded. Local residents claim that a US military base was attacked last night. Bring ‘em on: Three Iraqis, including a policeman, were kidnapped Saturday morning, east of Tikrit. Bring ‘em on: Unsuccessful car bomb in Haqlaniya on New Year’s Day. Four protesters shot dead and two wounded in Rahinawa. They were protesting a rise in fuel prices. US soldiers wounded one person at a checkpoint for this protest. Bomb exploded near an oil refinery in Baghdad. The bodies of four people found shot near Rutba (near Syrian border). Two bodies found bound, gagged and shot in Jurf Al Sakhar (south of Baghdad). One Iraqi soldier killed and three wounded by roadside bomb in Balad. One civilian killed and one wounded by shrapnel when a bomb exploded near a US patrol near Baiji. (Later reports say 16 wounded.) US military said earlier that US soldiers opened fired after their vehicles hit a roadside bomb in Baiji. Sixteen civilians wounded. This report says the eight bombs in Baghdad on Sunday wounded one police officer. Iraqi soldiers arrested a former local leader of the Baath Party and his three sons in Hay Sufon village in northern Iraq on Saturday. The US military described the man as a “suspected terrorist financier”. There was an unsuccessful car bomb attack in Haqlaniya. Bring ‘em on: This report says that suicide car bomber in Baiji killed an Iraqi soldier and wounded 24 others, including civilians. The target was a US military convoy. The article says US forces were killed and wounded in the attack. (NOT CONFIRMED) Bring ‘em on: This report says three US troops killed today in Iraq. (NOT CONFIRMED) This happened in Miqdadia (east of Baghdad). This report says a ninth bomb was found in Baghdad and safely detonated by Baghdad police. Gunman attacked a police checkpoint in Mosul, killing one civilian and wounding three policemen. Bring ‘em on: Video by Reuters of the protest that turned deadly. The protesters -- angry over the lack of basic services in their town and a recent increase in fuel prices -- set fire to an oil company building, four cars and two petrol stations, police colonel Munes Abdullah said. The footage showed both Iraqi troops and U.S. humvees in the area, but the source of the gunfire could not be determined. Bring ‘em on: Thursday: Mosul has witnessed intense fighting in recent days, with the US military announcing that a daylight assault on one of its compounds had resulted in the deaths of 25 Iraqi fighters and one US soldier. (NOT CONFIRMED) Fifteen US soldiers were also wounded in the attack. Also on Thursday, in Baiji, four Iraqis thought to have been working with US forces, were found killed inside their car while another Iraqi was killed by US fire in the Siniya neighbourhood, north of the town. In al-Muatasim neighbourhood, south of the town of Samarra, US forces killed two Iraqis and wounded a third. In yet another incident, this one in Hiyt, US forces raided the tomb of Abd Allah Mubarak and arrested four of the guards. Bring ‘em on: US army announced Sunday that it will expand security and military activities in northern Iraq. Bring ‘em on: Body found bound and shot in south part of Baghdad. Bring ‘em on: US air strikes intensify over Iraq. Official figures show the number of air strikes in 2005 -- running at a monthly average of 25 until August -- hit 120 in November and was expected to surge to 150 in December, the Sunday Times of London reported online. The newspaper said the tempo of air strikes is expected to increase even more this year as U.S. troops are reduced from 160,000 to fewer than 138,000 by March. (And no one bothers to count the civilians killed either. They just don’t care how many Iraqi get killed or wounded or traumatized by all this. – Susan) REPORTS THE TRAGEDY OF IRAQ: Iraq’ Power Outages Worsen Much of Iraq ushered in the new year under a near-blackout today as a week-old power crunch worsened across huge sections of northern and central Iraq. Baghdad's already sporadic electrical power was cut to about an hour yesterday, causing a legion of private generators to blare almost continuously and dampening the spirits of millions of Iraqis preparing for New Year's Eve, traditionally a joyous time of fireworks, family gatherings and public outings. "I filled the water tanks," said Firyal Fadil Kafaji, 40, a biology professor at Baghdad University. "Now we are trying to fill up the generator with gasoline because we are going to have a long night." (I guess I don’t need to post that story from Cent Com saying how they have improved the electrical supply. – Susan) THE TRAGEDY OF IRAQ: Iraqi try to preserve some sense of celebration on New Year’s Eve. Fearful that public places might be bombed, and forbidden by curfews to be outside their homes at midnight, Iraqis are searching for ways to celebrate the New Year without running afoul of police or terrorists. Many, primarily students, have signed up for packaged trips to Syria, Egypt and Jordan. Some are planning to spend the night at social clubs where parties are scheduled to begin at 10 p.m. and end at 5 a.m., when the curfew ends. Others are hosting sleepovers for friends and family at their houses. Last year, Raad said she went to a party that ended around 10 p.m. When 2005 began, the partygoers called each other on the phone. "We, like other young people in the world, have the right to party," Raad said. "We were optimistic after the fall of Baghdad. We didn't expect it would be so bad that we would have to travel to celebrate the New Year." Experts here said that while the curfew may be necessary, it has had a particularly tough impact on a city that used to celebrate its nightlife. Nighttime was a particularly pleasant time to meet friends, especially in the summer, when daytime temperatures can be debilitating. "Iraqis are under so much mental pressure and yet have so few options for releasing that tension," said Ihsan Mohammed al-Hassan, a professor of sociology at Baghdad University. "The Iraqis had no political freedom in the past, but enjoyed personal freedom. Now after the fall, they have political freedom, but lost their personal freedom." THE TRAGEDY OF IRAQ: Statement of the Council of Nineveh Province Notables, Sheikhs, and Uleima. We demand an International Committee of Enquiry in addition to an Iraqi committee formed by representatives of Uleima, Sheikhs and Notables drawn from central and southern Iraq to investigate the crimes committed by the American occupation forces assisted by members of the Interior Special Forces and National Guard. We especially point to the sectarian crimes and the rape of Iraqi women which count as grave precedent in Iraq. The Iraqi Government is partner to all of these crimes in the absence of the media and in particular the killing and kidnapping of journalists by mercenaries of the occupation after terrorising and excluding satellite stations and Arabic and International media preventing the coverage of what is going on to enable the slaughter of Iraqi people without witnesses. As we lay before the international public opinion and international human rights organisations the truth of what is happening in Tel Afar of the extreme use of force and the use of internationally forbidden weapons of poison gases, cluster, microwave and napalm bombs, we demand autopsies be carried out on the corpses of our sons who fell in the barbaric aggression by international medical bodies to verify the inhuman practices carried out by the American forces of occupation and to expose the stooge militias that participated in the massacre of Tel Afar. We warn as responsible people of the dangers of the ongoing ethnic cleansing in Tel Afar and the left bank of the city of Mosul and surrounding villages carried out by Beshmarga militias of the Kurdish parties and Badir Brigade “which are acting as regular forces of the National Guard” aided by the silence of the government where in particular the homes of the Sunna in the city of Tel Afar are destroyed after the men are arrested and women and children are forcibly evicted under threat of death and rape. We demand an end to the organised campaign of arrest against the Sunna. About fifty to a hundred sons, sheikhs and teachers of the Province are arrested only to be released days later after the payment of bribes which exposes how low the perpetrators are and their aim of breaking the morale of the people of the Province. We demand the trial of the ministers of defence and interior for what they have caused to our people in Tel Afar and Mosul as a result of crimes rejected by human conscience. We also hold the government responsible for the exterminations and bloody butchery which took place in the city of Tel Afar and the extreme cruelty meted out to Sunna civilians both Arab and Turcoman. We protest at the news blackout and total silence practiced by international organisations and human rights organisations towards what is taking place in Tel Afar and Mosul. GOOD NEWS: Iraqi baby with birth defects arrives in the US for surgery, arranged by US soldiers. U.S. troops discovered the baby three weeks ago during a raid of a house in Abu Ghraib, a poverty-stricken district west of Baghdad. The soldiers noticed paralysis in the baby's legs and what appeared to be a tumor on her back. They later learned the 3-month-old child had spina bifida, a birth defect in which the backbone and spinal cord do not close before birth. The "tumor" on the baby's back was actually a fluid-filled sac containing part of the spinal cord and membranes that are supposed to cover the spinal cord. Her care will be provided for free. NEWS: Yesterday at least 17 people died in a variety of attacks. Officers say nine people were killed in a drive-by shooting, apparently because they were drinking alcohol in public. That could be an indication Iraq has become more conservative. Before the U-S invasion, Baghdad hosted a number of bars and clubs. Now there are none. (The comment “that could be an indication Iraq has become more conservative” struck me as rather odd. Are they saying that conservatives express themselves by killing? – Susan) HISTORY: Animosity between Kurds, Arabs dates to seventh century. The Kurds are related ethnically to Iranians and their language is akin to the Indo-Iranian languages spoken today in Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Central Asia. They've inhabited northeastern Iraq, northwestern Iran and parts of present-day Turkey, Syria and Armenia for centuries. They lived largely autonomously until the seventh century, when Arabs from the Arabian Peninsula conquered them. They maintained their separate identity, however, despite subsequent conquests, by Mongols in the 13th to 15th centuries and by the Ottoman Empire at the end of World War I. NEWS: Cement Factories Privatized The government has decided to sell two major state-owned cement factories, said Industry and Minerals Minister Usama al-Najafi. Najafi said the selling of the two factories, one in Sinjar in the north and the other in Kufa in the south, was expected to raise at least $200 million for the ministry. Unlike other countries in the Middle East, Iraq has significant limestone reserves, making it a competitive and low cost producer of cement. NEWS: $50 Million for Tel Afar The government has committed $50 million for the reconstruction of the war-devastated northern city of Tel Affar, according to Industry and Minerals Minister Usama al-Najafi. Najafi heads a government committee charged with the reconstruction of Tel Affar which was target of a massive U.S. and Iraqi attack in September. The attack was launched to flush out anti-U.S. forces in the town. The fighting resulted in the destruction of several quarters and the fleeing of tens of thousands of inhabitants. Nearly four months after the end of the fighting, Tel Affar’s streets are still strewn with debris and garbage. Water and electricity supplies are erratic. Most government buildings like schools and clinics, which sustained heavy damaged, are still un-repaired. GOOD NEWS: Five Sudanese Embassy Staff Freed in Baghdad Sudan's state minister for foreign affairs, Al-Samani Wasila, said: "Yes, they released them. They are in the (Baghdad) embassy now. They are all fine." He gave no further details. Sudan said on Friday it would shut its embassy in Baghdad. Al Qaeda militants in Iraq have targeted the embassies of Muslim countries in an effort to stop them from recognising Iraq's U.S.-backed government. Earlier this year, al Qaeda's network killed the Egyptian mission chief in Baghdad, two Algerian envoys, and two Moroccan embassy staff. The group has sworn to kill other Arab diplomats if their countries recognize Iraq's government. GOOD NEWS: Ransom spurs release of Cypriot hostage in Iraq A Cypriot man kidnapped in Iraq four months ago has been released after payment of a $200,000 U.S. ransom, relatives said Sunday. "This was the greatest present for me. I spoke to him and he is fine," said his aunt, Rita Medzadourian. Garabet Jekerjian, 41, who holds both Cypriot and Lebanese citizenship, was kidnapped by gunmen in Baghdad in August. It was unclear when he was released. THE WAR AT HOME: Some Soldiers Trying to Get Out of Army Requests for conscientious objector status, which can qualify someone for an honorable discharge, have steadily increased since 2000. About 110 soldiers filed the complex paperwork in 2004, about four times the number in 2000. Of those, about half were approved. Those who were rejected either went back to the war or refused to serve. Some are now on the lam. Others have been court-martialed and done time. Former Staff Sgt. Camilo Mejia, 30, of Miami Beach, Fla., says he had change of heart while on a two-week leave last year after spending a year in Iraq. "Going home gave me the opportunity to put my thoughts in order and to listen to what my conscience had to say. People would ask me about my war experiences and answering them took me back to all the horrors, the firefights, the ambushes, the time I saw a young Iraqi dragged by his shoulders through a pool of his own blood or an innocent man was decapitated by our machine gun fire," he said. ELECTIONS IN IRAQ NEWS: Mosul Election Staff Quit En Masse The entire staff of Iraq's Independent Electoral Commission in the northern city of Mosul, amounting to about 700 emplo-yees, have resigned amid growing violence in the country. Staff members said on Thursday their resignation followed threats they received in the past few days. The withdrawal of the Iraqi Islamic Party from the election also figured in their decision, Aljazeera has learned. In its response, however, the electoral commission has vigorously denied the report. "That's not true. We have our staff in Mosul and al-Anbar," Abd al-Hussain al-Hindawi, the head of Iraq's Independent Electoral Commission, told AFP. In a related move that could affect the 30 January elections, Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadr's political office announced it was taking legal action against the interim Iraqi government for alleged torture and murder of its members. Fadhil al-Shara, an al-Sadr official, said the legal action focused on the Iraqi police in Hilla, who are alleged to have arrested 15 al-Sadr supporters in the town and tortured another four to death. NEWS: The 90 former members of Saddam's Baath party that the election commission wants taken off political lists include two leading members of former Shiite Prime Minister Ayad Allawi's secular Iraqi National List. Saad Asem al-Janabi, a senior member of Allawi's group, said it had not received an official request from anyone. The executive director of de-Baathification commission, Ali al-Lami, told The Associated Press that Allawi's list had the largest number in the group of 90 candidates that should be removed from tickets that competed in the parliamentary elections. The election commission said it had insufficient evidence to bar the 90 people itself. The commission said that if the courts later determined allegations of Baath membership were true, the officials would be barred from elected office even if they were awarded parliament seats. NEWS: Iraq’s Post-Election Unrest According to the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq (IECI), voter turnout for the election was 67%. The most recent estimates of parliamentary distribution of seats suggest that: -- The Shia United Iraqi Alliance (UIA) is edging towards 110 to 120 seats; -- the Kurdistan Alliance has around 50 seats; -- the various Sunni Arab umbrella movements have secured around 50 seats in total; and -- Iyad Allawi's Iraqi National List is likely to have scraped only around 25 to 30 seats. The Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) and various factions associated with Muqtada al-Sadr have demonstrated their ability to win or take votes in large numbers through the UIA list. The Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) have likewise shown their ability to dominate in their constituencies and in the multiethnic swathe bordering the Kurdistan Regional Government zone. A rerun or redistribution of seats is unlikely despite the evidence of serious misconduct. Such a reordering would set a bad precedent and probably result in serious violence against the IECI and between factions. However, the electoral violence and post-electoral politicking have highlighted serious fault lines within the UIA and Kurdish blocs, pointing to an alternative means for the smaller blocs to influence the political system over the next four years. The elections also highlighted the potential for significant internecine violence within the Shia and Kurdish power blocs and between these blocs and the Sunni and secular nationalist communities. END OF YEAR REPORTS The Bonfire of the Inanities. Seriously, Could It Get Any Worse? For 2005, my annual task of reviewing the past year has been complicated by an old adage: oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive. Here I sit, tangled in a web that many people began weaving way back when the Gipper was protecting us against deadly pollutants released by old-growth forests. It was a jumble out there this year — one that defies linear documentation. So let me borrow from our friend Mark Twain and offer this admonition: persons attempting to find chronology in this narrative will become lost; persons attempting to find morals in its subjects will be generally disappointed; persons attempting to find a plot will be overwhelmed (because it contains more plots than Arlington National Cemetery). Notwithstanding attempts by Bush-Cheney to rig Iraqi and American news with phony stories planted by its media operatives in the slimy Rendon and Lincoln Groups, the truth has been announced in the blood-curdling screams of agony from the victims of its torture. Whether at the hands of US military personnel, CIA agents, private contractors, or collaborating thugs from other nations, torture has become synonymous with our nation’s foreign policy. Despite Bush’s strong denials and Condi Rice’s assurances that this administration has a strict policy of probably never committing torture, Dick Cheney’s legislative arm-twisting on the matter tells the real story. Any agreement the administration may make with John McCain or anyone else will be entered into with all the sincerity of its promise to rebuild New Orleans. Two Years of American Occupation of Iraq: A Dismal Scorecard Of course, hardly anybody in America feels morally concerned about the toll that a brazen war imposed on them has exacted so far from the Iraqi people. Even the most conservative count puts the Iraqi civilian losses-men, women and children-in the two years of a brutal and vengeful U.S. military occupation at 100,000, at the very least. The trigger-happy U.S. soldiers have been pursuing a policy of 'shooting-first-and asking questions-later'. Those Iraqis injured in almost daily occurrence of dastardly incidents of violence are not included in any assessment of the cost of American occupation to its hapless victims. The economic cost of the Bush adventure in Iraq is also in a state of free fall. The two wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have, to date, cost the U.S. Treasury more than $ 300 billion. Iraq alone is costing nearly 5 billion dollars a month, and Bush, fresh in his second term, has asked Congress for a fresh injection of another $ 82 billion in his war effort to 'make America safe' against terrorism. To the protagonists of war in Iraq-and anywhere else that Bush, the imperialist, might cast his net next, all this cost-both in men and money-is worth the cause that the neo cons have taken upon themselves, entirely off their own bat. These apologists of war believe that the U.S. economy has enough cushion and room to bear the cost without any major impact on its resilience. The bottom line is that the real Bush agenda for Iraq is not what he says it is. Keeping Iraq in turmoil and constantly consumed by political brinkmanship gives Bush a perfect alibi to keep his troops there indefinitely. It is for this reason that nobody in the administration-not even those claiming to speak for non-partisans-is talking of a timetable for the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq. They are there for keeps, even though the so-called alliance Bush hammered out with bribes and inducements is crumbling around him. Review of the Year: Iraq The failure of the US and Britain to win the war does not mean that the two-and-a-half year uprising among the Sunni Arabs has achieved all its aims. The beneficiaries from President George W Bush's invasion of Iraq in 2003 are not the Sunni but the Iraqi Shia and the Kurds. Outside Iraq, the country which has gained most from the fall of Saddam Hussein is Iran. The year began and ended with elections. The first, on 30 January, was critical in demonstrating the electoral power of the Shia community. The United Iraqi Alliance, a coalition of Shia parties, triumphed. This was hardly surprising since the Shia make up 60 per cent of the Iraqi population. But it was a political earthquake in Iraq after so many centuries of Sunni dominance. The verdict of the January poll was confirmed by the election on 15 December for the National Assembly, which will sit for four years. The political landscape of post-Saddam Iraq is becoming clearer but the country still looks as if it will be a very violent place. A striking feature of present-day Iraq is that there are multiple centres of power, which as they conflict create numerous friction points. Authority is fragmented. The US has power, but so do the three main communities: the Sunni and Shia Arabs and the Kurds. This much is very evident on the ground in Baghdad. In a Sunni district of west Baghdad, the local police pack up and go home at 8pm. "I am leaving now and the resistance will take over," explained one policeman as he got into his car. "If I stayed around here I would be killed." In Ramadi, the capital of rebellious Anbar province, west of Baghdad, insurgents took over the city centre for four hours in December, despite the presence of powerful US and Iraqi military units. Many ministries have become the domain of a single sect or party. The health ministry under the interim government became famous for being run by the Dawa Shia Muslim group, while the transport ministry portfolio is held by a follower of the nationalist cleric, Muqtada al- Sadr. This has a disastrous impact because the government begins to resemble that of Lebanon. Ministers are representatives of their communities. They cannot be fired, however crooked or incompetent. 2005 Review: The Year in Iraq It was a year when the United States achieved all of its political goals in Iraq and made major progress in developing the new Iraqi military forces. Yet as the year ended, America`s future prospects there were more clouded and problematic than ever. It was the year when Iraq took giant steps towards its future political structure, yet the year ended with more uncertainty than ever over what that structure would eventually deliver. The Iraqi people overwhelming approved their new draft constitution in October. Then on Dec. 15 they held paramilitary elections with an impressively high turn out. But the outcome of those elections was to leave Iraq more fractured and unpredictable than ever before. The '5-5-5' main Shiite political coalition won an overwhelming majority of the votes among the nation`s estimated 15 million Shiites, a 60 percent majority of the total population. The Kurdish areas in the north and the large central provinces of the Sunni Arab heartland where the insurgency has been raging most seriously also voted according to ethnic blocs. The elections therefore left the Shiites and Kurds more firmly in control than ever with the Sunnis feeling more estranged from the U.S.-backed political forces in the saddle in Baghdad. The clear implication of this was that the Sunni insurgency would continue to rage in 2007 as fiercely as before. It was a year when even with more than 150,000 U.S. troops in Iraq and aggressive search and destroy missions being mounted continuously in western Iraq and up the Euphrates valley, the insurgency resolutely refused to go away. It peaked over the summer months and continued to flare at grim levels through October and November. There was something of a lull during the parliamentary election campaign but the year ended with clear signs that the insurgents were trying to raise their levels of violence again. The Bush administration spent most of the year trying to avoid acknowledging the significance of benchmark statistics in Iraq and claiming they were misleading when it had to acknowledge them at all. The reason was not hard to see: The figures were sobering. The conflict was nowhere near on the Vietnam scale, but there were no signs that U.S. strategy on the insurgency was having much effect in reducing it. COMMENTARY OPINION: Top Ten Antiwar Stories of 2005 Cindy Sheehan stands up to President Bush in Crawford, TX and reawakens the anti-war movement. When the 'Peace Mom' was at the Veterans for Peace conference in Dallas,Texas this summer she decided she was going to Crawford to see the President. The people speak with their feet and in the polls. A majority of Americans now believe the war was a mistake and want to see the U.S. beginning to withdraw troops from the country. In March more than 700 demonstrations were held throughout the country on the second anniversary of the invasion. On September 24, several hundred thousand people took action and demonstrated in Washington, DC against the war in Iraq. The people of Iraq who have stood up for their nation's freedom ­ voting for political parties that call for the end of the occupation, with political leaders who signed the Cairo Statement that called for withdrawal of troops, for political forces putting forward the framework for a ceasefire and end to the war, and for Iraqis who have resisted the occupation. Rep. John Murtha (D-PA) puts forward an exit strategy. Murtha, who supported the invasion of Iraq and consistently advocates for a stronger military and larger defense budget, urged an immediate 'redeployment' of U.S. forces out of Iraq to be completed in six months. OPINION: At Last, Good War Coverage - Sometimes, only The Onion gets it right. The Madison-rooted satirical weekly finished off the year with a headline that summed up the unspoken reality of 2005. The headline read: "U.S. troops draw up own exit strategy." It appeared above an article that began: "BAGHDAD Citing the Bush administration's ongoing refusal to provide a timetable for withdrawal, the U.S. troops stationed in Iraq have devised their own exit strategy." A fictitious Staff Sgt. Cornelius Woods tells the newspaper, "My Marines are the best-trained, best-equipped, most homesick fighting force in the world. Just give us the order, and we will commandeer every available vehicle to execute a flanking maneuver on the airstrips of Mosul. By this time tomorrow, we will have retaken our positions at our families' dinner tables in full force." PEACE ACTION: Congress is at home, and they need to hear from you. We need to make sure our Representative and Senators speak out and take action against the war, but that won't happen if we don't keep the pressure on. The winter recess provides us with a great opportunity to take our message for an end to the war directly to those elected to represent us. We urge you to organize a delegation and request an appointment; there is still time. The House will be on recess until Jan. 31, 2006. The Senate will be on recess until Jan. 18, 2006. Call, write and visit, and do it often. Only Americans can stop this war by non-violence. CASUALTY REPORTS Local Story: Virginia Beach Soldier Killed by Sniper Fire in Iraq. Local Story: Indiana soldier killed in explosion in Iraq Local Story: Traumas of Iraq war begin to fade for former soldier. Local Story: Texans killed in the Iraq war in 2005. QUOTE OF THE DAY: May we know ourselves as precious children of God,May we know that our lives matter,May we hear the message of hope, of peace, of loveThat comes to us in the darkest part of the winter.May we each be the message of hope, of peace, of lovethat is needed to bring the Light into this darkness. -Judy Tretheway Thanks to zig, whisker and bob for the links in the comments section.


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